Pomegranate Chocolate Cake at Pomegranate Café

Dessert isn't supposed to be healthy, but that doesn't mean that it has to be entirely bad for you, either. Pomegranate Café's large selection of pastries and desserts expertly toes this line, bringing the best of both worlds: indulgence and health-consciousness. All desserts are made in-house from organic ingredients, all-natural sweeteners, alternative flours, nuts, seeds, dried fruits, dates, and high-quality fats.

We're not the only ones who have taken notice of what this Ahwatukee eatery is serving. The restaurant recently expanded with more tables and a much larger kitchen. However, if you go during lunchtime, the place is so crowded that you'll be wondering when they'll be able to expand again (or open a second location downtown, hint hint). Pomegranate Café also is working on a specialty product line, so these vegan sweets one day will be available in grocery stores and farmers markets.

Of everything in the pastry case, Pomegranate Chocolate Cake seemed the most necessary to taste. Not only does it feature the restaurant's signature fruit, but it makes for incredible eye candy. Made from spelt flour and organic cocoa, the cake is simple, moist, and definitely does not taste vegan. The texture is right, the aftertaste is all chocolate, and the pomegranate jam filling is a nice addition to a classic. The chocolate isn't too rich, which makes room for the tart pomegranate flavor. My expectation was that this would taste like chocolate-covered pomegranate seeds, but the pomegranate flavor isn't nearly as strong in this cake. The cake is topped with vegan chocolate buttercream and pomegranate seeds. The frosting tastes great with the cake, but when eaten on its own, it has a slightly strange note -- not quite bitter, but not a flavor that's in the real deal. But since no one's going to be sitting around eating this frosting with a spoon, it's not a major drawback.

The cheesecakes are raw, vegan, and gluten-free, made from blended cashews and agave. They have a firmer texture than real cheesecakes but are still soft and creamy. The RAW Berry Cheesecake is bursting with ripe, juicy flavor and isn't at all heavy or rich. The crust is made from dates, nuts, and coconut, providing natural sweetness and forming a solid base that's not crumbly like graham cracker. This allows the cheesecake to be served in small sizes that can be eaten with your hands, and one mini "bite" (more like two or three bites) is the perfect size to finish off lunch. Cheesecakes also come in full sizes for when you have a bigger craving to satisfy, and they're available in a wide variety of flavors -- including orange, chocolate raspberry, and blueberry peach -- that vary by day.

Usually when tasting vegan desserts, the most common reaction is, "This is really good . . . for something that's vegan." Knowing that a baked good is vegan makes us, for some reason, forgive the odd aftertaste or that the texture is slightly off. Even when they're good, most vegan desserts I've had are just not something I want to go back for again and again. Let's face it: butter, cream, and wheat flour make decadent desserts (and I'm not giving them up anytime soon). But at Pomegranate Café, you won't have to miss them, really. There are a few giveaways that these treats aren't traditional -- like the chocolate buttercream -- but it takes very careful inspection to notice. So don't overthink; just enjoy and afterward, notice how they don't weigh you down.

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