Dreamy desserts have as prominent a place on Charleston’s food scene as shrimp and grits. While there are plenty of places visitors can duck into for a quick, sweet nibble, a few stand out as destinations known for offering an elevated dessert experience. Expertly prepared pastries, cakes and other creative, sweet concepts are served up in elegant surroundings at these downtown establishments. Pair them with hand-crafted cocktails, bubbly and fine coffees for an especially sweet deal.
When Peninsula Grill at Planters Inn added a dedicated dessert cafe, it was a sweet move for Charleston visitors. The sleekly outfitted Benne is so named for the main ingredient in the region’s beloved benne wafers. The African benne seed is thought to impart good luck and after you get a taste of Benne’s expertly prepared desserts, which includes Peninsula Grill’s world-renowned coconut cake, you’ll be a believer.
Operating in the heart of downtown’s East Bay Street, Carmella’s Cafe and Dessert Bar is a European-style dessert destination. Their rotation of desserts, which typically includes gelato and sorbetto as well as cannoli, cannoli cake, amaretto cheesecake and biscotti (to name a few), are perfect with coffee and cocktails.
This elevated dessert and cocktail hotspot is humming away on King Street, where it draws a hip crowd. Chocolate applewood bacon, peanut butter creme brulee, panna cotta and ice cream-filled profiteroles go fabulously with the hand-crafted cocktails at Honey Hive. For the ultimate sweet time with friends, reserve the Bubble Room and wash down your desserts with fine Champagne.
Charleston morphs into Paris the moment you walk through the doors of La Pâtisserie at Hotel Bennett. This is in no small part due to the finesse of French pastry chef, Rémy Fünfrock. The chic, Euro feel reflects a commitment to authenticity and excellence. Think fine coffee, buttery breads, flaky pastries and more. Try the pain au chocolate, almond croissants, fruit tarts, colorful macarons and the house specialty, the delicate, pink-hued Camellia cake.
East Bay Meeting House
Charleston’s French heritage finds delicious expression at this authentic bakery and gourmet grocery store in—where else?—the French Quarter. In addition to lunch, this cozy cafe serves classics like pain perdu (a desserty French toast paired with ice cream and fruit) and Hazelnut Dacquoise (a rich French cake). Make your day especially sweet and memorable by making reservations for a European-style afternoon tea, complete with finger sandwiches and freshly baked pastries served on pretty trays.