Trip to Janesville bakery means treats for everyone

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By Joan Neeno, Special to The Gazette
Thursday, December 26, 2013

JANESVILLE—In the last couple of years, getting up Sunday mornings has become much sweeter.

Basie, our shaggy orange dog, certainly agrees. He waits expectantly by the kitchen door as my husband, Richard, makes the coffee. He knows what's coming: a short car ride and a nibble of something tasty from LoriAnna's Sweetlife Bakery. Lately, Basie has been lobbying for Saturday mornings, too. Can't say I blame him.

Located in a small, concrete-block strip mall next to Craig High School, the bakery is easy to miss. But once you step inside and have a taste of LoriAnna McCool's food, you'll never drive by again without your mouth watering.

McCool was a nurse at Dean Riverside Surgery Center. When the surgery center moved into its new location two years ago, she decided it was time to take the plunge and open the bakery she had always dreamed about. Her love of baking and passion for quality is something you can taste in everything that's in her display cases.

One of the first things you'll notice are the cupcakes ($3) that are swirled with rich buttercream frosting and offered in a variety of irresistible flavors. She typically offers vanilla with raspberry filling, chocolate and red velvet. Then there are the daily variations. Lately, it's been peppermint crunch for the holidays. No matter the type you choose, they are reliably moist and bursting with flavor. If the $3 size is too huge for you, she also offers smaller vanilla and chocolate cupcakes for $1.

The cakes on pedestals are quite the temptations. You can buy a slice for $4. I recently brought an 8-inch chocolate mousse cake ($35) to a neighborhood holiday party. What was most striking about it was that I came in about an hour before the bakery was about to close, with my usual lack of pre-planning, just to see what might be in the case.

LoriAnna came right up to the counter, offering to make whatever I wanted if I could wait 15 minutes. She put the components together beautifully and handed it to me while apologizing that it wasn't as fancy as usual. Like she needed to apologize. It was dense, rich and addictive, and it looked gorgeous. The level of service and care she took to help out a customer was remarkable.

Our favorite Sunday morning treats are the buttery, melt-in-your-mouth cheese Danish ($1.50), the gigantic cinnamon-sugar-crusted morning buns ($2.50), the pecan sticky buns that drip caramel ($3.50), plump cinnamon rolls ($2) and warm, soft and sticky monkey bread ($4).

Favorite desserts include the tiramisu brownies ($2.50), which are seriously one of the best desserts I have ever had. Sweetlife also offers a pumpkin version that is less flavor-intense but equally delicious.

I also have been known to snag a giant piece of chocolate-covered Scotcharoo ($1.50) on occasion. They always remind me of childhood family picnics with the neighbors.

The bakery has about four tables, so you can enjoy your treat and a cup of coffee, tea or hot chocolate right there ($1-$2). There's also a cooler with milk and other beverages. The coffee is typical, but there are many syrups and toppings to make it suit your taste. Just be patient; the coffee is super hot. You might want to take a few nibbles on a scone ($2) or a piece of cheesecake ($3.50) first.

The bakery makes more than just sweets, although that's not obvious when you enter the shop.

Richard and I recently tried a homemade soup—broccoli and cheddar—in a bread bowl ($5.50). The broccoli was still crisp, and the cheesy soup was rich, smooth and nicely blended. Also on the menu one day was chili with corn muffins. That sounds like something to try.

Sunday is biscuits and gravy day. Now that we have discovered that, Basie has to wait in the car while Richard comes along. We recently split an order: two light, fluffy buttermilk biscuits that would float away if it weren't for the sausage-laden, peppery gravy spooned over them ($5.50). Now Richard, like Basie, wants every day to be Sunday.

I've never had the luxury of living so close to a truly exceptional bakery. It likely will mean drinking protein shakes for lunch in January. But you know what? If I can dig my fork into LoriAnna's tiramisu brownie once a week, it's worth it.

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