Walking in downtown Topeka, specialty shops make you stop and turn. Whether it’s the smell of fresh-baked cookies wafting out of Shana Cake or the allure of watching Hazel Hill’s chocolatiers dunk apples into a vat of caramel, there are delicious opportunities on every block. Listed below are just three local favorites.
Cashmere Gourmet Popcorn
Address: 728 S. Kansas Ave.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday
Beginning in 2013, the Anderson family began popping its locally famous gourmet popcorn. They offer more than 20 different flavors. Situated between a chocolate store and Mexican restaurant, they offer another unique-to-Topeka snack option.
Flavors range from strawberry to rainbow “promise,” savory cheesy cheddar to spicy chili cheese, and basically everything in between.
The small operation is family-owned and has gradually grown to a full-blown business. Originally. the Andersons — Bill Anderson, his wife, Angie, and their daughters, Emily and Aleigha — sold popcorn at local farmers markets, then for about two years operated a pop-up store at 1003 S.E. Quincy. They then moved to their permanent location at 728 S. Kansas Ave.
Hazel Hill Chocolate
Address: 724 S. Kansas Ave.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday
Nick and Terry Xidis opened Hazel Hill Chocolate in March 2016. Nick is a third-generation candy maker, and his craft is almost as close to perfect as one can get. Walking in the front door, guests are often greeted with chocolatiers creating masterpieces behind a glass pane, whether it’s covering caramel clusters, dipping delectable cherries or drizzling caramel apples with different toppings.
In their glass display case, which runs almost the length of the store, various chocolate-covered fruits, bark candies, truffles, chocolate clusters, nutter butters and an assortment of other chocolate-covered treats fill the case.
Hazel Hill also has a detailed website, where you can order goodies online, including party platters, chocolate collections and boxed chocolates. More information can be found at hazelhillchocolate.com.
Address: 435 S. Kansas Ave.
Hours: 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. weekdays; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday
A Shana Cake flyer boasts: “Free of corn, nuts, casein, artificial colors, dairy, gluten, GMO’s, artificial flavors, wheat, soy and preservatives.” It turns out that tasty treats don’t require any of them. The allergen-friendly ingredients owner Kelly Dempewolf uses are all delicious.
In April, Shana Cake opened its second bakery in Lawrence, at 914 Massachusetts, which served as a reminder of how many people there have dietary restrictions and are unable or choose not to eat traditional bakery items.
At the original Topeka location, Dempewolf’s mother, Fran Morgan, was busy rolling and pressing chocolate chocolate-chip cookies into balls to be put in the oven. She’s managed the store since her retirement in March, allowing her daughter to open the second location.
Morgan said the common favorites of her customers are cupcakes, orange/cranberry mini breads and lemon bars. But with another breath, she listed banana splits, strawberry shortcake and Swiss roll cakes as well. Without added preservatives or artificial colors, Shana Cake is a necessary stop anytime you’re in the 400 block of S. Kansas Ave.