Though Andrea Ballus's wedding frustrations propelled her into reality-television fame, the camera never focused on personal drama—instead, it zoomed in on the cupcakes. As she planned her marriage, Andrea couldn't find a bakery innovative enough to cater her reception. Rather than settle for tired designs, she decided to create her own cupcakes, mixing confections in signature flavors and garnishing them with edible art. These concepts led to the first incarnation of Sift—a dessert venue whose ingenious edibles have since won first place on the Food Network's Cupcake Wars and returned to compete on Cupcake Champions.
Sift's current cupcake menu pays homage to classic tastes as well as cunning combinations, from the snickerdoodle and red velvet cakes to the Knock Your Sox Off—a bavarian-cream-filled vanilla cake dipped in chocolate ganache. Visitors can pluck their favorites from the onsite displays or order custom servings that suit a wedding or party theme. In the past, Andrea and her staff have festooned cakes with images of cheerful dragonflies, company logos, and Pink Floyd album art as well as holiday graphics for New Year's and Christmas. They can even infuse the cupcake batter with a chosen wine, resulting in nearly perfect food and drink pairings.
Alongside their signature item, Sift prepares a separate catalog of nostalgic desserts, including whoopie cookies, macarons, and ice-cream sandwiches.
“My love of chocolate making came from my mother, who is from Newfoundland,” says Vintage Sweet Shoppe owner Debbie Dever. To stave off boredom during the region’s harsh winters, Debbie’s grandmother taught her children to craft candy and treats. Her mother passed the skills she learned on winter days down to Debbie, who channels her passion into her handmade truffles, flavored fudges, and chocolate-drenched nut clusters. Her signature wine-infused truffles pair sips of champagne, port wine, and Napa Valley vinos with complementary chocolates chosen based on cocoa content and willingness to tell embarrassing stories about their compatriots. Dever’s team of innovative chocolatiers has been making chocolates for more than 30 years and also hand-mold chocolate-covered wine bottles—featured on the Food Network—by shrink-wrapping full bottles of wine before coating their surfaces in dark or milk chocolate, leaving each label framed by an edible exterior. The shop also serves espresso coffee drinks, frozen yogurt, and ice cream.
The oenophiles at Napa Valley Toffee Company satiate cravings for local flavors with tastings of Napa-produced wines and luscious homemade chocolates. Synchronized sippers can indulge in a hodgepodge of five red and white nectars, each harvested from Napa-grown grapes, bottled by local wineries, and approved by the California Raisins. Though wine flights vary by tasting, guests can expect to nourish their palates with gulps from small case lots and nibbles from local vendors, such as Napa Farmhouse 1885, and Verve Coffee of Santa Cruz. Before heading home to wash off purple handlebar mustaches, sippers can treat themselves to $20 worth of goodies from the shop, where bottles of 2009 sauvignon blanc ($20) and Rescue Red ($15) hobnob with eight-ounce boxes of house-made chocolates ($11) and Drink the Leaf loose-leaf tea.
Dessert is the favorite part of any kid's meal, but Toni Chiappetta took it to extremes. As a child, she would bake her own cakes and sneak bites of the pies at her parents' luncheonette. She learned her earliest techniques from her mother, but went on to study at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts and bake for several prominent restaurants. Eventually, this path led Toni back to the small kitchen in her apartment, where she baked in an oven no larger than a breadbox. As she delivered her sweet samples to local distributors, her talent quickly propelled her into a full-size professional kitchen and then to the current home of Sweetie Pies inside the Hatt Building. She still oversees her bakery's operations today, but leaves much of the day-to-day business in the hands of her small-but-capable staff.
In an onsite caf?, Toni's crew creates savory tarts, paninis, and wraps, as well as individual-size pastries and cakes. Inside the bakery, they churn out cookies in mouthwatering combinations of chocolate cherry and oat coconut walnut. They also fill 10-inch pie crusts with blends of apples, peaches, and berries?nabbing the attention of Food & Wine magazine and Rachael Ray, who ranked the bakery's pumpkin pie No. 1 of the season in 2008. To commemorate nuptials, the staff builds two- and three-layer custom cakes in flavors such as chocolate fudge and carrot and adds ornate decorations and edible cue cards for best-man speeches.
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Founded by ice-cream enthusiasts Donald and Susan Sutherland in 1988, Cold Stone Creamery has grown to more than 1,400 locations across North America. Each day, the shop's scoopers mix up fresh batches of ice cream and sorbet, which are served by the scoop, piled high in sundaes, and blended into shakes. After customers choose their desired flavor, the staffers toss the chilly sustenance upon a slab of frozen granite and fold in a smorgasbord of candy and nuts to achieve the ideal ice-cream-to-add-in ratio. Customers can dream up their own creations or opt for a signature masterpiece, sampling one of more than 11.5 million possible flavor combinations, which still await a brave conqueror to unlock them all. To accommodate sweets cravings at celebrations, staff members also dish out premade treats, such as ice-cream cakes and baked goods. The creamery also boasts frozen yogurt with non-fat and low-fat yogurt options. Smooth and creamy frozen yogurt is packed with probiotics and can be combined with low-calorie mix-ins for a healthy frozen treat.