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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Besties 2022: 8 Sweet Treats CRL Readers Can’t Resist

Cupcakes and cheesecake and cookies, oh my!

Coccadotts Cake Shop
1179 Central Avenue, Albany

Coccadotts in Albany has you covered for custom-designed cakes. (Need a diminutive confection for a little one’s first birthday? They have it. A cake in the shape of a Gucci bag for a graduation? No problem.) But we’re here to discuss the sinfully snackable versions that nabbed the cake shop a Bestie.

Opened in 2007 by Rachel and Luke Dott, Coccadotts is perhaps most visited for its plethora of artfully decorated gourmet cupcakes (which come topped with everything from Sponegbob Squarepants to succulents). For those craving the classics, chocolate, vanilla and carrot cake cupcakes are always at the ready. The best-selling varieties though? Cookies and cream, cannoli and peanut butter. Gluten-free cakes and cupcakes are also available. “People love them,” manager Michael Kaczor says of the shop’s cupcakes, “because they’re always fresh and delicious.”

(Audrey Knizek)

Blue Rose Cheesecake and Bake Shop
1815 State Street, Schenectady

When Schenectady’s Blue Ribbon Diner opened in 1977, word of its mouthwatering cheesecakes and other house-made desserts spread like wildfire. Eventually, brothers Angelo and Jerry Menagias, the hot spot’s co-owners, decided an expansion was in order and, some 40 years later, the Blue Rose Cheesecake and Bake Shop opened next door to the diner.

Manager Jenna McLennan says Blue Rose’s bestseller by far is the fluffy-but-dense vanilla cheesecake, which comes topped with fruit (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, or pineapple). For flavored cheesecakes, she adds, the most popular are chocolate chip, cookies ‘n cream, pistachio and cherry almond. Fans of the dessert can get their fix by the slice at the bakery or diner; the bakery also offers six-, nine-, and 10-inch specialty cheesecakes, which come crustless or with traditional graham cracker or cookie crumble crusts.

(Audrey Knizek)

Indian Ladder Farms
342 Altamont Road, Altamont

Picking a half-bushel of Honey Crisp apples may be the reason Upstate New Yorkers have been trekking to 90-acre apple orchard Indian Ladder Farms for more than a century, but it’s the cider doughnuts that are the Altamont hotspot’s pièce de résistance. Snatched up by adoring visitors as fast as staff can fry them, the doughnuts are available in the orchard’s farm market and bakery, which is open April to December and also sells locally produced meats, dairy, honey, fruits and vegetables.

Wash down your just-sizzled doughnut with a cold beer or hard cider from the on-site cidery and brewery. While you’re at it, you can begin planning your next trip to Capital Region doughnut lovers’ Hole-y Grail—with a mouthful of those  doughnuts, a return trip couldn’t be dreamed up soon enough.

(Audrey Knizek)

The Cookie Factory
520 Congress Street, Troy
1705 US 9, Clifton Park

Since it opened in Troy in 2006, The Cookie Factory has been living up to its motto: “Cookies like no other.” Not content to purvey only conventional varieties of cookies, owners (and brothers) Chris and Joe Alberino offer best-selling cookie sandwiches (just-baked cookies in creative shapes melded together with creamy spreads and fillings) and cookie tops (tempting flavor combinations atop a chewy, homemade cookie). Perhaps the shop’s most famous creation is the Fudge Fantasy, its flagship sugar cookie topped with a fudge frosting.

And while cookies are certainly The Cookie Factory’s bread and butter, the brand’s two locations also serve up—yes—bread and buttery desserts including pies, cupcakes, cheesecakes, doughnuts, muffins, pastries…The list goes on and on.

(Audrey Knizek)

Bella Napoli
21 River Street, Troy
672 New Loudon Road, Latham

Walk into either of Bella Napoli’s Capital Region locations and prepare to be dazzled by cases brimming with Italian pastries that rival the crown jewels of the old country. You’ll have a hard time choosing between limoncello cannoli, creamy eclairs, filled pasticciotti, flakey sfogliatelle and decadent tiramisu doughnuts filled with mascarpone and topped with a dusting of cocoa powder; or maybe you’re in the mood for a bear claw, a massive glazed fritter delicious enough to break anyone’s willpower. And then there are cookies, biscotti, muffins and specialty cakes, to boot.

But this impressive, sugar-filled lineup isn’t news to true Capital Regionites: Bella Napoli has been serving the community since Italian immigrant John Mainella opened the business as a bread bakery in Downtown Troy 65 years ago. As the menu expanded, so did Bella Napoli’s loyal following, who visit in droves not only for the pastries, but also for the loaves of that crusty Italian bread that launched Bella Napoli into local stardom all those years ago.

(Audrey Knizek)

Smith’s Orchard and Bake Shop
4561 Jockey Street, Ballston Spa

According to Smith’s Orchard and Bake Shop owner Shelley Smith, there’s never a slow season when it comes to pies—but let’s just say her staff brace themselves for late fall, when operations go into overdrive. Come Thanksgiving time, customers clamor for Smith’s signature hand-crafted fruit pies, which come in varieties such as apple cranberry, blackberry, cherry, raspberry peach, blueberry and strawberry rhubarb; and her Tollhouse, pumpkin and pecan pies, too. Smith’s top seller, the classic apple pie, is actually the reason the bake shop opened in 1999, after a shuttering of mom-and-pop grocers led to a sudden surplus of apples at the 300-acre Ballston Spa orchard.

Business began slowly, but word quickly spread; out-of-state fans have been known to drive four hours for a trunk-load of Smith’s pies. The secret, she says, is an old family recipe for the crust. That, and using only New York State–grown fruit.

(Audrey Knizek)

The Snowman
531 Fifth Avenue, Troy

Now in its 69th season, The Snowman, with its smiling, neon-lit snowman sign, pulls aficionados across county lines for its buzz-worthy bounty of creamy cones and sundaes served a gazillion different ways; check out the seasonal Cider Belly doughnut sundae, ice cream pies and candy-filled flurries, plus 25 flavors of hard ice cream made right on the premises. Also on the menu: sherbets, vegan ice cream, soft-serve in rotating flavors and a fat-free, fructose-sweetened frozen yogurt.

But the biggest draw of all? The Snowman’s oversized portions—quality and quantity, it seems, are the recipe for the success of Troy’s time-honored ice cream destination.

(Audrey Knizek)

Villa Italia Bakery
226 Broadway, Schenectady

Founded in 1965 by Joseph Mallozzi, who learned the tricks of the bakery trade from his family’s business in Italy, Villa Italia has quickly become the Capital Region’s mecca for pastries and cakes. The Schenectady staple is now owned by Joseph’s son, Bobby, and still cranks out its long-time best-sellers: Italian strawberry cake filled with vanilla custard and fresh strawberries, and Italian cream cake, a rum-soaked sponge cake layered with chocolate and vanilla pastry cream and topped with whipped cream and sliced almonds.

Special-order cakes include vegan, gluten-free and regular varieties in flavors such as yellow, marble, chocolate, carrot and red velvet. Eight-inch cakes are always available at the café for pick-up, as are an array of to-die-for pastries. But wait, there’s more: Villa Italia also operates a satellite location at Rivers Casino & Resort, where winning gamblers can gobble up single-serving sizes of the bakery’s signature Italian cream cakes.

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