It’s time to get your just desserts — with just desserts! These spots serve up the sweetest treats to have at home in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Whether the day calls for a sweet pick-me-up, a candle-dotted birthday cake, single-serving French pastries for a special dinner, or any other edible way to say “I love you,” we’ve got it — and now so do you!
So save room for dessert (or make it the main event) and order up some honey lavender ice cream from Salt & Straw, dreamy 18-layer crepe cake from U :Dessert Story, or old-school Italian pastries from Café Gran Milan. Spanning a wide variety of dessert offerings, cities, and neighborhoods, our top Bay Area dessert spots make it easier than ever to get that sugar rush you need. How sweet is that?
Go ahead, pie one on! In 2019, this Ferry Plaza Farmers Market favorite opened its Mission shop, which turns out rustic pies made with love and seasonal local produce. Winter welcomes tangy Key lime pie with a house-made graham cracker crust and Straus whipped cream, while the shop’s trademark gluten-free, ultra-rich bittersweet Guittard dark chocolate pecan pie is devourable year-round.
Impress your guests (or yourself) during a fancy night in with French pastries from SoMa’s sweet bakery cafe. Designer options include matcha tiramisu — a delectable dome of sponge cake, passion fruit curd, and green tea–infused mascarpone — and the chocolate caramel, a crown-like Valrhona chocolate–caramel truffle enshrined in devil’s food cake. Sweetly packaged jars of pot de crème and butterscotch pudding are perfect living room picnic partners.
Cake someone happy! Lakeside’s bakery has been crafting whole cakes and tarts “for life’s special occasions … or just because” since 1988. Embellish brunch with owner-baker Keith Truong’s colorful, custardy fresh fruit tart, or perfect any party with a classically layered Princess Cake, made of white cake, raspberry jam, custard, whipped cream, and marzipan. Ambrosia even sells candles, so you don’t have to stop at the drugstore on the way home.
No skis needed to slalom your way through the snow here. Order in for the Taiwanese hybrid of shaved ice and ice cream made from Straus organic dairy and primo seasonal ingredients. With incredible fluffy-flaky texture and options like Black Sesame and Cereal Killer (think Fruity Pebbles milk), this NoPa spot melts hearts.
If you crave it, North Beach’s 100-plus-year-old Italian bakery probably makes it. Tap for luscious, boxy slices of tiramisu and strawberry shortcake, single-serving cheesecakes, whipped cream–stuffed chocolate éclairs, petite tea cookies, and ricotta-stuffed cannoli. Whole cakes and coffee drinks are available, too.
Valencia Street’s innovative French-inspired patisserie is on every food lover’s radar, and not just because of the famed gooey-whole-egg center of the Rebel Within muffin. Executive pastry chef Samantha Ceccotti’s creations are modern-art masterpieces. Do not miss the glossy-glam Passion-Nutly Pill, which features (deep breath) chocolate-coriander mousse, passion fruit crémeux, peanut-coriander sponge cake, feuilletine croustillant (or crunchy crepe shards), and dark-chocolate puffed rice.
Beware: James Beard Award–winning pastry chef Elisabeth Prueitt’s talents may inspire you to eat baked goods for every meal. And why not? A frangipane croissant with almond cream and brandy could easily be followed by a savory crispy-edged tartine layered with whipped cream cheese, smoked salmon, and preserved lemon, and maybe a single-serving banana cream tart drizzled with world-class chocolate and caramel for good measure.
Yes, the Castro’s iconic 25-year-old cookie shop is known for its XXX anatomy-shaped chocolate-coated macaroons and innuendos (their double-chocolate cookie is called the Fudge Packer), but scratch beneath the randy rhetoric and you’ll find delicious treats in the form of fantastic big bars and cookies. Try the textbook chocolate chip or the Butch Bar: layered chocolate cookie, peanut butter, and chocolate glaze.
The Portland, Oregon, chain with Hayes Valley and Upper Fillmore locations has inspired a feeding frenzy thanks to ultra-creamy artisanal ice cream made by hand with grass-fed, hormone-free dairy and intriguing combos of local ingredients. Will you spoon up a pint of elegant pastel-colored honey lavender or the ever-popular sea salt with caramel ribbons? We say get both.
It’s mango mania at this Richmond District Hong Kong–style dessert house. Chewy mango mochi, glutinous rice balls with fresh mango cubes in mango juice, and sago in mango and coconut juices are just some of the menu’s tributes to the fragrant fruit. There’s also an assortment of plates featuring papaya, pomelo, and other varieties of nature’s candy, plus snacks like crispy-crunchy popcorn chicken, so there’s something for everybody, even the mango-averse.
Who needs glass slippers when you can have the delicate, multilayered fabulousness of Eastern European–style cakes? This 70-year-old sure thing for Russian specialties like pillowy ground-beef piroshki and dill-kissed pelmeni soup is also the place to go for Russian homestyle baked goods. Try the flaky napoleon or just-sweet-enough honey cake. Tarts, turnovers, and cookies are here for you, too. Thank your fairy godmother.
The massive selection of sweet and savory Hong Kong–style pastries at the Clement Street and Ocean Avenue locations keep residents rolling in bite-size egg tarts, slightly sweet custard-filled pineapple buns, and fluffy coconut cream buns. Buttery walnut cookies, beautiful moon cakes, and traditional milk tea are also add-to-cart-worthy.
With so many must-tries at Tammy Boonlieng’s next-level Asian-American dessert shop on 16th Street (and in Berkeley), choosing is hard. Consider eye-popping 18-layer crepe cakes (matcha, coconut, Thai tea), honey yuzu and regular cheesecakes, snow ice, waffles, and more, all ornately garnished and ridiculously tasty. Need a prompt? Start with the Volcano Bingsu: Korean snow ice with condensed milk, brownie, and a hailstorm of toppings.
San Francisco’s love affair with the innovative, ultra-premium ice creams from Noe Valley’s family-owned landmark is still churning after 70 years. Begin any ice cream romance with a scoop or pint of house-made good stuff in more than 40 flavors, including Mexican chocolate, ube, avocado, and Grasshopper Pie (mint chip, Oreos, and fudge). Add cones, a jar of fudge, and some sprinkles, and you’ve got an instant ice cream party.
At this posh Lower Haight patisserie, you can get your fill of expertly crafted, beautifully boxed, classic French treats like dreamy cream puffs (chocolate, vanilla, salted caramel, lemon, and more); financiers filled with apricot, Nutella and other sweet stuff; custardy canelés; and perfectly pastel meringues. There are even gluten- and dairy-free options.
Who said ice cream sandwich tops and bottoms have to match? The North Beach outpost of the Baked Bear chain reimagines the classic sammie in the best way: select your base and your top (snickerdoodle, Funfetti, gooey butter cake), ice cream flavor, and toppings. Or get the same amount of deliciousness and defend against drips with a brownie bowl.
Raise your spoon for the unexpected flavors of North Beach’s dense, rich Italian ice cream. While you can go for a classic like dark chocolate, why miss the sweet-savory one-two punch of brown butter gelato sprinkled with house-made chocolate honeycomb crumbles or the tangy sweetness of cinnamon-brown-sugar-baked apples folded into creme fraiche gelato? Plus, vegans, rejoice: There’s a peanut butter cup option with your name written all over it.
Matcha soft serve, y’all! Whether in a cup, house-made waffle cone, float, frappe, parfait, sundae, or latte, the green tea ice cream from this chain’s Japantown locale is so creamy and seductive, it keeps tongues wagging. Go big with the Maiko Special, a parfait layered with agar jelly, molasses-like kuromitsu syrup, adzuki beans, and matcha chiffon cake.
With fancy flavors, seasonal specials, and vegan options, Mission Street’s doughnut shop runs circles around the competition. Ring in any morning or afternoon with a hunky, golden maple-glazed bacon apple (sauteéd apple base dotted with Fatted Calf bacon) or a passion fruit milk chocolate (with a vanilla bean base). Don’t wait to order; they sell out fast.
If frozen cookie cups filled with ice cream don’t win over your sweets-loving heart, the gourmet ice cream sandwiches will. Lip-licking options from this Chestnut Street stop include rich chocolate ice cream between two thick peanut butter cookies, and espresso Oreo resting in a concave chocolate chip cookie. Pints, shakes, cookies, floats, and toppings round out the frozen-dessert fantasy.
Forget the Froyo of yesteryear: NoPa’s super-creamy swirls are crafted from frozen cultured nonfat milk (or a nondairy base) and hand-blended into flavors like Dirty Hipster (vanilla, Nutella, and Oreos) and Crunchy Cereal (vanilla with salted caramel sauce and house-made breakfast cereal). Nearly 30 optional mix-ins make the number of flavor combinations one we can’t actually compute.
Here, “pineapple” has nothing to do with the tropical fruit and everything to do with the texture of the house specialty: slightly sweet, buttery, crunchy-topped Hong Kong–style buns. With various fillings — like creamy custard, chewy matcha-mochi, velvety guava butter — each one is an experience. Add Hong Kong milk tea for the full effect.
Owner Susan Sarich pays homage to her grandmother’s cake recipes with back-to-pure-basics layer cakes and cupcakes now sold at 25 U.S. outposts, including locations on Chestnut Street and California Street. Go for the two-slice special (we love the color-flecked vanilla celebration cake and the lush red velvet), or grab an entire cake, like the six-layer dark chocolate–frosted Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake.
When you need a dessert that screams “I love you!” go straight for a dozen plump, juicy, ultra-ripe strawberries dipped in chocolate, white chocolate, or both. Want an edible “Happy Birthday!” declaration? Get the Confetti Box Bundle, a collection of birthday-branded semisweet chocolate–dipped strawberries, white chocolate–dipped strawberries, white chocolate–cloaked pineapple cakes, and a birthday balloon. Whew.
Owner-baker Lila Owens makes her mini and regular cupcakes from scratch daily, using primo ingredients and sustainable sensibilities. More important, her cupcakes are the GOAT! Order the dozen minis box for a baker’s choice adventure, or go straight for her pretty North Berkeley house favorite: lush red velvet crowned with a plump dollop of cream cheese frosting. Get delivery from the Oakland location, too.
No wacky dessert experiments at this Shattuck Avenue dessert destination, just masterful renditions of the creamy, dense goodness that is Italian ice cream. Along with pints of familiar dairy-based flavors like hazelnut and stracciatella, you can lavish in vegan varieties like perky Indian mango, rich dark chocolate, and organic strawberry.
The tiny interior of this Hong Kong–style bakery means it’s way better to munch your meal ender in the comfort of your own space. And munch you will since there are so many mango-forward options. Sink your teeth into soft-chewy mango mochi, slurp up textural pomelo and mango with sago, or buck convention with creamy durian pancake, all perfectly sweetened.
The Shattuck Avenue sister to the flagship dessert restaurant in San Francisco sticks with the Korean-, Japanese-, and Thai-influenced narrative and description-defying fairy tale finales. Begin your dessert love story with gooey, molten organic-chocolate matcha cake or delicately striated 18-layer young coconut pandan crepe cake. Also, Millionaire’s Candy Bacon!
Here’s the tea: The green tea treats from Shattuck Avenue’s dessert house feature imported premium-grade matcha from Uji, Japan, and you can taste it in every breathless bite. Try towering divine swirls of emerald-green matcha soft serve and velvety ombré matcha-mousse cake. Turns out it is easy being green! (Additional locations are in Daly City and Newark.)
San Francisco’s frozen-dessert fave has numerous Bay Area locations, and here’s why: Vietnamese coffee ice cream (Blue Bottle espresso and condensed milk), bourbon ice cream with cornflake cookies, and gobs of other flavors available by the pint or cup and with sides of bacon peanut brittle, house caramel sauce, sprinkles, and even an ice cream scoop. Hello, Humphrey.
All hail the Shark Tank success story that revolutionized the cinnamon roll by making it vegan and totally customizable. Downtown Berkeley’s outpost of this now-international chain bakes everyone happy with gooey, finger-lickin’ cinnamon rolls with plant-based frostings in 19 flavors and 22 toppings! Roll your own way or go Old Skool with vanilla frosting. Bonus: Their brownies slay.
Airy Cronut-inspired confections, crispy-soft fritters, and decadent doughnut sliders, oh my! West Berkeley’s cheery doughnut palace delivers the breakfast sweets of your dreams, from familiar favorites to ube, confetti, and vegan cake doughnuts. Order early and you might even snare a cute panda or crème brûlée — they move fast.
Berkeley’s beloved Indian street-food dining hall may be famous for its textbook dosas, puffy chole bhature, and meatball-shaped vegetable pakora, but it’s also the spot for classic Indian desserts done right. Treat yourself to gulab jamun, kaju katli, and a one-pound box of mixed colorful Bengali or Barfi confections.
Good news, cheesecake lovers: You don’t need to squeeze into Uptown Oakland’s always crowded dessert shop to savor a slice of Gregory Williams’ famed velvety cheesecake of the day or tangy whipped cream–topped Key lime pie. Add to your order some of the chef’s awesome cookies, lemon bars, and a slice or two of his dense, ultramoist 8-Up Pound Cake.
With a menu of intriguing ice cream flavors plus cookies, burgers, fries, and tater tots, Old Oakland’s preferred creamery is the cure for all serious cases of the munchies. Still, ice cream is the star here, so order a hand-packed pint of creamy-crunchy Fruity Pebbles or Thai Tea. Sorbets satisfy the dairy-free.
Now “you see” your treat, now you don’t — because you already ate it! Oakland’s Hong Kong–style dessert house offers a variety of hot and cold delicacies that go down fast and easy. “Life is sometimes hard,” the shop’s mantra goes. “When you see something beautiful, you’ll forget all the stress you have. So comes the name UC Dessert.” Forget your stress with loving spoonfuls of chewy mochi rice balls with black sesame paste, a creamy durian milkshake, or a chocolate Oreo egg-puff waffle dusted with powdered sugar.
You already know the dessert specialty at North Oakland’s impossibly charming down-home Southern- and soul-food institution (it’s pie!), but what kind? The frozen lemon icebox is required, but the gooey peach cobbler, raspberry-topped Key lime pie, and silken banana pudding — all offered in single servings, all listed under the “Lois Legendary Sweet Things” portion of the menu — also slap.
Everyone loves the bagel sandwiches and coffee drinks from Broadway’s organic, fair-trade, local ingredients–inspired cafe. But vegans and gluten-free diners are especially sweet on Sweet Bar’s free-form desserts: nubby-topped berry crumble tarts are V and GF; the chocolate chunk roasted-walnut cookie is plant-based; and chewy peanut butter–raspberry cookies are sans gluten.
Hole up with vegan cake-doughnut holes from this North Oakland shop. Order by early afternoon to sink your teeth into dense, moist, organic orbs of cakey goodness, perhaps in the flavors — or vybz, as Pepple’s calls them — of strawberry, lavender, honeycrisp apple and more. Fried in organic shortening and offered as a pair or baker’s choice half dozen or dozen, they’re as colorful as they are tasty.
Everyone must attempt to conquer at least once in their lifetime Piedmont Avenue’s old-fashioned ice cream parlor’s Banana Special: a towering Insta-friendly banana split with three ice cream flavors and three sauces plus whipped cream and a cherry. Or go old school with a black and tan or build-your-own sundae. Craving savory? The crab sandwich is OG and OMG.
Some secrets have to be shared. Hidden among a line of freeway-front warehouses sits the sweet little Italian bakery of your dreams, which turns out pastry classics that would make Nonna proud. Order early to fill your cart with cannoli, bomboloni, and fruit tarts, along with pizza and panini. You can even snag some French faves like croissants, beignets, brioches.
Fancy a pint or two of hand-crafted artisan ice cream? The sweetness of this family-owned shop is folded right into their lovingly made ice cream. Go classic (vanilla bean, brownie caramel swirl) or get adventurous with the delicate, layered flavors of rose-cardamom-pistachio, buttery white chocolate crème brûlée, Thai iced tea, and lemon marshmallow. There’s a second location in Danville.
Yo, yo! This is your source for cookie dough! And we’re not just talking chocolate chip (though that’s available too). Family owned OTD scoops and serves more than a dozen flavors of safe-to-eat, uncooked, hand-mixed dough, including gluten-free and vegan options. Ready to rock your taste buds? There’s vegan Greek Goddess cookie dough with homemade baklava and sugar; Twisted Chocoholic’s Dream (extra-dark cocoa, marshmallow creme, and chocolate chips); and Quake shakes, which add two different kinds of dough to the classic milkshake. Unreal.
Birthday party time? With a tap on the app you can get gourmet from-scratch cupcakes plus candles, cupcake toppers, and even a card delivered and ready to be signed. But no occasion is necessary. With 12 signature flavors plus daily specials, any day is cupcake-worthy. Want to treat Fido? Add some dog biscuit–topped “pup cakes” to your order.
There’s nothing dainty about the fried-dough specialties from this San Ramon strip mall storefront. The doughnut menu is massive — think raised (regular) donuts, old fashioneds, cronuts, mochi doughnuts, French crullers, buttermilk bars, twists, and cake doughnuts. The doughnuts themselves are pretty big too, but even better, they’re finger-lickin’ fantastic.
Prince would have loved this ube-centric Filipino bakery. Thanks to the yam’s natural royal color, purple reigns in almost everything, including the creamy ube cheesecake, frosty ube milkshake, and bake-at-home ube–white chocolate–macadamia nut cookie dough. Fortunately you don’t have to be rock royalty — or even leave the house — to enjoy these sweet treats. Oh yeah, there are non-ube options, too!
U :Dessert Story by Tim Cheung
Photo courtesy of Lana’s Oakland