Any way you slice it, everyone needs cake (and all varieties of decadent desserts). Those ready for a break from all the clean eating. Anyone following the U.S. political campaigns. And, naturally, people celebrating birthdays. And birthday dinner-ending sweets are at their absolute best when they’re prepared with top-quality ingredients by professionals trained to make sure the last thing you eat at their restaurant is the best thing. So if you’re ready to indulge on your special day (or any day, really), check out one of these five top restaurants for birthday desserts.
Vespa, Westport, Connecticut
Know what makes a killer cake even better? Twelve (!) layers of buttermilk sponge cake baked thin, sliced even thinner, and then covered with a traditional bittersweet chocolate mousse made with 63% Valrhona cocoa powder. The chocolate semi- sweet chocolate ganache frosting doesn’t hurt either. Craving a different flavor? Then there’s carrot cake, made lighter by technique (the eggs and sugar are whipped) and better by using Mascarpone mousse and Italian buttercream vanilla frosting on top. And because pastry chef Susanne Berne believes it’s the best combination out there, she does a banana sponge cake layered with chocolate and peanut butter and covered with a dark chocolate glaze. On the side: “milk jam” (think caramel or dulce de leche) truffles. Because why not? Make a reservation at Vespa.
Rye, Leawood, Kansas
If you’re craving an upscale-but-hearty meal to precede your cake, then this is the place. But don’t fill up entirely on the pan roasted salmon, the seared hanger steak, or chicken and dumplings because then you won’t have room for the peanut butter chocolate pie with French silk-style chocolate mousse on top. Or the new coconut cream cake, in which the cake is infused with buttermilk and coconut cream and then layered with pastry cream and topped with caramel sauce. Another word of caution: If you fill up on a side of mac ‘n cheese with crispy bacon or roasted cauliflower with lemon garlic butter, then you might be too full for the classic banana cream pie that has chocolate-covered crust and toffee crumble on top. And we haven’t even mentioned the lemon meringue pie with its creamy Swiss meringue that never rotates off the menu due to constant customer demand. Make a reservation at Rye.
Tango, Seattle, Washington
The fact that the recipe for Tango’s El Diablo dessert is carefully guarded by the restaurant’s owners — and that the chefs are required to sign a non-disclosure agreement regarding the ingredients and cooking technique — are some pretty reliable clues that this dish is off-the-dial delicious. Owner Travis Rosenthal describes it as thicker than a mousse, but not quite a cake. It’s also gluten-free, has a hint of cayenne pepper, and comes with tequila caramel sauce. Do you really need more convincing? Make a reservation at Tango.
The Grey, Savannah, Georgia
If you’re celebrating down south and craving some comfort food, then Savannah’s art deco gem The Grey has what you need. Opt for classics grandma used to make (or that you wish she had) like sweet potato pie served with crème anglaise, or chess pie (a Southern favorite that’s pretty much a custard and sugar pie) served with a dollop of fresh whipped cream and often fresh fruit compote. Birthday candles will also stand up just fine in the rich vanilla pot de crème (served with candied peanuts) and the rice pudding made with coconut milk. So no need to feel limited by tradition. Make a reservation at The Grey.
Thelma on Clinton, New York, New York
Love the idea of going gluten-free, but not being able to tell the difference [Ed. note: Yes, please!]? Then the desserts at Thelma on Clinton — a glossy, New American spot on New York’s Lower East Side — are calling your name. Chef/owner Melissa O’Donnell makes a mean Reine de Saba (which she jokingly refers to as a “fancy French brownie”) using almond flour and tops it with a warm chocolate ganache. Also on offer: strawberry shortcake comprised of a housemade, gluten-free biscuit, strawberry basil preserve, whipped cream, and chopped fresh berries. When you’re done eating cake, move on to the housemade bittersweet chocolate truffles sprinkled with crushed pistachios or pink peppercorns and Maldon salt. You’re welcome. Make a reservation at Thelma on Clinton.
Audrey D. Brashich covers pop culture and lifestyle issues for outlets including Yahoo, The Washington Post andThe Vancouver Sun. Follow her on Twitter @AudreyBrashich.