Austin’s Top Chefs Make Holiday Treats to Satisfy Any Sweet Tooth
From a playful take on milk and cereal to a decadent slice of tres leches cake, these creations convince diners to stay for dessert
By Liz Harroun
Uchiko photos courtesy of Hai Hospitality
1. Milk & Cereal
Reimagined by Executive Pastry chef Ariana Quant, this is an updated version of the original Fried Milk that was first introduced to the menu when Uchiko Austin opened. Pillows of fried pastry cream breaded in corn flakes accompany Cap’n crunch, toasted milk ice cream and their iconic swirl of light chocolate mousse — truly taking cereal to a whole new gourmet level.
“Originally an ode to a playful kid breakfast of cornflakes, milk and chocolate, we have kept true to that tribute with our current version. It is an elevated and sophisticated version of a nostalgic and quintessential Uchiko dessert.” – Ariana Quant
2. Flourless Chocolate Torte
Austin’s eastside neighborhood bakery and beer garden, Sour Duck serves up fresh baked goods from locally sourced ingredients. The Flourless Chocolate Torte, made with espresso and Valrhona cocoa, will satisfy all of your cravings for something rich and decadent. It makes for the perfect gluten-free indulgence for one (or two, if you’re lucky!).
“Having quality pastry options for people with different dietary restrictions is really important to us at Sour Duck. So the chocolate torte is a no-brainer to have in that case. It gives people with gluten sensitivities an option as well as chocolate lovers in general.” – Sean Flanagan, Head Baker
3. Strawberry Cake
This bright and fruity cake is the ultimate finishing touch to a diner meal at Irene’s. Inspired by a classic birthday cake recipe that chef-owner Andrew Curren’s mom would make him growing up, his wife (and Irene’s pastry chef) Mary Catherine elevated this original with new techniques and higher quality ingredients. It’s sure to round out any occasion, including a holiday outing.
“The inspiration for this cake was a long-time family favorite made with boxed cake mix and Jell-o powder. My goal was to replicate that without all of the processed shortcuts. After nearly 15 trials, I was finally satisfied with the end result. Thankfully our guests have fallen in love with it the same way my family has for all these years. Side note: I still make the original recipe sometimes just for fun.” – Mary Catherine Curren
4. Texas Chocolate Cake
Maie Day is a steakhouse with all of the offerings you’d expect from one but with a relaxed Austin vibe. True to the rest of this rich menu with large portions suitable for sharing, this massive slice of moist chocolate cake includes notes of caramel, benne seed, raspberry and coffee Chantilly cream.
“When creating the opening menu at Maie Day, I was inspired to mirror the playfulness of the savory offerings and match the beautiful grandeur of the space. Chocolate cake is a staple dessert at most steakhouses, so the pressure was on to make this the best chocolate anyone had ever had. The smile that comes on the face of every guest when the cake hits the table brings pure joy to everyone in the room.” – Jules Stoddart, Former Executive Pastry Chef and Culinary Consultant for Maie Day
5. Matilda All Grown Up
Summer House on Music Lane, the full-service restaurant at Hotel Magdalena, highlights straightforward cooking with a slow-food mentality. Matilda All Grown Up is their flourless chocolate cake featuring white chocolate ice cream and malted milk crumble. Its rich chocolate flavor is perfectly complemented with the sweet, creamy ice cream.
“My inspiration for the chocolate cake dessert we have on the menu came from the children’s movie, ‘Matilda.’ I wanted the cake to be nostalgic to those who are familiar with the film but also decadent and comforting to those who just wanted a slice of cake too. And that’s what brought us to the Matilda All Grown Up dessert.” – Pastry Chef Gabby Roberts
6. Chocolate Log
Jam Sanitchat, chef and co-owner of Thai Fresh, started recreating gluten-free versions of her favorite treats because of her own wheat allergy. The vegan component came in when she realized there weren’t a lot of Austin bakeries that offered high-quality treats without both gluten and dairy. The Buche de Noel (or Yule Log Cake) was inspired when they wanted to create a traditional holiday dessert without gluten or dairy, so that the whole family can enjoy something decadent. It’s only available during December, when they take special orders in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
“You can choose between buttercream or chocolate ganache for the log’s filling. I personally like the ganache filling because it’s so chocolatey and rich. We use really good chocolate. You don’t need very much — just a couple of bites — because it’s so nice and dense and perfectly broken up with a little bit of cream. I can’t even describe how nice it is.” – Jam Sanitchat
7. Espresso Panna Cotta
Need a little pick-me-up after your delicious meal at Gusto Italian Kitchen and Wine Bar? Don’t leave without trying the espresso custard — where biscotti crumble, salted caramel, coffee liqueur and whipped cream come together for a truly blissful treat, perfect for those cool winter nights.
“We use locally made Caffe del Fuego coffee liqueur for this dessert, which really enhances the flavor. I love the combination of textures with the smooth custard, crunchy biscotti and airy whipped cream.” – Executive Chef Dan Morin
8. Tres Leches
Serving up modern Caribbean food in east Austin, Canje is Chef Tavel Bristol-Joseph’s latest concept (he now oversees six distinct concepts as co-owner of Emmer & Rye Hospitality Group). However, it’s his first restaurant inspired by his roots from his native country of Guyana. The Tres Leches — made with coconut, roasted white chocolate and strawberry guava — is a testament to how he innovatively merges classic dishes with Afro-Caribbean influences.
“Tres Leches is one of my absolute favorite desserts. I’ve made so many different variations in my career, but this one is by far my favorite because of the addition of tropical flavors that I think complement the menu really well.” – Chef Tavel Bristol-Joseph
Read More From the Movers & Shakers Issue | December 2022
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