The Sweet Life: A Lowcountry Dessert Tour
Author: Linda S. Hopkins
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you have likely heard more than a few health warnings and rants regarding sugar. But these admonitions are coming from the same organizations and health authorities who have pulled a 360 on us more than once. Remember when margarine was good for us and eggs were bad?
So for now, let’s just agree that sugar is probably not the healthiest ingredient on the planet, but worse vices exist. Yes, too much sugar will cause weight gain and possibly a plethora of other negative effects in the body. But then, too much of anything might do the same. We all have to die of something, and if the angels aren’t serving cookies, cakes, pies chocolate and ice cream, heaven can wait.
Disclaimer: If you have a medical reason to completely ban sugar, then please follow your doctor’s advice and avoid it like the plague—or ask your favorite dessertery for their sugar-free options. Otherwise, a little sweetness may be good for the soul.
Here are a few of our favorite local destinations for a quick fix or an occasional indulgence. We’ll start our tour on Hilton Head Island and make our way over the bridge to Bluffton.
Hilton Head Island
March de Macaron
Don’t mistake this treat for a macaroon, which is a chewy coconut concoction. Pronounced ma/kah/roh, these light, airy, crispy meringue-based, two-sided cookies are a traditional French confectionary made with egg whites, sugar and almond flour. They come in celestial colors and a variety of flavors such as cappuccino, salted caramel, Mexican spice, vanilla bean, raspberry, chocolate ganache, Snickers, Meyer lemon, key lime, bourbon pecan, pistachio, blackberry lavender, and more. Depending on the filling, calories average around 135 each—not bad for so much deliciousness! Stop by once a day and try a new flavor or take home a box if you trust yourself not to devour them all in one sitting. Find them at 32 Palmetto Bay Rd., Suite 3-A (The Village Exchange). For more information or to send a gift box to someone you love, call (843) 785-4466 or visit marchedemacarons.com. A true taste of heaven awaits.
Signe’s Heaven Bound Bakery & Cafe
A Hilton Head Island tradition for 41 years, as the name implies, this bakery may be one stop short of your eternal paradise, or perhaps you’ll believe you’ve already arrived. Signe’s specializes in Southern style baked goods including cakes, pies, cookies, brownies and much more. (Yes, they serve scrumptious breakfasts and lunch items, too, but the sweets take it over the top.) With too many goodies to name, a few favorites include key lime pound cake, Snickers pie, oatmeal raisin cookies, old fashioned lemon squares, piña colada cake, pecan praline bread pudding and red velvet cupcakes. If the mere thought of all this sweetness in one place doesn’t have your mouth watering, please check your vital signs. If you’re still breathing, put Signe’s on your bucket list. For advance or special orders, check out the full menu at signesbakery.com or call (843) 785-9118. Otherwise, rush right over to 93 Arrow Rd. for one of the island’s most divine experiences.
The Chocolate Canopy
On those occasions when nothing but chocolate will do, prepare for ecstasy at The Chocolate Canopy, Hilton Head Island’s premier gourmet chocolate company since 1982. The chocolates and confections are made by hand daily, using the finest ingredients. You’ll find milk, dark and white selections, truffles and even sugar-free chocolate. They also carry a collection of gift items and souvenir island-themed chocolates such alligators, sand dollars and lighthouses. If The Chocolate Canopy has been a regular stop for you over the years, you’ll need to reset your GPS. To serve you better, they have moved to 55 New Orleans Rd., in Fountain Center. You can check out their website at chocolatecanopy.com or call (843) 842-4567 to place an order or inquire about special orders. If ever there was a chocolate treat to die for, this is the place to find it!
Hilton Head Ice Cream
When it comes to premium ice cream, homemade beats out supermarket every time. Hilton Head Ice Cream has been churning out the highest quality homemade frozen treats in town for 35 years. This year, they have a new owner, new equipment and a fresh new look, with more space to move around and expanded seating options indoors and out. But the ice cream is the same high quality you have come to expect; and with 35 flavors on hand at any one time, you’re sure to find one that suits your mood. You’ll also want to check out the new topping bar and the scrumptious chocolate chip cookies, made fresh every day from a secret family recipe. Whether you’re craving something cool and creamy or dreaming of home baked cookies like mom used to make, head over to 55 New Orleans Rd., #114 (on the back side of Fountain Center). If you need to know more, visit online at hiltonheadicecreamshop.com or call (843) 842-6333. But really, what more is there to know?
The Island Fudge Shoppe
The Island Fudge Shoppe specializes in homemade fudge in creative flavors such as key lime, maple walnut, peanut butter chocolate, rocky road and many more. Made with pure heavy whipping cream, grade AA butter and all the finest ingredients available, coupled with a unique open fire process, this is quite possibly the creamiest, most divine confection you will taste on this earth. The fudge is sold in quarter-pound slices, so you can try several different flavors. The Island Fudge Shoppe also sells a variety of dipped chocolates and specialty items for tasty souvenirs or gifts. Call (843) 842-4280 for information or visit online at islandfudge.com and start salivating. When you have a strong urge to bliss out on chocolate, go immediately to 1 North Forest Beach Drive, Coligny Plaza at the Beach and give your taste buds a thrill.
Hilton Head Candy Company
When you’re in a nostalgic mood, take a trip back in time at Hilton Head Candy Company, featuring classic candies from the 1920s to the ’90s. Picture an old-fashioned candy store filled with penny candy (think Smarties, Atomic Fire Balls, Mary Janes, Bit O’Honey), giant whirly lollipops and melt-in-your-mouth salt water taffy. Go retro with Mallo Cups, Nik L Nips, Goo-Goo Clusters (and more), or mix and match from the bulk selection including Hot Tamales, Gummi Bears, Swedish Fish, Licorice Laces, Malted Milk Balls. Chew on the gum you loved as a kid: Dubble Bubble, Razzles, and Big League Chew, or treat yourself to a specialty soda, kettle corn or cotton candy. You can shop for your favorite sweets online at hiltonheadcandy.com or call (843) 802-4280 to arrange for a candy buffet at your next party or event. To be a kid again or see your own kids’ eyes light up, make your way to Coligny Plaza, 1 N. Forest Beach Dr. Relive memories of the good old days while making new memories of sweet days on Hilton Head Island.
Can a sweet treat taste great and be healthy at the same time? Yes, of course! Whether you’re counting calories, watching your fat intake, avoiding sugar or looking for a protein boost, YOAddiction! has your number. While the business is locally owned and operated, the frozen self-serve yogurt is made using fresh dairy products (no powder mixes) from Honey Hill Farms and Sugar Creek Foods in Arkansas, along with real fruit purees; sugar-free flavors are sweetened with stevia, an all-natural sugar substitute. With 18 flavors available daily and over 50 fresh toppings, you can feed your addiction regularly without guilt or regret. YOAddiction!’s customers are currently hooked on flavors such as caramel sea salt pretzel and mint chocolate chip. Dairy-free folks are obsessing over sorbets in addictive flavors such as pomegranate and Valencia orange. Fall in love with the selection of fresh toppings, and for an extra kick, build your treat from the bottom up with Belgian waffles or homemade brownies. Surf on over to yoaddiction.com to get the full nutritional scoop, find out about weekly flavors and specials or learn more about the yogurt-making process; call (843) 341-3335 for more information. For instant gratification and to avoid withdrawal symptoms, visit YOAddiction at 890 William Hilton Parkway, in The Fresh Market Shoppes.
The French Bakery
The selection of breakfast and lunch items here is delightful, but since life is short, you might want to eat dessert first. The family-owned restaurant is known for a wide variety of made-from-scratch breads, cakes, pastries and European-style desserts such as richly layered napoleons, Parisian macaroons, authentic homemade tiramisu and light-as-air cream puffs. Voted Hilton Head Island’s Best Bakery in the Island Packet’s 2014 survey, this is one stop that will call to your sweet tooth again and again. Get a sneak peek online at frenchbakeryhiltonhead.com or call ahead if you need specialty items for a party or to take home: (843) 342-5420. Otherwise, steer towards the new Shelter Cove Towne Centre and find all the tasty goodies of the old place (formerly in Pineland Station) and a whole lot more in their expanded new location, overlooking Shelter Cove Community Park and Broad Creek. Ooh la la!
Gelato is the Italian version of ice cream. So what makes this frozen treat so special? As opposed to ice cream, gelato is not mass-produced and stored for months before being served. Gelato is denser than most ice cream products, because no air is whipped into it. This results in an intensely flavorful treat that is thick and creamy without the use of heavy cream. Gelato is handcrafted in small batches using only the freshest ingredients to create a frozen work of art. Pino Gelato artisans use authentic Italian recipes to ensure that their masterpieces taste as fresh and delicious as the gelato found in Italy. In addition to gelato, they also serve sorbetto, espresso, cappuccino, and pastries. You can visit online at pinogelato.com or call (843) 842-2822 for information, or drive directly to The Village at Wexford, 1000 William Hilton Parkway, Suite G-1 for a scoop of happiness!
If frozen yogurt is your favorite sweet treat or if you’re watching your waistline, Orange Leaf may be your holy grail. This popular fro-yo shop offers 16 rotating flavors and 35 toppings, ranging from gummy bears to granola… and fresh fruit, of course.
Orange Leaf’s unique flavor recipes are prepared fresh daily and mixed up in proprietary serving machines that make for a rich, creamy treat. By nature, frozen yogurt is lower in calories and fat than traditional frozen desserts. But the real beauty of the self-serve model is portion control. Looking for a light snack? Try a fruity flavor and go easy on the toppings bar. Even if you do go overboard, fro-yo contains 45 calories or less per ounce. If your belt is a little tight these days or you’re planning on wearing a teeny bikini, skip the brownie bites and go for the fresh fruit toppings. Learn more before you go by visiting orangeleafyogurt.com or call them at (843) 689-5323. Hightail it over to 38 Shelter Cove Lane, Suite 128, at Shelter Cove Towne Centre and discover a dessert experience like no other.
Kilwins (Shelter Cove)
Kilwins may be new to Hilton Head Island, but they’ve been on the dessert scene since 1947, offering a variety of ice cream, ice cream cakes, candies and confectionary creations. For a taste of Americana, you can’t beat traditional sweets such as hand-crafted caramel apples, mouthwatering corns and crunchy brittles. Add boxed chocolates, traditional turtles, rich truffles, hand-paddled fudge and classic salt water taffy, and step into a whole new world of sweetness with a nostalgic, old-timey touch. Dietary restrictions? No problem. Kilwins offers both sugar-free and dairy-free options. If you need a gift for yourself or someone special, check out the selection of baskets and tins online at kilwins.com/hiltonhead-sheltercove, or call (843) 785-2727 to order a customized gift or gift card. Better yet, follow your nose (Stop and smell the waffle cones!) to 28 Shelter Cove Lane in the Shelter Cove Towne Centre and take a trip back in time to a place where service comes with a smile and life is simply sweeter.
The Purple Cow
Prepare for the unexpected at Hilton Head Island’s newest dessert restaurant, The Purple Cow, now serving coffees, confections and cocktails. The Purple Cow is also the new home of Baby Cakes homemade individual cheesecakes. Owner Lisa Bernstein, affectionately known as Bernie, believes that dessert can and should be enjoyed any time of the day. From French toast donuts and delicious coffee in the morning to her famous cheesecake and a chocolate martini after sundown, it’s always the right time for a sweet treat. Other temptations include fried peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, coffee cake, crème brûlée, ice cream sundaes, grandma’s chocolate cake, coconut pound cake and many more delicious surprises. Stop in for “milkshake hour” between 3-4 p.m. daily. Or come in and sip champagne or a glass of red wine with a fruit and cheese plate. Find out more on Facebook at tpchhi, or call (843) 298-4915 for additional information. But if you’re not into wasting time on the details, get on over to 95 Matthews Dr. (Port Royal Plaza) and start living the sweet life.
Pinot Gelato Gourmet Café
Pino Gelato Gourmet Café is the Lowcountry’s first European style coffeehouse, serving freshly roasted organic coffee drinks, desserts, wine and much more, all in a cozy, relaxing atmosphere. While the café offers savory pizza cones, flatbreads, crepes and salads, you’ll want to save room for the selection of sweets. Famous for authentic, homemade Italian gelato and sorbetto, they also offer traditional cakes, European tortes (e.g. cherry chocolate mousse, chocolate hazelnut, and tiramisu), luxurious chocolates, and truffles (e.g. key lime, peanut butter, caramel and coconut). Get the picture on their website at pinogelatogourmetcafe.com or simply head over to the Bridge Center, 1536 Fording Island Rd., Ste. 107. If you’re using a GPS, the address is Hilton Head Island, but be aware that it is on the Bluffton side of the bridge, just across from Moss Creek. Special music events are available on select nights. Visit the website for details or call (843) 837-2633 for more information. Your taste of Europe awaits!
Ask a local where to go for coffee, and Corner Perk will always top the list. This locally-owned coffee shop and café serves a full assortment of breakfast, brunch and lunch items as well as the freshest coffee in town, roasted on the premises. What’s new and exciting is the dessert bar, serving creative drinks, craft beers on tap, and a hand-picked wine list along with decadent desserts such as triple chocolate cake, salted caramel cheesecake, strawberry tart, coconut crème cake, walnut brownies, and much more. Open until 11 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, the dessert bar is an incredible addition to the fun of downtown Bluffton, and with a unique drink selection it is becoming Bluffton’s favorite place for cocktails and after-dinner delights. Check out the full list of drinks, including the RumChata Latte, the Perk-up Martini and Flaming Pumpkin Latte online at cornerperk.com or call (843) 816-5674 to find out more. Come see what’s perking at 1297 May River Rd. in Bluffton and plan to start and end your day on a sweet note.
Located in the historic district of Old Town Bluffton in the original Carson Cottage, built in 1890, The Cottage Café, Bakery and Tea Room exemplifies old world charm and the warmth of Southern hospitality. The perfect place for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea or Sunday brunch, save room for dessert, because the array of options will take your breath away: pies, tarts, cookies, bread pudding, pound cakes, whoopie pies, cheesecakes, dessert bars, coffee cake, cupcakes, granola, scones, muffins, brownies, shortbread, and of course, cake! You can see a full list of sweets available for special order and/or shipping at thecottagebluffton.com or call (843) 757-0508. But you would do yourself a disservice by not stopping in for a peek at today’s selections—a feast for the eyes and the taste buds. Mosey over to 38 Calhoun Street, Bluffton and have yourself a sweet day!
Ronnie’s Bakery & Cakes by Lou
In business since 2001, Ronnie’s Bakery & Cakes by Lou is the source for customized cakes, cut-out cookies and cupcakes for any occasion. Whether you are hosting a wedding, birthday party or baby shower, all sweets are made to order, with the freshest ingredients and homemade frosting. The secret ingredient, they say, is love! Get a glimpse of some of the fabulous creations on Facebook at RonniesBakeryAndCakesByLou; visit ronniesbakeryandcakesbylou.com or call (843) 836-2253 to place an order. But don’t wait for a holiday or event to enjoy the goodness of delicious cakes by the slice, cupcakes, brownies, cake pops, cookies, pastries and more. Find out what’s fresh in the bakery case by popping in the retail bakery at 1308 Fording Island Rd., Bluffton, and make today your special occasion.
Looking for a groovy place to chill? Lovin’ Spoons invites you to enjoy a selection of 12 tasty flavors of premium frozen yogurt each week, including healthy low-fat, non-fat and sugar-free options. Current flavors include Alpine vanilla, cake batter, chocolate milkshake, pistachio, cookies and cream, strawberry shortcake, Greek lemon, toasted marshmallow and more. For your own unique frozen concoction, get creative with premium toppings like fresh cut fruit and dry toppings such as cookies, candies, cereals and nuts plus a variety of syrups. You’ll also dig all the nutritional benefits of yogurt including calcium, protein, and live cultures. Visit lovinsppons.com or call (843) 837-5683 for the full flavor scoop, to book a party or order a party to go. Get some satisfaction now by proceeding to their Bluffton location at 95 Towne Dr., in the Belfair Towne Village shopping center.
The Midnight Bakers
Imagine waking up to freshly baked muffins, chocolate croissants, warm cinnamon rolls, pecan encrusted sticky buns and a delicious cup of French coffee. How about an afternoon pick-me-up such as an apple tarte, napoleon, traditional madeleines or a slice of flourless chocolate cake? French-born chef Robert Plantidis is up all night every night, creating these and many more indulgences, from scratch, to ensure the ultimate freshness and your highest level of pleasure. With indoor and outdoor seating facing Old Town, this is one sweet spot you don’t want to miss. For hours of operation or more information, call (843) 815-5355. Follow on Facebook at Midnight Baker-French Bakery. For now, cancel your flight to Paris and take the shortcut to an authentic French experience at The Midnight Bakers, 14 Promenade St. in Bluffton.
Have a Sweet Life!