Is this the dawn of a new age of desserts? Somewhere between all those rustic fruit cobblers and the geometry of fine dining’s sweetest course (tubes of panna cotta, spheres of gelée), a recent wave of desserts reflects the way we want to eat right now. Not too casual, not too fancy, edgy enough to be modern, and interesting enough to feel fresh.
Here are 50 essential desserts to try in this lifetime:
1. Cioccolato from Osteria Mozza
Inspired by the chocolate masters of Italy’s Perugia region, this rich (flourless) cake by Osteria Mozza’s Dahlia Narvaez is a chocoholic’s dream. She adorns the bittersweet wedge with pieces of chocolate-dipped honeycomb, chocolate-covered hazelnuts, and Sicilian pistachios.
2. Salted Caramel Babka Roll from The Sycamore Kitchen
Karen Hatfield updates the Jewish brioche-like classic by topping it with salted caramel and pecans. It’s part sticky bun, part babka, and all delicious.
3. Berry Shortcake from Lark Cake Shop
The berry shortcake consists of layers of white cake, fresh berries, pastry cream, and whipped cream.
4. The Everything from Lodge Bread Co.
Whole-grain, wheat flour blackstrap molasses, oats, cranberries, coconut, cashews, dates, dark chocolate: It’s a charming hodge-podge.
5. Pavlova from Lincoln
A crisp meringue serves as the base for a smear of lemon curd with peak-season fruit at Christine Moore’s bakery-café (and it’s gluten free).
6. Blackberry + Blood Orange from Rucker’s Pie
Description: No relation to Darius, but this bakery’s respective crust is also one of the best in the biz.
7. Chocolate Rye Pie from Odys + Penelope
The consistency of the fudgy filling is a cross between chocolate mousse and moist brownie; a touch of caramel is mixed in for depth of flavor. Rye flour adds a slightly bitter, nutty note to the crust. In combination these ingredients make for one unforgettable pie.
8. Brown Butter-Pumpkin and Carrot Cake from Crave Dessert Co.
Crave has several gluten-free choices, including brown butter-pumpkin and carrot.
9. Ma’amoul from Sarkis Pastry
This semolina confection—with date paste or chopped walnuts or pistachios—is a Middle Eastern holiday staple. The Armenian bakery Sarkis carries a selection year-round.
10. Triple Berry Cake from Sweet Lady Jane’s
Their triple berry cake is always a hit.
11. Canele from République
The leathery exterior is a delicious foil for the light center of this delicacy that hails from Bordeaux.
12. Halo-Halo from Sari Sari
Sari Sari’s delicious take on the Filipino classic has been stealing hearts since their opening in July. The decadent treat is made with watermelon shaved ice, leche flan, passionfruit and coconut jelly, fresh summer fruit, coconut tapioca, coconut pandan ice cream, and caramelized rice krispies: Halo-halo-hallelujah.
13. Tiered Cake from Cake Monkey Bakery
A tiered cake from here can feed a crowd.
14. Kouignamann from Twenty40
Keep a pile of napkins handy for when you pull apart layer upon layer of Karen Yoo’s sumptuous laminated pastry dough with a glazed caramelized exterior. Even the stickiest fingers will be entirely worth it.
15. Hazelnut Linzer from Gjusta
Buttery hazelnut shortbread sandwiches a rotating roster of house-made jams: fig, raspberry, whatever’s on hand. Show up early— it sells out fast.
16. The Milky Bun from Afters Ice Cream
The Milky Bun is a warm glazed doughnut-like sweet roll encasing ice cream flavors like jasmine milk tea. Cookie Monster, with cookie chunks, is as blue as its namesake.
17. Chocolate Peanut Butter Crunch Cake from Charcoal
At Josiah Citrin’s ode to grilled meats, the highlight of the dessert menu is this one: seven alternating layers of dark chocolate mousse, chocolate sponge cake, crunchy peanut butter feuilletine, and almond dacquoise.
18. Avocado Ice Cream from Creams & Dreams
What would you say to avocado ice cream made with liquid nitrogen? What about the maiz con queso flavor slathered between two M&M cookies? All ice creams are available as affogatos at this Santa Monica scoop shop.
19. Miso Butterscotch from Sugarbloom Bakery
Brown butter and white miso are a savory-salty-umami match for sweet white chocolate chips.
20. Pumpkin Spice Cake from Magnolia Bakery
Once you get over the Starbucks stigma, allow yourself to enjoy this cake
21. Dragon’s Breath from Chocolate Chair
The K-Town spot offers ice creams, fresh-fruit shaved ices, and coffee drinks. But it’s the Dragon’s Breath—fruity balls frozen with liquid nitrogen—that will have you blowing cold air.
22. Zucchini Muffin from Huckleberry
Zucchini is the star of the show instead of being sidelined beneath mounds of sugar and flour. Here is a muffin that elicits joy.
23. Elaborate Custom Cakes from Art’s Bakery
For deft custom cake work.
24. Mocha from Euro Pane
Made with rice flour, Cacao Noel cocoa, and chocolate chips, the gluten-free but ultra chocolatey cookie doesn’t skip a beat on delicious.
25. Seasonal Fruit Pies from McCall’s Meat & Fish Co.
There’s a fresh selection at the pastry counter.
26. Croissant from Ledlow
Exploding shards of translucent crumbs may be the stuff of OCD nightmares, but they’re the reason this croissant shines.
27. Chocolate Eclair from Chaumont
Elegant oblong vessels of choux pastry are piped with rich, dense chocolate cream. You won’t miss Paris.
28. Fighting Cake from The Village Bakery and Café
Offers about a dozen varieties.
29. Chocolate Budino Tart from Bestia
Genevieve Gergis’s tart starts with a tender, crumbly, cocoa-laden crust. She fills it with salted caramel and Mast Bros. bittersweet chocolate custard, finishing with a touch of olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt.
30. Li’l Merri from Cake Monkey Bakery
The slender sandwich features large, soft oatmeal cookies layered with sweet maple buttercream.
31. Triple-Layer Chocolate Cake from Proof Bakery
The proof is usually in the pudding, but this time it’s in this bakery’s droolworthy triple-layer chocolate cake, with its kick of espresso.
32. French Mille-Crepes from Lady M Confections
Order the traditional French mille-crêpes.
33. Apple Tarte Fine from Pitchoun
A barely-there layer of crust supporting a rosette of thinly sliced apples strikes a balance between refined and rustic.
34. Ginger Date Molasses from Larder Baking Co.
Soft-cookie lovers, rejoice: Laced with ginger, dried dates, and molasses, this spice cookie doesn’t need a holiday.
35. Butterscotch Rice Krispies from Magpies
Warren and Rose Schwartz swirl up flavors that change daily, such as yuzu-honey and vegan corn-almond. Among the childhood-centric toppings at this Silver Lake shop is Butterscotch Rice Krispies.
36. Coconut Cake from SusieCakes
This iconic coconut cake is layered with pineapple-coconut filling.
37. Bread Pudding from The Rose
The croissant-based pudding achieves dessert nirvana. It’s chock full of custard, the exterior gently browned and the bittersweet chocolate applied with restraint.
38. TKO from Bouchon Bakery
The Thomas Keller Oreo is a sandwich cookie of not-too-sweet icing between dark cocoa shortbread with scalloped edges.
39. Fruit Tart from Proof Bakery
Na Young Ma customizes her pastry cream to the season’s best fruit (pluots, figs, blackberries). Her passion fruit-laced filling makes produce sing.
40. Pistachio Creme and Chocolate Ganache Cake from Community
The pistachio crème and chocolate ganache cake brings it home.
41.The Babee from Honeymee
This cheerful SoCal chain concocts combinations of creamy soft-serve, fresh honeycomb and drizzles of raw liquid honey. The Babee — a sweet bun filled with soft-serve and a topping of your choice — takes dessert to the next level.
42. Halo-Halo from L.A. Rose Cafe
Sari Sari’s delicious take on the Filipino classic has been making waves since their opening in July. Made with watermelon shaved ice, leche flan, passionfruit and coconut jelly, fresh summer fruit, coconut tapioca, coconut pandan ice cream, and caramelized rice krispies: halo-halo-hallelujah.
43.Dark Chocolate Souffle from Cut
The dessert may be a classic, but finding a superb soufflé is no small task. Look no further than the one conjured at Wolfgang Puck’s steak house. Here the smooth dark chocolate soufflé comes to the table warm, accompanied by a melting dollop of whipped crème fraîche and gianduja (chocolate-hazelnut) ice cream.
44.Buttercream with White Chocolate Cake from Jamaica’s Cakes
Makes buttercream with white chocolate (erotic cakes are an option, too, if you’re into that kinda thing).
45.Cotton Candy Sundae CottonHi
First, take a picture. After all, this is no ordinary ice cream sundae. It’s a cultural and architectural wonder, brought to you by a bright and airy pastel-hued K-pop parlor—its huge front window plastered in neon-colored liquid-chalk graffiti.
46. Matcha White Chocolate Scone from Sugarbird Sweets
White chocolate can be misused, but in Kei Okumura’s not-too-sweet (and vibrant green) matcha scones, it has found its rightful place.
47.Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip from Lemonade
Can’t decide between peanut butter and chocolate chip? This fusion, which is crisp and chewy, combines the best of both worlds.
48. Strawberry Shortcake from Angel Maid Bakery
It’s a local favorite, so you MUST try it.
49. Chocolate Marshmallow Cupcake from Joan’s on Third
Even as the cupcake craze has crested, the field in L.A. remains crowded. This specimen is a standout, though, with a luscious marshmallow center.
50.Chocolate Layer Cake from Valerie Confections
Try their delicious chocolate layer cake with buck-wheat flour (which, unlike wheat, has no gluten).