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Mar 12, 2009 09:59 PM

Help me satisfy my night-time sweet tooth: chocolate cake to go in the East Bay?

I've gotten more and more of a sweet tooth as the years go by, and sometimes a nice thick slice of chocolate cake would totally hit the spot after a midweek home-cooked meal. Since moving out here to Oakland, though, I've noticed that most of the places that sell cakes and pastries are bakeries that close by 6:00 or even earlier. Back when I lived on the East Coast, I had a couple of favorite dessert joints where I could grab a giant, decadent slice of cake or, say, a fruit tart, to go at 8:00 or 9:00 in the evening.

So what's a chocolate lover to do? Any places you folks can recommend where a fella can get a GOOD slice of chocolate cake to go on a weeknight? (I'm not talking about the sugary nastiness they're serving up in the bakery section of the Merritt Bakery.) Would be glad to hear other to-go dessert recs too. Preferably in the East Bay, and ideally in Oakland.

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  1. Au Coquelet on University and Milvia in Berkeley has choco cake, fruit tarts, etc. by the slice. Open until 1 a.m. most nights. I had a piece about 1.5 years ago. It was good but I don't remember it. Also could hit up Andronico's.

    Au Coquelet Cafe Restaurant
    2000 University Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704

    3 Replies
    1. re: ML8000

      Funny -- that was the place that came to mind for me, too, even though I haven't been there in decades.

      I think most restaurants will sell you a dessert to go -- the problem is finding a really good chocolate cake. I was having a chocolate cake craving last year and never did find one that "did it" for me!

      1. re: ML8000

        Hmm...most of the recent reports on Yelp are from Berkeley students who like studying there but say that the sweets are mediocre to bad. I'm picky about cake, too, so that doesn't seem to bode well for Au Coquelet.

        I'm a fan of the desserts at Crixa and Bakesale Betty, but those both close early. Haven't tried chocolate cake at either place, in any case. Don't think it's offered at BB...

        1. re: abstractpoet

          Their desserts have been the same for the last 20 years that I've gone there. Their chocolate cake slice is actually pretty decent, with a nice chocolate ganache. Also, I have always had a fondness for their blueberry tart. Everything has been the same, exactly the same, since I went to college. That alone amazes me. I dunno what the Berkeley students are sayin, unless things have changed drastically in the last few months, which I seriously doubt.

          I'm not a huge fan of the actual food here, but I like that the desserts are reliably good, reasonably priced, and conveniently available at late hours (great after a movie, unless you decide to go for gelato instead)

      2. Arizmendi has a chocolate fudge cake but I think they close at 7pm

        3 Replies
        1. re: kc72

          Which Arizmendi location? I've never seen cake at the Lake Merritt branch, which is the one I go to.

          1. re: abstractpoet

            I'm pretty sure I saw it at the Lakeshore location on a Sunday morning a few weeks ago. It's listed on their website, so I would think Lakeshore and Emeryville should carry it.

            1. re: kc72

              Hmm...maybe it's only offered on certain days? I rarely go in on weekends, so maybe that's why I haven't seen it.

        2. Cioccolata Di Vino in Berkeley is open till 9 or later every night.

          5 Replies
          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            Thanks for the recommendation. This seems promising, though some of the desserts seem a little bit fussy for what I'm thinking of. Has anyone tried the chocolate cake here?

            For the link you posted, apparently there's a polenta chocolate cake (which seems like maybe it wouldn't be very chocolaty?) and a molten lava cake (does this work as a take-home item?). The lemon tart option also seems appealing.

            1. re: abstractpoet

              I hate to say anything against a place that looks like it needs business, but the scone I had at Cioccolata Di Vino was disappointing. I've been putting off posting because they seemed like nice people and I want to try something else, but I'm having trouble working up enthusiasm to go back.

              Even after it changed owners and closed most of its cafes, the Just Desserts chocolate cake remains my favorite. I think they sell mini versions as well as full cakes.

              Has anyone tried the chocolate cake at Whole Foods in Oakland?

              It is not open late and not what you are looking for, but Virginia Bakery was giving out samples of some sort of chocolate cream cake that was like an Italian rum cake, but with chocolate and without the rum. Good heavens it was wonderful. Definately what I'm bringing to the next event where I need a dessert. Don't think much of their classic chocolate cake though.

              1. re: rworange

                Whole Foods Oakland didn't have much by the slice when I was looking. I did not look at whole cakes. Whole Foods Berkeley sells a cake - called tuxedo I think - that I love. As one might expect from the name the cake is chocolate but the frosting and ganache are white - not necessarily vanilla.

                1. re: rworange

                  We got a lemon tart (with some kind of thyme-infused whipped cream) to go from Cioccolata Di Vino the other night, and it was OK, though I'll admit that I like the simple, classic lemon bar from Bakesale Betty a lot more (and for like half the price). For $6.50, you're paying restaurant dessert prices--you're paying for ambiance and service, which isn't the best deal if you're just grabbing something to go.

                  It does seem like a quaint little place to have a light dinner with wine and dessert, though, so I'd like to go back and give that experience a try. They seem like really nice people who run the place...

                  1. re: abstractpoet


                    Cioccolata di Vino
                    1801 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA

            2. Rockridge seems like a target-rich environment: Bittersweet is open until 9 pm Thu-Sat. I seem to remember that last time I was in the cafe that when I was growing up was The Edible on College across from the Rockridge Market Hall they had chocolate cake. I bet Claremont Diner has chocolate cake.

              Bittersweet Cafe
              5427 College Ave, Oakland, CA

              Claremont Diner
              6200 Claremont Ave, Oakland, CA

              14 Replies
              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                The Edible Complex? I miss that place. It was one of the few places that was open late and had decent food. Now in that spot is that seriously subpar crepe place (unless it closed).

                I second the Andronico's suggestion. The one on Solano has Just Desserts cakes (maybe other Andronico's, too, it's just that I bought one at that specific store within the last year, but it closes an hour earlier- at 10 - than the other Andronico's in Berkeley). I'm obsessed with cake and they make a very good chocolate cake.

                But if you want to sit down and have it served on a plate Bittersweet Cafe, as mentioned above, would be where I'd look.

                1. re: MollyGee

                  Most of the time, on a weeknight, I just want to eat my cake at home, so Andronico's sounds like a great option if their cake is up to par. I've never been, believe it or not (the Berkeley Bowl devotee that I am)!

                  So do they sell the Just Desserts chocolate cake by the slice or only as an entire cake? Are there different varieties--is there a particular version you've had that you liked?

                  1. re: MollyGee

                    Swung by Andronico's tonight and picked up a 6-inch Classic Chocolate Cake (on sale for $9.99). It did hit the spot and is definitely in the ballpark of the kind of cake I'm looking for. I did think the icing was still a bit on the sweet side, though (definitely wouldn't be able to eat more than a tiny slice without coffee or a big glass of cold milk), and it wasn't as moist as I would like. Maybe I need to let it come to room temperature for a bit longer? Or would it be anathema to give it a quick nuke in the microwave?

                    I was looking at the Just Desserts website, and I wonder if the Black Velvet 3-Layer Cake might be more my style. The description on the website: "A dark chocolate lovers dream baked with bittersweet chocolate. This cake has three layers of dark chocolate cake, two layers of bittersweet chocolate ganache, finished with a smooth, velvety glaze."

                    Anyone tried this one? It's listed as a new product.

                    For those interested, it seems Andronico's has the whole line of 6-inch Just Desserts cakes on sale through the end of the weekend. Regular price is $13.99, so it's four dollars off.

                    1. re: abstractpoet

                      You should definitely let the cake come to room temp, but don't nuke it: frosting melts *very* quickly.

                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                        After letting it sit at room temperature a while longer, the cake was more moist and the frosting was creamier. If the first slice I tried was a "B", the second was at least a "B+" or "A-".

                        Just saw that they actually have these Just Desserts cakes at Berkeley Bowl, so now I don't need to go out of my way! And they're cheaper there, too--$9.99 all the time, not just when they're on sale. Didn't notice if they maybe have less of a selection that Andronico's, though.

                        I'll have to try the Draeger's one next, if I ever make it out to Danville...

                        1. re: abstractpoet

                          Thanks for the update. I hate it that stuff that really doesn't need to be refrigerated is sold that way. For some things it doesn't matter, but for anything with a high fat content, it makes a huge difference to both the flavor and texture if the fat is at room temperature vs. chilled. In addition to being unpleasantly hard and waxy, cold fats don't melt in your mouth quickly enough to release their flavors.

                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                            Yeah, I noticed that at Berkeley Bowl, the cakes were not refrigerated. Interesting...any idea how many days a cake like that would keep if you just never refrigerated it at all?

                            1. re: abstractpoet

                              Good question. It really depends on the storage conditions. The cake itself doesn't really keep any better in the fridge than at room temp -- either way it will start to get stale/dried out after a couple of days. The frosting is the issue. Buttercream frosting is not going to go bad as in grow bacteria, but if it has a high butterfat content it will start to "go off" after a couple of days (I'm guessing the Bowl has such a high turnover it's not an issue for them). But if you keep it well wrapped and in a cool-ish part of the kitchen (away from the stove and out of the sun), in the Bay Area it should keep for a few days.

                              1. re: abstractpoet

                                Costco didn't keep their JD cakes refrigerated when they sold them

                        2. re: abstractpoet

                          I was at the Andronicos at Shattuck and Cedar tonight, and in the interests only of reporting back to Chowhound, I got one of the Petite Black Magic cakes in the bakery (behind the bakery case). After coming to room temp, this little cake was great, and only $3.99. Good very chocolately frosting, and very moist cake. And that Andronicos is open until 11. Definitely better than the similar cakes that I've tried from the bakery case at Whole Foods (though farther from my house, alas).

                          1. re: JasmineG

                            Thanks for the tip. And very generous of you to sacrifice yourself for the benefit of the greater Chowhound community. =)

                      2. re: Ruth Lafler

                        Oh yeah, I forgot about Bittersweet Cafe. Great suggestion, though it does close at 7:00 most weeknights. Had a chocolate drink that I liked the one time I went here. I vaguely remember seeing some pastries and cakes. Anyone tried the chocolate cake here?

                        1. re: abstractpoet

                          I've had their mini cupcakes before and really loved when they had the cocoa flavor, real nice sense of coffee to it. But sometimes they sell a pear and ginger which is good too but not as good as the cocoa. It is a mini cupcake though, so probably you'd need two of them to make up a cake slice. Wow, abstractpoet, you really are a die-hard chocolate cake eater! ;-)

                          1. re: singleguychef

                            Ha. "Die-hard chocolate cake eater." They can engrave that on my tombstone. I suppose there are worse things to be known for. =)

                      3. I'm a sucker for the cakes from Draegers. They have a chocolate cake with buttercream frosting that is moist and yummy and I simply crave every once in a while.

                        Draeger's Supermarket
                        4100 Blackhawk Plaza Circle, Danville, CA

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: LarryW

                          I second the Draeger's chocolate cake. Best of all, you get the real chocolate flavor that is not too sweet, and is moist enough to go down so easily with a glass of milk, or your favorite bev. I think I'll pick up a slice to go later!