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Bar Mezzana olive oil cake with strawberry sauce
Photograph: Reagan Byrne

The 17 best dessert spots in Boston

You’re never too old for a sweet treat, and these places are sure to satisfy all of your sugar cravings

Jillian Dara
Written by
Jillian Dara
Written by
Eric Grossman
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The city’s burgeoning culinary scene doesn’t stop at the last bite of your entree. When dining out, always be sure to save room for one of Boston’s best sweets—whether you’re stopping by a boutique bakery for some renowned cookies and pastries, or you’re indulging in a restaurant’s elevated dessert selection as a literal cherry on top of a perfect meal. You can focus your sweet sights on the best ice cream shops in Boston, the best donuts in Boston or the best pies in Boston, but don't miss out on these exceptional desserts.

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Best desserts in Boston

  • Restaurants
  • Mediterranean
  • West Cambridge
  • price 2 of 4

For a Mediterranean dessert option, Oleana and Sarma’s smaller, more casual sibling is just what you need. Enjoy a Turkish coffee and work your way through the menu: baklava (there are several varieties including chocolate-hazelnut), dukkah macaroon, tahini shortbread, chocolate chunk cookies and more. When in doubt, order the almond rose cake and you can't go wrong.

  • Restaurants

A little piece of Paris resides in Medford, thanks to Colette Bakery. This place channels the French affinity for bread, taking great pride in its freshly baked assortment of traditional loaves, including baguettes, pain de campagne and pain de mie. Bread aside, Colette is a prime spot to purchase refined works of patisserie and viennoiseries—from coffee eclairs and amandine tartes, to cinnamon brioche and chouquettes. Save room for the sandwiches, which feature customary French combos (like ham and butter, or tuna and eggs) piled onto house-made baguettes.

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  • Restaurants
  • East Cambridge

At the center of Cambridge Crossing, award-winning pastry chef Brian Mercury elevates café fare at Café Beatrice. Whether you want to grab a freshly baked pastry and a cup of coffee midday, or to pick up a brownie for later, the sweet selection is ever-changing and sure to satisfy. (Psst, Chef Mercury also provides the desserts for The Lexington, the upstairs restaurant helmed by the same owner, Will Gilson.)

  • Restaurants
  • Bakeries
  • North End
  • price 1 of 4

Modern Pastry has a loyal following amongst pastry lovers, who flock to this North End destination for sweet Italian specialties. American classics like cheesecake and brownies are popular, too. But if you're coming here, you definitely want to stick to the North End basics, like tiramisu, cannoli and sfogliatelle. Don't forget to grab a dozen biscotti, pignoli cookies or macaroons to take home or to dip into a frothy cappuccino made at this family-owned spot's espresso bar.

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  • Restaurants
  • North End

Classified as an all-day café, Dolce reflects its Italian nomenclature (its name literally means “sweet”) by offering a variety of baked goods that are made daily at Bricco Panetteria. Favorites include cannoli and rotating flavors of gelato that transport you to the streets of Rome with one lick.

  • Restaurants
  • American
  • South End
  • price 2 of 4

Over the past couple of years, this South End eatery has quickly risen in the ranks, proving itself from first martini to last bite of dessert. A seasonal sweets menu ensures there’s always a new sugary indulgence, including the likes of summer’s mint chocolate icebox cake or strawberry shortcake, which are replaced in winter with more decadent-styled treats, where chocolate is often the star of the show.

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  • Restaurants

If you’re looking for something different, wander on over to Sweet Basil in Needham. Gracing the menu at this suburban hot spot, you’ll find Chef Dave Becker’s warm date cake, which has become a fan favorite. Diners rave about this dessert, not only applauding it as a sweet treat but also claiming it to be one of the best dishes overall in the city.

  • Restaurants
  • Bakeries
  • North End
  • price 1 of 4

This beloved North End institution, which always has a line down the block, is best known for its cannoli. With more than 19 flavors including Nutella, Oreo and limoncello, there’s truly a cannoli for everyone. But if you’re not into these crunchy, creamy sweets, you really can’t go wrong with any of the biscotti, lobster tails, cream puffs or macaroons that fill Mike's display cases. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Bakeries
  • South End
  • price 2 of 4

No matter where you happen to be around Boston, you're likely never too far from a Flour Bakery location—and that’s a good thing. A great place to grab to-go desserts for later, you’ll find cupcakes, tartlettes, pies, sticky buns and a substantial list of cookies. Don’t miss the belgian chocolate brownie. Tip for wanna-be pastry chefs: Keep an eye out for classes and learn how to make these decadent desserts at home.

  • Restaurants
  • Diners
  • Somerville
  • price 2 of 4

The first thing you see when walking into this Somerville institution is the display case full of pies. These “world famous” pies alone are worth a visit to Rosebud. Flavors vary every day, but you’re guaranteed they’re fresh, homemade and delicious. Seasonal fruits make an appearance—key lime, strawberry rhubarb and blueberry crumble—while peanut butter fudge and mocha cream offer a richer, more indulgent option.

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  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • South End
  • price 3 of 4

A neighborhood favorite in the South End, and destination in itself, Bar Mezzana whisks diners off to the Amalfi Coast, where sweets like olive oil cake with strawberry, pistachio and amaretto gelato, and tiramisu with coffee and caramaro stand out even after a full savory feast. This is a restaurant that exemplifies “save the best for last,” so even if you haven’t saved room, you’ll have to make room for Mezzana sweet.

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

Whether or not local restaurants advertise it, many of them rely on ice cream from this Inman Square shop to supplement their dessert menus because it's that good. With an ever-rotating list of seasonal flavors, Christina's offers untraditional scoops sure to please every palate. Current favorites include fresh rose and burnt sugar ice creams, as well as Arnold Palmer sorbet.

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  • Restaurants
  • Greek
  • Back Bay
  • price 1 of 4

Have a hankering for a donut, but just a little one? Try the loukoumades (Greek donuts) at Greco. The classic version features Greek honey, walnuts and cinnamon. Greco steps it up with their own varieties, including Yaya’s (with hazelnut praline, oreo cookies and powdered sugar) and Kataifi (custard filled, shredded phyllo with honey and pistachio). You can also create your own loukoumades with toppings like dark chocolate and coconut flakes.

  • Restaurants
  • 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 shop and café has collected since its 1981 start. 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. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • South End

Wrap up a Venetian-style meal with a sublime dessert at SRV. As with the savory courses, desserts incorporate seasonal ingredients and house-milled flour. The gelato and sorbetto lists may include unique flavors like plantain, lavender and olive oil chocolate chunk. Desserts are something to sing about—whether a zuppa inglese featuring rhubarb and strawberry, goat’s milk panna cotta with kiwi sorbetto or a chocolate eggplant torta with fior di latte gelato. With a fine coffee, wine and cocktail list, SRV is worth a dessert-only visit.

  • Restaurants
  • Bakeries
  • South End

Prepared to be wowed by Blackbird’s magic. Classic raised donuts are light, fluffy and may come in offbeat flavors like sesame sriracha, blackberry currant or savory everything bagel (filled with whipped cream cheese and topped with everything seasoning). Try the classic Blackbird (vanilla) or something tailored to the season, like summer’s creamsicle with orange cream glaze or winter’s peanut butter and strawberry. For a real indulgence (with at least three other friends), try a doughnut cake—cake doughnut batter layered with seasonal jam and topped with buttercream frosting.

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  • Restaurants
  • Ice cream parlors
  • price 1 of 4

This Newton ice cream parlor, started in 1969, serves up some serious nostalgia, thanks to its retro red vinyl booths and old school soda fountain items. Sip on chocolate malts and root beer floats, while exploring the extensive sundae selections, which includes indulgent dishes like the Brazilian Combo, featuring coffee, maple nut, butter pecan and vanilla ice creams, topped with fudge, toffee crumble and chopped nuts. And when in doubt, order a homemade Belgian waffle topped with vanilla ice cream, strawberries and whipped cream. 

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