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Before you scoff at giving candy or pastries for the holidays, hear me out. The items in this guide aren’t the kind of every-day cookies, scones or truffles you snag with coffee or to fuel you for an unending afternoon at work. These are all jaw-droppers, luxuries and special offerings — the kind that one might rarely buy for oneself.
So stop by one of these local spots for the sweetest-toothed members of your holiday gift list, and, hey, you’ve been nice this year, so maybe you can also pick up a little treat for yourself. — Eve Batey
So baking isn’t really your thing. Bring dessert anyway: check out the fancy cake pops, cupcakes and other holiday-themed items at Angel Cakes. Order online and pick up when you need them. Cupcake flavors range from double chocolate to dirty chai, with many, many innovative flavors (as well as the tried and true) in between.
If you can’t decide, no worries: Angel Cakes will choose for you in one of their sampler boxes: a mini cupcake box, the white box (with silver and gold details) or the chocolate box with cupcakes, mini macarons, chocolate chip cookies and brownies. There’s also a birthday box: one dozen assorted cupcakes with a “happy birthday” banner. Done and done!
Angel Cakes 745 5th St. (at Brush Street), Oakland
A special treat for a special date: chocolate covered Medjool dates! Or perhaps the pecan turtles or candied citrus peels dipped in chocolate silk? A box of salted chocolate caramels? Study the online menu carefully for the best choice for your gift of delicious but not-too-sweet truffles (in holiday flavors of maple bourbon, gingerbread, candy cane, orgeat, orange cardamom and others), or choose chocolate covered nuts or raisins. Note: At this time, Bisou is offering curbside pickup, only, at their Oakland location.
Bisou Chocolate 730 29th St. (near San Pablo Avenue), Oakland
The boxed sets of bonbons (with enticing flavors like chipotle caramel, passion fruit, Mayan espresso, mole and mezcal and sal de gusano) are beautifully presented and ready to go. Assortments come in 6, 12 and 24 pieces, and you can also build your own.
The chocolate gingerbread people make delicious treats for kids of all ages. Fussy about flavors? Give that friend a gift certificate and let them choose their own assortment.
Available here also: Not your bubbe’s gelt! The chocolate dreidel and Chanukah gelt make it worth the spin to win. (Pick up a Star of David lolli to round out the set.)
Casa de Chocolates 2929 Ashby Ave. (at College Avenue), Berkeley
The hand painted bonbons at Flying Noir are almost too beautiful to eat. Almost. Each bonbon is a work of art, sweetly hand-painted with naturally colored cocoa butter and edible mica by owner/artist/chocolatier Karen Urbanek.
Even the bands around the boxes are hand painted, perfect for someone who is an art lover and a chocolate aficionado. The bonbon boxes come in several sizes, with 16 unique and intriguing flavors currently available, including the creamy caramel with a dram of single malt scotch.
There’s also a delightful chocolate survival kit that comes in its own little tin, and tea lovers would be delighted to receive a “teaer” — a collection of tea flavored chocolates. Or who could resist the Teeny Tiny Cubes of Heaven, “a petite ballotin of naked ganache cubes,” cravable little bites that come in a changing assortment of flavors. Also of note: the drinking chocolate (to mix with heated milk or water) for these cold winter evenings.
Flying Noir 2533 7th St. (at Parker Street), Berkeley
Everything is beautiful at the bakery…where Lavender creates a classic Bûche de Noël, a perfect selection for a holiday party. This traditional mousse-filled sponge is traditionally decorated and glammed up: a real showstopper. Also available for last minute host gifts are boxes of flavorful pastel-colored macarons (choose from caramel, chocolate, hazelnut and rosy lychee, among others) and a variety of holiday cookies. If you know anyone who has hard-to-find Turkish Delight on their gift list, this is the place to go: flavors include rose petal, pistachio and pomegranate.
Lavender Bakery Café 1820 Solano Ave. (at Colusa Avenue) , Berkeley
Be a good pal to your gluten-free friends and family: you can find many holiday themed items here this season, including grainless mini fruitcakes (some people really like fruitcake!) and gingerbread people. Are you on pie duty? Get a gf crust and take it from there.
Mariposa Baking Company, 5427 Telegraph Ave. d3 (near 57th Street), Oakland
Owner Amanda Ruth offers a festive rose pistachio torte (also gluten free) that’s ideal for a holiday dessert: An 8″ buttery torte topped with a rose water glaze and decorated with ground pistachios and pomegranate seeds for that green and red seasonal color combo. For a holiday brunch, pick up a box of apple cider donut muffins, a gingerbread loaf or a box of fills-the-holiday-flavor-bill pumpkin cranberry muffins.
Sweet Adeline Bakeshop. 3350 Adeline St. (near 63rd Street), Berkeley
Busy Moraga baker/owner Miriam Lowe makes cookie decorating kits, chocolate spheres (hot cocoa bombs with shells made from dark chocolate, filled with cocoa and marshmallows), and the most sensational marshmallows from scratch. It’s worth a trip through the tunnel to grab a few. Contact her through her website for current availability and to arrange pickup.
So many options here for gifts of truffles and bars, with selections made from dark, milk and white chocolate. Beautifully decorated truffles and bonbons are ready to go — or put together your own selection of flavors like coffee, spiced rum, dulce de leche, whiskey, calvados or tamarind mango.
In addition, they also offer two kinds of Mexican hot chocolate, along with dipped fruits and nuts. (The Cocktail Time collection of “boozy vegan truffles” infused with bourbon, brandy, spiced rum and amaro certainly caught the eye of Ms. Barstool.) Vegan and gluten free options are available. The Xocolate Bar offers pick-up, shipping and limited delivery.
The Xocolate Bar 1709 Solano Ave, Berkeley
And when the party’s over, check out the Weekend Recovery Kit from Crispian Bakery in Alameda: a box packed with granola, pancake mix, SIGNAL coffee, Adult Jam and “assorted goodies.” Makes a good gift for your hosts, or even for yourself if YOU are the host. You deserve one too!
Crispian Bakery, 1700 Park St, (near Buena Vista Avenue), Alameda