Don't skip dessert at Valentine, one of Phoenix's top restaurants | Phoenix New Times

Best Bites: Ordering dessert at Valentine is a piece of cake

Valentine's latest dessert offering is a first for the restaurant – a layered cake that is moist, sweet and a little nutty.
Valentine's Burnt Honey Cake is inspired by a classic Russian dessert.
Valentine's Burnt Honey Cake is inspired by a classic Russian dessert. Sara Crocker
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At a restaurant where the secret has long been out about the special work being done in the kitchen, one area where a bit of mystery remains is with Valentine's desserts. The four-person pastry team keeps things fresh and the menu isn’t available online – you’ve got to see it for yourself.

That final course, like the rest served at the lionized restaurant, delivers. No surprise given that pastry chef Crystal Kass was a semifinalist for this year’s James Beard Awards for Outstanding Pastry Chef or Baker. Valentine's latest dessert stunner is a slice of Burnt Honey Cake, studded with honeycomb candy and sunflower petals.

“It was the first time putting cake on the menu,” Kass says.  “That was a little exciting, too, because everyone loves cake.”
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Valentine's midcentury-inspired dining space is open for brunch, dinner and drinks, but don't skip dessert.
Allison Young
The dessert takes inspiration from the classic multi-layered Russian honey cake, something Kass has admittedly not had before, but after one of the restaurant's owners saw it online and sent it her way, “I took my spin on that,” she says.

The cake is built by layering the caramelized honey sponge, brown butter and honey buttercream and dulce de leche. A black pepper honey sauce is drizzled atop each slice and pieces of the crisp, crunchy candy are sprinkled over for added texture.

As Kass began to play around with the recipe, she worried about the sweetness level from the homemade dulce de leche, an inclusion she made to add “that southwestern spin” – a hallmark of Valentine's offerings. But, the caramelized honey and brown butter provide depth and nuttiness to balance the added sugar.

The cake is incredibly moist and the candy offers a toffee-like crunch. Kass also uses Maldon salt to cut through some of the sweetness.

The pastry chef, who has previously baked at spots around Phoenix including Persepshen and the now-closed Phoenix Public Market Cafe, says she has made plenty of cakes in her career but doesn’t consider herself a cake artist. We might argue otherwise.

The Burnt Honey Cake is available at both Valentine and sister Bar 1912. At the moment, it’s their best-selling dessert and Kass anticipates it will stay on the menu a month or two longer – plenty of time to have Valetine’s cake and eat it, too.

Valentine and Bar 1912

4130 N. Seventh Ave.
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