From the time we're born, sweet is the first taste humans prefer. Sugar is a carbohydrate, and carbohydrates stimulate the brain's feel-good chemical, seratonin, the American Dietetic Association reports. Sure, carbohydrates come from fruits, vegetables and a warm piece of lightly buttered whole grain toast. But there are some days when only a chocolate chip cookie will satisfy your craving.
Consider one of these sweet treats the next time your sweet tooth sings.
Baker Boys Bakery, Highland Park
Stop in the Ravinia business district for one of the cupcakes, some frozen custard or a cup of coffee from this local favorite. Offerings from owners Jordan Rappaport and Peter Rauser change daily, so you'll be hard pressed to determine your absolute favorite flavor. On the other hand, the truly determined have an excuse to make frequent visits.
Bent Fork Bakery, Highwood
Part bakery part social hub, the Bent Fork Bakery has quickly built an empire in Highwood. The case of cupcakes, cookies, dessert bars and mini cakes draws you in for a sweet treat, but the mini-loaves of lovely lemon cake and the crostadas keep you thinking about the all-butter, small batch bakery the morning after. And then there are the full size cakes to wow your guests at your next birthday party. Stop in now for pumkpin desserts (bars, breads and cupcakes), as The Bent Fork is one sponsor of the Great Highwood Pumpkin Festival.
Cup of Cake, Glenview
New to The Glen, this shop bakes daily in small batches and offer a variety of cupcake flavors (Drumstick, anyone?) to satisfy most any craving. Look beyond the birthday cake and red velvet treats in the case to find cake pops, whoopie pies, French macaroons and other treats. Enter your ideas for new flvors at a monthly contest on Facebook, and mark your calendars for $2 Tuesday specials.
Deerfields Bakery, Deerfield
With 125 years in the business of baking, the family-owned Deerfield's Bakery is a local icon whose beautiful cakes have celebrated countless First Communions, Bar Mitzvahs, birthdays and weddings (and first anniversaries, for those who dare to taste the top tier after a year in the freezer - mine was as delicious as on my wedding day) up and down the North Shore. Instead of waiting until your next party for your fix, stop in any morning for a cup of coffee and a pastry. The staff won't tell anyone if you have a cupcake with sprinkles before noon.
Lawrence Deans Bake Shop, Wilmette
Owner Larry Blanas wet his feet at the Northfield Farmers Market over the last few summers before opening his Wilmette bakery in July, and his experience shows. The cases of cupcakes, brownies, fudge, cinnamon rolls and decorated cookies are just as temping as the biscotti bar set up at eye level: so many flavors to choose from! Larry's wife Vicky decorates the cookies herself, with seasonal themes like soccer balls, Halloween icons and Octoberfest steins.
Yogen Fruz, Northbrook
New downtown, Yogen Fruz is a self-serve bar that allows guests to pair probiotic soft serve frozen yogurt with fruit and other sweet toppings for a personalized result. There's a peach berry sunset smoothie for a mid-morning refreshment; vanilla with berries, bananas and granola for an afternoon snack; or coffee frozen yogurt with carob chips and graham cracker crumbs after a night at the movies. If this all seems like too many choices, guests can pick a recommended combination from a menu in the store.