Sweetie-licious BakeryCafé, impossible to miss in the Grand Rapids Downtown Market (you'll be greeted by its pink-adorned station as soon as you walk through the front doors), is a good bet when you're on the hunt for a sweet fix. Here you'll find award-winning crumb-topped fruit pies, colossal cookies made for sharing, glazed muffins, and more. The Peanut Butter Brownie hascreamy peanut butter sweetness sandwiched between dense, chocolate-y chip laden brownies, then topped with chocolate icing and M&Ms. Rich, but not so rich that you can't finish it. Drizzled in chocolate and sprinkled with almond slices, the Almond Macaron is a chewy delight sure to end any meal on a high note. And last but not least, the Molasses Cookie, better than the traditional bite you expect over the holidays: generous with its molasses flavoring, crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, sprinkled with sugar on top. Seen on The Food Network's "Cupcake Wars," Cakabakery (1436 Wealthy St SE, Grand Rapids) brings its baked creations to the Eastown neighborhood. The bakery uses local ingredients and offers vegan and gluten free goodies for all types of diets and lifestyles. You can stop in for a sweet treat or get your goodies custom made. Desserts range from cupcakes and cakes to cookies, caramel corn, cake pops and cheesecakes.
Doughnuts are a versatile dessert: savor them as an after-meal snack or use them as an excuse to indulge for breakfast. Grand Rapids saw the recent opening of Propaganda Doughnuts (117 Division S.), a bakery that uses local and seasonal ingredients. Propaganda's creative concoctions are constantly in rotation and have included a toasted marshmallow doughnut, gluten-free options, 'The Ultimatum' (which includes dark chocolate ganache and potato chips -- a seemingly strange combo, but absolutely delicious) and more creative creations. In Kalamazoo and Battle Creek, load up on Sweetwater's doughnuts, a family owned doughnut joint where the goal is to serve big, gooey, indulgent masterpieces: the more toppings, fillings and frosting, the better. Go for the big-as-your-head cinnamon roll, the Reeses doughnut (chocolate cake with peanut butter creme and chocolate), the Mounds doughnut (chocolate cake topped with vanilla creme, coconut and chocolate drizzle) and even more.
Ice Cream and Gelato
Gelato, a European-style ice cream with very little air whipped into it, is known for using lower butterfat cream than your typical ice cream. But that doesn't mean gelato is any less decadent. Palazzolo's Artisan Gelato and Sorbetto (413 Third St., Fennville) makes gelato masterpieces so rich, two scoops are more than enough. The gelato, sorbetto and frozen yogurt lists go on and on from standard chocolate and vanilla to specialty flavors such as Bananas Foster, Coconut Roasted Almond Fudge, Peanut Butter Banana, Mexican Chocolate Chipotle, Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Dough, Peanut Butter and Jelly, Raspberry Marshmallow Swirl, Dutch Fudge Cookie and more. Captain Sundae (with three locations in Holland and Zeeland) offers a lunch and dinner menu, but who cares about that when there's the Tommy Turtle. This sundae comes with soft-serve vanilla ice cream, caramel, hot fudge, buttered pecans, whipped cream and a cherry.
Come for Dinner, Stay for Dessert
When it comes to dessert fans, dinner is a roadblock to the actual destination. The Chop House takes that seriously and goes a step further by offering La Dolce Vida (190 Monroe Avenue NW, Grand Rapids), a dessert and cigar lounge. Gourmet desserts are prepared by the establishment's pastry chef, which can be paired with dessert wines and liquors. Rustica (236 S. Kalamazoo Mall, Kalamazoo) offers a solid menu full of pastas and entrees, but that doesn't mean the eatery skimps on desserts. Rustica's menu includes dessert staples like bread pudding and tiramisu, as well as creative items like blood orange cake and callebaut chocolate brownie. Harmony Brewing Company (1551 Lake Dr. SE, Grand Rapids) may be known for pizza and beer, but don't overlook what the brewery offers for a sweet treat. The brewery's Salted Caramel Pretzel is a relatively newer item on the menu. A locally made soft pretzel is heated up in Harmony's wood-fired oven and drizzled with house-made caramel.