November 9, 2015
Local chefs know pumpkins are good for much more than lattes.
Don’t get me wrong; Rhode Island locals love their pumpkin lattes as much as anyone, but we know a good thing when we see it. With so many small farms in the state, we get an abundance of local food throughout the year. Still, there is a special place in our hearts for the beauty and flavor of Fall in New England and particularly the quintessential gourd.
So finding the best pumpkin desserts in Rhode Island is a favorite fall adventure for locals. You may even have overheard some spirited debates about which bakery has the best pumpkin desserts. That can be one hearty debate, too. With Johnson & Wales University bringing talented and creative chefs to the area, there is often a new spin being done on this classic holiday favorite.
We may be the smallest state in the union, but for real we are one of the most passionate about our local food!
One other perk to living or visiting such a small state is that the best pumpkin desserts are never far away, no matter where you are. And chances are, most of the ingredients in that pumpkin dessert came from a farm no more than 20 minutes away. It doesn’t get much more fresh and local than that!
These are some of our favorite spots for pumpkin muffins & desserts – or any dessert, really
Olga’s Cup and Saucer
Olga’s is located in the Jewelry District of Providence. They opened in 1997, and have been one of the go-to spots for weekend brunch since then. Like many local bakeries, Olga’s specializes in seasonal delights. That is one reason these pumpkin chocolate muffins are so wonderful! Pastry chef Allie Hertz perfected her craft with the award-winning pastry team at Ellie’s Bakery and Gracie’s, and has a knack for bringing a special flare of creativity to her baking.
Pastiche Fine Desserts
Most Rhode Islander’s by now know the sweet perfections of this now Rhode Island institution in Federal Hill. But trust me there are no boundaries to how far the love goes. Recently in Chicago at a conference I met a food tour operator from Hong Kong who happened to go to a prominent Massachusetts private college. She was thrilled to share her enthusiasm for her favorite dessert and proceeded to tell me all about her weekly academic reward trips to Providence for a Pastiche Fruit Tart. In fact, so important, upon graduation day she insisted on one more trip, racing back barely making it on time for graduation. So like all their amazing flaky all butter crusts, another memorable seasonal favorite that conjures up holiday memories is the Pumpkin Praline Tart. With the smoothest homemade pumpkin custard and a thick fresh heavy ring of whipped cream encircling the center filled with firm toffee pecan pralines adding the perfect texture to complement this Thanksgiving Favorite.
It isn’t just the amazing Pumpkin Patch Cake that has us singing the praises of Sweet Althea’s, in Wakefield. Although, the chocolate chip and pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting would be enough by itself. For that matter, the vegan pumpkin cake would fill that job, too. But no, Sweet Althea’s takes it to the next level: they also donate a portion of their sales to Best Friends Animal Society.
Rosemary & Thyme Boulangerie/Cafe
Old World goodness surrounds you in this intimate, cozy European style boulangerie. Sitting in the french cafe chairs at Rosemary & Thyme gently breaking away the most exquisite buttered pumpkin-rum raisin muffin tufts I have ever had the pleasure to enjoy. I can’t help but feel like I’ve been transported to a Parisian Cafe where a suave stubbled manly man with icy blues bends slowly down and whispers “puis-je rester avec vous?”…ahh, but yes I am quickly jolted back by the slamming of the screen door and reminded it is not so bad, I am in Newport, RI afterall.
Ellie’s is a small, Parisian-inspired bakery in downtown Providence. They offer several staple pastries, but take full advantage of local and seasonal ingredients, so their menu changes frequently.
The specialty at Ellie’s is the French Macaron, but these spiced pumpkin bouchons with a caramel glaze are amazingly delicious. Pastry chef Sara Reilly is nothing short of magical with her creations, so be sure to add Ellie’s to your itinerary when you are out for the best pumpkin desserts!
Sweet Berry Farm
If you to talk any native Rhode Islander, Sweet Berry Farm in Middletown is sure to come up. They are well known for everything from pick-your-own berries to Christmas trees. But, of course, it’s the classic pumpkin pie, made with their very own pumpkins that gives all Rhode Islander’s a reason to celebrate fall. They may be the only area farm to also run a cafe right on the farm, where they also offer artisan foods from other local producers. (Top Photo, Sweet Berry Farm – Photo Credit Discover Newport)
North Bakery is relatively new on the scene in Providence, but they are making a huge impact. Tucked away in an unassuming corner of Providence’s west end, North has a small, but tasty menu. This little gem stands a precious 6” high and apprx. 4.5” wide with 5 layers of goodness finished with lovely pecans.
The name of this cake is enough to make your mouth water: Pumpkin Chocolate Cake with Maple Frosting. We’ll have two, please!
Wildflour Vegan Bakery and Juice Bar
Wildflour is just over the Providence line in neighboring Pawtucket. They make a wide array of vegan and gluten-free desserts, but there’s just something comforting about this gluten-free Whoopie Pie – especially a Pumpkin Whoopie Pie.
Cream Cheese filling is spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and ginger, this treat easily makes our list of the best pumpkin desserts around!
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The Mad Hatter
The Mad Hatter specializes in cupcakes and wedding cakes, but don’t let that distract you from the task at hand! The pumpkin bread is to die for! Best of all, it comes in four varieties: plain, with raisins, with pecans, or with chocolate chips. Delish! The Mad Hatter is right in the heart of downtown Newport, across from city hall.
LaSalle Bakery is a Providence icon. Originally opened in 1930, the bakery was purchased by Michael and Cheryl Manni in 1975. LaSalle has a production facility that known for traditional baked goods and local lunch favorites like their Italian grinder or pizza strips. But it’s the pumpkin yogurt muffin topped with chocolate that had us clamoring to get to the register.
The Beehive Cafe
The Beehive Cafe in Bristol is a Rhode Island classic. Located just off the 13.8 mile long bike path, and overlooking Bristol Harbor, The Beehive is a gathering spot for outdoor enthusiasts. However, it’s the pumpkin cheesecake cupcake that had us oohing and aahing. The sunset is nice, but really, it can’t compete with this cupcake! Take a seat outdoors, or walk through Independence Park with your cupcake and your favorite friend.
Thames Street Kitchen
TSK in Newport is one of those ever so special places you must go to. It’s a small menu but it packs a wallop of a punch! It was never more clear just how special this place than when I walked in and asked do you have any pumpkin desserts? The answer was not yet, but let’s try this!
Homemade Pumpkin Pie Custard, Almond Crumble, Coconut Curd, Rum Raisin Ice, Apple Granita, Apple Molasses.
Simply brilliant! 1st Place finish in my book !! You will find this little pumpkin jewel on the menu for Newport Restaurant Week! Hurry!
Phantom Farms Bakery
Phantom Farms Bakery and pumpkin mousse roll. What more can we say? Oh, this dessert was featured on The Food Network. We can say that. We could also say that they are located in picturesque Cumberland, on a 100 year old apple orchard. There are also whispers of a young girl who can be seen roaming the grounds in search of her long lost love.
Like many small restaurants, the menu at Bywater changes regularly, so we were lucky to show up on a night when they offered homemade pumpkin ice cream. I often find places that tout their ice cream as “homemade” lacking in either flavor or richness, not the case here! Rich, smooth and flavorful! That really should be enough to put this new Warren, Rhode Island restaurant on your best pumpkin desserts tour, but in case you need more, they offer $1 oyster Mondays at their carefully curated raw bar and have an excellent selection of craft beers and wine on tap.
It goes without saying that any “best of” list is always up for a few additions, and that is undoubtedly true in this case. We are fortunate to have so many wonderful culinary masters in Rhode Island that it is impossible to fit them all into one article. I suppose we could write a book, but one thing at a time!
Until then, tell us, what spots would you add to this list?