BakeLab: the sweet spot of Asian American bakeries : Food & Drink : Smile Politely


I can’t say no to good pastries. BakeLab offers Asian American pastries and is definitely one of my favorite bakeries in town for coffee and pastries. There’s nothing better than a hot coffee with a pastry.

This sister cafe to BrewLab, BakeLab is located in the lobby of the new Gather apartment building. There aren’t many cafes that open as early as BakeLab at 7am. One of the best things for me as a student is just having hot coffee and pastries at the start of my day. Inside the cafe, there are many places where people can sit with friends, their beloved or just have a moment for themselves.

The exterior of BakeLab on Lincoln Avenue in Urbana has a white sign with a heart and the name of the bakery.  The windows have lighting Photo by Xiaohui Zhang.
Inside BakeLab, it's a bit dark as customers line up to order at the counter.  Photo by Xiaohui Zhang.Photo by Xiaohui Zhang.

Personally, I don’t like overly sweet baked goods, but rather enjoy the original taste and texture of how the dough comes out. The Asian-American style baked goods presented by BakeLab’s talented baker Dai Shi are definitely the kind of treats you can’t resist. All of their pastries are freshly baked and served daily.

Photo by Xiaohui Zhang.

Popular items include canelé, croissants and rolls. Among them, croissants are always the best for me. You can get most of these goodies for between $4 and $6, and a variety of coffees and seasonal drinks are also available. For the sake of variety, I tried seven different things and shared my experience here.

On a gray wooden counter there is a croissant with strawberries and mascarpone on top.  Photo by Daishi. Photo by Daishi.

The first thing I tried was this Strawberry Mascarpone Croissant that was priced at $5.75. This is absolutely my favorite treat. The homemade strawberry jam filling and the mascarpone filling provided the perfect mix of texture to savor the croissant. The strawberry filling was at a high level of sweetness that didn’t overwhelm the great taste of the light cream.

On a marble counter, there is a plain butter croissant next to a glass jar of overnight oats and a silver spoon.  Photo by Daishi.Photo by Daishi.

A variety of croissants are available at BakeLab. A satisfying breakfast of a plain butter croissant ($4) and a cup of overnight oats with fresh fruit toppings ($4.50) gave me an energized start to the day . The croissant has a crispy texture on the outside but soft on the inside. Overnight oats were made with milk and a touch of honey. It made it creamy, but the fruit toppings gave me some freshness to savor.

On a gray butcher block counter is an apple danish.  Photo by Daishi.Photo by Daishi.

For the last croissant I tried, I chose a flat croissant: the apple danish ($5.25). I loved the crispy butter croissant. The apple slices and a little powdered sugar just met my sweetness expectations. It was a good quality danish that I immediately enjoyed from the first bite.

In front of a brown paper bag with a label from the bakery, there is a soft brioche sprinkled with powdered sugar.  Photo by Daishi.Photo by Daishi.

In addition to the different types of croissants, the rolls of different flavors are also my favorite. BakeLab offers matcha flavors with red bean paste and cream cheese with cranberries. I tried the one with cream cheese and cranberries ($5.25). The bread itself was soft and chewy to enjoy. The cranberry cream cheese filling took the heaviness out and added a hint of sweet and sour flavor to manage the texture of the cream cheese. I really liked the bread dough.

In a paper cup holder are two plastic take-out coffee cups held by the author's hand.  Photo by Xiaohui Zhang.Photo by Xiaohui Zhang.

Since it’s not just a bakery but a sister cafe to BrewLab, I’d definitely like to try some coffee drinks from the store. I ordered the regular iced latte and the cold brew with a little cream added for $4 each. The coffee was definitely made from good quality beans as I could smell the roast so obviously. The cold brew, on the other hand, was average, but that didn’t impress me too much. There are also plenty of other seasonal drink options such as apple pie cider if you want to feel the fall vibes.

There are still a wide variety of items that I haven’t had a chance to try, but I can’t wait to come back to try them.

This place is definitely a gem for the city. Dai is a talented baker who strives to serve her customers with the best quality pastries. I have been there several times before this visit for the review, and the staff are always helpful and patient in presenting their products. Baristas are so great at adapting to different people’s coffee habits. Be sure to put BakeLab on your list for your next visit.

Bake Lab
410 Lincoln Avenue North
T-Sun 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Top image by Dai Shi.

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