Cherry On Top
10 niche, local treats for celebrating National Dessert Day in Austin
Read this out loud: I do not need to earn dessert. No one needs an excuse to enjoy a delicious dessert, but we do need one to write about them, and that excuse is National Dessert Day on Friday, October 14. This day of celebration offers a chance to reflect on our relationship with sweets while supporting local businesses.
Austinites know where to find a chocolate chip cookie, and likely already have a favorite. For National Dessert Day, the CultureMap Austin editors compiled a list of our favorite unique, niche, or hard-to-find treats around town. We’ve got frozen fruit, a cocktail, come-back cookies, and much more.
Enjoy with a friend or enjoy alone; either way, enjoy the sweet taste of doing whatever you want while supporting local happy-makers.
Bananarchy: Frozen Bananas
Austinites know something many do not, and it’s that frozen bananas are elite, even if a little mid-century. A frozen banana is mostly a vehicle for frozen chocolate and toppings that loses its fruity flavor at lower temperatures. It’s creamy and mild. Bananarchy, singularly responsible for frozen banana awareness in Austin, makes vegan and non-vegan treats like the Afternoon Delight with chocolate, vanilla, and peanut butter dips, topped with nuts and graham crackers.
Dai Due: Seasonal Donuts
The ingredients-obsessed butcher shop and restaurant Dai Due has a special treat every brunch service: unique, always-changing donuts. Every week brings new glaze flavors — chasing seasonal ingredients or using what’s already in the fridge — but the donuts are always made with yeast and lard, then fried in beef tallow. The weekend of October 15, pastry chef Amanda Harold is going for depth with a malt glaze and a cajeta drizzle, essentially a Mexican caramel sauce.
El Alma: Piñarita
What makes something a dessert? If it’s a maraschino cherry, we’ve got one. El Alma, one of Austin’s most popular Mexican restaurants, keeps some on hand at the bar for their piñarita, the beautiful love child of a piña colada and a frozen margarita. This lime-and-coconut slush with tequila in place of rum and a crunchy sugar rim is really more than the sum of its progenitors. Just watch out — like many delicious sweet cocktails, the ABV sneaks up on you.
Épicerie Café & Grocery: Saturday Bake Sales
Épicerie Café & Grocery is one of the most lauded pastry makers in Austin, so it’s hard to choose just one dessert. (Although anything with layers is a great bet.) Thankfully, the café bakes more pastries than usual on Saturdays and runs an all-day bake sale until stock runs out. People who need certainty in their dessert lives should try the very popular beignets, about the size of eclairs and blanketed, not dusted, with powdered sugar.
Mi Tradición: Tres Leches
Anyone craving Mexican pastries will find them in great supply at panadería Mi Tradición, stacked high in display cases. The bakery is known for its conchas, of course, but also woos visitors with three kinds of tres leches: strawberry, peach, and mocha. There are too many other selections to list, but suffice to say you could shop for every meal, plus snacks throughout the day. And unlike many bakeries, this one is open early and late, from 7 am to 9:30 pm.
Peace Bakery & Deli: Baklava
The Mediterranean is thriving in North Austin at Peace Bakery & Deli, a cafeteria split in halves, run by a Palestinian couple, Nuha and Jihad Hammad. One half serves savory food in platters, wraps, and family style bundles, while the other sells pastries by the pound. The baklava comes with walnuts, cashews, pistachios, and coconut, in dainty little rolls rather than square slices. Peace Bakery also serves kunafa, a sweet layered pastry with swoon-worthy cheese pulls.
Quack’s 43rd Street Bakery: Eat Your Feelings Box
Quack’s 43rd Street Bakery saves ingredients and hearts with the Eat Your Feelings Box, a trifle, basically, in a to-go container. Trimming cakes for evenness leaves bakeries with lots of scraps. Quack’s fills half a container with these, topped with vanilla buttercream and sprinkles. It’s like any cake, but there’s quite a lot of it, and it’s less expensive than one with neater layers. They’re only available when scraps are, so call ahead or prepare to buy a cupcake instead.
Texas French Bread: Farmers Market Finds
Cookies by Texas French Bread have been in short supply while the business worked back up from a devastating fire. Rejoice in the return of the beloved bakery and stop by the booth at the Texas Farmers Markets at Lakeline and in the Mueller neighorhood. They might even have some seasonal treats, as they’ve done in the past, especially around holidays. Shoppers through Farmhouse Delivery can now add checkerboard and butter cookies to their hauls, too.
Uchi: Chocolate Candy Bar
Name a better pair than upscale sushi restaurant Uchi and best-of lists. The “chocolate candy bar” combines classic flavors: a bar of house-made cookies and cream ice cream is draped in dark chocolate, then embellished with a salted caramel and peanut topping. Think fancy Snicker's bar, but way better. Alongside the ice cream, Uchi serves seasonal sorbet samplers in groups of three flavors.
Zucchini Kill: Vegan, Gluten-free, Soy-free Bakes
Sometimes people just want a simple cupcake, but dietary restrictions keep getting in the way. Along with having a hilarious name, Zucchini Kill has perfected the vegan, gluten-free, and soy-free baking formula, applying it to the whole menu. We’re talking Swiss rolls, maple candy corn cupcakes, and more, but anyone who wants to break free from the menu can order custom bakes with at least a week’s notice.
Hannah J. Frías contributed to this story.