Maroon 5′s single “Sugar” is my favorite song on the radio right now, not just because of the danceable beat or the freaking adorable video of surprise performances by the band at weddings, but also because it conjures up images of candy jars and glass pastry cases in my dessert-loving mind.
And since I don’t want my sweets to be, well, not so sweet to animals, I’ve become a connoisseur of cruelty-free cakes, plant-based pies, and other yummy vegan desserts. Here are some of my fave finds (you can thank me later):
Orange Cream Cupcake at Green Vegetarian Cuisine
My current love interest got things off to a sweet start when we went on a date to Green in San Antonio. From the huge selection of vegan desserts, I was able to narrow it down to three, and he insisted that I get all three of them. Which did I like the best? It was a tough call among the “veganized” Twinkie, the black-and-white cupcake with the irresistible panda face, and the Orange Cream cupcake. But the Orange Cream, with its fluffy marmalade icing and vanilla filling reminiscent of the Creamsicles of my childhood, finally won my heart — as did he. Green also has a location in Houston.
Cannoli at Vegan Treats Bakery
No matter where you are in Pennsylvania, where you need to be is at Vegan Treats in Bethlehem for its cannoli. This flaky pastry is filled with a faintly sweet cream, and the ends are dipped in chocolate chips. You can get it dusted in powered sugar or have the entire cannoli dipped in chocolate. And you can eat one or one dozen in a sitting (I won’t judge).
Brownies at Vegan Vee Gluten-Free Bakery
Everything at Vegan Vee in Nashville is vegan and gluten-free and made with “real,” predominantly organic ingredients. Go for the melt-in-your-mouth brownies and stay for … well, everything else. If you get there when the bakery is closed, don’t worry — you can get fresh Vegan Vee desserts at local restaurants including The Wild Cow, Atmalogy, and Headquarters.
Vegan Cheesecake at Loving Hut
I know, I know — I wrote about it before, but it’s THAT good. It’s like what would happen if old-fashioned vanilla ice cream and rich, creamy cheesecake had a baby. And since Loving Hut has more than 200 locations, you can likely find one near you. Believe me, the cheesecake alone is worth the trip.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie at Pasha Mezze
This Turkish restaurant in Norfolk, Virginia, has loads of vegan options, but one that people keep coming back for is the Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie: a crumbly chocolate crust layered with creamy peanut butter filling and chocolate glaze. It’s brought in from Sticky Fingers Bakery in Washington, D.C., so you can get it there, too.
Lemon Tart at Merge
Nothing says summer like a lemon tart. At Merge in Buffalo, New York, the tart has an almond crust that’s filled with tangy lemon curd and topped with fluffy meringue. And you can often eat it while listening to live music from local artists.
Ice Cream Sandwich at Meze 119
Ice cream melts fast in St. Petersburg, Florida, but it doesn’t matter because Meze 119‘s ice cream sandwich will be gone long before that point. Vanilla ice cream between two soft homemade sugar cookies makes for a yummy treat that’s so big that I actually split one with my girlfriend (which never happens).
Red Velvet Cupcake at Sprinkles
Growing up in the South, you learn early on the importance of a good red velvet cake. We’re serious about it. So this little vegan redneck is overjoyed that I don’t have to choose between values and taste. Sprinkles, with locations across the U.S., makes a red velvet cupcake that even my granny would approve of. And there are even Cupcake ATMs for emergencies. Don’t pretend that you don’t know what I’m talking about.
Similar versions of these tasty dinner-finishers (or lunch-finishers, or even breakfast-finishers, if you’re anything like me) are available at restaurants nationwide. I’d like to think that Maroon 5′s bassist, Mickey Madden, would like my choices. He’s vegan and a PETA supporter after all. Seriously, Mickey, anytime you’d like to split a package of Double Stuf Oreos, I’m down — just putting that out there.