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Baked Alaska Is the Most Magical Dessert You’ve Never Tried

Baked Alaska Is the Most Magical Dessert You’ve Never Tried


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A dessert that is hot and cold all at once? But how can that be?!

This awe inspiring dessert will delight your taste buds

Mention baked Alaska in a room full of people and you will discover that many are familiar with the name. Dig deeper, however, and you will most likely discover that though many have heard of the enchanting dish, few have actually tried it — or even know exactly what the thermodynamically challenging dessert is, much less how it is made.

Simply put, this retro dish is a dessert consisting of a sponge cake base that is topped with ice cream, smothered in meringue, baked in the oven, and often served at the dinner table in flames. But how does it work? How on earth can ice cream go into an oven and come out unscathed and still solid? The answer is quite simple.

The cake base and ice cream center are assembled a day ahead and left in the freezer to become rock solid. The magic happens just before it hits the table. A thick, fluffy layer of meringue engulfs the entire cake-ice cream creation, a blanket of shiny, sugary, stiffly whipped peaks hiding the delicious ice cream center. Into the oven it goes! The meringue insulates the ice-cream, meaning that the 5-10 minutes spent in a 500 degree F oven yields a perfectly cooked meringue but does not affect the ice-cold middle. This delicious dessert is incredibly versatile; the sky’s the limit when it comes to different flavor combinations. The cake base, ice cream middle and even the meringue can be whatever flavor you want — a dessert of pure imagination!

This dessert is a real showpiece, with some of the most classic variations calling for alcohol that has been set alight to be poured over the cooked meringue; with the lights dimmed, it is certainly a sight to behold! Try it yourself, or check out 14 other difficult, but impressive desserts to make.


Where to find the best desserts in the San Gabriel Valley

Share this:

I have long had a mixed, even perverse relationship with desserts.

I grew up in a world of puddings — rice pudding, tapioca, My-T-Fine chocolate and butterscotch (both with a much treasured rubbery crust on the top), Jell-O, Junket Rennet Custard and Junket Danish Pudding — several of which you’ve probably never heard of.

For me, dessert is pudding, and pudding is dessert. But for much of the world, pudding is just a footnote a proper dessert includes chocolate, whipped cream, pastry, fruit and goodness knows what edible oddities.

Dessert options are many at nearby bakeries and restaurants. (Shutterstock)

So as desserts have grown more audacious over the years, more ornate, more outré, I’ve been an outlier, who longs for a return to simplicity, a dessert that tastes like one thing. But, as a committed eater, who firmly believes that dessert should be served at the beginning of a meal rather than the end so there’s room for the sweet stuff, I’ve come to accept the pleasures of desserts that look like one of Marie Antoinette’s hairdos — higher and wider and more garish than the one that came before. I’ve ever come to rather like them.

And here in the San Gabriel Valley, we are blessed with an abundance of fine destinations for desserts ornate enough to make us swear off dessert for the rest of our days. Or at least, until our very next dessert. I’ve also become something of a scholar of the history of desserts.

Did you know, for instance, that the roots of Jell-O go back to 1845, when it was patented by one Peter Cooper, who described it as, “A transparent concentrated substance containing all the ingredients fitting it for table use in a potable form, and requiring only the addition of hot water to dissolve it so that it may be poured into molds, and when it is cold will be fit for use.” Which sounds exactly like what we’re eating a century and a half later.

The product was dubbed “Jell-O” in 1897 by Mary Wait, wife of cough medicine manufacturer Pearl Wait, who sold the name for $450 in 1899 to a neighbor. By the 1920s, owned by the Postum Company, sales had reached the millions, Jell-O salads were ubiquitous, and Jell-O became a standard in every kitchen in America.

Recipes abound, from the basic method found on the side of the box, to variations using Coca-Cola, cream cheese, mixed nuts, Red Hots, marshmallows, tomato juice and vinegar, applesauce, and even a Jell-O dessert made with Twinkies.

Jell-O may be the last true frontier for the adventurous cook.

Did you further know that apple pie, the most American of all dishes (read: As American as mom, baseball and apple pie), isn’t especially American at all. Indeed, if anything, it’s a British dish, passed on to us along with our language by the folks we defeated in the American Revolution.

And at first, in the English tradition, apple pie was eaten as a breakfast dish, more often than not with cheddar cheese, a habit that’s been replaced in latter years with ice cream — apple pie a la mode (a bit of linguistic nonsense that means nothing but “in the manner”).

A century ago, there was an apple pie cooling on every rural window sill, waiting to be stolen by passing ne’er-do-wells.

And then, there’s the humble brownie. The first brownie may have been an accident, the result of a neglectful cook forgetting to add baking powder to chocolate cake batter. Chocolate brownies became a standard in American homes, a dish so popular that a brownie mix was even sold via the Sears Roebuck catalog. Recipes vary wildly from region to region, and from taste to taste some like their brownies wet and oozing chocolate, while others demand a requisite dryness.

And lest we forget the pineapple upside-down cake, in the first decades of the 20th century, there was hardly a ladies magazine that didn’t include a recipe for one sort of upside-down cake or another, a fad that very probably reached its apex in the ’30s, but which began simply in the early 1900s with a cake that was more often than not cooked in a skillet, then topped and flipped — a bit like a pancake turned into a cake.

In time, it evolved into the ultimate bridge party treat, a dish whose making defined the culinary skill of the lady who attempted it.

And though hardly anyone makes Baked Alaska anymore, its history is worth noting, for it’s a nearly forgotten dessert that dates back to the heady days following the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867, that became one of the defining dishes of the Golden Age of the 1890s and 1900s, a rather overdone dish that smacked of high exoticism, of railroad barons and meals concluded with snifters of cognac.

Many an aspiring cook tried to impress with Baked Alaska, only to be faced with a molten mess. There are reasons that Baked Alaska lives today more as a memory than as a dish worth struggling through. But considering how over the top it is, it might be worth bringing back.

Some of the best dessert destinations in the San Gabriel Valley follow with lots of choices for everyone this holiday season!

85 Degrees C Bakery Café

17170 Colima Road, Hacienda Heights, 626-839-7885 2626 E. Garvey Ave. S., West Covina, 626-915-7885 1119 E. Alosta Ave., Azusa, 626-335-1885 300 W. Main St., Alhambra CA, 626-293-8585 61 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Old Pasadena, 626-792-8585 www.85cbakerycafe.com

To wander into 85 Degrees C Bakery Café is to find yourself tumbling down a rabbit hole filled with tasty desserts and nifty (if somewhat eccentric) beverages. It’s a global chain, created in Taiwan by Mr. Wu Cheng-Hsueh, who “envisioned a café that provides five-star quality coffee, cakes and breads at not so five-star prices.”

He opened his first 85 Degrees C Bakery Café in Taipei in 2004. A decade later, there are 400 branches stretching across Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Australia and here in the USA.

85 Degrees C (named for the temperature at which, they say, coffee best holds its flavor demands a certain amount of mental preparation before a visit, for this is an Asian theme park of many, many pastries. (Probably a little physical prep wouldn’t hurt either — these desserts can strain our low-carb diets a whole bunch!)

Probably the best drill is to go and observe, walk around, look and sniff, see what others are eating and drinking — for the selection is downright encyclopedic. Sweetly so, but Wikipedia-like nonetheless.

If you have just one pastry, let it be the cream puff, which may be the definitive desserts at 85 Degrees — somewhat French, somewhat Asian, and wholly, totally indulgent.

Honestly, it’s worth going to the sweetly named Love to Go just for the cartoon designs on the lattes. Pooh! Snoopy! Characters from Star Trek! Sundry Kitty Cats! The wit of these latte foam images abound — and make them very hard to slurp. Honestly, you want to take them home and show to the kids!

Meanwhile, to meander into this diminutive shop is to find yourself in a land of treats both sweet and savory, with names like the Twaffleyaki, Love Fruit Two-Gether, Iced Matcha Green Tea with 3D Foam, Snorlax, Marsh-Minion, English Toffee Waffza. How they do what they do is hard to say — there’s a certain amount of magic in their creations. Sweet Magic. This is a place where grownups can be kids all over again.

The Pie Hole

59 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena 626-765-6315 www.thepieholela.com

Aside from being a sarcastic term for a mouth, there are actually pie holes to be found at The Pie Hole, where they’re the pie equivalent of donut holes — dense and sweet and terrifyingly irresistible, flavored with caramel apple, blueberry crumble, Mexican chocolate and Nutella.

The pies come in flavors both recognizable and exotic — ranging from Mom’s apple crumble (I do love me an apple crumble!) to an Earl Grey Tea flavored pie, a maple custard, and a Cereal Killer Cheese, in Froot Loops, Frosted Flakes and Lucky Charms. So silly…and so good…

Sweet Heart Dessert House

8522 E. Valley Blvd., Rosemead 626-280-1618

Even within the often madcap world of Cantonese dessert shops, Sweet Heart Dessert House stands out as an experience you’ll long remember — and wonder about. It’s the rare dessert shop where you can have a meal of, oh, say, popcorn chicken and spicy pig ear — as a warmup for a massive dessert selection that goes on for many photo heavy pages. Dozens of desserts with names like Durian Grass Jelly Snow White, Mango Brilliant and Shining Crystal.

Puddings abound — which make me very happy. Even the Durian Pudding.

Sweet Honey Dessert

1435 S. Baldwin Ave., Arcadia, 626-623-8800 410 W. Main St., Alhambra, 626-818-1778 www.sweethoneydessert.com

Sweet Honey Dessert is a massive dessert chain, with some 600 branches in Asia alone, specializing in “Hong Kong style desserts” — all served in the chain’s trademark bright yellow bowls, filled with much loved creations like the walnut and sesame paste with glutinous rice, Snow Cap Mountain, grass jelly with green tea ice cream in vanilla sauce, and swallow nest braised with coconut juice.

Open late, for those who need their mango pancakes as the night comes to an end.


Where to find the best desserts in the San Gabriel Valley

Share this:

I have long had a mixed, even perverse relationship with desserts.

I grew up in a world of puddings — rice pudding, tapioca, My-T-Fine chocolate and butterscotch (both with a much treasured rubbery crust on the top), Jell-O, Junket Rennet Custard and Junket Danish Pudding — several of which you’ve probably never heard of.

For me, dessert is pudding, and pudding is dessert. But for much of the world, pudding is just a footnote a proper dessert includes chocolate, whipped cream, pastry, fruit and goodness knows what edible oddities.

Dessert options are many at nearby bakeries and restaurants. (Shutterstock)

So as desserts have grown more audacious over the years, more ornate, more outré, I’ve been an outlier, who longs for a return to simplicity, a dessert that tastes like one thing. But, as a committed eater, who firmly believes that dessert should be served at the beginning of a meal rather than the end so there’s room for the sweet stuff, I’ve come to accept the pleasures of desserts that look like one of Marie Antoinette’s hairdos — higher and wider and more garish than the one that came before. I’ve ever come to rather like them.

And here in the San Gabriel Valley, we are blessed with an abundance of fine destinations for desserts ornate enough to make us swear off dessert for the rest of our days. Or at least, until our very next dessert. I’ve also become something of a scholar of the history of desserts.

Did you know, for instance, that the roots of Jell-O go back to 1845, when it was patented by one Peter Cooper, who described it as, “A transparent concentrated substance containing all the ingredients fitting it for table use in a potable form, and requiring only the addition of hot water to dissolve it so that it may be poured into molds, and when it is cold will be fit for use.” Which sounds exactly like what we’re eating a century and a half later.

The product was dubbed “Jell-O” in 1897 by Mary Wait, wife of cough medicine manufacturer Pearl Wait, who sold the name for $450 in 1899 to a neighbor. By the 1920s, owned by the Postum Company, sales had reached the millions, Jell-O salads were ubiquitous, and Jell-O became a standard in every kitchen in America.

Recipes abound, from the basic method found on the side of the box, to variations using Coca-Cola, cream cheese, mixed nuts, Red Hots, marshmallows, tomato juice and vinegar, applesauce, and even a Jell-O dessert made with Twinkies.

Jell-O may be the last true frontier for the adventurous cook.

Did you further know that apple pie, the most American of all dishes (read: As American as mom, baseball and apple pie), isn’t especially American at all. Indeed, if anything, it’s a British dish, passed on to us along with our language by the folks we defeated in the American Revolution.

And at first, in the English tradition, apple pie was eaten as a breakfast dish, more often than not with cheddar cheese, a habit that’s been replaced in latter years with ice cream — apple pie a la mode (a bit of linguistic nonsense that means nothing but “in the manner”).

A century ago, there was an apple pie cooling on every rural window sill, waiting to be stolen by passing ne’er-do-wells.

And then, there’s the humble brownie. The first brownie may have been an accident, the result of a neglectful cook forgetting to add baking powder to chocolate cake batter. Chocolate brownies became a standard in American homes, a dish so popular that a brownie mix was even sold via the Sears Roebuck catalog. Recipes vary wildly from region to region, and from taste to taste some like their brownies wet and oozing chocolate, while others demand a requisite dryness.

And lest we forget the pineapple upside-down cake, in the first decades of the 20th century, there was hardly a ladies magazine that didn’t include a recipe for one sort of upside-down cake or another, a fad that very probably reached its apex in the ’30s, but which began simply in the early 1900s with a cake that was more often than not cooked in a skillet, then topped and flipped — a bit like a pancake turned into a cake.

In time, it evolved into the ultimate bridge party treat, a dish whose making defined the culinary skill of the lady who attempted it.

And though hardly anyone makes Baked Alaska anymore, its history is worth noting, for it’s a nearly forgotten dessert that dates back to the heady days following the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867, that became one of the defining dishes of the Golden Age of the 1890s and 1900s, a rather overdone dish that smacked of high exoticism, of railroad barons and meals concluded with snifters of cognac.

Many an aspiring cook tried to impress with Baked Alaska, only to be faced with a molten mess. There are reasons that Baked Alaska lives today more as a memory than as a dish worth struggling through. But considering how over the top it is, it might be worth bringing back.

Some of the best dessert destinations in the San Gabriel Valley follow with lots of choices for everyone this holiday season!

85 Degrees C Bakery Café

17170 Colima Road, Hacienda Heights, 626-839-7885 2626 E. Garvey Ave. S., West Covina, 626-915-7885 1119 E. Alosta Ave., Azusa, 626-335-1885 300 W. Main St., Alhambra CA, 626-293-8585 61 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Old Pasadena, 626-792-8585 www.85cbakerycafe.com

To wander into 85 Degrees C Bakery Café is to find yourself tumbling down a rabbit hole filled with tasty desserts and nifty (if somewhat eccentric) beverages. It’s a global chain, created in Taiwan by Mr. Wu Cheng-Hsueh, who “envisioned a café that provides five-star quality coffee, cakes and breads at not so five-star prices.”

He opened his first 85 Degrees C Bakery Café in Taipei in 2004. A decade later, there are 400 branches stretching across Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Australia and here in the USA.

85 Degrees C (named for the temperature at which, they say, coffee best holds its flavor demands a certain amount of mental preparation before a visit, for this is an Asian theme park of many, many pastries. (Probably a little physical prep wouldn’t hurt either — these desserts can strain our low-carb diets a whole bunch!)

Probably the best drill is to go and observe, walk around, look and sniff, see what others are eating and drinking — for the selection is downright encyclopedic. Sweetly so, but Wikipedia-like nonetheless.

If you have just one pastry, let it be the cream puff, which may be the definitive desserts at 85 Degrees — somewhat French, somewhat Asian, and wholly, totally indulgent.

Honestly, it’s worth going to the sweetly named Love to Go just for the cartoon designs on the lattes. Pooh! Snoopy! Characters from Star Trek! Sundry Kitty Cats! The wit of these latte foam images abound — and make them very hard to slurp. Honestly, you want to take them home and show to the kids!

Meanwhile, to meander into this diminutive shop is to find yourself in a land of treats both sweet and savory, with names like the Twaffleyaki, Love Fruit Two-Gether, Iced Matcha Green Tea with 3D Foam, Snorlax, Marsh-Minion, English Toffee Waffza. How they do what they do is hard to say — there’s a certain amount of magic in their creations. Sweet Magic. This is a place where grownups can be kids all over again.

The Pie Hole

59 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena 626-765-6315 www.thepieholela.com

Aside from being a sarcastic term for a mouth, there are actually pie holes to be found at The Pie Hole, where they’re the pie equivalent of donut holes — dense and sweet and terrifyingly irresistible, flavored with caramel apple, blueberry crumble, Mexican chocolate and Nutella.

The pies come in flavors both recognizable and exotic — ranging from Mom’s apple crumble (I do love me an apple crumble!) to an Earl Grey Tea flavored pie, a maple custard, and a Cereal Killer Cheese, in Froot Loops, Frosted Flakes and Lucky Charms. So silly…and so good…

Sweet Heart Dessert House

8522 E. Valley Blvd., Rosemead 626-280-1618

Even within the often madcap world of Cantonese dessert shops, Sweet Heart Dessert House stands out as an experience you’ll long remember — and wonder about. It’s the rare dessert shop where you can have a meal of, oh, say, popcorn chicken and spicy pig ear — as a warmup for a massive dessert selection that goes on for many photo heavy pages. Dozens of desserts with names like Durian Grass Jelly Snow White, Mango Brilliant and Shining Crystal.

Puddings abound — which make me very happy. Even the Durian Pudding.

Sweet Honey Dessert

1435 S. Baldwin Ave., Arcadia, 626-623-8800 410 W. Main St., Alhambra, 626-818-1778 www.sweethoneydessert.com

Sweet Honey Dessert is a massive dessert chain, with some 600 branches in Asia alone, specializing in “Hong Kong style desserts” — all served in the chain’s trademark bright yellow bowls, filled with much loved creations like the walnut and sesame paste with glutinous rice, Snow Cap Mountain, grass jelly with green tea ice cream in vanilla sauce, and swallow nest braised with coconut juice.

Open late, for those who need their mango pancakes as the night comes to an end.


Where to find the best desserts in the San Gabriel Valley

Share this:

I have long had a mixed, even perverse relationship with desserts.

I grew up in a world of puddings — rice pudding, tapioca, My-T-Fine chocolate and butterscotch (both with a much treasured rubbery crust on the top), Jell-O, Junket Rennet Custard and Junket Danish Pudding — several of which you’ve probably never heard of.

For me, dessert is pudding, and pudding is dessert. But for much of the world, pudding is just a footnote a proper dessert includes chocolate, whipped cream, pastry, fruit and goodness knows what edible oddities.

Dessert options are many at nearby bakeries and restaurants. (Shutterstock)

So as desserts have grown more audacious over the years, more ornate, more outré, I’ve been an outlier, who longs for a return to simplicity, a dessert that tastes like one thing. But, as a committed eater, who firmly believes that dessert should be served at the beginning of a meal rather than the end so there’s room for the sweet stuff, I’ve come to accept the pleasures of desserts that look like one of Marie Antoinette’s hairdos — higher and wider and more garish than the one that came before. I’ve ever come to rather like them.

And here in the San Gabriel Valley, we are blessed with an abundance of fine destinations for desserts ornate enough to make us swear off dessert for the rest of our days. Or at least, until our very next dessert. I’ve also become something of a scholar of the history of desserts.

Did you know, for instance, that the roots of Jell-O go back to 1845, when it was patented by one Peter Cooper, who described it as, “A transparent concentrated substance containing all the ingredients fitting it for table use in a potable form, and requiring only the addition of hot water to dissolve it so that it may be poured into molds, and when it is cold will be fit for use.” Which sounds exactly like what we’re eating a century and a half later.

The product was dubbed “Jell-O” in 1897 by Mary Wait, wife of cough medicine manufacturer Pearl Wait, who sold the name for $450 in 1899 to a neighbor. By the 1920s, owned by the Postum Company, sales had reached the millions, Jell-O salads were ubiquitous, and Jell-O became a standard in every kitchen in America.

Recipes abound, from the basic method found on the side of the box, to variations using Coca-Cola, cream cheese, mixed nuts, Red Hots, marshmallows, tomato juice and vinegar, applesauce, and even a Jell-O dessert made with Twinkies.

Jell-O may be the last true frontier for the adventurous cook.

Did you further know that apple pie, the most American of all dishes (read: As American as mom, baseball and apple pie), isn’t especially American at all. Indeed, if anything, it’s a British dish, passed on to us along with our language by the folks we defeated in the American Revolution.

And at first, in the English tradition, apple pie was eaten as a breakfast dish, more often than not with cheddar cheese, a habit that’s been replaced in latter years with ice cream — apple pie a la mode (a bit of linguistic nonsense that means nothing but “in the manner”).

A century ago, there was an apple pie cooling on every rural window sill, waiting to be stolen by passing ne’er-do-wells.

And then, there’s the humble brownie. The first brownie may have been an accident, the result of a neglectful cook forgetting to add baking powder to chocolate cake batter. Chocolate brownies became a standard in American homes, a dish so popular that a brownie mix was even sold via the Sears Roebuck catalog. Recipes vary wildly from region to region, and from taste to taste some like their brownies wet and oozing chocolate, while others demand a requisite dryness.

And lest we forget the pineapple upside-down cake, in the first decades of the 20th century, there was hardly a ladies magazine that didn’t include a recipe for one sort of upside-down cake or another, a fad that very probably reached its apex in the ’30s, but which began simply in the early 1900s with a cake that was more often than not cooked in a skillet, then topped and flipped — a bit like a pancake turned into a cake.

In time, it evolved into the ultimate bridge party treat, a dish whose making defined the culinary skill of the lady who attempted it.

And though hardly anyone makes Baked Alaska anymore, its history is worth noting, for it’s a nearly forgotten dessert that dates back to the heady days following the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867, that became one of the defining dishes of the Golden Age of the 1890s and 1900s, a rather overdone dish that smacked of high exoticism, of railroad barons and meals concluded with snifters of cognac.

Many an aspiring cook tried to impress with Baked Alaska, only to be faced with a molten mess. There are reasons that Baked Alaska lives today more as a memory than as a dish worth struggling through. But considering how over the top it is, it might be worth bringing back.

Some of the best dessert destinations in the San Gabriel Valley follow with lots of choices for everyone this holiday season!

85 Degrees C Bakery Café

17170 Colima Road, Hacienda Heights, 626-839-7885 2626 E. Garvey Ave. S., West Covina, 626-915-7885 1119 E. Alosta Ave., Azusa, 626-335-1885 300 W. Main St., Alhambra CA, 626-293-8585 61 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Old Pasadena, 626-792-8585 www.85cbakerycafe.com

To wander into 85 Degrees C Bakery Café is to find yourself tumbling down a rabbit hole filled with tasty desserts and nifty (if somewhat eccentric) beverages. It’s a global chain, created in Taiwan by Mr. Wu Cheng-Hsueh, who “envisioned a café that provides five-star quality coffee, cakes and breads at not so five-star prices.”

He opened his first 85 Degrees C Bakery Café in Taipei in 2004. A decade later, there are 400 branches stretching across Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Australia and here in the USA.

85 Degrees C (named for the temperature at which, they say, coffee best holds its flavor demands a certain amount of mental preparation before a visit, for this is an Asian theme park of many, many pastries. (Probably a little physical prep wouldn’t hurt either — these desserts can strain our low-carb diets a whole bunch!)

Probably the best drill is to go and observe, walk around, look and sniff, see what others are eating and drinking — for the selection is downright encyclopedic. Sweetly so, but Wikipedia-like nonetheless.

If you have just one pastry, let it be the cream puff, which may be the definitive desserts at 85 Degrees — somewhat French, somewhat Asian, and wholly, totally indulgent.

Honestly, it’s worth going to the sweetly named Love to Go just for the cartoon designs on the lattes. Pooh! Snoopy! Characters from Star Trek! Sundry Kitty Cats! The wit of these latte foam images abound — and make them very hard to slurp. Honestly, you want to take them home and show to the kids!

Meanwhile, to meander into this diminutive shop is to find yourself in a land of treats both sweet and savory, with names like the Twaffleyaki, Love Fruit Two-Gether, Iced Matcha Green Tea with 3D Foam, Snorlax, Marsh-Minion, English Toffee Waffza. How they do what they do is hard to say — there’s a certain amount of magic in their creations. Sweet Magic. This is a place where grownups can be kids all over again.

The Pie Hole

59 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena 626-765-6315 www.thepieholela.com

Aside from being a sarcastic term for a mouth, there are actually pie holes to be found at The Pie Hole, where they’re the pie equivalent of donut holes — dense and sweet and terrifyingly irresistible, flavored with caramel apple, blueberry crumble, Mexican chocolate and Nutella.

The pies come in flavors both recognizable and exotic — ranging from Mom’s apple crumble (I do love me an apple crumble!) to an Earl Grey Tea flavored pie, a maple custard, and a Cereal Killer Cheese, in Froot Loops, Frosted Flakes and Lucky Charms. So silly…and so good…

Sweet Heart Dessert House

8522 E. Valley Blvd., Rosemead 626-280-1618

Even within the often madcap world of Cantonese dessert shops, Sweet Heart Dessert House stands out as an experience you’ll long remember — and wonder about. It’s the rare dessert shop where you can have a meal of, oh, say, popcorn chicken and spicy pig ear — as a warmup for a massive dessert selection that goes on for many photo heavy pages. Dozens of desserts with names like Durian Grass Jelly Snow White, Mango Brilliant and Shining Crystal.

Puddings abound — which make me very happy. Even the Durian Pudding.

Sweet Honey Dessert

1435 S. Baldwin Ave., Arcadia, 626-623-8800 410 W. Main St., Alhambra, 626-818-1778 www.sweethoneydessert.com

Sweet Honey Dessert is a massive dessert chain, with some 600 branches in Asia alone, specializing in “Hong Kong style desserts” — all served in the chain’s trademark bright yellow bowls, filled with much loved creations like the walnut and sesame paste with glutinous rice, Snow Cap Mountain, grass jelly with green tea ice cream in vanilla sauce, and swallow nest braised with coconut juice.

Open late, for those who need their mango pancakes as the night comes to an end.


Where to find the best desserts in the San Gabriel Valley

Share this:

I have long had a mixed, even perverse relationship with desserts.

I grew up in a world of puddings — rice pudding, tapioca, My-T-Fine chocolate and butterscotch (both with a much treasured rubbery crust on the top), Jell-O, Junket Rennet Custard and Junket Danish Pudding — several of which you’ve probably never heard of.

For me, dessert is pudding, and pudding is dessert. But for much of the world, pudding is just a footnote a proper dessert includes chocolate, whipped cream, pastry, fruit and goodness knows what edible oddities.

Dessert options are many at nearby bakeries and restaurants. (Shutterstock)

So as desserts have grown more audacious over the years, more ornate, more outré, I’ve been an outlier, who longs for a return to simplicity, a dessert that tastes like one thing. But, as a committed eater, who firmly believes that dessert should be served at the beginning of a meal rather than the end so there’s room for the sweet stuff, I’ve come to accept the pleasures of desserts that look like one of Marie Antoinette’s hairdos — higher and wider and more garish than the one that came before. I’ve ever come to rather like them.

And here in the San Gabriel Valley, we are blessed with an abundance of fine destinations for desserts ornate enough to make us swear off dessert for the rest of our days. Or at least, until our very next dessert. I’ve also become something of a scholar of the history of desserts.

Did you know, for instance, that the roots of Jell-O go back to 1845, when it was patented by one Peter Cooper, who described it as, “A transparent concentrated substance containing all the ingredients fitting it for table use in a potable form, and requiring only the addition of hot water to dissolve it so that it may be poured into molds, and when it is cold will be fit for use.” Which sounds exactly like what we’re eating a century and a half later.

The product was dubbed “Jell-O” in 1897 by Mary Wait, wife of cough medicine manufacturer Pearl Wait, who sold the name for $450 in 1899 to a neighbor. By the 1920s, owned by the Postum Company, sales had reached the millions, Jell-O salads were ubiquitous, and Jell-O became a standard in every kitchen in America.

Recipes abound, from the basic method found on the side of the box, to variations using Coca-Cola, cream cheese, mixed nuts, Red Hots, marshmallows, tomato juice and vinegar, applesauce, and even a Jell-O dessert made with Twinkies.

Jell-O may be the last true frontier for the adventurous cook.

Did you further know that apple pie, the most American of all dishes (read: As American as mom, baseball and apple pie), isn’t especially American at all. Indeed, if anything, it’s a British dish, passed on to us along with our language by the folks we defeated in the American Revolution.

And at first, in the English tradition, apple pie was eaten as a breakfast dish, more often than not with cheddar cheese, a habit that’s been replaced in latter years with ice cream — apple pie a la mode (a bit of linguistic nonsense that means nothing but “in the manner”).

A century ago, there was an apple pie cooling on every rural window sill, waiting to be stolen by passing ne’er-do-wells.

And then, there’s the humble brownie. The first brownie may have been an accident, the result of a neglectful cook forgetting to add baking powder to chocolate cake batter. Chocolate brownies became a standard in American homes, a dish so popular that a brownie mix was even sold via the Sears Roebuck catalog. Recipes vary wildly from region to region, and from taste to taste some like their brownies wet and oozing chocolate, while others demand a requisite dryness.

And lest we forget the pineapple upside-down cake, in the first decades of the 20th century, there was hardly a ladies magazine that didn’t include a recipe for one sort of upside-down cake or another, a fad that very probably reached its apex in the ’30s, but which began simply in the early 1900s with a cake that was more often than not cooked in a skillet, then topped and flipped — a bit like a pancake turned into a cake.

In time, it evolved into the ultimate bridge party treat, a dish whose making defined the culinary skill of the lady who attempted it.

And though hardly anyone makes Baked Alaska anymore, its history is worth noting, for it’s a nearly forgotten dessert that dates back to the heady days following the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867, that became one of the defining dishes of the Golden Age of the 1890s and 1900s, a rather overdone dish that smacked of high exoticism, of railroad barons and meals concluded with snifters of cognac.

Many an aspiring cook tried to impress with Baked Alaska, only to be faced with a molten mess. There are reasons that Baked Alaska lives today more as a memory than as a dish worth struggling through. But considering how over the top it is, it might be worth bringing back.

Some of the best dessert destinations in the San Gabriel Valley follow with lots of choices for everyone this holiday season!

85 Degrees C Bakery Café

17170 Colima Road, Hacienda Heights, 626-839-7885 2626 E. Garvey Ave. S., West Covina, 626-915-7885 1119 E. Alosta Ave., Azusa, 626-335-1885 300 W. Main St., Alhambra CA, 626-293-8585 61 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Old Pasadena, 626-792-8585 www.85cbakerycafe.com

To wander into 85 Degrees C Bakery Café is to find yourself tumbling down a rabbit hole filled with tasty desserts and nifty (if somewhat eccentric) beverages. It’s a global chain, created in Taiwan by Mr. Wu Cheng-Hsueh, who “envisioned a café that provides five-star quality coffee, cakes and breads at not so five-star prices.”

He opened his first 85 Degrees C Bakery Café in Taipei in 2004. A decade later, there are 400 branches stretching across Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Australia and here in the USA.

85 Degrees C (named for the temperature at which, they say, coffee best holds its flavor demands a certain amount of mental preparation before a visit, for this is an Asian theme park of many, many pastries. (Probably a little physical prep wouldn’t hurt either — these desserts can strain our low-carb diets a whole bunch!)

Probably the best drill is to go and observe, walk around, look and sniff, see what others are eating and drinking — for the selection is downright encyclopedic. Sweetly so, but Wikipedia-like nonetheless.

If you have just one pastry, let it be the cream puff, which may be the definitive desserts at 85 Degrees — somewhat French, somewhat Asian, and wholly, totally indulgent.

Honestly, it’s worth going to the sweetly named Love to Go just for the cartoon designs on the lattes. Pooh! Snoopy! Characters from Star Trek! Sundry Kitty Cats! The wit of these latte foam images abound — and make them very hard to slurp. Honestly, you want to take them home and show to the kids!

Meanwhile, to meander into this diminutive shop is to find yourself in a land of treats both sweet and savory, with names like the Twaffleyaki, Love Fruit Two-Gether, Iced Matcha Green Tea with 3D Foam, Snorlax, Marsh-Minion, English Toffee Waffza. How they do what they do is hard to say — there’s a certain amount of magic in their creations. Sweet Magic. This is a place where grownups can be kids all over again.

The Pie Hole

59 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena 626-765-6315 www.thepieholela.com

Aside from being a sarcastic term for a mouth, there are actually pie holes to be found at The Pie Hole, where they’re the pie equivalent of donut holes — dense and sweet and terrifyingly irresistible, flavored with caramel apple, blueberry crumble, Mexican chocolate and Nutella.

The pies come in flavors both recognizable and exotic — ranging from Mom’s apple crumble (I do love me an apple crumble!) to an Earl Grey Tea flavored pie, a maple custard, and a Cereal Killer Cheese, in Froot Loops, Frosted Flakes and Lucky Charms. So silly…and so good…

Sweet Heart Dessert House

8522 E. Valley Blvd., Rosemead 626-280-1618

Even within the often madcap world of Cantonese dessert shops, Sweet Heart Dessert House stands out as an experience you’ll long remember — and wonder about. It’s the rare dessert shop where you can have a meal of, oh, say, popcorn chicken and spicy pig ear — as a warmup for a massive dessert selection that goes on for many photo heavy pages. Dozens of desserts with names like Durian Grass Jelly Snow White, Mango Brilliant and Shining Crystal.

Puddings abound — which make me very happy. Even the Durian Pudding.

Sweet Honey Dessert

1435 S. Baldwin Ave., Arcadia, 626-623-8800 410 W. Main St., Alhambra, 626-818-1778 www.sweethoneydessert.com

Sweet Honey Dessert is a massive dessert chain, with some 600 branches in Asia alone, specializing in “Hong Kong style desserts” — all served in the chain’s trademark bright yellow bowls, filled with much loved creations like the walnut and sesame paste with glutinous rice, Snow Cap Mountain, grass jelly with green tea ice cream in vanilla sauce, and swallow nest braised with coconut juice.

Open late, for those who need their mango pancakes as the night comes to an end.


Where to find the best desserts in the San Gabriel Valley

Share this:

I have long had a mixed, even perverse relationship with desserts.

I grew up in a world of puddings — rice pudding, tapioca, My-T-Fine chocolate and butterscotch (both with a much treasured rubbery crust on the top), Jell-O, Junket Rennet Custard and Junket Danish Pudding — several of which you’ve probably never heard of.

For me, dessert is pudding, and pudding is dessert. But for much of the world, pudding is just a footnote a proper dessert includes chocolate, whipped cream, pastry, fruit and goodness knows what edible oddities.

Dessert options are many at nearby bakeries and restaurants. (Shutterstock)

So as desserts have grown more audacious over the years, more ornate, more outré, I’ve been an outlier, who longs for a return to simplicity, a dessert that tastes like one thing. But, as a committed eater, who firmly believes that dessert should be served at the beginning of a meal rather than the end so there’s room for the sweet stuff, I’ve come to accept the pleasures of desserts that look like one of Marie Antoinette’s hairdos — higher and wider and more garish than the one that came before. I’ve ever come to rather like them.

And here in the San Gabriel Valley, we are blessed with an abundance of fine destinations for desserts ornate enough to make us swear off dessert for the rest of our days. Or at least, until our very next dessert. I’ve also become something of a scholar of the history of desserts.

Did you know, for instance, that the roots of Jell-O go back to 1845, when it was patented by one Peter Cooper, who described it as, “A transparent concentrated substance containing all the ingredients fitting it for table use in a potable form, and requiring only the addition of hot water to dissolve it so that it may be poured into molds, and when it is cold will be fit for use.” Which sounds exactly like what we’re eating a century and a half later.

The product was dubbed “Jell-O” in 1897 by Mary Wait, wife of cough medicine manufacturer Pearl Wait, who sold the name for $450 in 1899 to a neighbor. By the 1920s, owned by the Postum Company, sales had reached the millions, Jell-O salads were ubiquitous, and Jell-O became a standard in every kitchen in America.

Recipes abound, from the basic method found on the side of the box, to variations using Coca-Cola, cream cheese, mixed nuts, Red Hots, marshmallows, tomato juice and vinegar, applesauce, and even a Jell-O dessert made with Twinkies.

Jell-O may be the last true frontier for the adventurous cook.

Did you further know that apple pie, the most American of all dishes (read: As American as mom, baseball and apple pie), isn’t especially American at all. Indeed, if anything, it’s a British dish, passed on to us along with our language by the folks we defeated in the American Revolution.

And at first, in the English tradition, apple pie was eaten as a breakfast dish, more often than not with cheddar cheese, a habit that’s been replaced in latter years with ice cream — apple pie a la mode (a bit of linguistic nonsense that means nothing but “in the manner”).

A century ago, there was an apple pie cooling on every rural window sill, waiting to be stolen by passing ne’er-do-wells.

And then, there’s the humble brownie. The first brownie may have been an accident, the result of a neglectful cook forgetting to add baking powder to chocolate cake batter. Chocolate brownies became a standard in American homes, a dish so popular that a brownie mix was even sold via the Sears Roebuck catalog. Recipes vary wildly from region to region, and from taste to taste some like their brownies wet and oozing chocolate, while others demand a requisite dryness.

And lest we forget the pineapple upside-down cake, in the first decades of the 20th century, there was hardly a ladies magazine that didn’t include a recipe for one sort of upside-down cake or another, a fad that very probably reached its apex in the ’30s, but which began simply in the early 1900s with a cake that was more often than not cooked in a skillet, then topped and flipped — a bit like a pancake turned into a cake.

In time, it evolved into the ultimate bridge party treat, a dish whose making defined the culinary skill of the lady who attempted it.

And though hardly anyone makes Baked Alaska anymore, its history is worth noting, for it’s a nearly forgotten dessert that dates back to the heady days following the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867, that became one of the defining dishes of the Golden Age of the 1890s and 1900s, a rather overdone dish that smacked of high exoticism, of railroad barons and meals concluded with snifters of cognac.

Many an aspiring cook tried to impress with Baked Alaska, only to be faced with a molten mess. There are reasons that Baked Alaska lives today more as a memory than as a dish worth struggling through. But considering how over the top it is, it might be worth bringing back.

Some of the best dessert destinations in the San Gabriel Valley follow with lots of choices for everyone this holiday season!

85 Degrees C Bakery Café

17170 Colima Road, Hacienda Heights, 626-839-7885 2626 E. Garvey Ave. S., West Covina, 626-915-7885 1119 E. Alosta Ave., Azusa, 626-335-1885 300 W. Main St., Alhambra CA, 626-293-8585 61 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Old Pasadena, 626-792-8585 www.85cbakerycafe.com

To wander into 85 Degrees C Bakery Café is to find yourself tumbling down a rabbit hole filled with tasty desserts and nifty (if somewhat eccentric) beverages. It’s a global chain, created in Taiwan by Mr. Wu Cheng-Hsueh, who “envisioned a café that provides five-star quality coffee, cakes and breads at not so five-star prices.”

He opened his first 85 Degrees C Bakery Café in Taipei in 2004. A decade later, there are 400 branches stretching across Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Australia and here in the USA.

85 Degrees C (named for the temperature at which, they say, coffee best holds its flavor demands a certain amount of mental preparation before a visit, for this is an Asian theme park of many, many pastries. (Probably a little physical prep wouldn’t hurt either — these desserts can strain our low-carb diets a whole bunch!)

Probably the best drill is to go and observe, walk around, look and sniff, see what others are eating and drinking — for the selection is downright encyclopedic. Sweetly so, but Wikipedia-like nonetheless.

If you have just one pastry, let it be the cream puff, which may be the definitive desserts at 85 Degrees — somewhat French, somewhat Asian, and wholly, totally indulgent.

Honestly, it’s worth going to the sweetly named Love to Go just for the cartoon designs on the lattes. Pooh! Snoopy! Characters from Star Trek! Sundry Kitty Cats! The wit of these latte foam images abound — and make them very hard to slurp. Honestly, you want to take them home and show to the kids!

Meanwhile, to meander into this diminutive shop is to find yourself in a land of treats both sweet and savory, with names like the Twaffleyaki, Love Fruit Two-Gether, Iced Matcha Green Tea with 3D Foam, Snorlax, Marsh-Minion, English Toffee Waffza. How they do what they do is hard to say — there’s a certain amount of magic in their creations. Sweet Magic. This is a place where grownups can be kids all over again.

The Pie Hole

59 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena 626-765-6315 www.thepieholela.com

Aside from being a sarcastic term for a mouth, there are actually pie holes to be found at The Pie Hole, where they’re the pie equivalent of donut holes — dense and sweet and terrifyingly irresistible, flavored with caramel apple, blueberry crumble, Mexican chocolate and Nutella.

The pies come in flavors both recognizable and exotic — ranging from Mom’s apple crumble (I do love me an apple crumble!) to an Earl Grey Tea flavored pie, a maple custard, and a Cereal Killer Cheese, in Froot Loops, Frosted Flakes and Lucky Charms. So silly…and so good…

Sweet Heart Dessert House

8522 E. Valley Blvd., Rosemead 626-280-1618

Even within the often madcap world of Cantonese dessert shops, Sweet Heart Dessert House stands out as an experience you’ll long remember — and wonder about. It’s the rare dessert shop where you can have a meal of, oh, say, popcorn chicken and spicy pig ear — as a warmup for a massive dessert selection that goes on for many photo heavy pages. Dozens of desserts with names like Durian Grass Jelly Snow White, Mango Brilliant and Shining Crystal.

Puddings abound — which make me very happy. Even the Durian Pudding.

Sweet Honey Dessert

1435 S. Baldwin Ave., Arcadia, 626-623-8800 410 W. Main St., Alhambra, 626-818-1778 www.sweethoneydessert.com

Sweet Honey Dessert is a massive dessert chain, with some 600 branches in Asia alone, specializing in “Hong Kong style desserts” — all served in the chain’s trademark bright yellow bowls, filled with much loved creations like the walnut and sesame paste with glutinous rice, Snow Cap Mountain, grass jelly with green tea ice cream in vanilla sauce, and swallow nest braised with coconut juice.

Open late, for those who need their mango pancakes as the night comes to an end.


Where to find the best desserts in the San Gabriel Valley

Share this:

I have long had a mixed, even perverse relationship with desserts.

I grew up in a world of puddings — rice pudding, tapioca, My-T-Fine chocolate and butterscotch (both with a much treasured rubbery crust on the top), Jell-O, Junket Rennet Custard and Junket Danish Pudding — several of which you’ve probably never heard of.

For me, dessert is pudding, and pudding is dessert. But for much of the world, pudding is just a footnote a proper dessert includes chocolate, whipped cream, pastry, fruit and goodness knows what edible oddities.

Dessert options are many at nearby bakeries and restaurants. (Shutterstock)

So as desserts have grown more audacious over the years, more ornate, more outré, I’ve been an outlier, who longs for a return to simplicity, a dessert that tastes like one thing. But, as a committed eater, who firmly believes that dessert should be served at the beginning of a meal rather than the end so there’s room for the sweet stuff, I’ve come to accept the pleasures of desserts that look like one of Marie Antoinette’s hairdos — higher and wider and more garish than the one that came before. I’ve ever come to rather like them.

And here in the San Gabriel Valley, we are blessed with an abundance of fine destinations for desserts ornate enough to make us swear off dessert for the rest of our days. Or at least, until our very next dessert. I’ve also become something of a scholar of the history of desserts.

Did you know, for instance, that the roots of Jell-O go back to 1845, when it was patented by one Peter Cooper, who described it as, “A transparent concentrated substance containing all the ingredients fitting it for table use in a potable form, and requiring only the addition of hot water to dissolve it so that it may be poured into molds, and when it is cold will be fit for use.” Which sounds exactly like what we’re eating a century and a half later.

The product was dubbed “Jell-O” in 1897 by Mary Wait, wife of cough medicine manufacturer Pearl Wait, who sold the name for $450 in 1899 to a neighbor. By the 1920s, owned by the Postum Company, sales had reached the millions, Jell-O salads were ubiquitous, and Jell-O became a standard in every kitchen in America.

Recipes abound, from the basic method found on the side of the box, to variations using Coca-Cola, cream cheese, mixed nuts, Red Hots, marshmallows, tomato juice and vinegar, applesauce, and even a Jell-O dessert made with Twinkies.

Jell-O may be the last true frontier for the adventurous cook.

Did you further know that apple pie, the most American of all dishes (read: As American as mom, baseball and apple pie), isn’t especially American at all. Indeed, if anything, it’s a British dish, passed on to us along with our language by the folks we defeated in the American Revolution.

And at first, in the English tradition, apple pie was eaten as a breakfast dish, more often than not with cheddar cheese, a habit that’s been replaced in latter years with ice cream — apple pie a la mode (a bit of linguistic nonsense that means nothing but “in the manner”).

A century ago, there was an apple pie cooling on every rural window sill, waiting to be stolen by passing ne’er-do-wells.

And then, there’s the humble brownie. The first brownie may have been an accident, the result of a neglectful cook forgetting to add baking powder to chocolate cake batter. Chocolate brownies became a standard in American homes, a dish so popular that a brownie mix was even sold via the Sears Roebuck catalog. Recipes vary wildly from region to region, and from taste to taste some like their brownies wet and oozing chocolate, while others demand a requisite dryness.

And lest we forget the pineapple upside-down cake, in the first decades of the 20th century, there was hardly a ladies magazine that didn’t include a recipe for one sort of upside-down cake or another, a fad that very probably reached its apex in the ’30s, but which began simply in the early 1900s with a cake that was more often than not cooked in a skillet, then topped and flipped — a bit like a pancake turned into a cake.

In time, it evolved into the ultimate bridge party treat, a dish whose making defined the culinary skill of the lady who attempted it.

And though hardly anyone makes Baked Alaska anymore, its history is worth noting, for it’s a nearly forgotten dessert that dates back to the heady days following the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867, that became one of the defining dishes of the Golden Age of the 1890s and 1900s, a rather overdone dish that smacked of high exoticism, of railroad barons and meals concluded with snifters of cognac.

Many an aspiring cook tried to impress with Baked Alaska, only to be faced with a molten mess. There are reasons that Baked Alaska lives today more as a memory than as a dish worth struggling through. But considering how over the top it is, it might be worth bringing back.

Some of the best dessert destinations in the San Gabriel Valley follow with lots of choices for everyone this holiday season!

85 Degrees C Bakery Café

17170 Colima Road, Hacienda Heights, 626-839-7885 2626 E. Garvey Ave. S., West Covina, 626-915-7885 1119 E. Alosta Ave., Azusa, 626-335-1885 300 W. Main St., Alhambra CA, 626-293-8585 61 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Old Pasadena, 626-792-8585 www.85cbakerycafe.com

To wander into 85 Degrees C Bakery Café is to find yourself tumbling down a rabbit hole filled with tasty desserts and nifty (if somewhat eccentric) beverages. It’s a global chain, created in Taiwan by Mr. Wu Cheng-Hsueh, who “envisioned a café that provides five-star quality coffee, cakes and breads at not so five-star prices.”

He opened his first 85 Degrees C Bakery Café in Taipei in 2004. A decade later, there are 400 branches stretching across Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Australia and here in the USA.

85 Degrees C (named for the temperature at which, they say, coffee best holds its flavor demands a certain amount of mental preparation before a visit, for this is an Asian theme park of many, many pastries. (Probably a little physical prep wouldn’t hurt either — these desserts can strain our low-carb diets a whole bunch!)

Probably the best drill is to go and observe, walk around, look and sniff, see what others are eating and drinking — for the selection is downright encyclopedic. Sweetly so, but Wikipedia-like nonetheless.

If you have just one pastry, let it be the cream puff, which may be the definitive desserts at 85 Degrees — somewhat French, somewhat Asian, and wholly, totally indulgent.

Honestly, it’s worth going to the sweetly named Love to Go just for the cartoon designs on the lattes. Pooh! Snoopy! Characters from Star Trek! Sundry Kitty Cats! The wit of these latte foam images abound — and make them very hard to slurp. Honestly, you want to take them home and show to the kids!

Meanwhile, to meander into this diminutive shop is to find yourself in a land of treats both sweet and savory, with names like the Twaffleyaki, Love Fruit Two-Gether, Iced Matcha Green Tea with 3D Foam, Snorlax, Marsh-Minion, English Toffee Waffza. How they do what they do is hard to say — there’s a certain amount of magic in their creations. Sweet Magic. This is a place where grownups can be kids all over again.

The Pie Hole

59 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena 626-765-6315 www.thepieholela.com

Aside from being a sarcastic term for a mouth, there are actually pie holes to be found at The Pie Hole, where they’re the pie equivalent of donut holes — dense and sweet and terrifyingly irresistible, flavored with caramel apple, blueberry crumble, Mexican chocolate and Nutella.

The pies come in flavors both recognizable and exotic — ranging from Mom’s apple crumble (I do love me an apple crumble!) to an Earl Grey Tea flavored pie, a maple custard, and a Cereal Killer Cheese, in Froot Loops, Frosted Flakes and Lucky Charms. So silly…and so good…

Sweet Heart Dessert House

8522 E. Valley Blvd., Rosemead 626-280-1618

Even within the often madcap world of Cantonese dessert shops, Sweet Heart Dessert House stands out as an experience you’ll long remember — and wonder about. It’s the rare dessert shop where you can have a meal of, oh, say, popcorn chicken and spicy pig ear — as a warmup for a massive dessert selection that goes on for many photo heavy pages. Dozens of desserts with names like Durian Grass Jelly Snow White, Mango Brilliant and Shining Crystal.

Puddings abound — which make me very happy. Even the Durian Pudding.

Sweet Honey Dessert

1435 S. Baldwin Ave., Arcadia, 626-623-8800 410 W. Main St., Alhambra, 626-818-1778 www.sweethoneydessert.com

Sweet Honey Dessert is a massive dessert chain, with some 600 branches in Asia alone, specializing in “Hong Kong style desserts” — all served in the chain’s trademark bright yellow bowls, filled with much loved creations like the walnut and sesame paste with glutinous rice, Snow Cap Mountain, grass jelly with green tea ice cream in vanilla sauce, and swallow nest braised with coconut juice.

Open late, for those who need their mango pancakes as the night comes to an end.


Where to find the best desserts in the San Gabriel Valley

Share this:

I have long had a mixed, even perverse relationship with desserts.

I grew up in a world of puddings — rice pudding, tapioca, My-T-Fine chocolate and butterscotch (both with a much treasured rubbery crust on the top), Jell-O, Junket Rennet Custard and Junket Danish Pudding — several of which you’ve probably never heard of.

For me, dessert is pudding, and pudding is dessert. But for much of the world, pudding is just a footnote a proper dessert includes chocolate, whipped cream, pastry, fruit and goodness knows what edible oddities.

Dessert options are many at nearby bakeries and restaurants. (Shutterstock)

So as desserts have grown more audacious over the years, more ornate, more outré, I’ve been an outlier, who longs for a return to simplicity, a dessert that tastes like one thing. But, as a committed eater, who firmly believes that dessert should be served at the beginning of a meal rather than the end so there’s room for the sweet stuff, I’ve come to accept the pleasures of desserts that look like one of Marie Antoinette’s hairdos — higher and wider and more garish than the one that came before. I’ve ever come to rather like them.

And here in the San Gabriel Valley, we are blessed with an abundance of fine destinations for desserts ornate enough to make us swear off dessert for the rest of our days. Or at least, until our very next dessert. I’ve also become something of a scholar of the history of desserts.

Did you know, for instance, that the roots of Jell-O go back to 1845, when it was patented by one Peter Cooper, who described it as, “A transparent concentrated substance containing all the ingredients fitting it for table use in a potable form, and requiring only the addition of hot water to dissolve it so that it may be poured into molds, and when it is cold will be fit for use.” Which sounds exactly like what we’re eating a century and a half later.

The product was dubbed “Jell-O” in 1897 by Mary Wait, wife of cough medicine manufacturer Pearl Wait, who sold the name for $450 in 1899 to a neighbor. By the 1920s, owned by the Postum Company, sales had reached the millions, Jell-O salads were ubiquitous, and Jell-O became a standard in every kitchen in America.

Recipes abound, from the basic method found on the side of the box, to variations using Coca-Cola, cream cheese, mixed nuts, Red Hots, marshmallows, tomato juice and vinegar, applesauce, and even a Jell-O dessert made with Twinkies.

Jell-O may be the last true frontier for the adventurous cook.

Did you further know that apple pie, the most American of all dishes (read: As American as mom, baseball and apple pie), isn’t especially American at all. Indeed, if anything, it’s a British dish, passed on to us along with our language by the folks we defeated in the American Revolution.

And at first, in the English tradition, apple pie was eaten as a breakfast dish, more often than not with cheddar cheese, a habit that’s been replaced in latter years with ice cream — apple pie a la mode (a bit of linguistic nonsense that means nothing but “in the manner”).

A century ago, there was an apple pie cooling on every rural window sill, waiting to be stolen by passing ne’er-do-wells.

And then, there’s the humble brownie. The first brownie may have been an accident, the result of a neglectful cook forgetting to add baking powder to chocolate cake batter. Chocolate brownies became a standard in American homes, a dish so popular that a brownie mix was even sold via the Sears Roebuck catalog. Recipes vary wildly from region to region, and from taste to taste some like their brownies wet and oozing chocolate, while others demand a requisite dryness.

And lest we forget the pineapple upside-down cake, in the first decades of the 20th century, there was hardly a ladies magazine that didn’t include a recipe for one sort of upside-down cake or another, a fad that very probably reached its apex in the ’30s, but which began simply in the early 1900s with a cake that was more often than not cooked in a skillet, then topped and flipped — a bit like a pancake turned into a cake.

In time, it evolved into the ultimate bridge party treat, a dish whose making defined the culinary skill of the lady who attempted it.

And though hardly anyone makes Baked Alaska anymore, its history is worth noting, for it’s a nearly forgotten dessert that dates back to the heady days following the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867, that became one of the defining dishes of the Golden Age of the 1890s and 1900s, a rather overdone dish that smacked of high exoticism, of railroad barons and meals concluded with snifters of cognac.

Many an aspiring cook tried to impress with Baked Alaska, only to be faced with a molten mess. There are reasons that Baked Alaska lives today more as a memory than as a dish worth struggling through. But considering how over the top it is, it might be worth bringing back.

Some of the best dessert destinations in the San Gabriel Valley follow with lots of choices for everyone this holiday season!

85 Degrees C Bakery Café

17170 Colima Road, Hacienda Heights, 626-839-7885 2626 E. Garvey Ave. S., West Covina, 626-915-7885 1119 E. Alosta Ave., Azusa, 626-335-1885 300 W. Main St., Alhambra CA, 626-293-8585 61 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Old Pasadena, 626-792-8585 www.85cbakerycafe.com

To wander into 85 Degrees C Bakery Café is to find yourself tumbling down a rabbit hole filled with tasty desserts and nifty (if somewhat eccentric) beverages. It’s a global chain, created in Taiwan by Mr. Wu Cheng-Hsueh, who “envisioned a café that provides five-star quality coffee, cakes and breads at not so five-star prices.”

He opened his first 85 Degrees C Bakery Café in Taipei in 2004. A decade later, there are 400 branches stretching across Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Australia and here in the USA.

85 Degrees C (named for the temperature at which, they say, coffee best holds its flavor demands a certain amount of mental preparation before a visit, for this is an Asian theme park of many, many pastries. (Probably a little physical prep wouldn’t hurt either — these desserts can strain our low-carb diets a whole bunch!)

Probably the best drill is to go and observe, walk around, look and sniff, see what others are eating and drinking — for the selection is downright encyclopedic. Sweetly so, but Wikipedia-like nonetheless.

If you have just one pastry, let it be the cream puff, which may be the definitive desserts at 85 Degrees — somewhat French, somewhat Asian, and wholly, totally indulgent.

Honestly, it’s worth going to the sweetly named Love to Go just for the cartoon designs on the lattes. Pooh! Snoopy! Characters from Star Trek! Sundry Kitty Cats! The wit of these latte foam images abound — and make them very hard to slurp. Honestly, you want to take them home and show to the kids!

Meanwhile, to meander into this diminutive shop is to find yourself in a land of treats both sweet and savory, with names like the Twaffleyaki, Love Fruit Two-Gether, Iced Matcha Green Tea with 3D Foam, Snorlax, Marsh-Minion, English Toffee Waffza. How they do what they do is hard to say — there’s a certain amount of magic in their creations. Sweet Magic. This is a place where grownups can be kids all over again.

The Pie Hole

59 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena 626-765-6315 www.thepieholela.com

Aside from being a sarcastic term for a mouth, there are actually pie holes to be found at The Pie Hole, where they’re the pie equivalent of donut holes — dense and sweet and terrifyingly irresistible, flavored with caramel apple, blueberry crumble, Mexican chocolate and Nutella.

The pies come in flavors both recognizable and exotic — ranging from Mom’s apple crumble (I do love me an apple crumble!) to an Earl Grey Tea flavored pie, a maple custard, and a Cereal Killer Cheese, in Froot Loops, Frosted Flakes and Lucky Charms. So silly…and so good…

Sweet Heart Dessert House

8522 E. Valley Blvd., Rosemead 626-280-1618

Even within the often madcap world of Cantonese dessert shops, Sweet Heart Dessert House stands out as an experience you’ll long remember — and wonder about. It’s the rare dessert shop where you can have a meal of, oh, say, popcorn chicken and spicy pig ear — as a warmup for a massive dessert selection that goes on for many photo heavy pages. Dozens of desserts with names like Durian Grass Jelly Snow White, Mango Brilliant and Shining Crystal.

Puddings abound — which make me very happy. Even the Durian Pudding.

Sweet Honey Dessert

1435 S. Baldwin Ave., Arcadia, 626-623-8800 410 W. Main St., Alhambra, 626-818-1778 www.sweethoneydessert.com

Sweet Honey Dessert is a massive dessert chain, with some 600 branches in Asia alone, specializing in “Hong Kong style desserts” — all served in the chain’s trademark bright yellow bowls, filled with much loved creations like the walnut and sesame paste with glutinous rice, Snow Cap Mountain, grass jelly with green tea ice cream in vanilla sauce, and swallow nest braised with coconut juice.

Open late, for those who need their mango pancakes as the night comes to an end.


Where to find the best desserts in the San Gabriel Valley

Share this:

I have long had a mixed, even perverse relationship with desserts.

I grew up in a world of puddings — rice pudding, tapioca, My-T-Fine chocolate and butterscotch (both with a much treasured rubbery crust on the top), Jell-O, Junket Rennet Custard and Junket Danish Pudding — several of which you’ve probably never heard of.

For me, dessert is pudding, and pudding is dessert. But for much of the world, pudding is just a footnote a proper dessert includes chocolate, whipped cream, pastry, fruit and goodness knows what edible oddities.

Dessert options are many at nearby bakeries and restaurants. (Shutterstock)

So as desserts have grown more audacious over the years, more ornate, more outré, I’ve been an outlier, who longs for a return to simplicity, a dessert that tastes like one thing. But, as a committed eater, who firmly believes that dessert should be served at the beginning of a meal rather than the end so there’s room for the sweet stuff, I’ve come to accept the pleasures of desserts that look like one of Marie Antoinette’s hairdos — higher and wider and more garish than the one that came before. I’ve ever come to rather like them.

And here in the San Gabriel Valley, we are blessed with an abundance of fine destinations for desserts ornate enough to make us swear off dessert for the rest of our days. Or at least, until our very next dessert. I’ve also become something of a scholar of the history of desserts.

Did you know, for instance, that the roots of Jell-O go back to 1845, when it was patented by one Peter Cooper, who described it as, “A transparent concentrated substance containing all the ingredients fitting it for table use in a potable form, and requiring only the addition of hot water to dissolve it so that it may be poured into molds, and when it is cold will be fit for use.” Which sounds exactly like what we’re eating a century and a half later.

The product was dubbed “Jell-O” in 1897 by Mary Wait, wife of cough medicine manufacturer Pearl Wait, who sold the name for $450 in 1899 to a neighbor. By the 1920s, owned by the Postum Company, sales had reached the millions, Jell-O salads were ubiquitous, and Jell-O became a standard in every kitchen in America.

Recipes abound, from the basic method found on the side of the box, to variations using Coca-Cola, cream cheese, mixed nuts, Red Hots, marshmallows, tomato juice and vinegar, applesauce, and even a Jell-O dessert made with Twinkies.

Jell-O may be the last true frontier for the adventurous cook.

Did you further know that apple pie, the most American of all dishes (read: As American as mom, baseball and apple pie), isn’t especially American at all. Indeed, if anything, it’s a British dish, passed on to us along with our language by the folks we defeated in the American Revolution.

And at first, in the English tradition, apple pie was eaten as a breakfast dish, more often than not with cheddar cheese, a habit that’s been replaced in latter years with ice cream — apple pie a la mode (a bit of linguistic nonsense that means nothing but “in the manner”).

A century ago, there was an apple pie cooling on every rural window sill, waiting to be stolen by passing ne’er-do-wells.

And then, there’s the humble brownie. The first brownie may have been an accident, the result of a neglectful cook forgetting to add baking powder to chocolate cake batter. Chocolate brownies became a standard in American homes, a dish so popular that a brownie mix was even sold via the Sears Roebuck catalog. Recipes vary wildly from region to region, and from taste to taste some like their brownies wet and oozing chocolate, while others demand a requisite dryness.

And lest we forget the pineapple upside-down cake, in the first decades of the 20th century, there was hardly a ladies magazine that didn’t include a recipe for one sort of upside-down cake or another, a fad that very probably reached its apex in the ’30s, but which began simply in the early 1900s with a cake that was more often than not cooked in a skillet, then topped and flipped — a bit like a pancake turned into a cake.

In time, it evolved into the ultimate bridge party treat, a dish whose making defined the culinary skill of the lady who attempted it.

And though hardly anyone makes Baked Alaska anymore, its history is worth noting, for it’s a nearly forgotten dessert that dates back to the heady days following the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867, that became one of the defining dishes of the Golden Age of the 1890s and 1900s, a rather overdone dish that smacked of high exoticism, of railroad barons and meals concluded with snifters of cognac.

Many an aspiring cook tried to impress with Baked Alaska, only to be faced with a molten mess. There are reasons that Baked Alaska lives today more as a memory than as a dish worth struggling through. But considering how over the top it is, it might be worth bringing back.

Some of the best dessert destinations in the San Gabriel Valley follow with lots of choices for everyone this holiday season!

85 Degrees C Bakery Café

17170 Colima Road, Hacienda Heights, 626-839-7885 2626 E. Garvey Ave. S., West Covina, 626-915-7885 1119 E. Alosta Ave., Azusa, 626-335-1885 300 W. Main St., Alhambra CA, 626-293-8585 61 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Old Pasadena, 626-792-8585 www.85cbakerycafe.com

To wander into 85 Degrees C Bakery Café is to find yourself tumbling down a rabbit hole filled with tasty desserts and nifty (if somewhat eccentric) beverages. It’s a global chain, created in Taiwan by Mr. Wu Cheng-Hsueh, who “envisioned a café that provides five-star quality coffee, cakes and breads at not so five-star prices.”

He opened his first 85 Degrees C Bakery Café in Taipei in 2004. A decade later, there are 400 branches stretching across Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Australia and here in the USA.

85 Degrees C (named for the temperature at which, they say, coffee best holds its flavor demands a certain amount of mental preparation before a visit, for this is an Asian theme park of many, many pastries. (Probably a little physical prep wouldn’t hurt either — these desserts can strain our low-carb diets a whole bunch!)

Probably the best drill is to go and observe, walk around, look and sniff, see what others are eating and drinking — for the selection is downright encyclopedic. Sweetly so, but Wikipedia-like nonetheless.

If you have just one pastry, let it be the cream puff, which may be the definitive desserts at 85 Degrees — somewhat French, somewhat Asian, and wholly, totally indulgent.

Honestly, it’s worth going to the sweetly named Love to Go just for the cartoon designs on the lattes. Pooh! Snoopy! Characters from Star Trek! Sundry Kitty Cats! The wit of these latte foam images abound — and make them very hard to slurp. Honestly, you want to take them home and show to the kids!

Meanwhile, to meander into this diminutive shop is to find yourself in a land of treats both sweet and savory, with names like the Twaffleyaki, Love Fruit Two-Gether, Iced Matcha Green Tea with 3D Foam, Snorlax, Marsh-Minion, English Toffee Waffza. How they do what they do is hard to say — there’s a certain amount of magic in their creations. Sweet Magic. This is a place where grownups can be kids all over again.

The Pie Hole

59 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena 626-765-6315 www.thepieholela.com

Aside from being a sarcastic term for a mouth, there are actually pie holes to be found at The Pie Hole, where they’re the pie equivalent of donut holes — dense and sweet and terrifyingly irresistible, flavored with caramel apple, blueberry crumble, Mexican chocolate and Nutella.

The pies come in flavors both recognizable and exotic — ranging from Mom’s apple crumble (I do love me an apple crumble!) to an Earl Grey Tea flavored pie, a maple custard, and a Cereal Killer Cheese, in Froot Loops, Frosted Flakes and Lucky Charms. So silly…and so good…

Sweet Heart Dessert House

8522 E. Valley Blvd., Rosemead 626-280-1618

Even within the often madcap world of Cantonese dessert shops, Sweet Heart Dessert House stands out as an experience you’ll long remember — and wonder about. It’s the rare dessert shop where you can have a meal of, oh, say, popcorn chicken and spicy pig ear — as a warmup for a massive dessert selection that goes on for many photo heavy pages. Dozens of desserts with names like Durian Grass Jelly Snow White, Mango Brilliant and Shining Crystal.

Puddings abound — which make me very happy. Even the Durian Pudding.

Sweet Honey Dessert

1435 S. Baldwin Ave., Arcadia, 626-623-8800 410 W. Main St., Alhambra, 626-818-1778 www.sweethoneydessert.com

Sweet Honey Dessert is a massive dessert chain, with some 600 branches in Asia alone, specializing in “Hong Kong style desserts” — all served in the chain’s trademark bright yellow bowls, filled with much loved creations like the walnut and sesame paste with glutinous rice, Snow Cap Mountain, grass jelly with green tea ice cream in vanilla sauce, and swallow nest braised with coconut juice.

Open late, for those who need their mango pancakes as the night comes to an end.


Where to find the best desserts in the San Gabriel Valley

Share this:

I have long had a mixed, even perverse relationship with desserts.

I grew up in a world of puddings — rice pudding, tapioca, My-T-Fine chocolate and butterscotch (both with a much treasured rubbery crust on the top), Jell-O, Junket Rennet Custard and Junket Danish Pudding — several of which you’ve probably never heard of.

For me, dessert is pudding, and pudding is dessert. But for much of the world, pudding is just a footnote a proper dessert includes chocolate, whipped cream, pastry, fruit and goodness knows what edible oddities.

Dessert options are many at nearby bakeries and restaurants. (Shutterstock)

So as desserts have grown more audacious over the years, more ornate, more outré, I’ve been an outlier, who longs for a return to simplicity, a dessert that tastes like one thing. But, as a committed eater, who firmly believes that dessert should be served at the beginning of a meal rather than the end so there’s room for the sweet stuff, I’ve come to accept the pleasures of desserts that look like one of Marie Antoinette’s hairdos — higher and wider and more garish than the one that came before. I’ve ever come to rather like them.

And here in the San Gabriel Valley, we are blessed with an abundance of fine destinations for desserts ornate enough to make us swear off dessert for the rest of our days. Or at least, until our very next dessert. I’ve also become something of a scholar of the history of desserts.

Did you know, for instance, that the roots of Jell-O go back to 1845, when it was patented by one Peter Cooper, who described it as, “A transparent concentrated substance containing all the ingredients fitting it for table use in a potable form, and requiring only the addition of hot water to dissolve it so that it may be poured into molds, and when it is cold will be fit for use.” Which sounds exactly like what we’re eating a century and a half later.

The product was dubbed “Jell-O” in 1897 by Mary Wait, wife of cough medicine manufacturer Pearl Wait, who sold the name for $450 in 1899 to a neighbor. By the 1920s, owned by the Postum Company, sales had reached the millions, Jell-O salads were ubiquitous, and Jell-O became a standard in every kitchen in America.

Recipes abound, from the basic method found on the side of the box, to variations using Coca-Cola, cream cheese, mixed nuts, Red Hots, marshmallows, tomato juice and vinegar, applesauce, and even a Jell-O dessert made with Twinkies.

Jell-O may be the last true frontier for the adventurous cook.

Did you further know that apple pie, the most American of all dishes (read: As American as mom, baseball and apple pie), isn’t especially American at all. Indeed, if anything, it’s a British dish, passed on to us along with our language by the folks we defeated in the American Revolution.

And at first, in the English tradition, apple pie was eaten as a breakfast dish, more often than not with cheddar cheese, a habit that’s been replaced in latter years with ice cream — apple pie a la mode (a bit of linguistic nonsense that means nothing but “in the manner”).

A century ago, there was an apple pie cooling on every rural window sill, waiting to be stolen by passing ne’er-do-wells.

And then, there’s the humble brownie. The first brownie may have been an accident, the result of a neglectful cook forgetting to add baking powder to chocolate cake batter. Chocolate brownies became a standard in American homes, a dish so popular that a brownie mix was even sold via the Sears Roebuck catalog. Recipes vary wildly from region to region, and from taste to taste some like their brownies wet and oozing chocolate, while others demand a requisite dryness.

And lest we forget the pineapple upside-down cake, in the first decades of the 20th century, there was hardly a ladies magazine that didn’t include a recipe for one sort of upside-down cake or another, a fad that very probably reached its apex in the ’30s, but which began simply in the early 1900s with a cake that was more often than not cooked in a skillet, then topped and flipped — a bit like a pancake turned into a cake.

In time, it evolved into the ultimate bridge party treat, a dish whose making defined the culinary skill of the lady who attempted it.

And though hardly anyone makes Baked Alaska anymore, its history is worth noting, for it’s a nearly forgotten dessert that dates back to the heady days following the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867, that became one of the defining dishes of the Golden Age of the 1890s and 1900s, a rather overdone dish that smacked of high exoticism, of railroad barons and meals concluded with snifters of cognac.

Many an aspiring cook tried to impress with Baked Alaska, only to be faced with a molten mess. There are reasons that Baked Alaska lives today more as a memory than as a dish worth struggling through. But considering how over the top it is, it might be worth bringing back.

Some of the best dessert destinations in the San Gabriel Valley follow with lots of choices for everyone this holiday season!

85 Degrees C Bakery Café

17170 Colima Road, Hacienda Heights, 626-839-7885 2626 E. Garvey Ave. S., West Covina, 626-915-7885 1119 E. Alosta Ave., Azusa, 626-335-1885 300 W. Main St., Alhambra CA, 626-293-8585 61 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Old Pasadena, 626-792-8585 www.85cbakerycafe.com

To wander into 85 Degrees C Bakery Café is to find yourself tumbling down a rabbit hole filled with tasty desserts and nifty (if somewhat eccentric) beverages. It’s a global chain, created in Taiwan by Mr. Wu Cheng-Hsueh, who “envisioned a café that provides five-star quality coffee, cakes and breads at not so five-star prices.”

He opened his first 85 Degrees C Bakery Café in Taipei in 2004. A decade later, there are 400 branches stretching across Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Australia and here in the USA.

85 Degrees C (named for the temperature at which, they say, coffee best holds its flavor demands a certain amount of mental preparation before a visit, for this is an Asian theme park of many, many pastries. (Probably a little physical prep wouldn’t hurt either — these desserts can strain our low-carb diets a whole bunch!)

Probably the best drill is to go and observe, walk around, look and sniff, see what others are eating and drinking — for the selection is downright encyclopedic. Sweetly so, but Wikipedia-like nonetheless.

If you have just one pastry, let it be the cream puff, which may be the definitive desserts at 85 Degrees — somewhat French, somewhat Asian, and wholly, totally indulgent.

Honestly, it’s worth going to the sweetly named Love to Go just for the cartoon designs on the lattes. Pooh! Snoopy! Characters from Star Trek! Sundry Kitty Cats! The wit of these latte foam images abound — and make them very hard to slurp. Honestly, you want to take them home and show to the kids!

Meanwhile, to meander into this diminutive shop is to find yourself in a land of treats both sweet and savory, with names like the Twaffleyaki, Love Fruit Two-Gether, Iced Matcha Green Tea with 3D Foam, Snorlax, Marsh-Minion, English Toffee Waffza. How they do what they do is hard to say — there’s a certain amount of magic in their creations. Sweet Magic. This is a place where grownups can be kids all over again.

The Pie Hole

59 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena 626-765-6315 www.thepieholela.com

Aside from being a sarcastic term for a mouth, there are actually pie holes to be found at The Pie Hole, where they’re the pie equivalent of donut holes — dense and sweet and terrifyingly irresistible, flavored with caramel apple, blueberry crumble, Mexican chocolate and Nutella.

The pies come in flavors both recognizable and exotic — ranging from Mom’s apple crumble (I do love me an apple crumble!) to an Earl Grey Tea flavored pie, a maple custard, and a Cereal Killer Cheese, in Froot Loops, Frosted Flakes and Lucky Charms. So silly…and so good…

Sweet Heart Dessert House

8522 E. Valley Blvd., Rosemead 626-280-1618

Even within the often madcap world of Cantonese dessert shops, Sweet Heart Dessert House stands out as an experience you’ll long remember — and wonder about. It’s the rare dessert shop where you can have a meal of, oh, say, popcorn chicken and spicy pig ear — as a warmup for a massive dessert selection that goes on for many photo heavy pages. Dozens of desserts with names like Durian Grass Jelly Snow White, Mango Brilliant and Shining Crystal.

Puddings abound — which make me very happy. Even the Durian Pudding.

Sweet Honey Dessert

1435 S. Baldwin Ave., Arcadia, 626-623-8800 410 W. Main St., Alhambra, 626-818-1778 www.sweethoneydessert.com

Sweet Honey Dessert is a massive dessert chain, with some 600 branches in Asia alone, specializing in “Hong Kong style desserts” — all served in the chain’s trademark bright yellow bowls, filled with much loved creations like the walnut and sesame paste with glutinous rice, Snow Cap Mountain, grass jelly with green tea ice cream in vanilla sauce, and swallow nest braised with coconut juice.

Open late, for those who need their mango pancakes as the night comes to an end.


Where to find the best desserts in the San Gabriel Valley

Share this:

I have long had a mixed, even perverse relationship with desserts.

I grew up in a world of puddings — rice pudding, tapioca, My-T-Fine chocolate and butterscotch (both with a much treasured rubbery crust on the top), Jell-O, Junket Rennet Custard and Junket Danish Pudding — several of which you’ve probably never heard of.

For me, dessert is pudding, and pudding is dessert. But for much of the world, pudding is just a footnote a proper dessert includes chocolate, whipped cream, pastry, fruit and goodness knows what edible oddities.

Dessert options are many at nearby bakeries and restaurants. (Shutterstock)

So as desserts have grown more audacious over the years, more ornate, more outré, I’ve been an outlier, who longs for a return to simplicity, a dessert that tastes like one thing. But, as a committed eater, who firmly believes that dessert should be served at the beginning of a meal rather than the end so there’s room for the sweet stuff, I’ve come to accept the pleasures of desserts that look like one of Marie Antoinette’s hairdos — higher and wider and more garish than the one that came before. I’ve ever come to rather like them.

And here in the San Gabriel Valley, we are blessed with an abundance of fine destinations for desserts ornate enough to make us swear off dessert for the rest of our days. Or at least, until our very next dessert. I’ve also become something of a scholar of the history of desserts.

Did you know, for instance, that the roots of Jell-O go back to 1845, when it was patented by one Peter Cooper, who described it as, “A transparent concentrated substance containing all the ingredients fitting it for table use in a potable form, and requiring only the addition of hot water to dissolve it so that it may be poured into molds, and when it is cold will be fit for use.” Which sounds exactly like what we’re eating a century and a half later.

The product was dubbed “Jell-O” in 1897 by Mary Wait, wife of cough medicine manufacturer Pearl Wait, who sold the name for $450 in 1899 to a neighbor. By the 1920s, owned by the Postum Company, sales had reached the millions, Jell-O salads were ubiquitous, and Jell-O became a standard in every kitchen in America.

Recipes abound, from the basic method found on the side of the box, to variations using Coca-Cola, cream cheese, mixed nuts, Red Hots, marshmallows, tomato juice and vinegar, applesauce, and even a Jell-O dessert made with Twinkies.

Jell-O may be the last true frontier for the adventurous cook.

Did you further know that apple pie, the most American of all dishes (read: As American as mom, baseball and apple pie), isn’t especially American at all. Indeed, if anything, it’s a British dish, passed on to us along with our language by the folks we defeated in the American Revolution.

And at first, in the English tradition, apple pie was eaten as a breakfast dish, more often than not with cheddar cheese, a habit that’s been replaced in latter years with ice cream — apple pie a la mode (a bit of linguistic nonsense that means nothing but “in the manner”).

A century ago, there was an apple pie cooling on every rural window sill, waiting to be stolen by passing ne’er-do-wells.

And then, there’s the humble brownie. The first brownie may have been an accident, the result of a neglectful cook forgetting to add baking powder to chocolate cake batter. Chocolate brownies became a standard in American homes, a dish so popular that a brownie mix was even sold via the Sears Roebuck catalog. Recipes vary wildly from region to region, and from taste to taste some like their brownies wet and oozing chocolate, while others demand a requisite dryness.

And lest we forget the pineapple upside-down cake, in the first decades of the 20th century, there was hardly a ladies magazine that didn’t include a recipe for one sort of upside-down cake or another, a fad that very probably reached its apex in the ’30s, but which began simply in the early 1900s with a cake that was more often than not cooked in a skillet, then topped and flipped — a bit like a pancake turned into a cake.

In time, it evolved into the ultimate bridge party treat, a dish whose making defined the culinary skill of the lady who attempted it.

And though hardly anyone makes Baked Alaska anymore, its history is worth noting, for it’s a nearly forgotten dessert that dates back to the heady days following the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867, that became one of the defining dishes of the Golden Age of the 1890s and 1900s, a rather overdone dish that smacked of high exoticism, of railroad barons and meals concluded with snifters of cognac.

Many an aspiring cook tried to impress with Baked Alaska, only to be faced with a molten mess. There are reasons that Baked Alaska lives today more as a memory than as a dish worth struggling through. But considering how over the top it is, it might be worth bringing back.

Some of the best dessert destinations in the San Gabriel Valley follow with lots of choices for everyone this holiday season!

85 Degrees C Bakery Café

17170 Colima Road, Hacienda Heights, 626-839-7885 2626 E. Garvey Ave. S., West Covina, 626-915-7885 1119 E. Alosta Ave., Azusa, 626-335-1885 300 W. Main St., Alhambra CA, 626-293-8585 61 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Old Pasadena, 626-792-8585 www.85cbakerycafe.com

To wander into 85 Degrees C Bakery Café is to find yourself tumbling down a rabbit hole filled with tasty desserts and nifty (if somewhat eccentric) beverages. It’s a global chain, created in Taiwan by Mr. Wu Cheng-Hsueh, who “envisioned a café that provides five-star quality coffee, cakes and breads at not so five-star prices.”

He opened his first 85 Degrees C Bakery Café in Taipei in 2004. A decade later, there are 400 branches stretching across Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Australia and here in the USA.

85 Degrees C (named for the temperature at which, they say, coffee best holds its flavor demands a certain amount of mental preparation before a visit, for this is an Asian theme park of many, many pastries. (Probably a little physical prep wouldn’t hurt either — these desserts can strain our low-carb diets a whole bunch!)

Probably the best drill is to go and observe, walk around, look and sniff, see what others are eating and drinking — for the selection is downright encyclopedic. Sweetly so, but Wikipedia-like nonetheless.

If you have just one pastry, let it be the cream puff, which may be the definitive desserts at 85 Degrees — somewhat French, somewhat Asian, and wholly, totally indulgent.

Honestly, it’s worth going to the sweetly named Love to Go just for the cartoon designs on the lattes. Pooh! Snoopy! Characters from Star Trek! Sundry Kitty Cats! The wit of these latte foam images abound — and make them very hard to slurp. Honestly, you want to take them home and show to the kids!

Meanwhile, to meander into this diminutive shop is to find yourself in a land of treats both sweet and savory, with names like the Twaffleyaki, Love Fruit Two-Gether, Iced Matcha Green Tea with 3D Foam, Snorlax, Marsh-Minion, English Toffee Waffza. How they do what they do is hard to say — there’s a certain amount of magic in their creations. Sweet Magic. This is a place where grownups can be kids all over again.

The Pie Hole

59 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena 626-765-6315 www.thepieholela.com

Aside from being a sarcastic term for a mouth, there are actually pie holes to be found at The Pie Hole, where they’re the pie equivalent of donut holes — dense and sweet and terrifyingly irresistible, flavored with caramel apple, blueberry crumble, Mexican chocolate and Nutella.

The pies come in flavors both recognizable and exotic — ranging from Mom’s apple crumble (I do love me an apple crumble!) to an Earl Grey Tea flavored pie, a maple custard, and a Cereal Killer Cheese, in Froot Loops, Frosted Flakes and Lucky Charms. So silly…and so good…

Sweet Heart Dessert House

8522 E. Valley Blvd., Rosemead 626-280-1618

Even within the often madcap world of Cantonese dessert shops, Sweet Heart Dessert House stands out as an experience you’ll long remember — and wonder about. It’s the rare dessert shop where you can have a meal of, oh, say, popcorn chicken and spicy pig ear — as a warmup for a massive dessert selection that goes on for many photo heavy pages. Dozens of desserts with names like Durian Grass Jelly Snow White, Mango Brilliant and Shining Crystal.

Puddings abound — which make me very happy. Even the Durian Pudding.

Sweet Honey Dessert

1435 S. Baldwin Ave., Arcadia, 626-623-8800 410 W. Main St., Alhambra, 626-818-1778 www.sweethoneydessert.com

Sweet Honey Dessert is a massive dessert chain, with some 600 branches in Asia alone, specializing in “Hong Kong style desserts” — all served in the chain’s trademark bright yellow bowls, filled with much loved creations like the walnut and sesame paste with glutinous rice, Snow Cap Mountain, grass jelly with green tea ice cream in vanilla sauce, and swallow nest braised with coconut juice.

Open late, for those who need their mango pancakes as the night comes to an end.