Everyone loves desserts, but not everyone saves room. To hell with that. We say table your dinner forks early so you can enjoy all of the great desserts we have in the desert. Phoenix boasts a surprising array of sweet, sinful finishes, the sweet options including everything from pimped churros to Thai bread and custard. Most can be shared, but if you want one of these all to yourself, have at it.
Fig & Pecan Pie at Beckett’s Table, Phoenix
Plain old pecan pie and ice cream have some stiff competition with this elevated version that invites some unlikely, and much needed, players to the party. In the pie portion, figs add structure and sweetness to the pecans for a slice that somehow bakes up with a densely nutty top and liquefied bottom that glistens in sugary delight. The ice cream, made of cream cheese and citrus, adds a zingy punch to a personality you thought you knew, but now know and like infinitely better. And don’t think the crust is some ordinary character; ground pecans and extra butter make it way better.
The Ultimate Sweet R Sundae at Sweet Republic, Phoenix & Scottsdale
This isn’t just a dessert, it’s a journey — and it starts with a difficult decision: which of the sweet scoops to choose. You get to pick four, but given the roster — Real Mint Chip, Banana Foster, Mayan Chocolate, Salted Butter Caramel, all handmade with local dairy — narrowing can be harrowing. Watching the behemoth being made is next. First goes a hefty quarter-pound walnut oatmeal cookie, then the quad of ice cream followed by decadent drizzles of hot fudge and salted caramel sauce, deliberately placed brownies, and flourishes of almond toffee brittle. Just when you think it can’t get any bigger, it’s topped with whipped cream and a hefty marshmallow, and the whole thing is set on fire, unleashing the scent of burnt marshmallow. Oh, and don’t even think about ordering this one solo. It’s a two- or three-man job.
Zinc Valrhona Chocolate Souffle at Zinc Bistro, North Scottsdale
They say a soufflé is all science. If that's true, this chocolate bomb from Zinc has the Einstein stuff down (or should we say up). Air is whipped into eggs, then expertly folded into the flour mixture before going into the oven and —bada-bing-bada-bang — it puffs up to perfection, turning the chocolate insides into a custardy collision of otherworldly proportions. Forget science, this is pure magic — and so worth the 30-minute wait it takes to prepare. Pour over the chocolate, mint, or Grand Marnier sauce, and it turns even more drool-worthy. The Kierland Commons hub serves up killer ricotta beignets, too, but the soufflé rises above.
John & Yoko at New Wave Market, Old Town Scottsdale
Time lags as your fork cuts through the layers, past the craggy honeycomb candy topper, down the dense yet fluffy honey cake smartly soaked in cinnamon tres leches, as evidenced by the glistening sides, through the mascarpone whipped cream that will make all other whipped creams bland in comparison, and down the final stratum of syrup-soaked cake. Anticipation builds as you lift fork to mouth. Will it taste as good as it looks? You betcha! The milk and honey flavors swirl and explode, a whirlwind of creamy and crunchy and spongy. No way could The Beatles bemoan this one.
Churro Ice Cream Sandwich at The Dressing Room, Phoenix
Cold gelato between hot dough — yes, please. The only dessert on the menu at this hip Roosevelt hangout, the churros are fried up right before serving and then in goes locally made Tahitian vanilla bean gelato so vanilla-y, you can see flecks of the beans. A brilliant balance between refined and rustic, the gourmet in you will note the play of textures, how the divinely flaky, sugar-dusted churro complements the melty, luscious mouthfeel of the gelato; the kid in you will sigh mmm while your fingers sop up any remaining sugar sprinkles.
Carrot Cake at Liberty Market, Gilbert
If you judged a cake by its cover, this lovely lady would score a perfect 10. It stands tall and proud in the dessert case, armored with cream cheese frosting and topped with flourishes of toasted coconut and edible flowers — a beaut. Inside are six alternating layers that bounce between cake so carroty that pops of orange veg sing through notes of nutmeg, and frosting so frosty it doesn’t cave under the weight of the dense slabs. It's so big it’s served on its side, and each bite gets just the right ratio of cake-to-frosting.
Kanom Custard at Glai Baan, Phoenix
It starts when the steamer basket’s lid is removed to reveal a billow of steam and a bready, heady smell. Breathe it in. Considered street food in Thailand, this combo seems simple enough — bread and custard — but the layered aroma tells a different story. The steamed coconut custard has a caramel-hued tinge and taste to match — and that’s a hint of pandan leaf hitting your nose, Southeast Asia’s version of vanilla that smells beguiling and a little like bubble gum. Even the bread seems cake-like; steaming imbues it with a spongy softness, perfect for sopping up the dip — and you won’t waste a crumb.
Pizza Cookie at Oregano’s, Multiple locations
This is the Pringles of desserts. It may seem simple enough — it's just a cookie topped with ice cream, after all — but once you pop it in your mouth, you’ll see it’s so much more. The skillet cookie, still molten and melty in the middle with a crunchy exterior, makes each bite a journey to the center of the universe, where three hefty scoops of ice cream fight to stay frozen over the still gooey lava below. They’d melt if you didn’t eat it so fast, but trust us: one bite and you can’t stop.
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Blackberry Cobbler at The Farmhouse Restaurant, Gilbert
A lot of butter. That’s the secret to this cobbler’s crackled, golden crust, a tappable top that gives way to shortbread-like underlayers. Dive your spoon below the rich surface and you’ll dig up blackberries, and lots of them — whole, plump and bursting with flavor. The sour of the berries plays off the sweetness up top, while adding ice cream to the already delicious mix makes it a real party. The whole thing is served straight from the oven, still steaming and screaming to be eaten. This is your grandma’s cobbler, and so much more.
Churros Rellenos De Cajeta at Barrio Café, Phoenix
Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza’s churro is a weapon of mass destruction. Two elongated vessels of deep-fried perfection, all crispy and cinnamon encrusted, are filled with cajeta, densely sweetened caramelized goat’s milk that turns the airy inside into well-used space. These go on the plate like crossbones; a hefty scoop of vanilla bean ice cream takes the place of the skull. Candied pecans and blasts of nutty, caramel sauce go on top. We dare you not to lick the plate.