Eight summer desserts to eat right now
The dessert landscape of Southern California is a wonderland of ice cream, tarts, cakes, pies and rainbow shaved ice. Here are eight summertime favorites to seek out now.
Bouza at Le Mirage Pastry in Anaheim
Walking into Le Mirage Pastry in Anaheim is like visiting a favorite aunt’s house. The woman behind the counter beckons with glistening awamat (a golf ball-sized doughnut soaked in sweet syrup). When you inquire about the nuts in the rolled baklava, she slides one over the counter to try. Get a box to go, but don’t even think about leaving without a bowl of bouza. Syrian baker Maher Nakhal makes the ice cream using mastic, a tree resin, and sahleb, a powder that comes from an orchid — which give the dessert its signature stretchy structure. He layers the ice cream into a chilled metal bucket and then uses a large wooden pestle to pound it. He alternates smashing the ice cream and adding pistachios until a solid piece forms. Then he takes the flattened ice cream, adds more pistachios and rolls it up like a Swiss roll. It’s served in slices that resemble flower petals, each one with its own swirl of nuts. The flavor is sweet, nutty and floral with a taffy-like texture that melts on your tongue.
100 S. Brookhurst St., Anaheim, (714) 491-3855
Syrian baker Maher Nakhal whips up bouza, the stretchy Middle Eastern ice cream at Le Mirage Pastry, his bakery in Anaheim.
Halo halo at Chaaste Family Market in Pasadena
Christian Esteban never understood why halo halo was served in a tall glass. “Whenever you stick your spoon into it, it all spills out,” he said. So when he and his brothers took over his family’s Chaaste Family market, he decidedto create his dream version of the popular Filipino dessert. To start, he and Ariele Shindledecker (his brother Abraham’s fiancée) decided to serve their version in a wide bowl. They layer pinipig toasted rice at the bottom, and then add shaved ice, evaporated milk and condensed milk, saba (plantain), jackfruit, red beans, garbanzo beans and white beans, then another layer of shaved ice and sweetened milk, a layer of ube ice cream and a single turon (banana lumpia). Every bite is like a completely new dessert. The colors are purple, blue, pink and green, like a quarantine-savvy tie-dye sweatsuit in dessert form. It’s sweet to the 10th power with nothing savory to balance it all out. But you came here for the sugar rush. Mission accomplished.
296 Allen Ave., #3, Pasadena, (626) 796-1527, chaastefamily.com
I’m at the turo turo. I’m at the grocery store. I’m at the combination turo turo and grocery store.
Funnel cakes from Fun Diggity in South Los Angeles
Cheyenne Nicholson used to travel to Knott’s Berry Farm just for the funnel cakes. But after tiring of going to amusement parks for her favorite dessert, she and husband Bernard started making them at home. They spent a year developing their recipe before opening Fun Diggity funnel cakes out of their front yard in South Los Angeles in 2016. “Coming from a place like Compton, it’s hard to get something like a novelty treat like a funnel cake,” she said. “We are just trying to make it more accessible and affordable in the inner city.” You order at a window on the side of the house, then wait in the car for a text letting you know your order is ready. The familiar smell of powdered sugar melting into hot dough fills the driveway. Cheyenne has multiple flavors and toppings, including red velvet and Oreo, but the OG funnel cake is hard to beat. The cake is lightweight and crisp, with a fluffy, tender middle. The ice cream, whipped cream and fresh strawberries spill into the countless nooks and crannies, but the cake never loses its crunch.
222 E. 120th St., Los Angeles, fundiggity.business.site
Water ice from Happy Ice in Los Angeles
Lemeir Mitchell grew up eating water ice at Fred’s Water Ice, a Southwest Philly institution. He moved to Los Angeles to be a tattoo artist, but a constant hankering for his favorite summer dessert prompted him to open a food truck. Water ice is a colorful concoction made with water, ice, fruit and other flavorings churned through a machine until its texture is somewhere between sorbet and a slushie. Mitchell’s flavors are bold and playful with names like watermelon lush and cherry bomb. The brand is known for its psychedelic rainbow colors, and the water ice is just as mesmerizing. Try the Rainbow Rocket for a blast of strawberry, blueberry and lemon. Or look out for the Time Machine, a cherry-mango-pineapple flavor that channels the vibe of an old-school Big Stick. You can find Happy Ice on one of Mitchell’s two food trucks or at his Melrose Avenue storefront.
7324 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, (215) 800-3965, happyicela.com
Lemeir Mitchell is expanding his food-truck operation with a brick-and-mortar shop on Melrose Avenue.
Mangonada at La Michoacana Ice Cream Parlor in San Fernando
A mangonada, eaten any time of day — anywhere — is a good idea. The fruit and candy dessert can be found in many Latinx communities. The ones at La Michoacana Ice Cream Parlor in San Fernando are a favorite. Your ice cream guru paints the sides of a plastic cup with a ruddy chamoy syrup, and then adds a couple of scoops of mango sorbet. It’s then topped with diced mango, a handful of chewy tamarind candy, more chamoy syrup and a squeeze of fresh lime. Then the entire thing is crowned with a tamarind candy-coated straw. That first spoonful is a welcome shock to the senses. The sweet mango, tart, spicy chamoy and the tang of the tamarind come together to form an addictive combination. Finish the entire thing before it melts, and don’t forget to lap the candy off the straw.
803 S. Workman St., San Fernando, (818) 361-7974
Peach Cobbler tarts from Gwen’s Specialty Cakes and Catering in Inglewood
Gwendolyn Vance has been baking at her Inglewood cake shop for almost two decades, supplying pies and tarts to restaurants around town, including the Dulan’s soul food restaurants and Simply Wholesome. Her peach cobbler is one of the best in the city, and about 10 years ago she started making mini tart versions of her pies and cobblers. “They just really went crazy in the last few years,” she said. “I use some of my mother’s recipes, but I kind of go by taste and stuff with these.” For the peach cobbler tarts, Vance cooks down peaches with nutmeg, sugar, butter and vanilla, then drops the filling into a butter-laden crust about the size of a Pog. The mini tarts create the ideal 1-to-1 crust-to-filling ratio. And they’re easy to share at a socially distanced picnic too.
Strawberry bingsoo at Sul & Beans in Koreatown
The Sul & Beans Korean dessert chain makes 14 different kinds of bingsoo, the Korean shaved ice typically topped with something sweet. It’s a lot of fun to eat any time of year, but the strawberry bingsoo reaches peak deliciousness during the summer. The shaved ice is powder-like and fluffy. It melts on contact, instantly cooling your entire body. It’s stratified with fresh sliced strawberries, strawberry puree and condensed milk, then topped with a couple of slices of chewy tteok. The dessert is structured to get a little bit of fruit and ice in every spoonful. Though you can no longer sit and linger over a bowl at the shop, they package it to-go in a deli cup, with containers of condensed milk on the side.
621 S. Western Ave., #208-A, Los Angeles, (213) 385-5510, sulandbeans.com
Watermelon sandwich at Milkcow Cafe in Pasadena
During the summer months, Milkcow Cafe turns out hundreds of its watermelon sandwiches — a treat that looks like it could only have come from Candy Land. It’s made by slicing a thick wedge of watermelon down the middle and filling the gap with fresh watermelon sorbet, piped in big pink swirls. Chocolate chips are strategically pressed into the fruit’s flesh, made to look like giant seeds. The novelty factor is high, and everyone around you will stop and stare. But let them look — each bite is like tearing into a perfectly ripe watermelon overflowing with sweet juices. You should be able to order the sandwich for another month or so, or for as long as watermelons are in season.
1517 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, (747) 221-9708, milkcowcafe.ca
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