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Reviews of desserts in Chicago.

Sugar Rush: Lemon Meringue Cupcake from Sweet Sensations

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[Photograph: Kate Bernot]

Call it the Mad Men effect, but retro desserts are cool again—not that most people ever stopped loving them. Exhibit A: The popular lemon meringue cupcake ($3) at Ravenswood's Sweet Sensations Pastry. Baker and owner Sharin Nathan also sells whole lemon meringue cakes of varying sizes, whose toasted tendrils arc away from the cake in futuristic-looking spikes. But unless you're having an Easter party, it can be tricky to justify buying yourself an entire cake. Luckily, the cupcakes pack all the flavor of the larger cake and are rich and sweet enough for two people to share, though I'd hardly blame you for hogging one all to yourself.

Bite into the cupcake, and the oozing, gooey meringue quickly mingles with tart, sugary lemon curd. The concentrated citrus flavor puckers your mouth, while the fluffy meringue sticks happily to your lips. It's the kind of classic dessert that's been an American favorite for generations, and it's easy to taste why. The combination of sweet and tangy is hard to beat, especially on a warm spring day.

But Sharin Nathan bakes up more than just all-American desserts. In anticipation of Passover, Nathan also prepares a range of desserts that are kosher for Passover seders (available via pre-order, though some are also in store). Some of them may seem traditional, but they all have a few twists that Nathan learned from years of cooking for her own Jewish family. A flourless chocolate cake is leagues lighter and airier than the super-dense, fudgy versions you've probably tasted in the past, and an apple Bundt cake is made with matzoh meal to replace the flour. If you need still more meringue, there are delicate, crumbly coconut meringues baked with housemade vanilla extract.

Regardless of holidays, the lemon meringue cupcakes remain a constant favorite, hitting the spot when you're craving a small, sweet dose of old-school Americana.

Sweet Sensations Bakery

1918 West Montrose Avenue, Chicago, IL 60613 (map)
773-275-0697
sweetsensationspastry.com

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