As a traveling foodie, the souvenirs I almost always bring home are a few extra ounces of weight that I carry around my midsection. After eight years of traveling professionally, I found myself weighing almost 30 pounds more than I did when I began this journey. I blame most of that on my weakness for desserts. Though I have been working hard the last few months to lose those souvenirs, I don’t regret a single calorie. I’ve finally learned that by eating smarter at home I can still have a few decadent indulgences when I travel.
I am often asked about the best dessert I’ve ever experienced. I have to say that it was the banana pudding that Ms. Connie would make for after-church, pot-luck dinners. People would skip the food line and go straight to the dessert table so they wouldn’t risk missing out on a heaping helping of heaven on a plate. Only through my travels have I found other desserts so good that they are worth a trip just to experience.
Here’s my list of the best foodie cities for dessert lovers and some of the desserts you must try when you visit.
“When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” is not just an old saying, it’s great advice particularly when it comes to dessert. Romans love gelato and cannoli, and you will too. Gelato is a super creamy ice-cream made with fresh ingredients. Cannoli are tube-shaped pastries filled with sweetened ricotta, often garnished with powdered sugar, and fruit or chocolate.
If any city in the world is synonymous with dessert, it would have to be Paris, France. So many desserts that are served around the world have roots somewhere in Paris. Some of your must-sample delights include macaroons, petit fours, creme brûlée, eclairs, and pastry tarts.
New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans is famous for three desserts, all of which should come with and addiction warning label. Beignets are squares of deep-fried dough sprinkled with powdered sugar—some variations include fruit or chocolate. Pralines are a buttery, sugary confections that usually encase a cluster of pecans. Bananas Foster is a flaming dessert consisting of bananas, brown sugar, butter, dark rum, and banana liqueur usually served with ice cream over crepes or waffles.
Chocolate lovers must add Hershey, Pennsylvania, to their culinary bucket list. Though you can find just about every kind of chocolate dessert imaginable, the one dessert you absolutely must try is the Whoopie Pie. This Pennsylvania Amish dessert looks like a giant puffy Oreo cookie. It consists of a marshmallow cream filling sandwiched between two puffy, cake-like chocolate cookies.
Eating Boston Cream Pie in Boston should be on every foodie’s bucket list. This official dessert of the state of Massachusetts consists of two layers of sponge cake, a custard cream filling, sliced toasted almonds around the outer side, then with a chocolate ganache.
Viewfinder Tip: Be sure to pack your stretchy pants when visiting any of these cities.
New York City
It’s true that you can get almost any dessert from anywhere in the world in New York City, but there are two that you must experience in the city. Baked Alaska, an ice cream cake covered with a toasted meringue, was first served in 1867 at Delmonico’s Restaurant in and is still on the menu today; and New York cheesecake which is so popular that there is probably not a block in the city where it is not sold. You’re not allowed to say that you’ve visited New York City without eating at least one slice.
Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston has crept into the upper echelon of great foodie destinations. Desserts like the Whiskey Bread Pudding from Hall’s Chophouse, the Bacon Bourbon Pecan Pie from the Dixie Supply Bakery and Cafe, and the trademarked Peninsula Grill Ultimate Coconut Cake® will have you wanting to visit Charleston again and again.
Coffee houses in Vienna were in vogue long before Starbucks even existed. Fortunately for visitors, the Viennese people have perfected pairing dessert treats with coffee for centuries. As a result, you’ll find some of the best strudel, truffles, torte, cakes, and puddings on the planet.
Waffles in Belgium are considered a dessert more than a breakfast food. There is a bit of a controversy among locals as to whether Belgian waffles or Liege waffles are the best. The main difference is the crispiness of the crust and the sweetness of the dough. Either can be topped with just about anything sweet and delicious that you can imagine. I recommend trying both to come to your own conclusion. If you’re like me, you’ll probably end up licking your plate.
Key West, Florida
Key Lime Pie can be found on menus throughout the country. But experiencing the legendary dessert on the island where it originated is a bucket list experience. There are as many variations of this magical dessert as there are chefs on the island. We even found one place that sold frozen key lime pie popsicles dipped in dark Belgian chocolate.
What’s your favorite city for experiencing great desserts?