Is there anything better in the world than trying to decide between some three-dozen different kinds of cake? We’d say not. If that’s the sort of delicious problem you’d like to have, hotfoot it to West 16th in Kits to dive into Sweet Obsessions. But beware: after one bite of the sinfully delectable, black-and-white chocolate mousse cake, you’re pretty much guaranteed to be hooked. Check out their seasonal offerings with juicy berries from local growers, such as Krause Berry Farms.
Craving traditional Chinese desserts or Taiwanese shaved ice? There’s really only one place to go and that’s Icy Bar. Open till 1 a.m. on weekends, there’s nothing that makes a night out better than dropping by for one of their legendarily-huge shaved ice desserts, which come with a side of condensed milk. You can customize your shaved ice with a selection of 20-or-so different toppings. Try a taste of Franco-Chinese fusion with their fluffy crêpes stuffed with whipping cream and your choice of mango or durian.
Fuel your matcha obsession at Basho Café, the city’s most adorable family-run spot where everything is handmade—from the colourful bunting and fabric coasters, to the amazing Japanese desserts. Of course, matcha powder has a host of health benefits, so definitely focus on that (rather than the overwhelmingly cake-y element of it all). Treat yourself to a plateful of their delicious baked goods, such as matcha and black sesame cupcakes, white chocolate and matcha sandwich cookies, or giant matcha coconut and chocolate chip cookies.
Rocking a firm belief that you should ‘eat dessert first,’ get super-fancy in Gastown at Mosquito, the city’s only champagne and dessert bar. Indulge in a glass of something French and bubbly along with sophisticated creations, such as a pecan gianduja cassis foam with dehydrated pecan sponge, pear gel and sorbet, or olive oil and lemon olive oil Bavarois with madeleine sponge, elderflower syrup and dehydrated grapefruit. It’s the perfect place for girly get-togethers, dressy dates or any time the phrase ‘treat yo’ self’ flashes through your mind.
Award-winning, innovative, exciting and hella-delicious—all words you can easily use to describe Vancouver’s beloved patisserie and chocolate makers, Beta5. Based in a utilitarian warehouse space around the corner from Main Street, you’ll find lineups of raving Beta5 fans most weekends, eager to get their cream-puff fix or a taste of whatever seasonal confection the pastry chefs have whipped up. Dive into delicate flavours, such as raspberry and Earl Grey, or swoon over variations of chocolate. Include these on the menu at your next dinner party and prepare to scoop up all the compliments.
It’s all about the butter—trust me. Great high-fat-content butter makes for wonderfully flaky pastries and drool-worthy cakes, and that’s all they use here. Open till midnight seven nights a week, Thierry is the perfect late-night spot for a dessert date, and—let’s be honest—also the ideal spot for when you need a solo late-night, cake-fuelled pity party. Open from 7 a.m. during the week and 8 a.m. on weekends, you’ll have to wait till around 11 a.m. for the dozen or so daily-baked cakes to appear, but you can amuse yourself with buttery breakfast pastries until they do. Seasonal delights on offer now include morello cherry and pistachio macarons, and ginger crème brûlée garnished with candied orange and pistachio sablés.
Tucked away in a quiet part of downtown Vancouver, in-the-know dessert fans keep Soirette busy, stopping by to chow down on their crisp and chewy French-style macarons. The meringue-based confections come in a rainbow of beautiful colours and innovative flavours, such as goat cheese and walnut or black tea lemon. Book in for the legendary high tea. Served every Saturday and Sunday, it features three tiers of freshly baked heaven from milk tea pannacotta to Vancouver Fog mini-cakes.
Two brothers, Dan and Ken Kim, have put the much-maligned soft serve back on the foodie radar with their instantly popular ice cream shop in Gastown. Soft Peaks serves up Vancouver’s first 100 per cent organic, Avalon-milk-based soft serve with a variety of toppings, such as Fraser Valley honeycomb, yuzu marmalade, Tim Tam cookie crumbles, organic maple syrup, and Himalayan pink salt. These peaks taste as good as they look!
First things first, it’s ‘crack-le’ not ‘crackle,’ but no matter how you say it, this bite-sized crème brûlée and waffle bar scores high for their must-try desserts. The flavours at Crackle Creme range from exotic pandan coconut and Tahitian vanilla, to local honey lavender or Vietnamese coffee made with East Van beans. If brûlées aren’t your thing (why and how?!), then give the made-to-order liège waffles a whirl instead. Crunchy and sweet, try the Earl Grey or matcha flavours for a Vancouver take on a Belgian tradition.
If you’ve never tried Vietnamese desserts, head down to Che-Licious in the West End and prepare to fall in love. More complex than their European counterparts, these Southeast-Asian treats offer different tastes and textures in every bite. Ingredients include real fruit, basil seeds, pom pearls, pandan jelly and beans with a coconut milk or juice base. Also on offer is the ‘icy bun,’ which is beginning to gain cult status amongst ice-cream-sandwich devotees. Served a little warm, you can pick from five flavours of gelato, including chocolate and green tea, and then choose a topping—try the durian wafer or fruity pebbles.
Where to go in the city to satisfy your sweet cravings and indulge your inner child
Remember being a kid and swearing to yourself that one day, when you’re a grown-up, you’ll have dessert for dinner whenever you want? Well, that day has come. It's time to give into deliciousness, say "no" to eating your vegetables, and "yes" to stuffing yourself with sweet treats instead.
In no particular order, here are 10 of our all-time-favourite dessert spots in the city
Nikki Bayley is an award-winning travel writer, guide book author and spirits and cocktail journalist whose work appears in National Geographic Traveller, The Globe and Mail and the Difford’s Guide. A cheese fan, hula hooper and all-round word nerd, she writes regularly for BCLiving about food, drink, spas and everything else that makes life worth living.