Old-fashioned chocolate cake
$8; The Riggsby, 1731 New Hampshire Ave. NW; 202-787-1500, theriggsby.com
“We’re focused on nostalgic home cooking, so it’s things you would eat growing up but with a twist on it,” pastry chef Jillian Fitch says of The Riggsby’s cuisine. A prime example is the personal chocolate cake — just like Mom used to make for your birthday. It’s made with rich devil’s food cake and creamy chocolate icing enhanced with mascarpone cheese. A drizzle of caramel sauce, a scoop of vanilla gelato and candied almonds fill out the Instagram-worthy presentation.
$5.95; Stella Barra, 11825 Grand Park Ave., North Bethesda, Md.; 301-770-8609, stellabarra.com
Remember those Brach’s butterscotch hard candies twisted up in see-through yellow plastic? So does chef-proprietor Jeff Mahin, who re-creates the nostalgic flavor in custard form. The dessert is topped off with a layer of light caramel sprinkled with Maldon sea salt to cut the sweetness, and served in an old-school Weck jar. “I like desserts you can hold in your hand and eat,” Mahin says. “Though people start grabbing it away from each other because it’s so good.”
$9; Jackson 20, 480 King St., Alexandria; 703-842-2790, jackson20.com
Five years ago, executive chef Brian McPherson’s girlfriend made him a batch of banana pudding. He liked it so much that he put it on the menu the next day. He serves a faithful rendition of the Southern sweet featuring house-made Nilla wafers, banana pastry cream and whipped cream. “I’m not allowed to take it off the menu,” McPherson says. “People come in just for banana pudding. It’s our No. 1 seller by far.”
Peanut butter baked Alaska
$13; 2941, 2941 Fairview Park Drive, Falls Church; 703-270-1500, 2941.com
You’ve never had baked Alaska quite like this. That’s because it’s not set on fire when it’s served. Instead, the finishing layer of cinnamon-y meringue is lightly torched before it comes to the table. The flame-kissed peaks hide layers of chocolate biscuit cake, crunchy chocolate feuilletine and peanut butter ice cream. “It’s like a giant ice cream sandwich,” says Dysart, who completes the dessert with caramel ganache, pretzel streusel, orange segments and banana slices.
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