Sweet Sixteen: Seattle’s Ultimate Dessert Guide

Seattle is a city that seems to have it all – great coffee shops and restaurants, amazing seafood, and an enormous craft beer scene. It’s a city that’s bustling with activity and entertainment options but, at the same time, has such a refreshing, laid-back vibe (something that feels sufficiently lacking back on the East Coast).

If you’re looking to treat yourself to something sweet, Seattle’s also the perfect city for that. Along with Portland, Oregon, Seattle is considered one of the top donut destinations in the country. And it certainly doesn’t stop there. With dozens of incredible local bakeries and ice cream parlors, it’s easy to find something delicious to pair with a day of sightseeing and a locally-roasted cup of coffee. Below, we’ve compiled a list of our favorites from our three-month stay in the summer of 2021.

As usual, most of the sampling was done by Stephan. I’d hoped there would be a more prolific vegan patisserie scene, but that was not to be. That said, I was able to find a handful of tasty vegan desserts that are highlighted below. Whether you’re looking for pastries, ice cream, chocolate or donuts, hopefully this list satisfies any sweet tooth!


PATISSERIE

Bakery Nouveau

Bakery Nouveau first opened its doors in West Seattle in 2006. With more than twenty years of experience with breads and pastries, head baker William Leaman has won a host of awards for his creations, and has a reputation as being one of Seattle’s best. The shop serves up a dizzying assortment of pastries, breads, elaborately-decorated desserts and tarts, as well as savory sandwiches. And with two additional locations in Capitol Hill and Burien, there’s a good chance you won’t be too far from one of their shops.

Over the course of a few visits, Stephan managed to sample a solid portion of the menu: the blueberry lemon Danish, apricot Danish, blueberry limoncello slice, a handful of macarons, and a savory California club sandwich. He also tried their famous twice-baked almond croissant. While he enjoyed everything, his favorite was the latter. Lucky for him, the massive, super flaky pastry was also the size of his head.


Coyle’s Bakeshop

Located in Seattle’s Greenwood neighborhood, Coyle’s Bakeshop was another favorite during our stay in the city. Classically-trained pastry chef Rachael Coyle started the bakery as a pop-up in 2013, and opened the current brick-and-mortar location two years later.

The small shop offers an assortment of beautiful pastries and cakes, as well as coffee, tea and a small lunch menu. One day while I was cruising around the city, I stopped in and grabbed Stephan a rosemary cretzel (a croissant/pretzel hybid), a fresh fruit croissant, and a slice of their coveted Victoria sponge cake served with fresh peaches and apricot jam. He really enjoyed everything, but was ready to send me back into town for an entire cake he was so impressed. If you need to pick just one thing from here, go for the Vicky sponge.


Temple Pastries

Located over in Leschi, in the eastern part of the city, Temple Pastries is a cool little out-of-the-way shop that offers a fairly large selection of sweet and savory baked goods, as well as coffee from local roaster Broadcast Coffee.

When we popped in on a Saturday morning, the place was jumping. If you’ve got a specific menu item in mind, we’d definitely recommend placing an online order for pickup to ensure they don’t run out. Fortunately, you can place an order three days ahead of your intended pickup date.

In addition to a twelve-ounce bag of Broadcast’s esteemed Keratu peaberry beans, Stephan opted for a passionfruit cheesecake croissant, coconut raspberry brioche donut, and savory chili verde and pork donut… all delicious. Had the bakery not been such a haul from where we were staying, we would have made a return trip. Their rotating menu of seasonal items was pretty enticing.


DONUTS

The Flour Box

Once upon a time, a self-taught baker in her early twenties wanted to open a donut shop. So she did. She opened her shop with a few similarly novice family members in one of the country’s most competitive donut markets at the height of a global pandemic. To me, it’s a story that sounds as insane as it does impossible. But that’s how one of Seattle’s hottest donut shops got its beginnings. The woman in the story is Pamela Vuong. Her shop? The Flour Box.

Tucked away down in Hillman City, The Flour Box serves up hand-made brioche donuts from one of the most gorgeous little eateries I’ve ever seen. The ingredients are all fresh and local (including locally-milled flour), and everything they make is from scratch and by hand. The quality and attention to detail here is unparalleled.

The Flour Box’s menu typically consists of four flavors of donuts as well as ginormous cinnamon rolls, cookies, and brownies. The donut flavors change every two weeks, and there’s often a savory option (think smoked salmon or everything bagel). Past sweet donuts have included flavors such as: cold brew cream, crème brulee, Hong Kong milk tea, passionfruit, fig leaf custard, honeycrisp apple, moja blanca (coconut corn), and mandarin orange. They also offer a selection of beverages that are as artistic, whimsical and delicious as their donuts. Consequently, they also earned a spot on our list of favorite Seattle coffee shops.

If you stop for just one splurge treat in Seattle, make it The Flour Box. Stephan has told me at least a dozen times since we left that he wants to move to Seattle just for these donuts. If you need more validation, it’s the first time I’ve ever brought home a package of baked goods where Sanchez sat staring unremittingly at the unattended box, crying and howling until we came in the kitchen to give her a bite. If all this still doesn’t entice you, check out their Instagram feed.

I can’t imagine having the courage and sheer determination it takes to chase such an ambitious dream. I have nothing but respect for Pamela and her team, and nothing but praise for the incredible products they put out on a daily basis. The Flour Box’s taste, quality, customer service, and conviction to maintaining their high standards is second to none. I sincerely hope they have all the success in the world!

Update: In February 2022, Flour Box’s owner Pamela Vuong was nominated for a prestigious James Beard Award for Best Baker in the country! In less than eighteen months of being open, this self-taught baker has catapulted herself into the ranks of some of the industry’s best. It’s an incredible accomplishment, and extraordinarily well-deserved.


Raised Doughnuts

If you need a second donut shop to check out, we also highly recommend Raised Doughnuts over in Seattle’s Central District. Like The Flour Box, all of their products are made from scratch using all-natural ingredients. Raised is also known for their unique and enticing flavor combinations, such as guava mochi, blackberry chevre, raspberry ginger, Vietnamese coffee, and cranberry thyme. Their menu includes a half dozen original flavors, as well as four specials that rotate monthly. They also typically have two rotating ‘weekend only’ donuts.

During our stay, Stephan reveled in monthly specials that included bacon blue cheese blueberry, sweet corn, black sesame mochi, strawberry crunch, nectarine, chocolate tahini early gray, and dalgona coffee. He also tremendously enjoyed their original raspberry holes. The donut holes are sold in a set of three, and are rolled in freeze-dried raspberry powder. He was so impressed with the sharp, bold flavor that those quickly became one his top donuts of all-time.

Bonus: If you’ve got a furry friend who’s in need of a special treat, Raised also bakes pup nuts. Made with wheat flour, oats, applesauce, eggs, cream cheese and maple syrup, the golf ball-sized treats are lightly frosted and topped with crumbled bacon. Sanchez loved her pup nuts, and thought it was so cool that someone baked special donuts with doggies in mind.


CHOCOLATE

Theo Chocolate

Arguably Seattle’s most famous chocolate, Theo was the first organic, fair trade-certified chocolate maker in the U.S. Founded in 2006 and located in the centrally-located neighborhood of Fremont, Theo is a centerpiece of Seattle’s chocolate scene. This year Theo was even named to Food & Wine’s list of Best Chocolate in America.

If you’re interested, Theo’s offers an interactive Factory Experience where visitors can learn about the chocolate-making process and taste some of the products along the way (cost is $12 per person). While we ultimately skipped the tour, we did sufficiently stock up on some wicked good chocolate. Many of their chocolate bars can be found on shelves across the country, however their Seattle shop does offer a number of unique goodies that don’t see such distribution.

Stephan’s favorites were the raspberry and dark chocolate cherry truffles. I tried their vegan cucumber lavender truffle and was blown away. I immediately regretted not ordering an entire pound. Additionally, if you love Peppermint Patties, you have got to try their vegan Peppermint Polly. It’s one of their flagship confections and it is friggin’ awesome!


Intrigue Chocolate Co.

Intrigue is an artisanal chocolate shop over in historic Pioneer Square. Seattle’s ‘first neighborhood,’ Pioneer Square is now a cute little hub of art galleries and shops. Before becoming a chocolate maker, Intrigue’s owner worked as a farmer, botanist and brewer. When you look at the flavors of some of his handcrafted, small-batch chocolates, you’ll see how he was able to fuse those diverse experiences into his cohesive creations.

A tiny hole in the wall, Intrigue’s humble storefront offers a variety of craft chocolates, chocolate beverages, and seasonal truffle boxes. With just a couple left on the shelf, Stephan scooped up a package of ten truffles containing flavors like orange/sea salt, basil, pomegranate, cardamom, and bourbon/vanilla bean.

If you’re searching for something kind of special, Intrigue’s Rainbow Collection is a set of six spiced chocolate bars with flavors inspired by the Pacific Northwest. At $78, it’s a bit pricey; but it does make an awesome splurge gift (they also sell individual bars for $13). Stephan got me a box for my birthday in June, and it might be the most elegant-looking chocolate collection I’ve ever seen. Not only was the presentation gorgeous, but the chocolate was fantastic. The bars include unique flavor combinations such as guajillo chili, cassia cinnamon, hibiscus and vanilla bean; juniper berry and black lime; lavender, coffee and long pepper; and hops and clover honey. While it’s a bit posh to make it into my daily chocolate rotation, it was such an awesome gift – and one I’d definitely recommend considering for the chocoholic in your life.


Seattle Chocolate

You can find this woman-owned business down in Tukwila, just a few minutes east of SeaTac. Known for their signature truffles and truffle bars, all of Seattle Chocolate’s cacao is ethically-sourced from small farms, and the cacao from West Africa is also Rainforest Alliance Certified.

In addition to being environmentally conscious, Seattle Chocolates is community-minded in their mission. Ten percent of profits from their main brand (Seattle Chocolate) supports Girls Inc., a non-profit that provides development programs for young girls in hundreds of cities across the U.S. and Canada. Part of the profits from their jcoco collection goes toward feeding hungry families. To date, sales from the chocolates have helped serve four million meals at food banks across the country.

We only tried a few of their jcoco bars while we were in Washington – we never quite made it down to the factory in Tukwila – but all were outstanding. The Boharat spice – a vegan bar laced with cardamom, coriander, cinnamon, and cloves – was exceptional. Since I didn’t get to sample them all, I’m thinking for this year’s birthday I’ll have to request their vegan gift set.

With nut-free, soy-free, vegan, Kosher, and gluten-free products, finding something to fit your tastes and dietary needs should not be a problem. They also ship nationwide, so even if you’re not in Seattle, you can support this super cool business and sample some of their awesome chocolates.


Fran’s Chocolates

Inspired by Julia Child and apprenticed under a Swiss pastry chef, owner Fran Bigelow has been working with chocolate since the late 1970s. Her career began with truffles, however today the confectioner is most well-known for her salted caramels. The business has grown quite a bit from its humble beginnings forty years ago. This year, Fran’s was named to Food & Wine’s list of Best Chocolate in America, and their acclaimed caramels have even been sought out by the likes of Oprah and former President Obama.

Knowing Stephan and my dad are huge caramel lovers, Sanchez decided to purchase a couple boxes of the gray and smoked salt caramels for Father’s Day. The gray salt caramels are dipped in dark chocolate and topped with sea salt harvested from France’s Brittany coast; the latter are coated with milk chocolate and finished with sea salt that’s smoked over Welsh oak. My dad and Stephan were super impressed with both varieties, and I think next Father’s Day Sanchez and I need to buy bigger boxes.

While I didn’t sample anything from their store (I tend to get sticker shock when shopping for myself), Fran’s also offers a vegan collection that includes a number of dried fruits enrobed in dark chocolate (the pressed figs look especially amazing). And for those with a gluten allergy, Fran’s does not use any gluten-containing ingredients in their products. Additionally, Fran’s has been dedicated to using organic and ethically-sourced ingredients since their early beginnings.


ICE CREAM

Frankie & Jo’s

An ice cream shop devoted entirely to plant-based churns?! Frankie and Jo’s was legit my dream come true. The first shop opened in 2016 in Capitol Hill and, after much success, two others opened in Ballard and University Village. The owner named the shop in honor of her two grandmothers, and her mission is to serve high-quality, organic ice creams with zero dependence on animal products. Don’t you love it already?

Since this was at the top of my must-visit dessert list, we wasted no time heading over to the University Village shop. It was a hot summer day and their sorbets sounded particularly enticing. After much deliberation, we ultimately opted for the chili papaya mango and strawberry beet with rosewater. They were both amazing, but the former was the unambiguous winner. Sanchez was also a huge fan of their brown butter vanilla. Because I was so stoked to be surrounded by entirely plant-based treats, I also grabbed a pint of their chocolate tahini supercookie to bring home. As expected, it was also delicious.

If you’re searching for a place that’s entirely vegan with a commitment to environmentalism and sustainability (and one that serves wicked good ice cream), look no further than Frankie & Jo’s.


Sweet Alchemy

Serving small-batch, scratch-made artisan ice cream made from locally-sourced ingredients, Sweet Alchemy is a super cute scoop shop in Seattle’s University District. Aiming to make the ‘best possible ice cream the PNW has to offer,’ the woman-owned business opened its doors in 2016. Since then, two other locations have opened in Ballard and Capitol Hill, and there are also a handful of ‘pint pickup’ locations scattered about the city.

Sweet Alchemy offers a ton of super cool flavors such as orange cranberry, fig honey crumble, caramel corn, Aztec coffee and Persian rose. If you’re looking for something vegan, they have nearly a dozen equally awesome plant-based flavors. Stephan fell in love with their dalgona – made with local roaster Boon Boona’s small-batch Ethiopian coffee and chunks of honeycomb (sponge toffee). I was similarly smitten with their vegan raspberry chip, made with Belgian dark chocolate shavings. It’s one of my favorite flavors and nearly impossible to find in a vegan version.


Molly Moon’s

With nine ice cream shops around Seattle and Bellevue, this local chainlet has seen incredible growth and success since the first shop opened in 2008. Molly Moon’s was founded by yet another entrepreneur who was emboldened to deviate from a more traditional career path to pursue her culinary passion.

Like many others on this list, Molly Moon’s core values center around sustainability and community. The company supports local farmers, obtaining 90% of their ingredients from the PNW; they donate 20,000 gallons of milk a year to local food banks; they use 100% compostable products; and they give back regularly to the community through volunteer programs and other donations.

As their success suggests, Molly Moon’s also make a great product. I was thrilled to find they offered a few vegan ice cream options, and even more excited when I learned one of them was vegan mocha chip. While I’m not a coffee drinker – or really even an ice cream lover, for that matter – I do love a good coffee/chocolate chip ice cream. When I saw the vegan version, I ordered a double without hesitation. I think it’s only the second double scoop ice cream I’ve ever ordered, and it was freakin’ amazing! Over in the world of non-vegans, Stephan was super pleased with his salted caramel and Sanchez was pawsitively pumped for her scoop of sweet cream.


OTHER SWEET TREATS

Lady Yum Macarons

In recent years, French macarons seem to be exploding in popularity, popping up on bakeshop menus across the country. The light and airy sandwich cookies are meringue-based, and typically contain some sort of interesting filling (a cream, ganache, or fruit curd). Macarons are traditionally made with almond flour, so they are also typically gluten-free – a nice option if you are faced with that dietary restriction (all of Lady Yum’s macarons are gluten-free unless otherwise noted).

From a beautiful little storefront in downtown Seattle, Lady Yum is dedicated to serving up macarons made with fresh, local ingredients. The narratives of the owner’s childhood upbringing and Lady Yum’s beginnings are both interesting and endearing, and it’s always inspiring to hear stories of women who can so boldly change career paths to chase their passion.

Lady Yum offers close to two dozen flavors of macarons – their original lineup as well as a changing selection of seasonal and monthly flavors. In addition to single cookies or pre-designed boxes, you can also build your box of ten or fifteen macarons. And for the true macaron lover, they even offer three- or six-month subscriptions.

I surprised Stephan with a box of ten that included six regular flavors (salted caramel, lemon, toffee, espresso fudge, raspberry chardonnay, and honey lavender) and four specials (chocolate gummy bear, blackberry mint chip, Reese’s Pieces, and pomegranate mango amaretto). Many macarons he’s found to be overly sweet, but he was really impressed with Lady Yum’s bold flavors. He even put them on par with macarons he sampled in Paris.

If you’re outside of downtown Seattle, there are also shops in Bellevue and Kirkland as well as one in SeaTac. And if you’re outside of Puget Sound altogether but need to get your hands on the confections, they also offer online ordering and nationwide shipping.


Hot Cakes

A shop that focuses on molten chocolate cakes? Um, yes please! Hot Cakes got their start in 2008 with a booth at the Seattle farmer’s market. Today, the dessert shop has two brick-and-mortar locations in Capitol Hill and Ballard. Hot Cakes is run with an emphasis on organic ingredients and sustainability, and even offers a number of vegan and gluten-free options.

Always on the hunt for vegan treats, I just had to try their gooey brownie cake – a chocolate lava cake with vegan caramel and plant-based vanilla ice cream topped with toasted cashews. Not to be left out, Stephan went for the dark decadence, made with Theo chocolate, burnt caramel, cocoa nib toffee and vanilla ice cream. So good. If you’d prefer to whip up one of their creations at home (or are looking for a unique gift), they also offer Take & Bake molten cakes you can whip up at home in a mason jar.


Rachel’s Ginger Beer

Let me start by saying this: I am not a soda or sweet drink person. My daily beverage menu consists of two things, water and green tea. Stephan, however, is a huge fan of ginger beer; so when I discovered this place, we absolutely had to stop by.

This is another local business that got their start at the Seattle farmer’s market. And mirroring the success of others on this list, they now have four locations: Capitol Hill (the original shop), University Village, The Spheres (downtown Seattle), and Pike Place Market.

Excited to try as many tempting flavors as possible, we worked our way through the cucumber tarragon, passionfruit vanilla, spicy pineapple, pink guava, blood orange, and extra (their original with amped up ginger). Stephan’s favorites were the extra and spicy pineapple. Mine was undoubtedly the pink guava. Holy cannoli, I could have drank a gallon that stuff! Luckily, they also sell growlers.


Kelly Cannoli

Speaking of cannoli, we’re going to round out our list of sweet spots with a tiny little espresso stand in North Seattle that serves up coffee, cannoli, and NYC bagels. East Coast transplant and owner Kelly opened her NY-themed shop as a reminder of everything she missed from back home. The cannoli are made and filled in-house to order, while twelve varieties of NYC bagels are overnighted twice a week from the Big Apple.

Kelly’s stand offers mini and large cannoli shells, five cream flavors, and six types of toppings to mix and match. Stephan ordered a trio that included the classic, lemon, and espresso with toffee bits.

I’m just going to throw this out there – Stephan is kind of a cannoli snob. Maybe it’s because he’s a second-generation Italian-American. Maybe he’s just fussy. Whatever the case, he loves trying cannoli wherever he goes, but usually ends up underwhelmed. After one bite, he declared that these were actually ‘very good’ cannoli – high praise coming from him. If you’re visiting the city from somewhere like NYC or Boston and are pining for the Italian treat, take a quick detour through Kelly’s adorable pink drive-thru stand.  

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