The holiday season calls for something sweet, and bakeries across SF are baking delicious holiday desserts and other treats just for the occasion. Ranging from rich chocolate babka to powdered sugar-dusted stollen, these treats are sure to be a hit at your next holiday gathering. Here’s our guide to some of the best holiday desserts in SF.
Panettone is an Italian sweet bread that was invented during the preparation for a Christmas feast hosted by the Duke of Milan in 1495. When the originally planned dessert came out ruined, a quick-thinking cook whipped up and baked a sweet brioche filled with raisins and other candied fruit. The dessert was a hit with the Duke and panettone has become a Christmas tradition in Milan and around the world. From his culinary workshop in Los Gatos, Roy Shvartzapel of This is From Roy, produces some of the most sought-after Panettone in California, if not the US. Roy learned from culinary legends Pierre Hermé, Ferran Adria, and Thomas Keller as well as panettone master, Iginio Massari, before launching his line of panettone.
SF’s Tartine Bakery produces a long list of decadent pastries and rustic sourdough bread, but their seasonal Bûche de Noël is a show-stopper. This French Christmas cake is a reference to the medieval tradition of keeping a Yule Log alight for 12 days during the holidays. The Bûche de Noël was invented in the Late 1800s and honors that ancient tradition with its log shape and decoration which consists of rolled chocolate cake with buttercream and other seasonal flavors. Tartine does this traditional cake justice, producing a decadent holiday treat that’s as tasty as it is beautiful.
- 600 Guerrero Street
- 595 Alabama Street
- 1226 9th Avenue
Though not strictly a Hanukkah dessert, this popular Jewish sweet bread is beautifully braided and commonly enjoyed during the holiday season. Loquat Bakery in Hayes Valley serves convenient individual babkas as well as traditional loaves with fillings like poppyseed and chocolate.
Location: 198 Gough Street
Stollen is an enriched cake-like bread, studded with toasted almonds and filled with candied citrus and brandy-soaked raisins. SF’s Noe Valley Bakery is famous for baking this traditional German Christmas treat around the holidays and comes beautifully wrapped. Stollen has a 4-6 week shelf life and makes an excellent gift or addition to your holiday feast.
- 4073 24th Street
- 28 West Portal Avenue
Fruitcake is a traditional holiday cake with roots in ancient Rome. There are admittedly a lot of bad fruitcakes on the market and fruitcakes are often the butt of Christmas jokes. As with all food, when you use amazing ingredients and bake something with care then it’s bound to be delicious. The farmers and bakers at Frog Hollow Farm produce a fruitcake that is rich, complex, slightly boozy, and might just make you a fan for life.
Location: Online only for the fruitcake but you can visit them at the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market every Saturday.
Wise Sons serves some of the most popular and delicious Jewish food in SF and their rugelach is no exception. Rugelach is a traditional filled baked confection with fillings that can range from chocolate to jam to nuts and beyond. Similar to Babka, it’s not directly tied to Hanukkah but is very popular during the holiday season. Wise Son’s also offers a full Hannukah catering menu that includes their rugelach alongside many other favorites.
- 1520 Fillmore Street
- 3150 24th Street
- 537 Octavia Street
- 736 Mission Street. Inside Contemporary Jewish Museum
Hahdough is a konditorei, which is the German equivalent of a French pâtisserie. They specialize in ornate cakes, flaky pastries, filled Berliner donuts, and other German treats. Their traditional German Christmas cookies are a favorite every year with an assortment of flavorful shortbreads, jammy sandwiches, and spiced cookies that are sure to put you in the Christmas spirit.
Location: 1221 Fell Street
This Russian bakery and cafe in the Richmond district is an SF treasure. Cinderella Bakery’s honey cookies, or pryaniki which means “well-spiced,” are popular holiday. It has some similarities to gingerbread but is wonderfully unique and a nice addition to any holiday dessert spread.
Location: 436 Balboa Street
A Hanukkah staple, sufganiyot are donuts with an assortment of fillings including fruit jelly and pastry cream. This fried treat symbolizes the miracle of the oil that burned for eight days instead of one in the Hanukkah story. Frena, a kosher bakery in SOMA is preparing this traditional treat during Hannukah (Dec. 18-26) and selling them at their SOMA bakery as well as Hummus Bodega in the Richmond District.
Frena Bakery, 132 6th Street
Hummus Bodega, 5549, Geary Blvd
Featured image: @tartinebakery via Instagram