It would be easy to pass an entire week at Infinite Tan & Spa, lounging on massage chairs, gossiping with the nail technicians, and sunning in advanced tanning beds as stereos pipe in your favorite CDs. Unfortunately for the rest of us, the only people who are able to spend an extended period of time at this tranquil oasis are the staff of specialists, who perform professional haircuts, adorn nails in Shellac polish, and soothe muscles with Swedish, deep-tissue, sports, and prenatal massages. When administering professional facials, the expert aestheticians cleanse, exfoliate, and moisturize skin to smooth wrinkles, reduce pores, and remove any last-minute shopping lists you might have hastily jotted on your forehead.
Butter, farm-fresh eggs, cream cheese, cake flour, confectioners and granulated sugar, baking powder, vanilla extract—those seven ingredients are all it takes to make a Gooey Louie gooey butter cake. Owners Kirk and Debbie Stieferman and their crew make each cake from scratch in small batches, following a recipe four generations old, which has led to them being named the "Favorite Gooey Buttercake" by the Riverfront Times five years running. From scratch means the ingredients are all natural and put together by hand—they even sift their own flour. Customers can pick up an original cake, or choose from different flavored iterations, such as chocolate raspberry, peanut-butter cup, and pumpkin. They even craft miniature versions of their cakes for catered events such as weddings and food fights.
From the first waft as you dive headfirst through Breadsmith's door and slither your way to its inviting counter, it's readily apparent that each morsel of tantalizing fare is made from scratch, trace amounts of sniff, and stardust. The family-centric bakery uses some of the finest, freshest, and most forbidden fruit-like ingredients to create the city's highest-quality breads. Breadsmith's list of dozens of breads changes seasonally and consists of many European-style and whole-grain loaves. April's daily bread offerings, for example, range from $2.79 to $9.50 a loaf and include French baguettes ($3.59), rustic Italian ($4.25) paisanos, sourdough ($4.29), heart-healthy flaxseed ($4.79), braided challah that'll make you hollah ($5.99), apple-pie bread ($6.99) that occasionally contains baseballs and pictures of Mom, and a few surprises. All of the bread is tenderly handmade and hearth-baked in a six-ton Bongard oven while being sung gentle lullabies.
After graduating from cake-decorating school in Basel, Switzerland, Karl Knodel immigrated to America and opened his own cakery in 1901. In the 109 years since then, his family members have inherited recipes for his signature baked delights and used them to continue delighting discerning St. Louis sweet teeth and winning acclaim from picky incisors far and wide. Knodel's cakes, which vary in price depending on design decadence, are available in flavors such as caramel fudge, strawberry shortcake, red velvet, and eternity. For handheld treats, there's a 1 lb. cookie box ($9.95) or individual decorated cookies ($0.65+). Cupcakes strut down tongue catwalks in a variety of edible outfits (individual cupcakes start at $0.80). Call no less than five days in advance for custom cakes.
After honing her baking and decorating skills for more than a decade at a French-pastry shop in the New York City suburbs, Sugar N Spice Creations’ owner, Chris M'Gonigle, started her own cakes, cookies, and pastries business. Along with a team of adept decorators, Chris squeezes colored icing into intricate floral bouquets and coaxes seasonal figures such as turkeys, snowmen, and hearts. She and her staff pass on their baking acumen to visitors in cookie- and cupcake-decorating classes, where they demonstrate how to create icing designs and ancient baker hieroglyphs.
Far from the sloping prairies of Eastern Europe, John and Jerri Banks were hard at work bringing pastries from the Old World to consumers in Houston, Texas. The year was 1982, and though it would be several years before Food Network would name Kolache Factory one of the top five drive-thrus in the country, the on-the-go bakery was becoming a popular destination for breakfast, lunch, and leakfast. The menu is simple: traditional slavic pastry rolls filled with savory and sweet ingredients accompanied by gourmet coffee. Today, the Banks' Texas bakery has spread to several American cities, though all franchises continue to serve the centuries-old baked goods.