Urban Cookies and Bakeshop
Judy Nichols

Just when you think you couldn't eat one more stinkin' cupcake — that cupcakes are, like, so totally over — Urban Cookies has to go and make one of the best darn cupcakes to ever grace this fine planet. The Orange Blossom is the ideal combination of super-moist orange and olive oil cake and fluffy, light rosewater buttercream. The luxuriously floral frosting has an almost whipped-cream-like consistency. It would be great on pretty much anything, and we'd even eat it straight up, but it enhances the delicately sweet orange cake straight to flavor heaven. Did we mention it's also a Cupcake Wars-winning flavor? All this greatness is available to you for just $3.09, including tax, making it even cheaper than any one of that big chain's inferior, oversweetened confections. Support local cupcakes: Buy a dozen or two Orange Blossom cupcakes from Urban Cookies.

Churn
David B. Moore

If we were to put money on the next big trend in baked goods, we'd have to go the way of the dessert bar, with lemon front and center. Though Churn makes many different types of bars, including zinger bars, sweet 'n' salty bars, brown butter toffee bars, and the intensely decadent s'mores bar, nothing is quite as perfectly simple and craveable as Churn's lemon bar. The lemon curd, incomparably silky and smooth, sits atop a crumbly, shortbread-like crust pairing tangy, creamy, and sweet flavors in the most satisfying and addicting way. Honestly, we never paid much attention to simple little lemon bars until we tried Churn's take on the classic dessert — and now we're hooked. Stop by the CenPho bakery and creamery on Central Avenue for a dozen or so of these bad boys for your next shindig and you'll be the life of the party.

Crepe Bar

Like a beautiful woman, Jeff Kraus' crepes are striking enough to stop your inner monologue. Harmonizing with seductive ingredients like herbed chèvre, blood oranges, and Moroccan honey, the luscious thin pancakes are folded, twisted, and arranged on plates that act more like canvases than serving vessels. A small menu of ever-changing creations is almost temptingly cruel in the way it makes us choose. But once we've selected, the experience is nothing short of ambrosia.

Karl's Kronuts

Cronut, schmonut. We know the doughnut/croissant mash-up created by a fancy New York pastry chef was the cupcake of summer 2013, with folks lining up for hours to get one and imitations popping up everwhere. Even Karl's Quality Bakery in Sunnyslope got in on the action, with a "FreDo" — and we have to admit it was pretty good. But we'd walk all the way to New York City just to get one of Karl's apple fritters. The (almost) Frisbee-sized, apple-packed treat is the best we've had, and it made it to the top of the list of best doughnuts this year in a crowded field. Luckily, you won't have to cross the country to get one. Just hop in your car and drive to north Phoenix. But get there early. Karl sells out fast.

When's the best time for a doughnut? Anytime. At this 24-hour doughnut shop in Tempe, run by one of the owners of BoSa Donuts, you can get your fried fritter on before joining the rat race or, via the drive-thru, after partying with the night owls. And with more than 40 varieties to choose from — think buttermilk, Boston Cream, cinnamon crumb, toasted coconut, and giant bear claws — at Arizona Donut Co., it's a matter of not when you'll be eating doughnuts, but which doughnuts you'll be eating.

Snoh Ice Shavery
RDQ Photography

Although it's been a ubiquitous part of Asian cuisine for hundreds of years, bao bing (pronounced bow-BING) the frozen treat made of finely shaved flavored ice, fresh fruit, flavored sugar syrup, and condensed milk hasn't always been the easiest to find in America. So when this stylish little shop of cool and fruity bliss landed in Central Phoenix this spring, we thanked our shaved-ice stars. Our favorite is the taro with mochi balls and a glaze of black sesame, but you can personalize your bao bing however you'd like: with flavors such as strawberry, mango, and Thai tea; toppings that include boba, kiwi, lychee — even Oreos; and glaze options of condensed milk, chocolate, and caramel. Very cool.

Caffe Sarajevo
Jackie Mercandetti

We love Seida Turulja's homemade lepinja, chewy and soft nook-and-cranny Bosnian flatbread, as much as what she puts inside it. The owner and chef of this hidden gem of Bosnian food in West Phoenix, Turulja makes about 100 lepinja daily, freezing them, and then, when it's time, grilling them along with meats like plump and garlicky grilled lamb and beef sausages, spicy and juicy veal hot dogs, and chicken to soak up the flavor. Nearly the size of a dinner plate, there isn't much Turulja's lepinja can't handle — especially when it's a healthy appetite.

Cool Gelato Italiano

When it comes to Italy's culinary gift bag of sweet treats, gelato, the Italian version of ice cream, may be the one we enjoy receiving the most. And at this real-deal gelato shop in Scottsdale, from Italian-born husband and wife team Alberto della Casa and Letizia de Lucia, it can be scooped up in 20 varieties. From the fresh and berry-heavy Fruits of the Forest to silky stracciatella with shaved dark chocolate interspersed in creamy fior di latte to seasonal creations like pecan pie, cinnamon roll, and Irish coffee, each is a scoop of luscious indulgence in a colorful plastic cup. The only thing missing is the bow.

Sweet Republic
New Times

Sweet Republic is the kind of place that takes us out of our ice cream comfort zone. At this bright, cheery spot, top-notch local and seasonal ingredients artfully find their way into small, handcrafted batches of flavors that encourage us to break free of our ice cream confines. There are made-from-scratch creations like luscious plum verbena, refreshing basil lime sorbet, and decadent honey blue cheese made with aged raw sheep's milk and local desert blossom honey. It's a good bet we may never peer into an ice cream case the same way again.

European Bakery and Cafe
Jordyn Carias

This family-owned bakery, from Armenian natives David and Rose Kouyoumjian, may have a West Valley address, but thanks to pastries from France, Armenia, Poland, Germany, Italy, and Hungary, the scene's a sweetly international one. When the Kouyoumjians aren't busy filling bakery cases with a colorful display of delicate tiered cakes, fruit-filled strudels, and crunchy cookies, they're making loaves of fresh bread or packing premium cheeses, meats, and veggies into more than 10 kinds of massive sandwiches that won't leave customers from any country going home hungry.

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