Subscribe Now

Thick caramel, seasonal fruits, creamy frozen treats, and lots of chocolate are appearing on dessert plates around the North Shore this season.

Mooo, Burlington

The Valrhona Chocolate Cake at Mooo…. Burlington takes days to prepare. First, the pastry team bakes 15 chocolate layers, enough to make nine finished cakes for a week’s worth of servings of the decadent dessert. Those layers rest overnight, and then are sliced into even thinner layers and soaked in a rich chocolate syrup.

The cakes are filled with chocolate ganache and chocolate cremeux and frozen overnight. On the third day, the cakes are glazed while still frozen, so the glaze doesn’t melt. “It is a chocolate lover’s dream,” says Michelle Leblanc, executive pastry chef at Mooo….

“It is our most involved dessert.” And a show-stopper that flies off the menu every week. Restaurants that make desserts in-house are a special breed, worth every single bite of indulgent calories. 

But at a place like Mooo…., which has 130 seats the demands of being a pastry chef go well beyond sweet endings. “We make everything but our ice creams,” Leblanc says, including the bread served at the table to begin each meal. “If the chef makes a tartare, and he wants to serve it with brioche, that’s made by us. The burger buns for the Mooo…. burger, the rolls for the lobster roll, all are made by us.”

86 Cambridge St., Burlington, 781-270-0100,

Ledger Restaurant & Bar, Salem

At Ledger Restaurant & Bar in Salem, executive pastry chef Erin Barry even makes staff meal once a week for the restaurant’s team to enjoy before the rush of serving guests.

On a recent Friday, a baking rack in Ledger’s kitchen was stacked full of creatively topped pizzas, anything from cheeseburger with special sauce, cheese, and onions, to ricotta and slices of roasted delicata squash Barry found in the walk-in refrigerator. 

While the public may not get to try Barry’s pizza—made with a long-lived sourdough starter they’ve dubbed Dolly Starton—the chef works magic for guests with that combination of flour and liquid dozens of times a day. “Pastry is both art and science,” Barry says.

Erin Barry

“The ingredients are really simple, but you can create a multitude of different things. It can be bread, it can be cake . . .” or in the case of one gory dessert she created for Halloween, it can be a bloody dark caramel pie stabbed with a shard of edible “glass.” “It looked like a crime scene,” Barry says with a laugh.

While Halloween in Salem definitely welcomes a certain spectacle, Ledger’s desserts always add a measure of fun nostalgia to sophisticated sweets. Like The PSL, a combination of pumpkin spice ice cream, warm pumpkin espresso sauce, and shortbread cookies.

Or the Mousse Bomb, which moves on and off the menu in different incarnations with the seasons. For fall, it will feature matcha.

125 Washington St., Salem, 978-594-1908,

Il Ponte, Woburn

Desserts are a family affair at intimate restaurant Il Ponte in Woburn. Instead of a dedicated pastry team, owners (and married couple) Hortenca Sheshori and Beni Kurti share pastry duties: Kurti makes pizzas and plates desserts, while Sheshori is the mastermind behind sweets, in addition to working the front of the house and managing the bar program.

“My inspiration is family,” explains Sheshori, who immigrated with Kurti from Italy a decade ago. “I started making desserts with my mom when I was 8 years old. She’s an amazing cook.” Il Ponte offers an impressive six or seven desserts nightly—many of them a highwire act of complexity.

Take Il Semifreddo, a round of half-frozen airy mousse that leans against a bright scoop of mixed-berry gelato in luscious pools of crème anglaise, caramel, and just a drop of chocolate. House-made Italian cookies crumbled over the top add yet another texture to the complex treat. 

“We always try to bring the authenticity to our guests, so they will feel they are in Italy,” says Sheshori, who plans to add her Chocolate Tortino—a Valhrona dark chocolate lava-style cake, molten and warm in the middle—to the menu this fall. “We make it gluten free so everyone can have it,” she says.

428 Main St., Woburn, 781-933-0408,

Burtons Grill & Bar, Burlington, Lynnfield, and North Andover

Including people with food allergies and dietary restrictions has been top of mind at Burtons Grill & Bar since it was founded nearly 20 years ago, notes Denise Baron Herrera, vice president of food and beverage at the North Shore-based restaurant group. At any given time, people who avoid gluten can find at least two—and perhaps more—satisfying options.

“We don’t compromise just because a dessert (or any dish) is gluten free,” she says. Case in point is Burtons’ Seven-Layer Chocolate Cake—a fantasy of gluten-free moist cakes and buttercream frosting, coated with ganache and served with hot fudge, Maldon sea salt, and raspberry coulis. 

“Our chocolate cake was developed for a December holiday feature,” Herrera recalls. “Since it was so popular, we decided to place it on our main dessert menu.” Guests often can’t believe it’s made without wheat.

43 Middlesex Turnpike, Burlington, 781-221-2281; 1355 Market St., Lynnfield, 781-776-7001; 145 Turnpike St., North Andover, 978-688-5600;

Lime, Chelsea

Sense a chocolaty theme? Most dessert lists would be incomplete without at least one chocolate option—and Lime in Chelsea is no exception. 

Customers might revolt if chef/ owner Petal Joseph-Seale removed her housemade chocolate mousse from the menu, but she changes up the accompaniments to keep things interesting and seasonal, with a focus on fresh and local.

Her gorgeous sweets might feature flowers from Eva’s Garden in South Dartmouth, a certified organic farm specializing in culinary herbs, greens, flowers, and wild foraged goods. Roses can potentially play year-round, preserved as rose sugar or jam, to play a starring role in Petal’s signature flavor combination. “I love lemon and rose,” the aptly named Petal says. “It my personal signature flavor.” But with the holidays coming up, she’ll be turning to another favorite flavor: cranberry. 

Look for an apple-cranberry cake to appear on the menu this fall. Because whether it’s a towering cake or a luscious mousse, one can’t live on chocolate alone.

73 Winnisimmet St., Chelsea, 617-466-0730,