Why not have a wonderful array of delicious desserts that you can order from home and have them delivered to enjoy at your event.

Sometimes you want a beautiful dessert to finish off your impressive meal, but you just don’t have the
energy for the rolling, mixing, or shaping, especially after all those preparations for that big (or intimate) dinner you’re hosting. Well, a while back, your Traveling Gourmet did a column on how to have an international kitchen at home, and one of the items I featured was the world-famous Sacher torte, orderable, of course, from Vienna’s Sacher Hotel. It got me thinking: why not have a wonderful array of sweets that you can order right from the source? So here we are, from pie to cake to pudding and more! I still suggest you grab a Sacher torte (shop.sacher.com/originalsacher-torte), as there’s nothing quite like it, but look at all these sweet treats to include as well!

GOOEY BUTTER CAKE
Park Avenue Coffee
St. Louis, Missouri

Park Avenue Coffee
Park Avenue Coffee

As a native of St. Louis, I’ve always been a sucker for the famous local dessert, the Gooey Butter Cake, whose taste and texture is pretty much exactly as the name indicates. It’s almost like two cakes in one, with a rich cake base, and a layer of that incredibly gooey, rich, buttery topping that blends in with the base and…well, I’m not describing it super-well, so you’re just going to have to take my word for it, it’s fabulous. The best in St. Louis is the “Ann and Allen” brand from Park Avenue Coffee. Combining the middle names of Park Avenue’s proprietor and his sister, who runs the bakery, they use their mother’s recipe and are indeed, as the boxes proclaim, “Baking Mom Proud.” They offer an astounding range of flavors, though for me nothing will ever beat the traditional (and I guess I’m not alone, because it’s their best seller). I do, however, love the chocolate chip cookie dough version, which subtly blends in this longtime favorite flavor, and when I’m really in the mood for a splurge, I’ll go for the triple chocolate, which is just decadence piled onto decadence. Other popular flavors include red velvet, white chocolate raspberry, and turtle (with Ghirardelli chocolate AND caramel!), but I’ve also tried such outrageous creations as pumpkin/caramel/pecan (indescribably delicious!). Need an anniversary present? Order a cake in a heart-shaped pan for that special someone. I’ve spent many a happy afternoon in Park Avenue’s home branch on Lafayette Square, and all it takes is a few clicks for me to be right back in my hometown savoring the best dessert ever made. Note for do-it-yourselfers: they also sell “Gooey Butter Cake Mix” boxes, so you can convince all your friends you’ve made this one-of-a-kind dessert yourself! www.parkavenuecoffee.com

PECAN PIE
Three Babes Bakeshop
San Francisco, California
If you’ve ever visited the Ferry Building Farmers Market in San Francisco (and if you haven’t, do it on your next trip!), you were no doubt tempted by the pies on offer from local company Three Babes Bakeshop. The good news is that you can get your own taste of their beautiful pecan pies wherever you live. Take it from me: the pies are bursting with taste and made with almost completely organic ingredients. Proprietor Lenore Estrada sources the vast majority of ingredients locally for prime flavor and freshness, and it shows. My favorite option is bourbon pecan, a crowd-pleasing favorite made with toasted pecans, eggs, a hint of vanilla, and a generous dose of bourbon. My friend Kim’s first comment is, “Wow, it’s loaded with pecans,” and that’s what I love about it: the taste of the nuts is much more important than a lot of candying or smothering them in sweetness. Estrada instead chooses to let their fresh flavor shine through, enhanced but not overwhelmed by the other ingredients. The same is true of the bittersweet chocolate pecan, with locally made chocolate giving a lushness to the usual rich sweetness of pecan pie, the two flavors combining flawlessly into a dense, rich taste sensation. It’s also gluten free, with a nice graham cracker crust. At holiday time, add salted honey walnut pie into the mix (this seasonal favorite is available only for a couple of months). You can also get a pre-baked pie shell, or, even better, an apple crumble “pie kit,” complete with a recorded e-making class. All you need is apples, lemons, and butter; you can manage that, right? www.threebabesbakeshop.com

CHOCOLATES
Cacao and Cardamom
Houston, Texas

48 Piece Box From Cacao and Cardamom
48 Piece Box From Cacao and Cardamom

Any dinner table is graced by these gorgeous little chocolates, whose flavor palettes are as dazzling as their visuals. Seriously, I’ve rarely seen chocolates so exquisite in appearance, with a unique range of fillings to match. While you can order as few as a dozen, trust me, you’re going to want an even larger selection! Chocolatier Annie Rupani draws on her South Asian background to include a wide array of spices in her treats, from the eponymous cardamom to cumin, coriander, fennel, and much more. A gorgeous little “seashell” in a spectrum of red hues explodes with the tastes of dark chocolate ginger ganache and black sesame praline, while a disk with starbursts of gold and red has a wonderful mango, passionfruit, and coconut milk blend inside. From lychee/basil to five-spice to garam masala/pistachio, these are one of the most inventive bonbon collections you and your guests will encounter. While you’ll no doubt want to serve them on your own platter, even the box they come in is a little marvel, opening in different directions to reveal different sets of charms. You might also want to toss in a few of their artisan chocolate bars, whether you serve them or save them for your own use. I get a coffee and cardamom bar with my truffle order, and it’s stunning, nice dark (66%) chocolate with cardamom, coffee beans, and a hint of Vietnamese cinnamon. If you happen to be in Houston, they do have a brick-and-mortar location, but you needn’t be headed there to treat yourself to these distinctive chocolates. Have you figured out that I absolutely love them? www.cacaoandcardamom.com

CUPCAKES IN A JAR
Wicked Good Cupcakes
Hanover, Massachusetts

Wicked Good Cupcakes
Wicked Good
Cupcakes

Here’s a great twist on a familiar dessert favorite: these cupcakes, topped with a creamy frosting, come to you in jars, each holding about two cupcakes worth (though if you’re anything like me, you won’t have any trouble finishing off a jar in about three seconds). Mother and daughter team Tracey Noonan and Danielle Vilagie have created a series of winners, and which jarred joy you choose depends on your own taste. I love the eponymous “Wicked Good Cupcake,” rich with peanut butter and chocolate, both in the cake and in the layers of chocolate ganache and peanut butter frosting. The “National (Security) Velvet” is also a winner, with the traditional red velvet cake adorned with cream cheese buttercream frosting. My other favorite is the Dark Chocolate-White Chocolate Raspberry, which is mainly comprised of the dark chocolate (my favorite), with raspberry frosting and little shavings of white chocolate. Perhaps it’s because there are two-ish cupcakes in each jar, or maybe Tracey and Dani just want to add a little surprise, but as I work my way through the frosting on top and the rich cupcake below, what do I discover but another layer of creamy frosting or ganache down below. From birthday cupcakes topped with sprinkles to sea salted gluten-free caramel, there’s a huge selection, they’re shipped promptly, and they can be frozen for later delectation (hint: stashing them in the freezer won’t stop you from indulging!).   www.wickedgoodcupcakes.com

MOLTEN CHOCOLATE CAKES
Hot Cakes Molten Chocolate Cakery
Seattle, Washington
Molten chocolate cake is one of my favorite desserts in the world: dig into this dark chocolate cake and soon “chocolate lava” will be running all over your plate. It’s like cake and chocolate sauce all in one, with its firm outside and liquid-y interior. No one does it better than Seattle’s Hot Cakes Molten Chocolate Cakery. While I had the pleasure of indulging at Hot Cakes’ Capitol Hill location when visiting Seattle, you can get them delivered right to your door in ready-to-bake form. Just pop the jars of molten cake batter into the oven, and you’ll soon have your own delicious delight. My preference is the original Dark Decadence, which is pure chocolate-y pleasure (it has only four ingredients, and its simplicity is half of its goodness). Unlike many imitations, Dark Decadence doesn’t have ganache pumped into it, instead relying on the recipe (be careful not to overbake!) for the gooey goodness. I also love the Peanut Butter Molten Cake, which has a rich peanut butter ganache to the center of the chocolate cake, while the Strawberry Molten Cake has a middle of strawberry pie filling, so it’s like eating cake and pie all in one. Their Vegan Gooey Brownie is also a winner, with a dark chocolate ganache made with coconut milk and hemp seeds. If this isn’t indulgent enough for you, toss in one of their  jars of sauce, from chocolate to caramel (try both sea salt and rye whiskey varieties). www.getyourhotcakes.com

BANANA PUDDING
Magnolia Bakery
New York, New York

Magnolia Bakery Variety Pack
Magnolia Bakery

While this esteemed New York bakery offers a wide variety of products, the one I love best is their banana pudding, which combines a rich vanilla pudding with bananas, cream, and vanilla wafers—that last ingredient providing a texture in the pudding that to me is more like chunks of perfectly baked cake. I order a multipack, which gives me two each of the Classic, Chocolate/Hazelnut, and Red Velvet varieties. It’s difficult to say which I like the most: while I love the simplicity of the original, just creamy, cakey, banana-y goodness, there’s also something really appealing about the others. Chocolate, of course, combines perfectly with bananas, and what could be better than Nutella’s combination of chocolate and hazelnuts mixed into the smooth and soothing pudding? Red Velvet brings the look and flavor of this traditional brightly hued cake into your pudding, with some chocolate shavings to make it even more gorgeous. Whichever flavor you order, you’ll marvel at the richness, smoothness, and depth of flavor of the pudding, which contrasts so perfectly with the cakey bits embedded throughout, so that you never know what your spoon is going to encounter next. Magnolia offers a smorgasbord of sweets, from cakes and cupcakes to cookies and brownies, and you could certainly fill more than one dessert tray with their wonderful products. Just be sure that the Banana Pudding, a one-of-a-kind, classic treat and probably Magnolia’s biggest claim to fame, is among them. Trust me, you’ll soon be ordering even more! www.magnoliabakery.com

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