Where to Find Philly’s Most Over-the-Top Desserts

Our guide to Philly’s wildest, most spectacular desserts, from Instagrammable ice cream sundaes to flambéed showstoppers.

Nam kaeng sai (shaved ice) at Kalaya / Photograph by Mike Prince

A great meal shouldn’t just fizzle out after the main course is finished and the table is cleared. It deserves a grand finale — a sweet crescendo that the entire dining experience has built up to. That, my friends, is dessert, and in order for dinner to go out with a bang it better be a big deal. We’re talking desserts that are borderline sensory overload with dramatic plating, theatrical presentations, and, of course, an overture of flavors that you’ll be thinking about long after you’ve finished that last morsel. From edible sculptures to flambéed feats of culinary artistry, here are the best over-the-top desserts in Philadelphia.

Nam Kaeng Sai at Kalaya

Just like many of Kalaya’s show-stopping dishes, the nam kaeng sai — also known as the shaved ice — is a masterpiece. Imagine a towering dome of shaved ice in a bowl, drizzled with flavorful syrups and topped with fresh fruits and herbs. Alone, the exterior is a delight. But waiting at the core, there’s a sweet surprise in the form of chunks of fruit, custard, pudding, and even cheesecake. They come in many different varieties, with new seasonal ones popping up regularly, so there’s always a new mountain of syrupy-sweet nam kaeng sai to summit. 4 West Palmer Street.

Crêpes Suzette at June BYOB

June BYOB’s Canard à la Presse Voyage — where an entire duck is carved, pressed in an antique French duck press, and served tableside — always turns heads. And the same goes for the Crêpes Suzette at the end of this elaborate meal. Paper-thin crêpes are bathed in Grand Marnier and set ablaze in a dramatic display. As the alcohol from the Grand Marnier burns off, the Crêpe Suzette is plated just as the dim blue flames extinguish. The excitement for this dessert is as much about the presentation as the flavor — a delightful melody of sweet and citrusy notes. 690 Haddon Avenue.

The ice cream sundae at Alpen Rose. / Photograph by Kae Lani Palmisano

The Sundae at Alpen Rose

Midtown Village
There’s no greater grand finale to a fancy steak dinner than a comically large sundae. This ice cream extravaganza has all the elements of a banana split, complete with a caramelized banana. But instead of being served in a classic boat-shaped glass, it comes in an exaggerated chalice, in the middle of an oyster plate filled with gummy bears, chocolate-covered pretzels and other candy fixings. Scoops of house-made chocolate, vanilla and strawberry ice cream are obscured by swirls of chocolate fudge and a mountain’s worth of fresh whipped cream studded with vanilla beans. And to top it all off, a cherry perched on the whipped-cream peak. The only thing that would make this sundae even crazier is if Michael Schulson came out with it strapped to his head, à la Uncle Moe’s from The Simpsons. 116 South 13th Street.

The fiery chocolate at Morimoto. / Photograph by Laura Swartz

Fiery Chocolate at Morimoto

Washington Square West
There’s something thrilling about building something up just to burn it down. The fiery chocolate at Morimoto is a carefully constructed globe of chocolate that, inside, contains a scoop of chocolate sorbet and marshmallow cream. How do you get to the sorbet inside? Well, spiced rum is lit on fire and then poured over the orb of chocolate, which melts over the creamy core, melding everything together in ooey-gooey goodness. It’s true alchemy. 723 Chestnut Street.

Bananas foster at Lacroix. / Photograph by Mike Prince

Bananas Foster at Lacroix

Caviar tends to find its way on top of a lot of dishes that come out of Lacroix’s kitchen, including the bananas foster. The elegant yet playful dessert is made with banana sherbet, caramelized bananas, toasted coconut, almonds, and a very generous dollop of Baerii caviar. It brings a kind of briny saltiness that you didn’t know you wanted on a bananas foster — but once you try it, you’ll absolutely need it from here on out. 210 West Rittenhouse Square.

Burning Cake from Kay Kay’s

South Philly
Kay Kay’s bakery went viral on TikTok before Super Bowl LVIII for her Kelce burning cake and perfectly expressed Philly’s burning feelings in the process. The video showed a cake with “There’s only one Kelce I’m watching this Super Bowl for” written on it that, when lit on fire, burned away to reveal a shirtless Jason Kelce rooting for his brother. Whether you’ve got fiery opinions to declare or want to celebrate an occasion that calls for burning down part of your life and starting over again, no dessert is as delicious as it is cathartic, much like a burning cake. 1850 West Ritner Street.

The beignet tree at Steak 48 / Photograph courtesy of Steak 48

Beignet Tree at Steak 48

Center City
What’s better than beignets for dessert? How about beignets presented on the branches of a silver tree, like blossoms in bloom? Lightly dusted with powdered sugar and served alongside vanilla crème anglaise and Nutella ganache, it’s an indulgence for your eyes and tastebuds. 260 South Broad Street.

Passion Fruit Mousse at Cake and Joe

Fishtown and Pennsport
There’s no shortage of stunning desserts at Cake and Joe, but one of their top sellers is the passion fruit mousse. With a vibrant, yellow ball of tart pastry in the middle of a ring-shaped cookie, it’s like this dessert is the sun, and we’re all just caught up in its orbit. 2012 Frankford Avenue; 1401 East Moyamensing Avenue.

Vanilla and apricot vacherin at Suraya. / Photograph by Mike Prince

Vanilla and Apricot Vacherin at Suraya

If you’ve never tried Turkey’s stretchy, salep ice cream, Suraya has a version that’s as fun to look at as it is to eat. It’s a kind of ice cream cake made with a creamy and pleasantly chewy vanilla salep ice cream, apricot sorbet and pistachio-poppy-seed cake. Topped with bright cylinders of pink-pepper meringue, it’s a vibrant and textural beauty. 1528 Frankford Avenue.

Volcano Hot Chocolate at Rim Cafe

East Passyunk
Step aside, Swiss Miss. Rim Cafe has an entire menu of volcano hot chocolate variations, each one more decadent than the next. But how these drinks are poured brings the experience to a whole new level. It’s like performance art. Rich chocolate cascades into a fancy glass and is topped with goodies like chocolate shavings and marshmallows. Some of these creations, like the crème brulée volcano, are finished off with a blowtorch as the cafe’s maestro, René, exclaims “Make it happen!” 1172 Street 9th Street.