Houston's Sweet Spots
From cookies and cupcakes to macarons and pies, H-Town is serious when it comes to sweets. Whether you’re craving classic chocolate chip cookies or searching for sorbet, there’s plenty to indulge in at every turn.
Tucked away in a little shop off of Morningside Drive is Celebrity Cupcakes. Co-owner Marie Cagle, who grew up in a baking family, has been cooking since she was a kid. In fall 2010, Cagle turned her hobby into a career, opening her cheerful cupcake boutique in Houston’s Rice Village area. Customers rave about Celebrity’s vanilla bean cupcake and appreciate the spot’s frosting, which isn’t overtly sweet and doesn’t overwhelm the cake.
H-Town’s first Crave Cupcakes location opened in 2008, touting picture-perfect treats and a sleek interior in Houston’s Uptown Park. Today, the biz has two locations, including a West University outpost, where daily-changing cupcake flavors are baked in small batches beginning at 5 a.m. Stop in for treats made with premium ingredients like pure Madagascar Bourbon vanilla, European chocolates, locally-sourced dairy and seasonal fruit from Napa Valley.
Armed with a degree from the Art Institute of Houston’s Baking and Pastry program, Chef Vanessa O’Donnell took a sweet leap of faith in opening her bakery, Ooh La La Dessert Boutique, in 2007. At her Town and Country store—the third of O’Donnell’s locations—guests find a whimsical space marked by sprawling display cases full of decadent cupcakes, pies, cookies and gelatos. If it’s your first visit, order a mix of cupcake minis, so you can get a lay of the land.
|Macaron by Patisse|
The Heights’ family-owned Mighty Sweet Mini Pies is proof that good things come in small packages. Set in a cozy storefront along North Main, the 60s-style shop is decked out in all things retro from the glass display case and tin-tiled wall to the signage and old-school window treatments. On the menu, fans will find a handful of changing flavors like peach cobbler, pecan, blueberry cream cheese and classic buttermilk, along with peanut-butter chocolate and cherry varieties.
Bite Macarons’ owner and executive chef Sandia Horng spent months designing her West University-set bakery. Inspired by modern European and Japanese architecture, the result was a simple, clean and inviting space that sets the stage for customers to revel in a perfect macaron experience. Each of the more than dozen macaron varieties are hand-crafted during an intensive, multi-day process that really helps to produce uniquely-textured and distinctive French-style macarons. Be sure to try the Earl Grey version.
Macaron by Patisse creates beautiful and inventive varieties of the classic French pastry. The colorful, light-filled shop, located in River Oaks Shopping Center, also serves mini pies, cake balls, mini cupcakes, profiteroles and mini éclairs. Loose leaf teas and other drinks help make this a perfect after-dinner stop, particularly those looking for a romantic setting. Expect to find classics, as well as outside-the-box flavors like fig & goat cheese, tiramisu and pina colada.
Sweet started in a small kitchen by two self-taught friends with a pure passion for desserts. After years catering to small parties, weddings and farmers markets, the pair launched their small Sweet shop in CityCentre, offering a quaint urban refuge, designed and put together by local artists. There, fans find a variety of gourmet cupcakes, coffees, teas, espresso, tapioca, cookies and nearly two-dozen macaron flavors. Don’t miss the popular salted caramel and vanilla bean macarons.
SPECIALTY ICE CREAM
Award-winning pastry chef Chris Leung and biz-partner Christopher Balat recently opened their highly-anticipated ice cream and sorbet shop, Cloud10 Creamery. Leung’s first brick-and-mortar outpost comes after years stocking local restaurants with his gourmet desserts. There, patrons find progressive flavor mash-ups like the lemon & mint sorbet, mango pineapple sorbet and toasted rice ice cream, as well as 10 seasonally-changing varieties.
For more than 20 years, Hank’s Ice Cream Parlor has remained a go-to favorite for old-fashioned, handmade ice cream. The bright and cozy business offers guests 18 daily-changing flavors, culled from a list of nearly 100 flavors. Beyonce has even been known to pop by to get her fill of banana pudding ice cream, while other regulars return for dulce de leche, cake batter and chocolate chip varieties.
|Ooh La La Dessert Boutique|
Sherbet-colored walls and paper butterflies on the ceiling create a whimsical atmosphere at Upper Kirby’s Dessert Gallery. Though the cafe menu touts wraps, salads and sandwiches, it’s the confections that keep customers coming back. Expect a line up of cookies, pies, cheesecakes and cakes (sold whole or by the slice) and don’t miss the award-winning carrot cake.
As a Baylor University grad with a fashion merchandising degree, Candace Chang had a thing for the perfect outfit—and the perfect dessert, which led her to open her shop, Dolce Delights. But instead of just copying what great pastry chefs do, Chang was determined to create her own recipes, crafting confections that were tasty and also healthier than the norm—whether it's tofu cheesecake or Chang’s own lava mango crunch cake.
Known locally as the sugar hooker, Pastry Chef Rebecca Masson has manned the mixer at restaurants like New York’s Daniel and The Red Cat, as well as Houston’s Catalan, Ibiza and 17* Restaurant. In 2010, she launched her cyber sweet shop, Fluff Bake Bar. The online store showcases Masson’s confections—cupcakes, cookies, bars, party trays, along with the oh-so-tempting peanut-butter-laden Fluffernutters. Can’t wait for the cyber sweets to arrive in the mail? Masson also sells her confections at Revival Market. ?
Upper Kirby’s Petite Sweets bakery is brimming with a wealth of sinfully satisfying artisan confections, beautifully displayed among glossy white counters, marble and stainless steel accents. There, macarons, cake balls, marshmallows, mini cupcakes and whoopee pies tempt guests, along with gelati, Belgian-chocolate dipped ice cream cones and coffee drinks.
For nearly 200 years the Jucker family has been in the baking biz. The tradition started in Poland in the 1820s, stopped when the family was sent to Nazi concentration camps in 1941 and revived on Houston’s Holman Street in May 1949. Ever since, the Jucker family has been busy serving their famous eastern European style breads, cakes and pastries to loyal Houstonians at both their inner-loop and Memorial-area Three Brothers Bakery locations. Look for the business to open a third Washington Avenue spot in 2014.