From juicy strawberries dipped in chocolate to espresso-imbibed almond cake, these central Pa. bakeries, restaurants and cafes have confections that are bound to send cupid arrows flying into your hearts.
Anna Rose Bakery & Coffee Shop, 100 N. Second St., Harrisburg, 717-236-3149
This bakery and coffee shop moved from a hidden downtown side street to a more visible location last summer. Situated at the former Pita Pit, freshly made pastries, assorted muffins (gluten-free available, too), brightly colored cupcakes, chocolate-frosted brownies, nut-topped pecan bars and chocolate-layered peanut butter bars are just some of the specialties found in the cases. For Valentine’s Day, preorder the big, juicy strawberries dipped in chocolate.
Barberet Bistro and Bakery, 26 E. King St., Lancaster, 717-690-2354
For truly authentic French pastries, the bakery portion of Barberet has a dazzling assortment of appealing pastries, tarts, macaroons, and delectable chocolates. Raspberry, salted caramel and apricot-toasted almond are just some of the intensely flavored “Les macarons Parisiens.” Individual cake slices are elaborate, combining thin sponge cake layers with various buttercreams, nuts, fresh fruit or dark chocolate ganache. Try L’opera ($5.50), a moist, layered almond cake imbibed with espresso and swiped with coffee buttercream and chocolate ganache.
Hellenic Kouzina Greek Café, 500 E. Main St, Mechanicsburg, 717-766-2990
It’s not hard to locate this family owned and operated café outlined by white columns, but it is difficult to find a place to park in the limited lot in front of the building. Fresh, made-to-order Greek recipes are served in a cafeteria setting. And once you’ve had their signature marinated skewered leg of lamb souvlaki gyro with tzatziki sauce ($8.99) you’ll want to share bites of Yia-Yia’s rich and flaky baklava cheesecake ($5.49). This dessert combines phyllo layers and syrupy-walnut topping stacked atop rich, intense vanilla-scented creamy cheesecake.
Beeman’s Baked Goods, 51 S. Orange Street, Carlisle, 717-218-5258
There’s a reason this family-owned and operated bakery won the “Best of Cumberland County” in 2020 by The Sentinel. For over three decades, this family-run business has provided the community with made-from-scratch cream, custard, fruit and shoo-fly pies, breads, cakes, pastries, cookies, crackers and even fudge. Heart-shaped sugar cookies and seasonal chocolate covered eggs (peanut butter and coconut are the top sellers) grace the case but you’ll find double-layer cakes, cream pies, angel food cakes and lots of other goodies at your fingertips. The shop is always fully stocked but if you’d like a specific item, be sure and order in advance. Cakes can be personalized while you wait.
Dalicia Ristorante & Bakery, 105 S. Market St., Mechanicsburg, 717-525-7496
Impress your date with signature standout strawberry shortcake, tiramisu, Black Forest, lemon roll, apple pecan cheesecake, elclairs and cannoli, all made in-house by owner Samra Alic. At this time no custom cake orders are being accepted but for full cakes please call three days in advance.
Desserts Etc., 840 E. Chocolate Ave., Hershey, 717-533-7505
This beautiful bakery, open from 6.a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, is chock full of dazzling desserts. Stop in and start off with a February specialty drink: Chocolate covered strawberry hot cocoa, or perhaps salted caramel chocolate truffle nitro cold brew coffee. The chocolate heart cupcake has milk chocolate icing, strawberry mousse filling and red and pink white chocolate hearts decorating the top. The white chocolate red raspberry filling enriches the raspberry cupcakes.
Simply Greek, 23 Briarcrest Square, Hershey, 717-298-6668
Even before the pandemic, Simply Greek was set up to succeed as a takeout and delivery business. The authentic Greek fare is fabulously flavorful and addicting. The hands down most popular item is the signature shrimp pita ($9.99) slathered with your choice of house made sauce: tzatziki, creamy or spicy feta and Harissa yogurt sauce. You’ll want to add an order of hand-cut French fries ($1) to the interior of this soft pita package already stuffed with oversized shrimp, tomato and onion slices and freshly chopped parsley. And you’ll be back for classic Greek dinners such as macaroni and ground beef layered pastitsio ($12.99), eggplant layered moussaka ($12.99) and spanakopita ($9.99). But be sure to try some of the house-made nut and honey-laced baklava and baklava cheesecake — just two of the mouth-watering, homemade desserts, sliced and ready in takeout containers by the register.
La Bella Sicilia Bakery & Gelateria, 5510 Carlisle Pike, Hampden Twp. 717-590-8188
This dazzling, clean, authentic Sicilian bakery and gelateria is like nothing you’ve ever seen in the midstate. Dramatically lit cases are stuffed full of iced and piped cookies, eclairs, cake slices, fruit decorated tartlets, and beautifully sculpted cakes. The Sicilian-style pastries and cakes are not overly sweet and there is a pronounced delicacy and elegance to their appearance. Check out the Mimosa cake in the entrance showcase. Beneath the brilliant fresh lemon zested crown lies silky-tart lemon mousse and fine crumb sponge cake. The chocolate mousse cake is another stunner, with its shiny smooth chocolate glaze, circular rosettes and a corsage of curled white chocolate. There is just enough gelatin in the mousse that binds rather than bounces as far as texture. Individual portions of the larger cakes are available too, so you can actually try a miniature version of pistachio mousse cake, a slice of cannoli cake or a small cup of tiramisu hinged with a ladyfinger.
Dockside Willies, 449 S. Front St. Wormleysburg, 717-730-4443.
Rebuilt after a July 2018 fire, Dockside’s impressive interior has a lodge-like wood-enhanced ambiance, outdoorsy theme and an enormous rectangular, walk-around bar counter. Customers are reeled in by the views of the Susquehanna and bountiful, generous-portioned American menu. For starters, Dockside Willies famous river rocks (6 for $7.95 or 10 for $10.95) consist of freshly baked pizza dough balls stuffed with meats and cheeses (served with marinara dipping sauce). Crunchy-coated hand breaded onion rings and pungent sauce go well with signature Willies one-pound belly buster burgers ($13.75), stacked with bacon, mushrooms, bacon, veil-thin breaded and deep fried onions, lettuce, tomato, onion and Willie’s special sauce.
Save room for comforting, heart-warming desserts. The house favorite peanut butter pie ($4.95) has a thick filling smoothed over a chocolate wafer crust. Hershey’s chocolate syrup and crushed peanut butter cups finish off this cardiac bomb. Willies pie in a mug ($5.25) screams out for two spoons to tackle hot apple pie, a large scoop of ice cream, whipped cream and cherry. If those desserts don’t satisfy, there’s always the triple chocolate layered peanut butter cake ($4.25).
The Copper Crust Co., 966 S. George St., York, 717-650-6235
Chefs Nicole and Sean Austin bring their culinary expertise to the forefront at this cute storefront in York. Everything is made from scratch, from towering stacks of buttercream-stuffed cookies, pain au chocolat and flaky feta-stuffed croissants to exquisite crumb-topped pies, individual mousse cakes, eclairs and cheesecakes.
La Dolce Vita, 9 N. Duke St., Lancaster, 717-239-5101
For a truly authentic Old World Italian bakery, look no further than in the shadow of Lancaster’s courthouse. Diminished in size by the grandiose building across the street, La Dolce Vita impresses with its own elaborate assortment of confections, signature gelato, cronuts, espresso bar and specialty sandwiches and pasta salads. Gourmet cakes and tarts pop from the case tied in brightly colored decorative ribbons, covered in melted chocolate or fondant and garnished with fresh fruit and buttercream rosettes. Choose from apple crumb or closed-top apple pie, pumpkin, pecan and tri-fruit; apple, blueberry and cherry with latticed top. And you’ll love the made-from-scratch crusts.
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