A longtime Detroit staple, candy store cum soda fountain Sanders was founded in 1875 by a German immigrant named Fred Sanders, who, incidentally, is one of several men who claims to have invented the ice cream soda (see also: Boston cooler, Vernors float). Though it’s since expanded into a regional chain, with many of its products sold in Midwest groceries and even online, a few of Sanders’ signature desserts are still held very close to Detroiters’ hearts: the Bumpy cake and the hot fudge cream puff, the latter making good use, obviously, of the brand’s famous fudge.

Where: Sadly, Sanders closed multiple Michigan locations in 2020 (including the one we visited in Livonia), leaving only two stores open (in Rochester and Clinton Township) in the Metro Detroit area. Neither is super close to downtown, but the Clinton Township one is your best bet (23770 Hall Rd, map). The shops always seem to have charming old-timey fountain-like interiors and friendly staff.

When: Mon-Sat, 9am-9pm; Sun, 11am-6pm

Order: The hot fudge cream puff ($7.49) is the number-one specialty here, believed to have shown up on Sanders menus in the 1910s. It will fill you up: A mountain of ice cream (your choice, but vanilla is traditional) is sandwiched between a puff pastry shell, then doused in Sanders’ trademark milk chocolate hot fudge. Super simple, sweet, and yummy, largely because the ingredients are of good quality: The all-natural “secret recipe” fudge is sweet and buttery, the shell airy, the ice cream rich and locally sourced from Guernsey Farms Dairy.

Another signature dish here (aside from the beverages) is the Bumpy cake, a rather plain chocolate cake topped with “bumpy” logs of white cream. The cakes are sold boxed, from a refrigerator in the parlor; the tea cake size ($12.99) is the smallest. If you’re looking for an in-house taste, we suggest the Bumpity Bliss, which tops a piece of the cake with ice cream and hot fudge—helpful, since the cake alone is on the dry side.

Good to know: Souvenir alert: Sanders sells its milk chocolate hot fudge, as well as its dark bittersweet chocolate and dark chocolate “Swiss” (a.k.a. Swiss dark) hot fudges, in stores and online.

Alternatively: If you can’t make it to a Sanders parlor, you’ll find its hot fudge cream puff at some of the Coney Island restaurants around town, many of which also offer Sanders-esque beverages, like the Boston cooler. Try Kerby’s Koney Island (multiple locations including 16531 Ford Rd., Dearborn, map) or Leo’s Coney Island (multiple locations including inside Comerica Park stadium at 2100 Woodward Ave., map), or square-pizza favorite Buddy’s Pizza (multiple locations including the original, 17125 Conant St., Hamtramck, map), which offers the hot fudge cream puff as a dessert.

Updated: April 19, 2024