Sweet Spot

Dolce Vita Desserts creates custom comfort treats from scratch.

closeup photo of small blue and white iced cakes, courtesy


These days, Dolce Vita Desserts is a go-to spot in and around State College for cupcakes, wedding cakes, and other sweet treats. But it all started when Mary Lindenberger Hilliard ’88 Sci decided to deliver Christmas cookies to her neighbors one holiday season. “I never really imagined it would turn into a business,” says Hilliard, Dolce Vita’s owner, “but it’s just kind of grown very organically.”

closeup of blue and white sugared cookies, courtesyHilliard, who worked as an actuary in the Washington, D.C., area before relocating to State College, was soon inundated with orders. She moved on to selling cookies out of a Boalsburg deli, one of several local businesses that allowed her to use their commercial kitchens as her business grew. In 2011, she opened Dolce Vita in nearby Lemont, then expanded and moved to its current location about three miles east of downtown State College in 2017.

Dolce Vita has cut back on customized cakes in recent years due to their time-consuming nature and staffing and ingredient sourcing challenges, but the bakery still offers signature items such as wedding cakes and gluten-free and vegan options. Many of Hilliard’s from-scratch recipes were handed down from her mother, and Dolce Vita has found a receptive audience in Penn State parents, who order cupcakes and other goodies that the store delivers to University Park. Says Hilliard, “To be able to take care of Penn State students has been really special.”