In its third Medford location, Sweet Stuff seems to have hit its stride.
Rebecca DiCero is still stocking the specialty bakeware and supplies that launched the Sweet Stuff name eight years ago downtown, but now she has a new kitchen for creating her custom cakes. The space, at 515 S. Riverside Ave., is roomy enough that DiCero has expanded into virtually every genre of bakery item, not to mention soups and a lunchtime meal deal. Comfortable booth seating and a diner-style counter furnish the amenities that DiCero needs to keep building her menu.
Daily soups include a gluten-free option, a dietary trend on which DiCero has capitalized over the past decade. Special baking orders, many gluten-free, are filled at Sweet Stuff every week.
For anyone who’s cut out clam chowder and chicken-noodle soup to stay gluten-free, DiCero has a version that fits. Each day’s soup is posted on Sweet Stuff’s social-media pages. Also gluten-free is Sweet Stuff’s creamy cheddar and smoked ham soup, which ordinarily wouldn’t be anywhere near my first choice for soup. But the consistency and savor of DiCero’s recipe impressed me so much that I’d plan lunchtime around the day’s selection. French onion, tomato-basil, beef-barley, butternut squash and split pea are on Sweet Stuff’s regular rotation.
A 12-ounce cup or 16-ounce bowl of soup, a sweet or savory turnover and a soda can be had for $4.99 and $5.99, respectively. The price is just a fraction more than many restaurants charge for the serving size of soup alone. And although there’s only one or two soups available daily, turnovers come in about a dozen flavors, from mainstream apple, pear, spinach and bacon-cheddar to the sweet-savory fig-manchego and turkey-cranberry-cream cheese.
Spinach seemed a likely companion to the ham-and-cheddar soup. But my 3-year-old son would not be deterred from ordering the “dragonfruit mix,” a flavor I’d never before encountered. Actually a mélange of several fruits, including mango, strawberry and its namesake, the filling had a slightly spicy, raisiny note reminiscent of mincemeat.
The flaky pastry held up a bit better after reheating in the microwave than the spinach turnovers my mom and I selected. Given its lunchtime promotion, Sweet Stuff should invest in a toaster oven to ensure that baked goods are warmed without getting soggy.
Achieving a commendable temperature with countertop slow cookers, the soup was hot almost to the last drop, a boon during these cold months. Sweet Stuff also brews hot coffee to complement its desserts, snacks and treats. When my mom asked to substitute a cup for the soda advertised with the meal deal, staff didn’t hesitate to make the switch.
The turnovers were such a hit that I took a few to go for the next morning’s breakfast. Light, fluffy pear-cinnamon turnovers reheated nicely in our home oven, along with DiCero’s rich blackberry-cream cheese Danish. Each are priced at $2.99.
In general, I find Sweet Stuff’s items tend more toward underbaked than overdone, which suits them to reheating, either on site or at home. Some items do tend to lose moisture in the process.
Orange-cranberry and maple-walnut breakfast rolls ($3.99 each) that I reheated less than a day after purchasing weren’t as ooey-gooey as I typically expect from the cinnamon-roll family. So it pays to ask which items in the expansive display cases are freshest.
Case in point, macarons that Sweet Stuff touted as “buy one, get one half off” varied noticeably in texture, depending on when they had been arranged in the countertop’s chic apothecary jars. Lavender-lemon had a lovely flavor but was a bit too crusty for most fans of this French sandwich cookie. The green tea’s flavor was subtle, but the texture more in line with what I anticipated. I asked DiCero which macaron was most recently baked, and she confirmed that the green tea was the fresher of the two.
Yet I give DiCero considerable credit for keeping display cases filled with just about anything customers could request, rather than risk they’ll turn away if their favorites are absent. Since DiCero set up shop almost five years ago at Rogue Valley Growers & Crafters Market, she’s done a brisk business in cupcakes and cake pops, which come in nearly countless flavors at the brick-and-mortar location.
A slice of her six-layer “death by chocolate” cake easily could content two, perhaps three, chocoholics while a chocolate-dipped cream puff constitutes a single-serving bite. Eclairs, cannoli and chocolate croissants are merely a few of her cocoa-laden treats.
Holiday-themed sweets aren’t overlooked, either. Since opening in early October, DiCero has crafted caramel and candied apples and confections shaped like bats, mummies, pumpkins and Thanksgiving turkeys. This month’s gingerbread men, sugar cookies and fully decorated gingerbread houses are tempting alternatives to homemade, while DiCero’s gingerbread-house kits make for a fun, family activity.
Sweet Stuff is open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. Call 541-772-4439 or see sweetstuffcake.com.