How Sweet It Is

Spring into some southside treats

By Jenny Elig // Photos by Jana Jones

Some lifestyle publications, motivated by the looming bathing suit season, might encourage you to eschew sugary treats.

Not us.

We want you to have your cake and eat it, too. The past two springs have been rough, and we’re feeling a bit devil cake may care: It’s time to celebrate. And what better way to cut loose than with a beautiful confection?

This checks out: Sweets and cheerful times go hand in hand. “I think people think of happy things,” says Debbie VanVolkenburgh, owner of Greenwood’s A Piece of Cake. “A celebration, a fun event, something that’s a good time. You always have something sweet to go along with it.”

Here’s to good times, and here are some southside sweets to go along with them.

Edible cookie dough sundae at Shake and Dough, Greenwood Mall, 1251 N. U.S. 31,

Two scoops of edible cookie dough, topped with whipped cream, chocolate or caramel sauce and garnished with a cherry: The edible cookie dough sundae at Shake and Dough transcends all our dessert fantasies.

Owner Hasan Coskun bought the Greenwood Mall business two years ago, then changed the name. The edible cookie dough market, largely untapped, proved to be a good one for Coskun. “The concept is unique,” he says. “There aren’t many concepts like this one.”

On any given day, Shake and Dough features 12 flavors: classic chocolate chip, cookies and cream, king caramel, cake batter, brownie batter, monster, mint, lady in red (red velvet), rocky road, sugar cookie, lemon sugar cookie and a flavor of the month. The best-selling flavor is chocolate chip cookie dough; Coskun favors brownie batter.

Want some ice cream with your dough? Try the cookie dough shakes, which are made with hand-dipped vanilla or chocolate ice cream, blended with your choice of cookie dough and topped with ice cream and a cherry. “Whoever tries our shakes and frappes, they come back now,” Coskun says.

Subhead: Vanilla bean and salted caramel macarons at Norma Jean’s Pastries, 49 N. Main St., Franklin. (317) 868-8050,

Crunchy and delicate on the outside, delicate and slightly chewy on the inside: Macarons are a delightful mélange of textures and tastes. When Norma Jean’s Pastries owner Whitney Atkerson first encountered macarons in pastry school, she didn’t care for the process of making them.

But when she landed a gig at a bakery in Broad Ripple and eventually moved from pies and cakes into French pastry, she came to love these petite treats. She created her Norma Jean’s brand ― named for her grandmother — and began selling macarons at the farmers market. They were a hit.

“I love when people come up to me and have been to France and say, ‘These are the best I’ve ever had; nothing touches these,’” Atkerson says.

During her career she’s created macarons inspired by the seasons (think: strawberries) and existing sweets (think: Dairy Queen’s ice cream cakes), but, Atkerson says, one of her treats is surprisingly simple.

“One of my bestsellers is my vanilla bean,” she says. And no wonder: With its white shell, gold-and-pink splatter, and shiny pink and white sprinkles, the vanilla bean macaron has an eye-catching Baroque opulence.

“The shells are crunchy, and there’s a nice, airy buttercream in the center,” Atkerson says. “It’s all very light.”

Also popular is the salted caramel flavor, which features a shell brushed with simple syrup and lightly torched for a charred top. In the center, a heady vanilla buttercream.

Never had a macaron? Atkerson sells them individually. Try them, she urges. “I’m all about trying everything once with food. I like to be adventurous with it,” she says.

Cake pops and cocoa bombs at A Piece of Cake, 484 N. Madison Ave., Greenwood. (317) 887- 2253,

When a confectionery trend crosses Debbie VanVolkenburgh’s path, she and her A Piece of Cake cohort dissect it, analyze it and reassemble it. “We experiment; we tear them apart. If we come up with something that’s better than everyone else’s, we do it,” she says.

And such was the case with cake pops. More than a decade ago, when repeated requests came in for cake pops VanVolkenburgh and crew explored processes before arriving at their best bet. Their cake pops, which are available for walk-ins in white and chocolate flavors, are baked in a ball, then frozen.

Once cool and solid, they go on a stick and into the melted chocolate. Then they’re lavished in sprinkles, swirls and drizzles. Although these individually wrapped delights saw a spike in wedding popularity during the COVID pandemic, cake pops are not consigned to any one occasion or time.

“I think they would go well for just about anything,” VanVolkenbergh says. “Most people think of cake pops as a treat, not something you would have after a meal.”

As cake pops buoy the spirits, cocoa bombs warm the soul. Now in their second year on offer at A Piece of Cake, cocoa bombs are chocolate spheres filled with hot chocolate mix and marshmallows and decorated according to the season.  To make a dramatic cup of hot chocolate, pour hot water or milk over the cocoa bomb. Both a personal indulgence and thoughtful gift, cocoa bombs check several boxes. “They just fit for a lot of things,” VanVolkenburgh says.