Made in Virginia 2020: Food Winners (Sweets & Snacks)

Virginia businesses offer outstanding options for sweet treats and snacks.

Photography by Fred + Elliott

Pecan Sour Cream Coffee Cake

KamboCake, Ashburn 

Cakes are baked into Tiffany Lippy’s family history. Kambo was the name Lippy’s father affectionately called her mother, and the moniker of her 1990s home-based bakery, Kambo’s Kitchen. More than 30 years later, Ashburn’s KamboCake, run by Lippy and her husband, Bill, is named in her mother’s memory, and Kambo’s signature sour cream coffee cake remains a staple. Generously topped with fresh pecans, this cake is bursting with sweet cinnamon and the decadence of rich sour cream and farm-fresh eggs. “Whatever the occasion, Kambo made her cakes with love, and people used to remark that you could almost taste her love in this cake. This sentiment is something we strive to create in every KamboCake,” Lippy says. $12-$26.95, KamboCake.com

Staff Notes: Phenomenal flavor in beautiful packaging. My only perfect score!

Chocolate-Covered Salted Caramel Bites

Say Cheese…cake!  Richmond

Launching a business during a pandemic is no small feat—especially when your original business model depended on festivals, events, and farmers’ markets. Cheryl Wittman wanted to offer a unique handheld treat that would be easy to consume on the go, so she created cheesecake bites inspired by petit fours. She drew on more than 25 years of making cheesecake for family and friends to launch her business in June 2020—and her Salted Caramel Bites have quickly become her flagship product. “Perfecting this product has truly been a labor of love for me,” Wittman says. “I felt it was very important to introduce my company with a truly unique product. … It’s the perfect blend of creamy sweetness with a touch of salt and crunch.” $22 per dozen, SayCheeseCakeRVA.com

Staff Notes: Taste great, and the bite-sized pieces are so easy to eat. Indulgent holiday dessert.

Sweet Potato Pie

Joyebells Sweet Potato Pies, Richmond 

Joye B. Moore often finds herself gazing at a photo of her third great-grandmother Sarah-Mae Howell, the last generation of her family born into slavery. “I am told that she was a resilient woman and the matriarch who cared deeply about her family,” Moore says. “She had spirit!” She also had a sweet potato pie recipe that would stand the test of time. Now operating out of Hatch RVA in Richmond, Moore bakes sweet potato pies just like Sarah-Mae used to make. “As a steward of our family’s legacy recipe, it’s my responsibility to ensure the recipe remains authentic,” Moore says. “My North Carolinian grandmothers and mother before me have always poured love into their baking and served it with pride. Here at Joyebells we will pass on that love in every pie!” $12.99-$15.99, Joyebells.com

Staff Notes: Very creamy and balanced, with a super buttery crust. Tastes like the holidays.

“Create Your Own” Chocolate Chip Cookies

Sweet Signatures , Sterling

Company founder Monica Archondo of Sweet Signatures has been adding a custom kick to a classic treat by printing full-color designs on treats since 2013. “It took off pretty quickly, because who doesn’t love to personalize a gift for somebody?” Archondo says. “We can personalize and customize them with any image, from your favorite pet to your goofy family photo, and even corporate logos.” The cookies are made with all butter and Belgian chocolate chips, then topped with icing, sprinkles, and the design printed on edible sugar paper. $3 per cookie (minimum applies), SweetSignatures.com 

Staff Notes: Really clever! Perfect for a party, event, or gift.

Hot Honeycomb

Gearharts Fine Chocolates, Charlottesville

What started as a Valentine’s Day special for sweet heat lovers has become one of Gearharts Fine Chocolates’ most popular new products—and a favorite of owner Tim Gearhart. While the crunchy confection called honeycomb or sponge candy has been around for a long time, Gearharts’ Hot Honeycomb is a relatively new addition to the market. “Since Gearharts is always trying to think a little differently, I thought it would be a really interesting take on the classic,” Gearhart says. The collaboration with Waynesboro’s Bubba’s Sweet Nectar is a crunchy puffed wildflower honey candy with a subtle “sting” of chili pepper bathed in a balanced and earthy 70 percent Peru/Dominican Republic blend of dark chocolate. $12, GearhartsChocolates.com  

Staff Notes: The “sting” is subtle, but nicely balances the honey and chocolate. The honeycomb is sometimes crisp and sometimes chewy, so every bite is different.

Cheddar Cheese Straws

Three Sisters Cheese Straws, Richmond

Offer a cheese straw to the wrong person, and you might get a funny look in return. Just ask Three Sisters Cheese Straws co-owner Ann Kamps Taliaferro. “It’s funny how you can mention the term ‘cheese straw’ in Virginia and people know exactly what you’re talking about, but as soon as you get outside, people start to think you’re drinking cheese through a tube.” For the uninitiated, these addictive little snack sticks are made with a whole lot of butter and cheese, and Three Sisters’ flaky, slightly spicy straws are based on a fourth-generation recipe that’s made by hand in Richmond. “We love how our cheese straws can be so nostalgic,” says Taliaferro, who bought the original business with her friends Elizabeth Crowley and Peanut Kempe in 2018. “Customers tell us all the time that our cheese straws taste just like their mother or grandmother used to make during the holidays, which is the biggest compliment.” $5.85, 3SistersCheeseStraws.com

Staff Notes: Cheesy, salty, buttery, flaky … everything a store cheese cracker wants to be, but better!

Hummus

The Perfect Pita, Springfield

When Atilla Kan first moved with his family to the United States from Turkey in 1975, he worked at the Turkish Embassy by day and waited tables by night. Within just a few years, he’d opened his own restaurant, where he became famous for his pita bread. He sold that spot in the early ’90s and shifted his focus to The Perfect Pita, a takeout restaurant and catering service that now has eight locations around the Washington, D.C., area. While their perfect pitas are their signature, Kan’s hummus also has its share of devotees. Kan’s daughter and business partner, Erica Olds, says that its creaminess sets it apart, along with signature flavors like Black Bean & Cilantro and Rosemary & Sea Salt. $3.99-$6.99, ThePerfectPita.com

Staff Notes: Very tahini-forward and super creamy. My favorite was the jalapeño.


This article originally appeared in the December 2020 issue. See below for links to more winners. Look for these and other products Made in Virginia in the Virginia Living Store.

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