Review: White Bear Lake Holiday Desserts to Sweeten the Season

A cornucopia of holiday desserts from local hotspots.
The tantalizing petite bar assortment platter from Cafe Cravings.

“Dessert” and “holiday” are practically synonymous; for many of us, this is one of the few times that we freely indulge in sweets. We look forward to the sugary treats as much as we do the other stuff. Since there is only so much real estate in our tummies, it’s important to weigh all the options and choose carefully, since the array can be a tad overwhelming. We’re here to help. Whether feeding a crowd or stashing a little something-something for yourself, the scrumptiousness awaits. Here are a few mighty tempters to sweeten the “other stuff.”

Pine Tree Apple Orchard
We challenge you to find a bona fide mincemeat pie these days. It’s hard, especially since it sounds so odd: meat with sugar? In a pie? But it was once de rigueur come holiday time, and Pine Tree Apple Orchard is doing it just like the old days. Die-hard mincemeat fans adore it for its authenticity: it’s made with high-quality ground sirloin, golden raisins, apples, currants and hearty spices like allspice and clove. It’s made in a steam cooker and served in a deep dish. Owner Nancy Jacobsen is crazy for the pie herself and invites you to stop by and share some with her. All pies are made as a standard 9-inch round pie, and many are available as a quarter-sheet and half-sheet. Order 24 hours in advance. 9-inch pie, $11.50. Also available in an individual tart, $3. Pine Tree Apple Orchard; 450 Apple Orchard Road, Dellwood; 651.429.7202.

Grandma’s Bakery
In 1978 the Lupo family brought us Grandma’s Bakery, and it’s been tantalizing our taste buds ever since. They make nine different kinds of sweet rolls, including a couple of unusual ones like Rocky Mountain and German chocolate. We like to keep it real this time of year and head straight for the good ol’ glazed cinnamon and caramel pecan. They are tall, fluffy, fun to pull apart and they’re fantastically yummy: It’s the perfect breakfast treat that doesn’t involve your sweating over a hot griddle. They make them in-house, so best order two days in advance. In three sizes, $1, $1.25 and $2.50. 2184-B Fourth St., White Bear Lake.


Café Cravings  
How nice that someone (other than you) is throwing a holiday party, even if they request that you bring a dessert. Ideally we’d love to bake something impressive and delicious at home, but who are we kidding? Just buy something to bring—everyone’s doing it. Café Cravings makes these incredible bars that are available in mini size for a party platter. Bars do cookies one better: part brownie, part cookie, part pie, the chewy delights are always the first things snatched up from the dessert buffet. Order a variety: Include some of the fairly straightforward “fabulous fudge” bars, toss in some classic tart lemon-shortbread bars and add something crazy, like the magic layer bars made of graham crackers, pecans, chocolate chunks, coconut, butterscotch pieces and sweetened condensed milk. Ask about gluten-free and/or dairy-free options. $3 and $3.25 each. 1600 E. County Road E, White Bear Lake.

Chez Arnaud
When it comes to dessert, the French have cornered the market on elegance. Chez Arnaud gets it, delivering “gourmandise de Paris” with grace and flair. Front-of-the-house dessert lover extraordinaire Aaron Gilles says the 3 Chocolats is beyond a doubt the best cake for a special—or any—occasion. This version breaks open the cake mold; there is no actual cake in it. It’s a dreamy confab of layers of white chocolate, milk chocolate and dark chocolate mousses, sitting pretty on a crunchy chocolate almond biscuit. C’est magnifique. Order two days in advance. $21–$80. 4735 Highway 61, White Bear Lake.

Caribou Coffee
Peppermint is a flavor that pairs well with sweet things, especially chocolate. Our favorite way to get a peppermint fix is to drink it, and the Ho Ho mint mocha at Caribou hits the spot. Caribou is Minnesota’s answer to that other chain, and it manages to maintain a cozy, welcoming feel. This minty quaff is made from chocolate (choice of dark, milk or white) melted into steamed milk and combined with a rich espresso and mint flavor. Topped with whipped cream and a delectable dash of peppermint crumbles. A most delightful way to warm up on a blustery day. 16 ounces, $3.95. 4733 Highway 61, White Bear Lake.

Ingredients Café
After all that running around doing things for others, you may be running low on your stores of self-care. So here’s one just for you: pair of pears. Behind the cute name, you’ll find a caramel roasted-pear tart with puff pastry and almond paste alongside a vanilla poached pear. These two pears are served with an intensely pear-y pear sorbet. All of it is made in-house. Slow down time and savor every bite: You deserve it. Ingredients Café offers a comfy and charming place to sit and relax. $8. 4725 Highway 61, White Bear Lake.