WHILE NEW ORLEANS IS FAMOUS FOR COCKTAILS, CREOLE CUISINE, MUSIC, AND PARADES, IT’S ALSO AN INCREDIBLE PLACE TO INDULGE IN SATISFYING SWEETS
Famous for sensational cuisine, drinks, and nightlife, it’s easy to overlook New Orleans’ subtle yet delicious sweet side. The city’s classic desserts are as eclectic as its cultural history, with influences ranging from Africa and France to Italy and Spain.
While some of the city’s sweets are seasonal, like king cakes and snowballs, many reside on menus year-round, awaiting sweet-toothed diners. Desserts covered in flambéed sauces, smothered in powdered sugar, and layered with chocolate frosting make the sweet side of New Orleans one of the many fantastic reasons to visit.
Bananas Foster is one of the most classic New Orleans desserts and is available at restaurants throughout the city. However, the most famous is served tableside at Brennan’s Restaurant, established in 1946.
The iconic restaurant created Bananas Foster in the 1950s. The tableside show of flambéing
bananas in a rich sauce of banana liqueur, brown sugar, butter, cinnamon, and dark rum and serving it with ice cream solidified the dessert as an instant New Orleans classic. Today, the restaurant uses a reported 35,000 pounds of bananas annually.
New Orleans-style bread pudding is a homey delight made from simple ingredients. The dessert may not be high-end, but it is perhaps the most resourceful and creative of all New Orleans’ classic sweets.
Bread pudding begins with day-old cubes of French bread soaked in a mixture of milk, eggs, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg and then baked. The final touch for the classic dessert is a caramel or bourbon sauce poured on top. Restaurants across the city have their own take on the classic comfort dessert, including Commander’s Palace, Café Reconcile, Muriel’s, and Mother’s Restaurant.
Some desserts are a mesmerizing show, some are comfort food, and some are a messy, fun time. Beignets are deep-fried, pillowy doughnut-like treats dusted with powdered sugar to perfection. They typically come in a bag and have been the source of many powdered sugar fights among friends and families.
While many restaurants offer beignets, Café du Monde, established in 1862, forever belongs in the same breath as beignets. Pairing a cup of café au lait with beignets at Café du Monde satisfies the sweet tooth and provides an authentic taste of New Orleans.
Berry Chantilly Cake
The Berry Chantilly Cake hasn’t been on New Orleans’ sweet scene as long as some other classic desserts. However, it has spread across the nation, becoming a classic New Orleans dessert and a trendy decadent delight for birthdays, graduations, and weddings.
The new cake on the block was created at a Whole Foods store in New Orleans nearly two decades ago by Chaya Conrad, who now owns Bywater Bakery. Since Conrad’s first creation, there have been many takes on her Berry Chantilly Cake, but they typically consist of almond or vanilla cake layered with fresh mixed berries and frosted with Chantilly cream.
While Berry Chantilly Cake is the trendy cake of this era, a Doberge cake reigns supreme for more traditional celebrations. New Orleans’ Doberge cake is an adaptation by Beulah Ledner of the Dobo Torte, a Hungarian dessert created by József C. Dobos in 1885.
The classic dessert typically has seven layers of white or yellow cake with pudding between each layer. Traditional icing options for the cake are chocolate or lemon. However, some bakeries take liberty with the classic dessert, opting for other flavors, including raspberry or strawberry.
The Italian and Sicilian influence in New Orleans is profound. The culinary influence is as much a part of the city’s food scene as Creole cuisine. Some of the tastiest classic desserts on New Orleans’ sweet side are Italian cookies, including biscotti, cannolis, and fig cookies.
One of the best places in New Orleans to experience Italian sweets is Angelo Brocato, established in 1905. The former French Quarter icon has called the Mid-City neighborhood its home since 1979.
The seasonal Mardi Gras king cake is the king of classic New Orleans desserts. The signature carnival sweet treat brings friends and families together every year. The round cinnamon-filled braided cake is traditionally dressed with icing and sprinkled with Mardi Gras-colored sugar (green, purple, and yellow). Hidden inside lies a plastic baby. The person who receives the slice of cake with the baby inside must buy the next king cake, continuing the sweet tradition throughout the season.
Like most classic New Orleans desserts, there are numerous takes on this sweet treat, including additional fillings like cheesecake, chocolate, fruit, pecan praline, and more. Some bakeries even offer other holiday-themed king cakes, making it possible to enjoy this classic dessert year-round.
Pralines, pronounced “praw-leens” have been a classic since the mid-1700s. The French-rooted candied dessert is a mixture of creamy sugar and butter featuring Louisiana-grown pecans. Traditionally, the dessert was made with almonds. However, pecans are more plentiful in Louisiana and, thus, quickly became the preferred choice.
Stores all over New Orleans and South Louisiana sell pralines. Still, some of the most iconic places to procure these sugary morsels include Aunt Sally’s Praline Shop, Leah’s Pralines, Loretta’s Pralines, Mister Apple Gourmet Candy Store, and Southern Candymakers.
Another classic Italian New Orleans sweet is Roman Candy. The sugary treat is taffy, pulled long and thin like a stick. It is available in three flavors: chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla.
In 1915, Sam Cortese sold Roman candy from his mule-drawn cart. Today, his business, the Roman Candy Company, still brings delight to New Orleans’ sweet side, as Corteste’s original mule-drawn cart makes trips throughout the city.
New Orleans is known for its hot and humid summers. One of the best and most tasty ways to cool off is with a snowball. Snowballs are cones of shaved ice flavored with an assortment of syrup options. Every neighborhood in New Orleans has its own snowball stand, leading to the classic status of these refreshing and cooling sweet treats.
Snowball season rangers from early April to the end of October, with only a few select stands operating year-round. Some of the most iconic snowball stands in New Orleans are Hansen’s Sno-Bliz, Pandora’s SnowBalls, and Plum Street Snoballs.
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