For vegans the patisserie La Besnéta is the closest thing to paradise on earth. And guess what? It's pretty close for non-vegans as well. It also happens to be one of the cutest spots in town: in addition to cakes of all kinds, sold whole or by the slice, they sell splendid little glass jars filled with various desserts that you can enjoy there or take away. The 'Dark Forest' is like a sexy kiss in the moonlight. Chocolate cake with chocolate, Marcona almond and not much else gets you a ticket to heaven. It's sweet but not overly so, just enough to send you floating on a cloud the rest of the day. Oh, and the lemon pie deserves a more than honourable mention...
Are its origins in Sweden, Finland, the USA? It all depends on who you ask, but we stopped caring when we tried one. The cinnamon roll should be a favourite dessert in every country of the world. In Demasié – run by two Catalan brothers – they're so sure that they make the best cinnamon roll in Barcelona that they seduce us with them from their window display of gorgeousness that they bake up daily. Each one is a sweet bomb of spongy cake – best if eaten slightly warm – where they haven't scrimped on cinnamon or the sugary icing on top that dribbles down into the rolls in a gooey delight. We're fans of the classic, but since we do enjoy sharing the love, we've also fallen for the Nutella, the Oreo, the berry and the tiramisu varieties.
This is a classic dessert at Vives and a favourite for anyone with a strong sweet tooth, which is why you'll find the berry millefeuille available every day (if you want an individual portion, you'll have to order it in advance). The recipe is simple: layers of crunchy filo dough alternated with raspberry filling – they make the jam themselves – and heavy or light cream, along with a topping of strawberries, raspberries and other berries. The cream has just the right touch of sugar without being sickeningly sweet, the fruit is tart and the filo dough reminds me of the desserts after Sunday dinners from my childhood.
Hearing the word 'doughnut' might conjure the kind you can get in any old bakery or supermarket. Forget all of those. At La Donutería you'll find big round spongy cakes glazed with vanilla or pistachio. The most popular are the banana, coffee and cocoa one, and the berry with beetroot. But my hands-down absolute favourite is the dulce de leche with almonds, cocoa and Maldon sea salt. These dense gems aren't cheap, but it's worth heading to C/Parlament to try one of La Donutería's sugary delicacies.
It's not that banoffee has origins in any type of Asian cuisine, but at Koku Kitchen they make one that's borderline sinful. When you go to Koku for a tasty ramen or scrumptious baos, be sure you leave room for banoffee for dessert, putting a sublime end to your meal. In case you're not familiar with the concept, atop a lightly salty biscuit base that's as dense as a gold brick is a layer of addictive toffee and another of banana slices. This is all topped with a swirl of whipped cream that's so thick it could support you standing up. And the best news is their banoffee is almost always a dessert option in the set lunch menus. (Also available at their Barri Gòtic location.)
When I was a kid, I was crazy for chocolate croissants. Now I'm older, my great temptation is the Nutella and hazelnut croissant at Bubó. The pastry has a perfect crunch to it, and on top are little pieces of caramelized hazelnuts while inside is a bar of Nutella, as consistent and smooth as a bonbon. You have other choices too, like the marzipan and walnut croissant, or the one with dark chocolate inside adorned with pistachios on top. And if you're not in the mood for sitting on the terrace with a view of the lovely Santa Maria del Mar church, walk a few steps along from the Bubó Bar and you're in their patisserie, a boutique of sweet jewels.
–Anna Mateu Mur
These days mochis are the trendiest of desserts. They've been sprouting up like wild mushrooms on menus all over Barcelona. But if you want to be sure you're trying the real thing, you've got to go to the original source: the Ochiai bakery, which started showing us how sweet Japanese creations could be way back in 1983. They've got various flavours – including chocolate and a local version of crema catalana – but for me, the best is the green tea: the subtle glutinous outer bit cradles a mousse filling that's so soft and delicious that you'll feel like you're biting into a cloud of green tea. A delicate thing of beauty.
–María José Gómez
Even if you're not a fan of white chocolate, you'll fall for this finely crafted treat from Tarte & Quiche, a haven for French desserts (and quiches, as you might have deduced). Into a base of shortcrust pastry goes a layer of crunchy praline, and the pistachio paste in the white chocolate ganache gives nuances to the sweetness and the quality of the chocolate: the less sugar it has, the better it tastes. You'll also want to try other formidable flavours such as the matcha (with organic Japanese green tea), lavender (with actual flowers) and coffee.
Don't judge the place by its looks alone, decorated as it seems to be more by accident than by design, nor by the state of bewilderment of the owner – though he's always pleasant. This is serious business: there's plenty of word of mouth about Matteo Majorini's tiramisu being the best in Barcelona, all apologies to his neighbours at Xemei. It's at Paradiso where you'll find a slice of paradise, a model of texture and consistency, with the delicate balance of contrasts that is so important between the mascarpone and the cocoa. A home-made jewel in the crown, this is a sweet reward for those inclined to try new experiences.
The hunt for regional Catalan specialities in Barcelona has become a difficult task. The most notable absence is the 'flaona' that originates in the Empordà: we're talking about little cakes filled with cream, with a powerful hit of sugar, lemon and cinnamon. It's crunchy around the outside and celestially sweet in the middle, and shaped like a capital 'D'. So we can't find that anywhere, but we are happy with its Iberian relative, 'flaó': a tasty cake made with flour and pork lard, filled with cream or, more often, soft sheep's or goat's cheese. You'll find it in the Mallorcan bakery Formentor.
More temptations: Artisan and signature sweets
A Barcelona classic, La Colmena has been standing in its current location since 1867. You'll find sweets in a ridiculous variety of flavours – strawberry, pineapple, marshmallow, fennel, lavender, honey.... For less than €30/kilo you can try artisanal sweets from the oldest shop in Catalonia.
Three vintage shop dummy heads can't take their eyes off of the collection of sweets that are more like dried fruit than commercial candies. You'll be hypnotized as well when you cross the threshold at Çukor, an academy of sweetness run by artisans of sugar and chocolate. They've got standards like fluffy pink marshmallows, but there's an artistry to them you'll notice right away. They also sell sweets from around the world.
Here you'll find sweets in the shape of jewellery, sushi or whatever you can dream up, because the candy makers at Papabubble are specialists in personalization. They're on a mission to surprise customers with something new every day – to help you develop new sensations, excite your imagination and stimulate your childhood memories. To do all this, they work hard to reinvent and reimagine sweets on a daily basis.