Whether you’re looking for traditional Ukrainian desserts, daring new flavour combinations or recipes from the rest of Europe, you can find it all in Odessa. Join us for a tour of eight of the best places to sample sweet treats during your stay in this diverse city, known for its cosmopolitan atmosphere and characteristic sense of humour.
Patisserie, Dessert, $$$
For French-style desserts almost too beautiful to eat, stop in at Yablonska, a glamorous bakery tucked between the historic Privoz market and the city centre. A finalist in the 2019 Salt Award for Best Confectionery in Ukraine, Yablonska offers sculpture-like miniature cakes shimmering with edible glitter and brightly colored glazes. Owner and head chef Ekaterina Yablonskaya introduces Odessans to French culinary traditions while creating her own distinctive flavour combinations, which she demonstrated in 2019 as a contestant on Ukraine’s MasterChef Professionals. Some customer favourites include strawberry-prosecco mousse cake and mandarin mousse cake with bergamot white chocolate, amaretto and mandarin orange zest. But the most popular? That would be the mango passionfruit mousse cake. Be sure to add stunningly beautiful desserts from Yablonska to your Odessa itinerary.
No trip to Ukraine is complete without sampling Ukraine’s traditional cakes like the creamy, buttery layers of napoleon or medovik, with its layers of dark, honey-flavoured sponge and sweet cream icing. Both traditional and modern flavours await you at Zheto, an adorable basement café decorated floor to ceiling in antiques and treasures from the past. The homey, intimate atmosphere is perfect for chatting with friends, a quick stop on your tour of historic downtown or a place to gather before a concert at the nearby opera house. Whether it’s chocolate cake with sour cherries, classic napoleon or a superb slice of carrot cake, at Zheto everyone’s sure to find a new favourite. Zheto is open until 11pm, but make sure to reserve a table, as seating is limited.
From the founders of White Whale and Frebule, Make My Cake has played an important role in Odessa’s foodie and alternative coffee cultures. Since 2013, Make My Cake’s team has worked to create an environment where guests feel at home, and this dedication to hospitality alongside quality desserts has cemented Make My Cake as a local favourite and garnered it a finalist spot in the 2019 Salt Awards. With locations in the heart of downtown and near Trasa Zdorovya, a running and bike path along the coastline, Make My Cake provides beautiful, relaxed spaces to sit and savour the city. Customer favourites include the more than 25 flavours of macaron, such as summer lime, quince apple gorgonzola and salted caramel. “Salted caramel macarons are our most popular. We use salted caramel in several of our other recipes. It was actually one of our original flavours when we started Make My Cake, and we even sell it by the jar!” says Anya, team member at Make My Cake. Other popular sweets include cronuts with white chocolate and bergamot and its signature almond carrot cake.
Offering sweet souvenirs, gifts and an assortment of chocolates to choose from, Lviv Handmade Chocolate is an important stop for any chocolate lover. Started in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, this franchise has spread across the country, bringing with it a bit of Lviv’s local flavour. Don’t leave Lviv Handmade Chocolate without trying a cup of the best hot chocolate in Odessa. Be warned though, that hot chocolate here is no mere mix of milk and cocoa; instead, it’s thick, rich, melted chocolate in a cup and meant to be savoured. Enjoy yours at a table out on Derybasivska, Odessa’s iconic pedestrian street, or in one of the window nooks upstairs to people-watch.
On the famous Prymorskyi Boulevard, which links Odessan landmarks like the Potemkin Stairs, Duke statue and Pushkin Monument, sits a quiet café famous for its delightful cakes and homemade ice cream. A great stop for an afternoon coffee and a slice of cake, Vanil serves both traditional Eastern European favourites like esterházy (Hungarian layer cake) and a salted-caramel version of medovik, as well as more contemporary options like salted-caramel banana cake and vegan chia pudding with mango. In summer, grab a table outside to enjoy your cake or order a takeaway sorbet to enjoy in nearby Istanbul Park.
Offering all-day breakfast, this American-inspired café serves up new twists on US classics, including bagel sandwiches, American pancakes and signature desserts like its namesake, whoopie pies: icing sandwiched between two small chocolate cakes. Whoopie is also famous for cinnamon rolls and cheesecake. According to manager Anya, “the whole city talks about our cheesecake”. Gaya, Whoopie’s founder, says, “for many, Whoopie is a bit of morning magic. Regulars know each other and sometimes they sit around a big table to play games and eat together”. Join the regulars for brunch or stop for a dessert to regroup after sightseeing in nearby Park Shevchenko or the centre. Make sure to drop by and say hello to Mr Whoopie the parrot!
Breadway, an American-style bakery near Park Shevchenko, serves croissants and sweet breads that will bring a fresh start to your morning adventures. Plush pink chairs and light pastel tones reminiscent of a 1950s-era American soda shop create ideal brunch vibes. Since its opening in February 2018, Breadway has made a name for itself both locally and nationally, even being named a finalist in the 2019 Salt Awards. Popular desserts include croissants filled with strawberry, pistachio or caramel cream, as well as a unique take on Ukrainian classic Kievskiy tort (a cake layered with buttercream, hazelnuts, and light meringue). At Christmas and Easter, Breadway continues Ukrainian traditions by baking kalach (a buttery, plaited bread wreath with raisins and poppy-seed sprinkle), and paskha (a tall cakey bread filled with raisins and covered in a sugary glaze).
Head away from the crowded centre into the quieter residential district of Tairova for a window into daily life in Odessa and to enjoy the tastiest eclairs in the city. “[Eclairs] are desserts where you can really sense the difference in textures and taste combinations. My personal favourites are chocolate hazelnut and chocolate Irish cream”, says Yaroslava, founder and baker at Amelie. Since 2017 Yaroslava and her sister, Mariana, have provided an adorable setting to enjoy one-of-a-kind eclairs with flavours like mango passionfruit, lemon or coffee, as well as cupcakes and delightful cheesecakes. Amelie’s stylish interior makes a great place to meet a friend and the tiny garden out front is perfect for summer afternoons. Or instead, take an eclair with you to nearby Park Horkoho and feel like a local.