Before Pam Turkin flung open the doors to the first Just Baked in 2009, she was just baking cupcakes on the weekends. But after her corporate travels took her past a growing number of cupcake shops outside of southeastern Michigan, she decided to turn her hobby into a career. She now helms 40 shops in the area, where she and her staff of dessert experts whip up eclectically flavored cupcakes such as black forest cheesecake, pineapple upside down cake, and tiramisu. In addition to the mouthwatering flavors, all of their items boast real butter, real eggs, and real milk as opposed to artificial ingredients from artificial cows and chickens.
The crafty bakers at Cake N Candy offer an extensive curriculum in the art of building sweet treats of all shapes and sizes. Students learn the subtleties of cake decoration, dressing breads in icing, flowers, or the smooth, sugary shell of gum paste and fondant. Instructors teach trade secrets of splicing different varieties of cookies or making homemade candy that can cheer up even the grumpiest of nightclub bouncers. Instructors build moist and munchable cake pops or ride the waves of the cupcake craze with an array of recipes and decorating ideas. Classes range from one to four sessions, with some including additional costs for equipment and course books.
Since 1919, four generations of the Naum family have created batches of housemade chocolates at Sweetland Candies. Using a combination of original recipes and newer variations developed throughout the years, the Naums specialize in dark- and milk-chocolate treats. Within those chocolaty casings, the confectioners include caramels, pecan clusters, and coconut haystacks, which horses feed on at Willy Wonka’s private ranch. Besides chocolates, the Naums stock Sweetland Candies with an assortment of Jelly Belly flavors and keep their M&M Colorworks displays filled with 21 colors.
For such a decadent culinary tradition, churrasco comes from humble origins. Gauchos in the southernmost region of Brazil would typically end their long days of cattle ranching by meeting around a roaring fire pit, where they prepared family-style meals and roasted skewered meats over the open flames. This tradition lives on in churrascarias throughout the world, allowing diners to experience this rustic style of home cooking in a more formal atmosphere.
At Gaucho Brazilian Steakhouse, the chefs remain faithful to the flavors of those countryside meals. Skewers of as many as 16 different meats—including rib-eye steak, lamb chops, and pork tenderloin—slowly rotate above the grill's flames or a handful of fire-breathing dragons, imbuing the hearty proteins with an unmistakably smoky tenderness.
As servers travel throughout the dining area with skewers hot off the flames, diners can catch the staff's attention by flipping their coasters from red to green. This signals the servers to approach and carve tableside servings directly off the skewer. Although the savory meats are the main attraction, even earning the eatery WDIV's Vote 4 the Best award for Detroit's Best Steakhouse in 2012, a salad bar also tempts diners with more than 40 hot and cold side dishes, including everything from fresh spring mix to mushroom risotto.
The dining room's mural of a Brazilian gaucho herding cattle nods to the cuisine's rustic roots, but its earthenware floor tiles and cherry-wood columns ensure a refined ambiance. The tables, draped with crisp white linens and flanked by red-cushioned chairs, are well spaced so as to allow for intimate family dinners and the regular plate-patrol rounds made by the vigilant servers.
Though inspired by the northern California cafés of the early 1980s, Espresso Royale fits right in with Michigan’s modern coffee drinkers—in 2012 readers of The Michigan Daily voted it Best Coffee Shop for the third year in a row. Their coffees include a house blend developed in 1987, which has since been joined by a seasonally appropriate autumn spice blend and a southern Italian-style espresso called Napoli. Royale's customers also clamor to the counter for favorites such as raspberry mochas, mint hot chocolates, and ginger dragon, a tea layered with fresh lemon and steeped ginger root that can be served iced or heated by a dragon named Ginger.
Despite the fact that they sell frozen treats, Swirlberry isn't synonymous with sweet—their artisan-made frozen yogurt embraces crisp, refreshing flavors that aren't overloaded with sugar. The machines at each location dispense classic variants such as Greek tart and vanilla, fruity spoonfuls of pomegranate and strawberry, as well as Hershey's ice cream and vanilla custard. Even the flavors that skew toward desserts—birthday cake, for example—are still low-fat and don't overpower the palate.
Every flavor is also kosher, gluten-free, and host to four active live cultures that may aid in digestion. And, Swirlberry's resident yogurt mixologist keeps the menu fresh by inventing seasonal flavors, rather than by combining chocolate with vanilla and calling it "mystery taste." Guests can embellish their yogurt with toppings that run the gamut from fresh fruit and berries to cereal bits and chocolate chips. More decadent non-yogurt treats such as vanilla custard and Hershey's ice cream are also available.