Smile Politely

Rick’s bakery serves up tasty pastries

In an unassuming storefront in a strip mall in Urbana, a new baker has been quietly kneading, mixing, and frosting his way into people’s hearts and making his way into their daily routines. Rick Carrillo opened Rick’s Bakery Café about a month and a half ago, and six days a week since then, he’s produced dozens of fresh breads, flaky pastries, cakes, and other treats from scratch.

So who is the Rick behind Rick’s Bakery Café? When I first spotted him in the long, narrow kitchen, he was up to his elbows in flour, where he is many hours of every day. Carrillo started working in a bakery 16 years ago and learned his skill there, but later went to a culinary school in Los Angeles to get a diploma and refine his craft.

He moved to the Champaign-Urbana area about seven years ago to be close to family in the area, and recently decided to open his own bakery. For now, you’ll find Carrillo working hard at his bakery almost every hour that it’s open, unless he’s running an errand for the store. “We make everything [from] scratch in here. All the layers of the cakes, all the pastries, all the breads,” Carrillo said. That would explain how he uses about 400 pounds of flour every week.

One of his aims is to offer locals a different selection of fresh baked goods than is available elsewhere. The array in the enticing double case extends beyond the usual suspects to a rotating selection of cookies by the pound, like macaroons, chocolate finger cookies, and fruit cookies, like apple, apricot, or raspberry.

Pastries ($1.50–$2.50) also comprise a large portion of one display case, and those that sell out the fastest are alligator pastry, almond bear claw, almond croissant, and cheese Danish. Not surprisingly, Carrillo says the first two are among his favorites, along with the chocolate croissant. Maybe the repeat customers can taste the passion in the food. The second case displays the individual cakes and cake slices ($2.00–$4.50), as well as a few full cakes, of all flavors, like princess cake and tiramisu cake. Carrillo also makes cakes to order for special events like birthdays or weddings.

On my recent visit, I noticed that several types of fresh baked breads ($2.50–$7.00) also sat awaiting purchase on the rack in the corner, including French bread and sourdough. After my two recent citywide hunts for challah bread that both ended in disappointment, I was thrilled to learn that Rick’s Bakery regularly stocks challah. A sign also displayed featured breads for different days of the week: Monday, cinnamon and raisin; Tuesday, rye; Wednesday, pecan and raisin; Thursday, wheat; Friday, walnut; and on Saturday, all of the above breads.

Along with a few pastries, I bought the rosemary and garlic focaccia on display on the case, and although some of the rosemary flaked off in the bag, my dining partner and I polished off the loaf with ease later that day. I decline to say whether the chocolate brioche I purchased ever made it home, or whether I ate the entire thing on the way, but I do plan to return for another. Very soon. I didn’t purchase them that day, but I’ll also be back to try the tres leches cake (three milks) and the cappuccino mousse cake, two flavors I’ve not seen anywhere else in town.

Though not expansive, the indoor seating area accommodates four — two tables of two (enough room for a coffee and croissant date) — and the outdoor seating provides two more lounging chairs for nice days. The bakery also serves cold drinks and coffee (75 cents to $1.50) and a couple of types of hot sandwiches or pizzas.

Rick’s Bakery Café is located at 2018 S. Philo Road (on the east side of the road, next to the Dollar Store) in Urbana. To special order cakes, call (217) 344-9383.  Bakery hours are 8–7 p.m. M–F, 8–5 p.m. Saturday.

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