Holiday season is upon us and we all know that means beautifully decorated houses filled with lights, but most importantly, it’s the season to eat many festive baked goods and ice cream. If you’re like me and crave sweets all year round, then I’m here to help you discover the best dessert shops in DC to fulfill your cravings. I have also included the gluten free and vegan options because everyone deserves a sweet to lighten up their day.
Best doughnuts – District Doughnut
District Doughnut handcrafts their own doughnuts every morning and creates the most unique and gourmet doughnuts you have ever tasted. They offer a weekly menu of about 10 flavors, and also feature a rotating variety of seasonal flavors.
My favorite doughnut is the caramel apple streusel. It consists of freshly diced, sautéed apples rolled into a cinnamon dough. It’s finished with sweet, creamy caramel and sprinkled with creamy streusel. Other options are the cookies and cream, which is classic comfort food doughnut. It’s a chocolate cake doughnut with vanilla bean glaze and homemade chocolate cookies and cream crumble.
If you want a dessert that satisfies your sweet tooth but doesn’t overwhelm you with sweetness, you must try the key lime pie donut. It is made with lime-zested dough filled with a sweet, tart key lime curd before it’s dipped in a lime glaze and finished with a lime-graham streusel. These donuts range from $2.50-$2.75 each and they are worth every bite.
Best ice cream – Thomas Sweet
If you haven’t been to Thomas Sweet, then you’re in for a real treat. The picture above only shows about 3/4 of the flavors offered, so you’ll have to go there yourself to find out what the rest of the board says.
They are most famous for their blend-ins; choose one or more of the hand-crafted flavors (ice cream or froyo) and one of more toppings, then let them give it a magic twist. If you’re in the mood for frozen yogurt, I suggest their tart, oreo or peanut butter flavors. They make a great combination together because the tart flavor cuts some of the sweetness from either the oreo or the peanut butter ones.
Best macarons – Olivia Macaron
Take a stroll into Georgetown to enjoy this delightful dessert in their store or grab it and go if you’re in a rush. It’s located right next to Dean and Deluca, so you could get a meal from there and then cross the street to get the most important and finishing touch: macarons.
This welcoming shop offers 12 signature flavors year round, and each month comes up with seasonal flavors, such as pumpkin spice and fig balsamic. An all time favorite is the salted caramel macaron because it’s the perfect soft and chewy texture, along with its ideal mix of sweet and salty flavors.
Another exquisite macaron you should try is the earl grey. Its delicate flavor will satisfy your sweet tooth while tricking you into thinking you just had a warm cup of earl grey tea. You can buy just one, or a box with 7 macarons costs $16.
Best pies – Pie Sisters
Are you looking for a restaurant where you can buy a meal and dessert all in one? Pie sisters offers a range of savory and sweet pies that will satisfy your needs. It’s located at the end of Georgetown close to Georgetown University and it’s this cute little bakery that’s run by three sisters.
For the savory pie, I suggest getting the chicken pot pie that’s filled with shredded chicken, green beans, carrots, peas and corn covered by soft and crunchy dough. It’s made fresh every day and heated up right before you eat it so it’s like it just came out of the oven. You can get a slice for $5.75 or a 9 inch savory meat pie for $35.
As for the sweet pies, there are way too many options to choose from, but my three favorites are small pie bites of the bourbon chocolate pecan, apple caramel crunch and pumpkin pie. All of these are specialty pies, but some are seasonal. You can get them as small pie bites or as a regular slice of pie, depending on your appetite. The pie bites are $1.75 each, a slice is $5 and a 9 inch sweet pie is $32.
Best cupcakes – Baked and Wired
Located in Georgetown, this adorable family owned bakery and coffee shop will not disappoint you. You can swing by for your morning coffee and cupcake before starting your day, or grab their savory quiche for lunch followed by a treat.
If you are a vanilla lover, then I suggest the unicorns and rainbows cupcake. Just like the name suggests, it is a colorful and joyful cake that will make your childhood dreams come true – it’s a vanilla cake with heart confetti topped with cream cheese icing.
On the other side of the sweets spectrum, we have the chocolate lovers just like me. If this is you, then you have to try the Texas Sheetcake. It’s a chocolate cupcake with a hint of cinnamon.
If you’re really undecided on whether you want chocolate or vanilla, get a mixture of both. Their red velvet cupcake is one of the best ones I’ve ever had. This cupcake has some chocolate, some vanilla and lots of red food dye topped with cream cheese frosting. Each cupcake costs $3.75, but who cares about price when you’re craving something sweet, right?
If you’re gluten free, they have the chocolate strawberry cupcake which is made with GF chocolate cake and fresh strawberries folded into the batter topped with a vanilla buttercream. I promise you, it will melt in your mouth.
And finally, for all the gluten free/vegan chocolate lovers out there, you need to try their gluten free and vegan cupcake called “Hell Yeah!” It’s a chocolate cake topped with chocolate frosting (made with a flour substitute and no dairy).
Best gelato – Dolcezza
This little coffee and gelato shop located in Dupont Circle has a welcoming rustic decor that creates a cozy atmosphere. They use local fruits, herbs, nuts, cheese, milk and cream to produce their delicious homemade gelato.
Their gelatos have half the fat and half the calories that ice cream does, and it’s served at warmer temperatures so it allows you to appreciate and grasp the whole flavor of the gelato, rather than freezing your taste palate.
You can’t go wrong with any of the flavors you get, but I would recommend the salted caramel, dark chocolate or thai coconut milk flavors. All the flavors are dense and have a fresh exquisite taste that will make you believe you’re in Italy on a gorgeous day.
All their gelato contains dairy, but they also offer sorbets made with fresh fruit for anyone who is vegan. My personal favorite is the lemon opal basil sorbetto because it’s light and refreshing and mixes sweet and sour all in one. However, they also offer many other fruit flavors ranging from apple to blueberry to strawberry.
If you’re not in the mood for a gelato, stop by for a cup of their magical coffee and enjoy one of their Argentinian treats baked in the shop every morning.
Best bakery – Momofuku Milk bar
Check out the new signature neighborhood in DC called CityCenter. Sit down and enjoy a delicious meal at the Momofuku noodle bar that just opened, but remember to leave room for dessert. Head over to the Milk bar right next door to try their signature baked goods made fresh every morning.
Featured in the picture above is the cereal milk soft serve made with milk, brown sugar, a pinch of salt and topped with cornflakes. It tastes exactly like the milk at the bottom of a bowl of cornflakes, except in soft serve form.
Another dessert recommendation would be the chocolate malt cake truffles. This rich chocolate cake mixed with malted milk, coated in white chocolate and rolled in malted milk crumbs comes in a pack of 3 for $4.35. If you’re a chocolate lover, then you’ll be in heaven the moment you bite into these truffles.
If you’re celebrating something or simply love cake, then you must get their famous Birthday Cake. This cake consists of many layers primarily made of vanilla rainbow cake, layered with rainbow cake crumble and vanilla frosting. It’s the perfect blend between soft spongy texture and a little bit of crunch.
I’m sure you gluten free and dairy free foodies must be wondering what Milk bar can offer to you right about now. Let me tell you about the Klossies, but specifically the Perfect 10 cookie. This soft and crunchy treat is made with gluten free oats, almonds, chocolate chips and sweetened with agave all for $3.75. No dairy added. And to top it all off, each of these cookies provides 10 school lunches to hungry children around the world.
Best crepes – Crepeaway
Another restaurant where you can get a meal and a dessert is Crepeaway. They offer a diverse amount of savory and sweet crepes that will satisfy all your cravings. You even get to watch your crepe being made right in front of you.
For the savory crepe, an all time favorite is the Big Papa, which comes with cheese, grilled chicken, hickory bacon, smoked turkey, smoked ham and hot sauce. This crepe is rich in meat and offers just a tint of spice to it because of the hot sauce. If you don’t eat meat, there is also a veggie option that comes with cheese, green pepper, mushrooms, black olives, tomatoes and hot sauce. Both these crepes are $8 each and any substitutions you might want are welcome.
As for the sweet crepe, I recommend the Angel. If it has a name like that, why do you even need to know what’s in it? It consists of Nutella, strawberries and bananas all for $7. They offer a variety of Nutella crepe options and they are generous with the amount they put on the crepe.
Best cakes – CakeLove
Have you ever thought of putting cake in a jar? Well this unique concept was created by CakeLove to make this wonderful dessert easy to carry around with you. These cakes are baked from scratch using only natural sweeteners and no artificial preservatives, so they are as fresh as getting them served on a plate.
All of these flavors are phenomenal and worth trying but cookie dough, red velvet or triple chocolate flavors are the ones I prefer. These jars contain a single serving of cake and cream cheese icing in them. They taste great at room temperature, after being refrigerated or even after being frozen.
The gluten free options offered are the salty caramel and triple chocolate flavors. You can get these two flavors made with regular flour or gluten free flour, and even though I’m not gluten free, I would still get these two jars because they are so tasty and have such a soft texture. If you order online, you can get 12 4-oz jars for $47.99, or you can head on over to the store and try them individually.
You must try their homemade heavenly cakes as well. My favorite is the Cynthias Sin cake, which consists of layers of chocolate cake, caramel, and peanut butter buttercream with candied pecans folded in, all covered in a layer of ganache. To get the 6 inch round cake it’s only $28.03, and I’m sure you’ll want to take a big cake home after trying that one slice.
Best chocolates – Co Co. Sala
This chocolate boutique is a great place to go for afternoon coffee or tea so that you can combine your drink order with these delicious hand-crafted chocolates. You can also run into the store and buy a box to take home or offer to someone as a gift.
If you’re adventurous and like to explore many flavors of chocolate, you should try their signature collection box that comes with five pieces of chocolate: earl grey, peanut butter & jelly, bailey’s, mokha java and praline crunch for $13.50.
Co Co. Sala also makes seasonal treats. The one pictures is a pecan pie bar made with maple pecan praline gianduja, butter caramel and dark chocolate all for $8. This wonderful combination of crunchiness and softness is what makes this treat so memorable to me because the nutty flavor, caramel and chocolate all blend extremely well together.