Flour Bakery pastry case in all its glory
Photograph: Courtesy Flour Bakery/Kristin Teig

A baker's dozen best desserts in Boston

Satisfy your sugar cravings with a local sweet treat.

Tanya Edwards
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Whether you need a midday sweet pick-me-up, or you want to end a great meal with a sugary finale, these are our picks for great desserts around The Hub. Boston is replete with excellent bakeries, doughnut shops and more, meaning there’s a flavor for everyone in town. For those with a major sweet tooth don’t miss our lists of the best ice cream shops in Boston, the best donuts in Boston and the best pies in Boston, but below, our favorite desserts in town.

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Best desserts in Boston

  • Bakeries
  • North End
  • price 1 of 4

This famous shop in the North End has a loyal following among pastry lovers who flock from far and near for sweet Italian specialties. The best choices at Modern Pastry are neighborhood staples like tiramisu, cannoli and sfogliatelle. Don't forget to grab a frothy cappuccino to dip your treat into at the family-owned spot's espresso bar—and a dozen biscotti, pignoli cookies or macaroons to take home. American classics like cheesecake and brownies are popular, as well.

  • East Cambridge

At the center of Cambridge Crossing (the development at Lechmere on the Cambridge-Boston border) is a trio of restaurants by chef Will Gilson with pastry chef Brian Mercury. Their ground-level Café Beatrice elevates café fare with inventive offerings like chai banana bread, passion fruit brioche and maple kouign amann (a pastry-like sweet butter cake). Award-winning chef Mercury also provides the breads at neighboring Italian joint Gepetto and desserts for The Lexington, the rooftop restaurant upstairs. 

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  • Bakeries
  • North End
  • price 1 of 4

This is the spot in the North End for cannoli; don’t let anyone tell you differently. Wrapped in iconic white and blue boxes, cannoli here cater to every taste, with more than 19 flavors including Nutella, Oreo or limoncello, plus more traditional fillings like chocolate. But if you’re not into these crunchy, creamy filled cookies, the selection of biscotti, lobster tails, cream puffs and macaroons from Mike’s display cases may entice.

  • Bakeries
  • South End
  • price 2 of 4

The Boston metro area is blessed with an abundance of great baked goods, and we have Flour Bakery, in large part, to thank. You're likely never too far from a Flour Bakery location on either side of the river, and that’s a good thing. This is the spot to pick up cupcakes, tartlettes, pies, sticky buns and cookies to take home after work, treat a friend or just because the day demands a treat. Flour often offers classes at its Seaport location so sweets enthusiasts can learn how to make these decadent desserts at home. And for those who can’t get enough, James Beard award-winning baker-owner Joanne Chang has penned a few cookbooks.

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  • Mediterranean
  • West Cambridge
  • price 2 of 4

The smaller, more casual sibling to some of the city’s favorite restaurants, Oleana and Sarma, Sofra is the place to go for a Mediterranean dessert in the Boston area. Enjoy a bracing Turkish coffee while you make your way through the menu at the Cambridge café: there are several varieties of baklava to devour, including chocolate-hazelnut; plus appealing creations like dukkah macaroons, tahini shortbread, chocolate chunk cookies and more. If you’re overwhelmed, you can never go wrong with a slice of almond rose cake.

  • Ice cream parlors
  • Inman Sq
  • price 1 of 4

Many local restaurants get the ice cream they serve from this little shop in Inman Square, a fact that’s little known outside the industry. Christina’s Ice Cream is that darn good! With an ever-rotating list of seasonal flavors, the shop offers untraditional scoops sure to excite and delight your whole crew. Current favorites include fresh rose and burnt sugar ice creams, as well as Arnold Palmer sorbet.

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Passion project of restaurant industry events maven Vanessa Yip, La Flaneteria focuses on her personal recipe for flan—and it’s the best we’ve ever had. Creamy, dreamy slices of baked custard dripping with caramel, La Flaneteria sells single servings through Buenas at Bow Market in Somerville and Super Bien at the Charles River Speedway in Brighton. Look for rotating special flavors in the cooler cases, too, such as sprinkle cookie or "Flanecito,” inspired by Cuban coffee.

  • Bakeries
  • South End

With seven shops in the area, Blackbird Doughnuts features many variations on two simple styles of doughnuts. We suggest trying one each of the brioche “raised” and buttermilk “cake” doughnuts and deciding your favorite style! The raised are light and fluffy, available in offbeat flavors like mimosa glaze, blackberry currant or savory everything bagel; and cake doughnuts are more dense and good vehicles for ganache. Blackbird Doughnuts also come in classic flavors like Boston cream and chocolate old-fashioned. 

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The comforting food chef Sarah Wade creates at Sloane’s in Lower Allston and her downtown restaurant, Stillwater, is fun—and the whimsical desserts are the cherry on top. We’re partial to a slice of the funfetti cake (you can also order a whole cake to-go) and the housemade Snickers bar (there’s even a gluten-free version available on Mondays), but all of the desserts will delight the kid in you. 

A little piece of Paris in Boston’s northern suburbs of Medford and Melrose, Colette Bakery has recently brought its magic to the South End with a third location. At each bakery, you’ll find macarons, a delicate dessert known as Paris brest, eclairs in flavors like coffee and chocolate, traditional canelé and much more to please any pastry craving. Colette also offers a freshly baked assortment of traditional French breads, including baguettes, pain de campagne and pain de mie. 

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  • Ice cream parlors
  • East Cambridge
  • price 1 of 4

The New York Times once called it the best ice cream in the world—just one of the many accolades this Cambridge creamery has collected since its 1981 start. Now with two locations around Central Square, Toscanini’s continues to push the flavor boundaries, with intriguingly satisfying combinations like B3 (brownies, brown sugar, brown butter) and the amazing burnt caramel, which was created by total accident. This place likes to keep its flavors fresh, so check its daily menu before heading over. 

  • Bakeries
  • price 1 of 4

This shop's gloriously indulgent doughnuts make the perfect midday snack—you’ll be a hero if you bring a box to the office —or a sweet start to your morning. Kane’s offers yeast, cake and gluten-free doughnuts, which makes them stand out among the dessert pack. The North Shore-born bakery, which has an outpost in Boston's Financial District, creates classic flavors, plus more unique bites like maple blueberry, cookies and cream studded with Oreo cookies and chocolate butter crunch. Get there early; these bad boys sell out fast and Kane’s downtown closes at 2:30pm.

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