As a successful financial consultant, Sharlena Fong spent her days wearing buttoned-up business attire and roaming New York City's World Financial Center. Then came September 11, 2001. Her professional life shaken and her priorities reorganized, she said goodbye to the world of finance, trading her power suits for a chef’s toque. After finishing culinary school and working under experienced chefs at Eleven Madison Park and Bouchon Bakery in New York City, Fong teamed up with James Gonzalez and Dennis Hunter in 2007 to open Semi Sweet Bakery in Los Angeles. Today, they all continue to work together with the same goal in mind: morphing frowns into grins with the help of fresh-baked pastries, cookies, and cakes. Hunter explains it best on the shop’s website: "No matter how bad someone's day is, no matter how much heartache someone may be going through, I get to give them a slice of cake or a piece of pastry made with love, and they smile!"
Love is not the only ingredient in their baked goods, however. Inspired by his training under Chef Monica May at Nickel Diner, Chef Gonzalez believes in using local, sustainable ingredients, making everything in-house and from scratch all while balancing each morsel’s delicate flavor profile. In the kitchen each day, chefs bake their signature ding a lings in sweet flavors such as hazelnut crunch and red velvet alongside savory empanadas stuffed with mushroom and short rib. Samoa macaroons packed with coconut, chocolate, and caramel sidle up to mugs of drip coffee and loose-leaf tea from SerendipiTe. The shop also trades in larger treats: nine-inch cakes in flavors such as strawberry three ways with jam and lemon curd fly out the door for surprise birthday parties or surprise I-ate-your-birthday-cake-in-the-car parties.
The last words you might think you'd hear from a baker are "easy sugar." At Sweet Dreamery Desserts, however, owner Andrea insists on putting the cake at center stage, not the frosting. Inspired by her mother, who baked authentic goodies for the family's Belizean restaurant, Andrea set out on her own baking journey at the tender age of 8, putting her two Easy-Bake ovens to work. Today, the ovens are bigger and the recipes are more refined, but there's a bit of that early passion in everything she does. Andrea and her staff bake cakes, cupcakes, and cake pops to order, creating them all from scratch in small batches to preserve the home-baked taste and the friendships struck between like-minded chocolate chips. They use no preservatives or artificial additives in the batter, just wholesome, natural ingredients such as real vanilla extract and salt-free butter.
With nods from DailyCandy and L.A. Foodie, B1 Breadshop has earned street cred among locals and visitors alike for its boulangerie-style pastries and organic-flour baguettes. Here, you can nosh on sweet treats including buttery chocolate cookies, apple turnovers, and Valrhona-chocolate croissants. If you’re in the mood for savory, dig into an organic spinach-and-feta croissant or café sandwich.
Though they’ve garnered the praise of national publications such as Bon Appètit and Nylon Magazine, the chefs at Pazzo Gelato are all about the local community. Each morning, they frolic through the city’s farmer’s markets to find seasonal inspiration, using organic ingredients whenever possible and steering clear of high-fructose corn syrup. Patrons can mix-and-match decadent combinations such as Madagascar vanilla and sea salt caramel or pistachio and red velvet. Vegan sorbetti include flavors such as toasted coconut and dark chocolate orange. All cool creations can be scooped into the shop’s biodegradable cups and waffle cones, or gently lobbed into a cup of espresso and whipped cream for the shop’s signature pazzogato.
At the espresso bar, staffers pour aromatic cups of Intelligentsia coffee, loose-leaf tea, and drinking chocolate. The combination of cool and hot menu options makes the patio comfortable in summer, fall, and apocalyptic weather.
Delilah's handheld cakes are baked in larger-than-normal cups, resulting in treats that are about one-and-a-half times the average cupcake size and, therefore, 68 times as delicious. Made the true southern way with plenty of cream-cheese frosting and extra molecules of moistness, the red velvet makes even the most dedicated of dentists question their beliefs. The chocolate cakes will silence those who once laughed at your flask of cold milk, and the peanut butter delivers all the flavor one would expect from jelly's sidekick.
Café Tropical enlivens palates with the made-from-scratch treats and espresso-based drinks of its tropically infused menu. Demolish daily to-do lists with the caffeinated kick of a rich, creamy espresso drink such as the café expresso ($1.75 for a single, $2.75 for a double) or the spicy zip of a mexican hot chocolate ($2.75 for a medium), both concocted using freshly grated chocolate. Bodies can get their fresh fruit fix in the sweet sips of a tropical fruit shake ($3.50 for a large), or fresh-squeezed orange, carrot, or grapefruit juice ($3.50 for a medium, $4 for a large), or in decadent bites of tres leches ($3.25 for a slice), strawberry short cake ($3.25 for a slice), or guava-cream-cheese pie, with its flaky pastry crust and guava jelly made from fruit cultivated in Philadelphia's subtropical suburbs ($2.75 for a slice).