As recounted in the Los Alamitos-Seal Beach Patch, it was a hot day in July when JoAnn Buday's daughter ran into the house, breathlessly gushing about a newly discovered frozen treat called a "sno-ball." JoAnn was intrigued. She spent the day on the computer, her face illuminated in the glow of hundreds of shining reviews of sno-ball shops in New Orleans, where the dish originated. JoAnn had often dreamt of opening a frozen treat shop that would stand out among all the other yogurt and ice cream joints in southern California. Now, at last, she had a plan.
Today, JoAnn captains her own shop, whipping up the frosty snacks lauded by reporters from The Orange County Register. Beneath shelves of colorful syrups, JoAnn and her staff top fluffy shaved ice with more than 30 different types of syrups—including root beer, wine cooler, and coconut. They blend flavors and add layers of creamy ice cream to create imaginative combinations such as peach cobbler and caramel apple pop. Guests snack on frozen treats, hot dogs, and fresh baked goods on the tabletops that speckle the seating area. A colorful mural sweeps across the wall, depicting typical scenes from famous cities around the world, including diners lingering at a cafe in Paris and employed citizens paying their U.S. federal taxes in Seattle.
The bakers at Frosted Cupcakery employ old-fashioned elbow grease and quality ingredients to condense gigantic gourmet-cake flavor into tiny bite-sized confections. With 14 daily flavors, a handful of seasonally rotating specialties, and a constantly replenished fresh-baked stock throughout the day, Frosted Cupcakery features ample treat opportunities. Royal white cupcakes are crowned with a choice of chocolate, vanilla, nutella, or coconut vanilla buttercream, and red velvet cakes are shrouded in rich cream-cheese frosting. Seasonal flavors such as pumpkin, orange, strawberry, and October flavor-of-the-month orange chocolate chip, topped with orange chocolate buttercream, are only available until the weather cools, forcing cupcake trees to hibernate for the winter.
With a name that's a riff on the French phrase for golden bread, Pandor Bakery and Cafe specializes in regional French pastries OC Weekly once said inspire "where-have-you-been-all-my-life epiphanies". Pandor is far from just a pastry shop, though, as it boasts an extensive menu that includes everything from breakfast plates to paninis. By morning, guests can be found digging into Nutella french toast or croque madames?and head in early for its Dornut pastry, which OC Weekly calls "obscenely good." At lunch, the kitchen sizzles with the sound of pressed sandwiches layered with pesto chicken or grilled zucchini. Though Pandor's flagship location can be found in the south of France, the California locations incorporate local goods such as coffee from Costa Mesa's Portola Coffee Lab and forks grown within Orange County.
Karie Foster was searching for her true calling in the early 2000s. She was frustrated by her job in real estate, and wanted to branch out into a creative pursuit. After she hosted a cupcake-themed birthday party for her friend's daughter, she knew what to do. She noticed that even the adults at the party devoured her treats with the speed of an over-caffeinated auctioneer, so she decided to open her own bakery. Here, she specializes in the cupcakes and sweet treats she loved as a child, baking a rotating selection of family-recipe favorites such as mini cupcakes, sheet cakes, and chocolate-fudge pie.
The Long Beach bakery, named Miss Priss after Karie's childhood collection of prissy dolls, looks like a life-size dollhouse. Beyond the quaint storefront dressed in gauzy pink curtains, light pink hutches house baked goods accented with frilly pink bows, and a ruffled tiered cupcake stand displays rows of ornately frosted pastel goodies.
Gwen Willhite founded Cookies by Design in 1983, when an unsatisfying brainstorming session about gift ideas led her to ponder one exciting question: why should flowers and sweets remain separate? Her solution was to design the cookie bouquet, where custom hand-decorated cookies are displayed on sticks and arranged like flowers in gift baskets. Her invention quickly became a popular gift among locals, particularly those allergic to real blooms or too bashful to look at naked cookies.
Twenty-five years later, there are roughly 90 Cookies by Design locations across the country. Each shop's team of bakers creates cookie baskets with a degree of care that matches Willhite's original vision, decorating and arranging sweet shapes for birthdays, holidays, and any other special occasion.