14 AAPI-Owned Dessert Spots You Need to Know in LA
So many confections went viral during the pandemic thanks to social media, and it was AAPI pastry chefs leading the charge.
A new generation of intrepid AAPI bakers is thriving in Los Angeles, proudly fusing the flavors of their heritages with classic European techniques and American recipes. Many of these inspiring bakers and pastry chefs were forced out of restaurant gigs (and many more left on their own) due to the pandemic and have taken to social media to launch their own viral pop-ups and remote concepts in addition to brick-and-mortar solo ventures.
The pandemic impacted the livelihoods of many chefs, leaving second-generation AAPI bakers with time to flex their creativity. “Like myself, many pastry chefs were grinding away in the dank back kitchens of someone else's establishment, perhaps not given the creative freedom to make what they wanted,” says Flouring founder Heather Wong. “But once the pandemic shut our restaurants and bakeries down…there was no better time to start baking what we wanted, how we wanted, and when we wanted.” As AAPI chefs shared their viral-worthy treats on social media—where we spent more time than ever—dessert lovers took notice.
Now that the world’s reopening, these pioneering pastry chefs are enjoying free rein to make what they want via brick-and-mortar shops, pop-ups across the city, or their Instagram accounts. In many cases, you’ll find that their pastries place less emphasis on sugar—thanks to an affinity for mild sweetness that’s associated with some Asian cuisines—which suits a general desire for more health-conscious choices. “[These] cultures share a general philosophy of food that’s deeply rooted in health and balance,” says Gu Grocery founder Jessica Wang, noting that desserts in East Asia are usually less sweet than in South and Southeast Asia.
While AAPI chefs don’t limit themselves to Asian flavor profiles, pastries are often a vehicle to reimagine their ancestral cuisines and celebrate ingredients—like red bean or black sesame—that others find foreign. Their work is a path toward enlightening non-Asian patrons and dispelling false notions about their food—more meaningful than ever given the spike in anti-Asian hate.
Today, AAPI bakers have far more freedom to honor their cultures, especially in a melting pot like LA. Whether it’s the rise of high-end Asian restaurants or Asian-inflected desserts, diners here are keen to embrace diverse flavors and noteworthy food experiences.
“I love that I can create a pastry using my personal food experiences and Korean background and have it feel familiar to others with an entirely different upbringing,” says pastry chef Jiyoon Jang. “Establishing cultural touchpoints in this way is really fulfilling.” For example, miso caramel might remind you of salted caramel, while the tang of yuzu might echo lemon.
As AAPI pastry chefs continue to break out on their own, they’ll bring visibility to Asian flavors and shine a well-deserved spotlight on the community. Here are 14 AAPI-owned dessert spots whose owners are baking their multicultural identities into something sweet.
In spectacularly creative flavors like hojicha mousse, coconut pandan, and salted egg yolk mung bean, nīn’s cupcakes are boundary pushing and well balanced in terms of taste, texture, and sweetness. Vietnamese-American baker Allison Thu Tran first started making the treats 12 years ago as a hobby, later attending culinary school and working at San Francisco’s Mr. Holmes Bakehouse and New York’s two-Michelin-starred The Modern. All the while, she continued tinkering with her cupcake recipes (it took 102 experiments to nail a vanilla cupcake that satisfied her high standards). Nīn is inspired by Tran’s love of food and drink from around the world—from Persian Faloodeh to the Dominican milk-and-orange-juice drink called Morir Soñando—with a special homage to Asian flavors. Also in the works: A shop where you’ll be able to buy her desserts—like Black Sesame Mochi cupcakes filled with sweet condensed milk pastry cream—IRL.
How to order: Check the site for pop-up locations.
Growing up in the San Gabriel Valley meant that dōmi co-founder Evelyn Ling was no stranger to Asian flavor profiles like black sesame, jasmine, and red bean. But after working in the restaurant industry as an adult (her resume includes stints at New York’s prestigious Eleven Madison Park and Ai Fiori), she realized these familiar ingredients were absent at the fine-dining level. So Ling and co-founder Joe Cheng Reed launched dōmi, whipping up edible works of art with a nod to all the flavors they loved as kids. Their famous glossy mousse cakes require a two-day process from start to finish, but some—like Strawberry Jasmine with layers of green-tea-steeped mousse, chiffon cake, jam, and shortbread cookie—take even longer due to the complexity of the fillings. Set overnight and glazed fresh the day of pickup to guarantee shine, each cake features a totally unique, jaw-dropping design hand-glazed by Cheng Reed himself. “In pastry school, I met lots of people who thought Asian flavor profiles were strange,” says Ling. “We try to take something familiar and introduce flavors that would be similar enough that a non-Asian person would be willing to try it.”
How to order: Order online for pickup.
Pastry chef Ishnoelle Richardson launched his home baking business when the pandemic started, quickly making a name for himself with tasty treats influenced by his Filipino heritage. To add crunch to rich Valrhona chocolate brownies, he covers them in a pinipig streusel—young glutinous rice that’s been pounded to flakes and toasted to a crisp. His cupcake-inspired take on the soft, fluffy Filipino brioche known as Ensaymada is slathered with ube buttercream frosting and gouda cheese. In an unapologetically buttery crust filled with tender young coconut and creamy custard, his Buko Pie is the Pinoy answer to American coconut cream pie. Indeed, Richardson seems to have mastered every single pastry form out there, so whether you’re in the mood for macarons, cheesecakes, or mini pavlovas, he’s got you covered.
How to order: Follow @bakingwithish for pop-up locations, or order online for pickup (nationwide shipping available for select items).
After moving from Macau to the US, Stephanie Fong discovered a newfound passion for making desserts. Instead of enrolling in pastry school, she spent her savings on baking tools and ingredients, learning on her own and training with pastry powerhouses—including a three-month stint in Vegas with Instagram’s most-followed pastry chef, Amaury Guichon. Eventually, Fong went from slinging cakes online to opening a brick-and-mortar shop in San Marino, where she continues to craft light, Asian-inflected desserts like Mont Blancs with homemade taro paste and red bean pies draped with matcha whipped cream. Although Fong specialized in custom cakes prior to the pandemic, COVID-19 put an abrupt end to parties and weddings, so she pivoted to baking bite-sized desserts and treats with the seasonal ingredients and fresh fruits she’s always gravitated toward. Fong’s best ideas are infused with a touch of fun and irreverence—like her signature “fried chicken” pastry (drumstick-shaped cream puffs) served with “French fries” (honey breadsticks) and “ketchup” (made-in-house strawberry jam). On Instagram, you’ll often find her tinkering with bespoke creations, like mahjong tile chocolates or an incredibly realistic-looking, cheddar-cheese-shaped cake.
How to order: Order online for pickup.
The mastermind behind Bakers Bench is pastry wunderkind Jennifer Yee, who cut her teeth at acclaimed restaurants like Jean-Georges in New York and The French Laundry in Napa Valley. In LA, she was the pastry chef at Konbi, where her croissants were the stuff of legend. Now she’s crafting mostly vegan pastries at this weekend-only kiosk in Chinatown’s Far East Plaza—including obscenely flaky croissants that you’d never guess are made without dairy. With crispy layers that shatter with every bite, these laminated marvels take four days to make, starting with a pre-ferment called poolish, which, unlike sourdough starter, lends the final result a sweet, nutty flavor. While the croissants often steal the show, Yee’s cakes, cookies, and other treats are just as revelatory. She also subscribes to the approach of using less sugar, noting how, in the Asian diaspora, saying a dessert isn’t “too sweet” is high praise. “Asian parents love anything that ‘isn’t too sweet’ and that’s usually the compliment they’ll give instead of ‘That’s good,’” says Yee, whose parents are from Hong Kong. “My palate doesn’t run that sweet either, so I tone down the sugar in my pastries.”
How to order: A small selection of pastries is available for order online on Fridays only, but visit the kiosk from Friday to Sunday, 9 am–1 pm, for the full assortment.
Founder Jennifer Ban’s desire to reconnect with her Korean culture led her to launch Rice Blossoms—where she modernizes traditional treats, like baeksulgi and songpyeons, enjoyed during special occasions. While the former is a simple, steamed rice cake made with rice flour, sugar, water, and salt (bonus: they’re vegan and gluten-free!), Ban’s cracked the code to the ideal consistency and chewiness—achieving a fluffy texture with a slight bounce and featherweight lightness. (One of her secrets is a special flour produced from rice that’s been soaked in water first.) Each morsel is elaborately piped with dainty blossoms, buds, and leaves—all from a subtly sweet bean paste that complements the cake’s subdued flavor. Meanwhile, Ban’s songpyeons are made with glutinous rice flour, fashioned into shapes like fruits or seashells, colored naturally, and filled with red bean, chestnut paste, or sesame seeds with honey and sugar (the most popular choice). If you’re interested in more than just consuming her treats, Ban also offers in-person and virtual workshops on how to pipe flowers and make songpyeons.
How to order: Order online for pickup. (Rice Blossoms is now available in the New York area!)
A relative newcomer to the pastry scene, Jiyoon Jang’s making waves for her mochi cake bars, cookies, and other mouthwatering confections. In 2020, she took up baking as a hobby in the midst of the pandemic and later refined her self-taught techniques with a spell at Clark Street Bakery. All the while, she was developing her own pastries at home and displaying them on Instagram, where demand was so high she started to sell them. Rooted in nostalgia and authenticity, Jang’s recipes often rely on the Korean ingredients she grew up with—like misugaru (a multigrain powder), ssuk (an earthy herb), and white sesame—but expressed with a modern aesthetic. An excellent example? Her miso-garu cookies, where the nutty earthiness of misugaru balances the stronger, funkier quality of white miso. The dough is rolled in sesame seeds and demerara sugar before it’s baked, so the cookie packs both crunch and chew in equal measure. It’s a salty-sweet-umami sensation that introduces you to misugaru in the most delicious way or, if you grew up eating it, reminds you of home.
How to order: Although Jang recently ended her Instagram pastry drops, you’ll soon be able to purchase them IRL. She’s now the head pastry chef at Mil (the Korean word for “flour”), a bakery concept soft opening this weekend and backed by In Hospitality (the group behind Hanchic, Chimmelier, and Kinn).
Operating via pop-ups, Kimochi’s fresh daifuku (or filled mochi) are a delicious symphony of chewy mochi, sweet white bean paste, and perfectly ripe fruit. While this new project from pastry chef Gemma Matsuyama showcases a dessert that’s been popular in Japan since the ‘80s, it’s by no means the first time we’ve tasted her creations. After the pandemic compelled Matsuyama to leave her role as n/naka’s pastry chef, she helped launch the pastry program at Tsubaki and Ototo with mouthwatering cream puffs, roll cakes, and more—many of which underscored her half-Japanese, half-Italian heritage. When it comes to her small-batch mochi, Matsuyama approaches peak-season fruit the way a sushi chef would seafood, making sure every bite sings with freshness and balance. Stay tuned for her upcoming partnership with plant-based Dear Bella Creamery on two Japanese ice cream flavors—Sweet Rice Milk Hojicha and Strawberry Yuzu—with donations from the collab going to I Got Your Back.
How to order: Follow @kimochi.la for pop-up locations, or order online for pickup.
Chinatown - LA River Farmer’s Market
You can’t talk about Gu Grocery without mentioning founder Jessica Wang’s experimental take on the Chinese sweet rice cake called Niangao—a lucky New Year’s dish that’s enjoyed year-round too. Served piping-hot with caramelized edges and a gooey, molten center, the traditional version is a tasty canvas for different toppings and fillings (Wang’s maternal grandmother, for example, favored brown sugar and osmanthus blossoms, while her paternal grandmother preferred red bean, walnuts, and jujubes.) Wang gets creative with hers: infusing color with veggies like pumpkin and purple sweet potato or, in the case of her Bittersweet dessert, experimenting with a rolled spiral shape and incorporating brown butter red bean paste, candied grapefruit peel, and grapefruit curd dipping sauce. While Niangao takes the cake (pun intended), Wang also whips up other delectable treats: sweet and savory hand pies, cookies, brownies, and more.
How to order: Order online for pickup.
Chances are you’ve seen Lexie Park’s bespoke jelly cakes on your feed. After a decade-long career in fashion, Park ventured into the made-to-order cake business, where she leverages her passion for design and cooking to craft wobbly treats that are the talk of Instagram. Using fresh fruits and imaginative molds (including one that’s shaped like a snail and another with scalloped edges), she turns out multilayered bundt and dome jelly cakes, which are vegan and gluten-free, as well as jelly cheesecakes. Her unique aesthetic is unmistakable: gorgeous gelatin concoctions with playful shapes and letters suspended within, always in an eye-pleasing pastel palette of tangerines, peaches, baby pinks, lavenders, and mints. While Park’s dazzling cakes are her bread and butter, give her a follow on Instagram to see how else she flexes her creative prowess with kimchi jerky, jelly corn, jelly juice pouches, and jams, which she sometimes sells in limited quantities.
How to order: Order online for pickup.
“[Asians] have always held it down in creative teams,” says founder Kym Estrada. “But I think—and this also comes with how young people in general are moving—we’re seeing AAPIs having the confidence and accessibility to run teams, not just play a part in one.” That’s exactly what Estrada did when she launched San & Wolves in 2017, after struggling to find vegan Filipino food anywhere in Brooklyn. Estrada made a conscious decision to center her pastry business on all the flavors she grew up eating, using 100% vegan ingredients—like coconut-oil-based butter and sweetened, condensed milk all made from scratch. She’s since moved her business to Long Beach, where her menu includes treats like her Cornbread Bibingka, a hybrid take on the Filipino glutinous rice cake that’s moist, light, sweet, and sticky all at once; beautifully piped Pandan Chocolate Cake with oozing ganache centers and cheeky inscriptions (if you so desire, that is); and Ube Pandesal, which—to Estrada’s recollection—taste exactly like the soft, fluffy, slightly sweet bread rolls she ate as a child.
How to order: Check the site for pop-up locations, or order online for pickup (new menus are released on Sundays at 10 am).
Remote and coming soon to Chinatown
The pandemic birthed some of LA’s most exciting food pop-ups—and this bakery is one of them. Flouring is the vision of Chef Heather Wong, who honed her skills at LA kitchens and competed on Food Network’s Spring Baking Championship before stepping into an executive pastry chef role at a new spot, which closed as soon as it opened due to COVID-19. Wong pivoted to slinging her cakes and pastries on social media—using sustainably sourced, organic ingredients from local farmers and vendors. As a second-generation Chinese-Mexican-American, her pastries—from Taro Cake frosted with coconut buttercream to meringue-topped fudge brownies—often echo her cultural ties with Chinese, Mexican, traditional American, and pan-Asian flavors. She’ll soon open a cake shop in Chinatown, where she’ll offer breakfast items, custom cake creations, and handheld-size Cake Bars (her answer to those who just want “one slice”). Originally created as a pandemic pastry box filler, Cake Bars are a take on old-school sheet cakes, exquisitely decorated with locally harvested, edible blooms, or painted in Flouring’s now-recognizable abstract style.
How to order: Order online for pickup.
Pies and cookies (better known as “thiccies”) are founder Edlyne Nicolas’s specialty. The former English high school teacher helms Laroolou—an amalgam for all the places she’s lived in, including Los Angeles, Brooklyn, and St. Louis—in Chinatown. From the start, Nicolas was determined to highlight her Filipino background and American upbringing—blending nostalgic childhood flavors, like Neapolitan ice cream or peanut butter and bananas, along with Filipino desserts. Turon, the Filipino dessert of fried banana spring rolls, is channeled into a pie; plantains are sautéed in brown sugar and butter, processed into a paste, and paired with brûléed brown sugar custard. Creamy Ube Halaya—a vivid jam made from boiled, mashed purple yam—is layered with buttermilk custard and baked into a flaky crust. Meanwhile, Nicolas’s cookies are in a class of their own—thick, enormous, loaded with mix-ins, boasting a soft middle and slightly crisp edges—in flavors like salted cookies and cream or spicy mango dark chocolate.
How to order: Order online for pickup.
Culver City and remote
Launched by Arnold Byun and Kioh Park, MAUM 마음 hosts pop-ups around LA showcasing thoughtfully curated goods from local Korean makers and small businesses. This June, you’ll find them at Culver City’s Platform all month long, where several Korean bakers and pastry chefs are offering an excellent array of confections. Don’t miss Loaf Language, whose Mochi Krispies offer an Asian-inspired take on the classic American treat in flavors like black sesame or hojicha, or The Dirty Whisk’s gift boxes filled with seasonal baked goods, such as tea cakes, brownies, cookies, and biscotti. Out of Thin Air crafts artisan bread (think: rosemary polenta porridge loaves and rustic baguettes), while Lucky Rice Cake highlights steamed Korean rice cakes and Modern Rice reinvents traditional baked goods (like croissants, bagels, and gateaux) with gluten-free rice flour.
How to order: Follow @madewithmaum for pop-up locations. In June, you’ll find them at Platform.