Melt Away or Sweeten up Your Season With These San Diego Desserts
Written By: Nadine Blanco
Photography By: Bhadri Kubendran and Lucianna McIntosh Best San Diego Desserts
People flock to San Diego for the sun, the surf and, as of lately, the sweets! With its burgeoning culinary scene on the rise, America’s Finest City has an abundance of options to satisfy anyone’s sweet tooth. From local dessert institutions like Extraordinary Desserts—whose new Banker’s Hill location will be your next favorite hangout—to more niche offerings like the Green Tea Swirl at Holy Matcha or the doughnuts at The Goods, you’re never at a loss for options when you’re craving something sweet. And don’t forget, desserts were made for sharing—on Instagram, of course! Here are six San Diego sweet spots to put on your foodie bucket list.
1 | Frosted to Perfection Best San Diego Desserts
Must-Try Dessert: Rol-e-ol-ee-o
Nestled within one of Pacific Beach’s Pacific Plaza, is a gem of a bakery called PURE Cupcakes. This sweet spot offers everything from classic flavors like vanilla, salted caramel and red velvet to unique creations like Rol-e-ol-ee-o, bunuelos and passion fruit & toasted coconut. The Rol-e-ol-ee-o is PURE’s take on the classic Rolo candy: a moist chocolate cupcake topped with rich and creamy caramel buttercream and caramel sauce encased in a dark chocolate shell. The passion fruit & toasted coconut—a winning flavor on Food Network’s Cupcake Wars—is perfectly tart, with homemade passion fruit curd. According to founder Mary Sarain, every PURE cupcake is made with the freshest and finest ingredients, including fresh cream, Belgian chocolates, and homemade curds.
Native Knowledge: PURE Cupcakes likes to rotate flavors monthly based on the seasons, even offering over a dozen vegan and gluten-free options like the Snowball & Lemon Curd flavors!
1772-A Garnet Ave
San Diego, CA 92109
2 | Matcha Made in Heaven Best San Diego Desserts
Must-Try Dessert: Green Tea Matcha Swirl
If there was ever a space that catered to matcha enthusiasts and tailored specifically for our Instagram feeds, then consider North Park’s Holy Matcha heaven! After a visit to Japan, Founder Geraldine Ridaura brought the traditional Japanese stone-ground tea—wrought with health benefits and antioxidant properties—to her native San Diego in 2017. From matcha lemonade and lattes to matcha donuts, to two different grades of ceremonial matcha, Holy Matcha is a godsend for matcha addicts and those looking for a coffee alternative. The space itself is what Instagram dreams are made of: with Parisian-style bistro seating, including a pink velvet banquette; quartz table tops and brass fixtures; and flourishing decor in hues of pink and green, it’s “you, me and matcha” all day long.
Native Knowledge: Holy Matcha rotates the complimentary flavor often. Depending on when you drop by, you’ll get a taste of matcha swirled with earl grey, coconut, passion fruit or even seasonal flavors like pumpkin!
3118 University Ave
San Diego, CA 92104
3 | Tropical Vacation Best San Diego Desserts
Must-Try Dessert: Ice Cream Flight
The taste of the islands has never been sweeter than at Hammond’s Gourmet Ice Cream. Co-Founder Trang Hammond tasted Hawaii’s Tropical Dreams super premium ice cream and knew it would be a hit with folks back home in San Diego. But when it came to bringing these flavors to America’s Finest City, she knew trying to imitate a recipe wouldn’t cut it. “We didn’t want to sell Hawaiian Ice Cream and not have it authentically made in Hawaii,” says Hammond, which is why all their ice cream is sourced directly from the islands. Because of this, you get Hawaiian-inspired flavors like Lilikoi Sorbet, Ube (purple yam) and Kona Coffee, along with more traditional tastes like Cookies and Cream or Chocolate Peanut Butter Oreo. Customers can expect to feel welcome and safe at Hammond’s, where their scoops would make for a great picture on the ‘gram with vintage framed ice cream scoops that adorn the walls and adorable succulents in the background.
Native Knowledge: Customers can sample two to six flavors, each scooped on individual mini cones. Feeling ambitious? Try every single flavor on offer with a flight of 32, which is perfect for families!
Hammond’s Gourmet Ice Cream
3077 University Ave
San Diego, CA 92104
4 | Sweeten Your Mood Best San Diego Desserts
Must-Try Dessert: Fruit Tarts and Strawberry Shortcake
Whenever you’re in the mood to truly indulge your sweet tooth, look no further than Extraordinary Desserts. A San Diego mainstay for over a decade, Extraordinary’s new Banker’s Hill location on Fourth Avenue is the perfect place for those who want to know what pure decadence tastes like, then share it with all their IG followers. “The sleek, modern interior invites customers to feel like they’re in a jewelry box with the desserts serving as its jewels,” says Founder Karen Krasne. Indeed, all of Extraordinary’s delectable offerings—from signature cakes like the Shangri-la and the Balboa to desserts like the Strawberry Shortcake and the Passion Fruit Tart—are on full display in a generous glass case that is central to the space. Adorned with organic fresh flowers and gold leaves, these desserts are as much a feast for the eyes as they are for your sweet tooth. Whether you sit at the family-style tables or opt for something more intimate, the simple elegance of this light space is an immersive experience you’ll need to sink your teeth into.
2870 Fourth Ave
San Diego, CA 92103
5 | I Doughnut Care About Calories
Must-Try Dessert: Prosecco Buttercream
Doughnuts are one of the only desserts that can be enjoyed at any time of the day—particularly breakfast—and thankfully, The Goods is whipping them up fresh every hour in Carlsbad Village. “We really put some heart into our artisan doughnuts, which are made in small batches throughout the day with homemade glazes and fillings that have no preservatives,” says Owner Aeriel Barille, who works closely with her lead baker, Kevin Skibba, to bring artisan doughnuts made with locally-sourced ingredients to the good people of North County. From classic flavors like Classic Glaze, Chocolate Ganache and Vermont Maple to more innovative tastes like Strawberry Cheesecake or Prosecco Buttercream, there’s something for everyone at this adorable little shop. The Goods’ interior is appropriately art deco; European-style café seating with a blue-velvet banquette and gold embellishments throughout give the space a cozy yet elegant feel as you’re invited to watch the bakers make the doughnuts by hand through the glass cases. Few places will make you want to “Glaze and Grind” quite like The Goods.
Native Knowledge: “If you want something not on the menu, try our Bourbon Caramel Latte,” says Barille. Drop by on Tuesday or Thursday for gluten-free options and Wednesday or Saturday for vegan options.
2965 State St
Carlsbad, CA 92008
6 | A Quali-tea Treat
Must-Try Dessert: Cereal and Milk Puffle
You’ve likely seen them all over Instagram already: puffy, honeycomb-shaped cones stuffed to the brim with ice cream and a plethora of drool-worthy toppings. These are called puffle cones, and whenever you’re on Convoy, you’ll want to go to Boba Bar and Desserts to try one! For those who are wondering what it tastes like, Owner Tiffany Tran says, “A puffle is a Hong Kong-style egg waffle that is made fresh to order. We make our batter from scratch here at Boba Bar. The puffle is then paired with a frozen custard, decorated with various toppings and a drizzle of your choice. As you take a bite of the puffle, you will taste the sweet and warm waffle, followed by the creaminess of the frozen custard.” Everything from the menu to the café itself is inspired by Tran’s travels throughout Asia. The newly renovated space will make you feel like you’re in a fun, cute café in the far-eastern continent, which is exactly what Tran was trying to achieve.
Native Knowledge: Boba Bar and Desserts has 10 signature flavors for their puffle cones, but if none of them suit your fancy, you can also build your own!
Boba Bar and Desserts
4619 Convoy St
San Diego, CA 92111
7 | A Sweet Taste of Culture
Must-Try Dessert: Honeydew Bingsu
For as long as any San Diegan can remember, Convoy Street has been a treasure trove of Asian flavors with its mom and pop shops that line the street. But for the past three years, Nancy Chi has been bringing something new to the table at Bing Haus. “I wanted to be able to offer a mind meld of concepts I’ve fallen in love with from Seoul, New York and Japan. With warm tones and a lot of wood inspired by Japan, open concepts from Seoul and hexagon tiles that are popular in New York, I wanted to create a modern yet cozy space for others to enjoy,” says Chi. A green leather banquette, wooden tables with generous seating and green plants throughout make the space feel clean and organized, despite a custom neon sign that reads “coffee cures chaos.” In addition to rolled ice cream—a traditional Thai street dessert—and an extensive coffee and tea selection, Bing Haus also has patbingsu, a popular Korean shaved ice dessert that’s perfect for sharing with friends—both in-person and on Instagram.
4425 Convoy St, Ste 216
San Diego, CA 92111