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The pumpkin’s here, with bells on

Times Staff Writer

Though we love pumpkin pie, we were ready for a change, so we went looking for pumpkin desserts good enough to make guests sit up and take notice, even at the end of a Thanksgiving meal. We tasted two dozen holiday confections, looking for gorgeous presentations that would shine on a dessert buffet, and true pumpkin flavor that wasn’t overshadowed by sugar or other ingredients.

Here are the best of them, and they’re delicious. Trust us, and order early.

The favorite: The irresistible combination of pecans, caramel and pumpkin makes this sticky pecan pumpkin cake from Josie Restaurant in Santa Monica a winner. It’s baked like an upside-down cake in a pan lined with rich brown-sugar caramel and lots of pecans. The rich topping cloaks a dense spicy cake.

Pastry chef Jonna Jensen makes the cake batter with kabocha squash, which “has more intense pumpkin flavor than regular pumpkin,” she says. The moist, 10-inch cake serves 12, and must be ordered 48 hours in advance. At the restaurant, it’s served with brown sugar ice cream.

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Sticky pecan pumpkin cake: $54 at Josie Restaurant, 2424 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 581-9888.

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Grand finale: The modest storefront of the Essential Chocolate Collection in Culver City is a great source for sophisticated, elegant desserts such as the pumpkin cheesecake that owner Karen Salter has been making for 25 years. Of the several pumpkin cheesecakes we tried, Salter’s was the best.

The cake is remarkable, from its nut streusel crust -- which blends graham crackers, brown sugar, crushed walnuts and cinnamon -- to the cinnamon-dusted whipped cream swirls on top. “It’s not as tart as a pumpkin pie,” Salter says. “The cream cheese softens it and makes it really luscious.”

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The 10-inch cake serves 12 to 14 generously, but could stretch to 18 servings after a big Thanksgiving dinner. Order by Monday for Thanksgiving.

Pumpkin cheesecake: $40 at the Essential Chocolate Collection, 10868 Washington Blvd., Culver City, (310) 287-0699.

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Creamy and cool: For a pumpkin dessert that’s pretty, but more fun and less formal, we like the pumpkin gelato from Joan’s on Third in Los Angeles. Creamy gelato is delicately spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice for a pumpkin pie flavor, then frozen inside individually wrapped mini-pumpkins.

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Order deadline for Thanksgiving is noon Monday.

Mini-pumpkins filled with pumpkin gelato: $5 each at Joan’s on Third, 8350 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles, (323) 655-2285.

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Nut and cookie crunch: La Mousse’s scrumptious pumpkin cobbler bars combine a silky pumpkin pie filling with a buttery shortbread crust. It’s a great idea, made better by the layer of candied pecans that line the crust. The crumb topping with powdered sugar gives a snowy finish.

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Deadline for ordering for Thanksgiving is Thursday, but if you miss that cutoff, order some for your turkey leftover party. Pumpkin cobbler bars will be available through Dec. 31.

All La Mousse desserts are sent out frozen.

Pumpkin cobbler bars: $18 for a box of 12 at La Mousse, 11162 La Grange Ave., West Los Angeles, (310) 478-6051.

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A little something: Angel Maid Bakery’s charming small pumpkin spice cake is light enough to enjoy even when you think you’re too stuffed to eat dessert. The three-layer cake, which measures 7 inches and serves six to eight, is prettily frosted and filled with whipped cream and dusted with pumpkin spice cake crumbs. Order by noon Saturday for Thanksgiving.

Pumpkin spice cake: $12.50 at Angel Maid Bakery, 4538 Centinela Ave., Los Angeles (Mar Vista area), (310) 915-2078.


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