How to Make California Desserts 

I never really thought about learning how to make California desserts but recently I was asked for some recipes. I had to stop and think because I really never thought about California having specific dessert recipes. I have certainly found through this website that desserts are loved worldwide; first all chocolate desserts and then I would say the next category would be cheesecakes.

California DessertsCalifornia Desserts

It is hard to say which desserts are favored in different countries and it is really hard to say which ones are the most favored in the different states. It seems that the same dessert recipes or similar ones are appreciated in all the states.

This was a new question for me.  I asked myself, how am I going to tell someone how to make California desserts. The first thing that came to my mind was all the delicious oranges from that state. Although I consider Florida one of my homes, most of the time when I purchased oranges, the only ones available were from California.

Sister Donna said to me when she visited me in Florida, “Where are all the Florida oranges”? I had to admit that I had no idea but we could always get beautiful California oranges. You can see why this is the first thought which came to mind when trying to answer this question.

When I am thinking about how to make California desserts, the next ingredient I would use would have to be the many delicious berries. When I was very young, my sister Gloria visited Knott’s Berry Farm. I remember she brought back many jars of their delicious jams. I still have a mug from out there and I use it every day. I have heard so many people who I know that live out there talk about all the delicious raspberries and blackberries grown there. Although I have visited California, there were so many things to do that I never got to see the fields of berries. I also want to add to this, I have heard so much about this state’s dates and apricots; both of which I love and are used in many California desserts. Date bars have been a favorite since childhood and Sister Gloria got me hooked on apricots, especially her apricot cookie recipe.

One place I did visit when I was in California was the Ghirardelli candy factory. Now I know this might be “old hat” to you Californians, but I cannot leave this fine chocolate out when talking about California desserts. This wonderful ingredient is the favorite all over the world and I would be crucified for not mentioning it; and all the fabulous California desserts created with it. Another place I was able to visit was Napa Valley. What a wonderful section of wines to have available for adding to almost any recipe and some fabulous California desserts.

One event which has always stood out in my mind and we can also use it in our California desserts is the Beautiful Rose Bowl Parade. No other place or event can one see so many beautiful flowers. Fresh edible flowers are wonderful to garnish special dishes with especially desserts. Rose water is also used in many desserts for flavoring. My favorite thing is sculpturing roses and rose leaves from delicious chocolate; a great use for Ghirardelli chocolate.

WHAT IS ROSE WATER? This is a flavoring produced in the Balkans, the Middle East, in India and in a few other countries. It is made by distilling the oil of rose petals. This can be purchased in specialty stores and over the years has become a useful ingredient around the world for many desserts.

One thing for certain is that California is unique in its own right. Below are some of the recipes which I thought would be unique for this state. I wanted to come up with some truly unrivaled recipes that I felt could fulfill that states name and utilize the wonderful ingredients which it produces.

Apricot Custard Filled Tart

Apricot Custard Filled TartApricot Custard Filled Tart
Apricot Custard Filled TartApricot Custard Filled Tart

This California dessert recipe is made California walnuts and apricot.


  • 1 Cup flour
  • 3/4 Cup California walnuts (finely ground)
  • 6 Tablespoons softened butter
  • 1/4 Teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 Teaspoon salt
  • 2 Beaten egg yolks


  • 2 Cups milk
  • 1/4 Cup cornstarch
  • 1/3 Cup sugar
  • 1/4 Teaspoon salt
  • 6 Beaten egg yolks
  • 3/4 Teaspoon almond extract


  • About 1 1/2 Cans (17 ounces) apricot halves (Drained)

Preheat oven to 400F degrees.

FOR CRUST combine flour, butter, cinnamon, sugar and salt in large mixing bowl.

Add YOLKS and beat on low speed of mixer until well blended.

Pat mixture on bottom and 1 inch up sides of 10 inch spring form pan.

With fork prick bottom of crust; bake 15 minutes until golden and cool on rack.

FOR FILLING in medium saucepan combine milk, cornstarch, sugar and salt.

Stir until smooth; over medium heat cook and stir until boiling and thickened about 5 minutes.

Remove mixture from heat.

In small bowl beat YOLKS; briskly whisk in about a third of the hot mixture.

Return yolk mixture back to the pan stirring constantly; return pan to heat.

Cook and stir constantly until mixture thickens and coats the spoon (DO NOT BOIL).

Stir in the almond extract; cover custard surface with wax paper.

Refrigerate for 30 minutes until mixture is cool but not set.

Pour cooled custard into cooled crust.

Refrigerate until custard is completely set about 4 hours.

Remove sides of pan; transfer flan to large flat serving plate.

FOR TOPPING arrange apricot halves on top of custard.

Melt apple jelly in small saucepan; brush over apricots.


A light and refreshing sample of the California desserts.

  • 1 Large angel food cake
  • 1 Envelope unflavored gelatin
  • ¼ Cup cold water
  • ½ Cup boiling water
  • 1 Cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 Lemon (juiced)
  • ¼ Cup sugar
  • 2 Cups heavy, whipped

Break cake into bite size pieces and set aside.

Soften gelatin in cold water; then dissolve in boiling water.

Add orange juice, juice from lemon and sugar; mix well and chill until syrupy thickness.

Fold the whipped cream into gelatin mixture; mix well and pour over cake pieces.

Fold mixture gently until well blended and pour into lightly oiled mold (6 to 8 cup).

Refrigerate over night.

To serve remove from mold to a serving platter; garnish with candied orange peel.


This date nut cake dessert is one of the best California desserts utilizing not only dates but many other local fruits.

Cake Recipe

  • 4 Egg yolks
  • 4 Stiffly beaten egg whites
  • 1 Cup sugar
  • ½ Cup sifted flour
  • 1 Teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ Teaspoon salt
  • 1 Teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 Pound cut up dates
  • 1 Cup chopped nuts

Beat yolks with sugar until light and creamy.

Add and blend in flour, baking powder, salt, vanilla, dates and nuts.

Fold in beaten egg whites.

Spread batter on greased cookie sheet lined with wax paper. (Should be ½ inch thick)

Bake in preheated oven at 350F degrees for 30 minutes.

Turn cake out onto tray and peel off wax paper; cool and break into bite size pieces.

Combine Fruit Mixture

  • 3 Bananas sliced
  • 2 Cans mandarin orange sections
  • Add any fresh fruit you like

Extra Ingredients to Finish Dessert

  • 1 Large can crushed pineapple
  • Whipped cream or whipped topping
  • Maraschino cherries
  • Mint leaves

To Assemble this California Dessert

  • Make a layer of cake pieces on a large platter.

  • Add a layer of the fruit mixture drained.

  • Make into a mound by pressing this together and shaping.

  • Pour over the mound 1 can crushed pineapple; reshape mound as cake absorbs juices.

  • Set mound in refrigerator for 2 to 3 hours for flavors to blend.

  • Before serving spread mound completely whit whipped cream.

  • Garnish with maraschino cherries and mint leaves.


I love great cake recipes; I feel this ambrosia cake recipe make one of the great California desserts using not only orange but lemon and coconut. I hear coconuts are grown in California; if not it says California to me!


  • ¾ Cup shortening
  • 1 ½ Cups sugar
  • 3 Eggs
  • 3 Cups flour
  • 4 ½ Teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ Teaspoon salt
  • 1 Cup milk
  • 1 ½ Teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven at 350F degrees.

Grease and flour 2 8 inch layer cake pans.

Cream shortening and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add eggs one at a time beating well after each.

Mix and sift flour, baking powder and salt; add alternately with the milk to the creamed mixture.

Blend in vanilla; pour batter into prepared pans and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove cakes from pans and cool completely; fill with orange coconut filling and frost.

Orange Coconut Filling

  • 3 ½ Tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 Cup sugar
  • Grated rind from 1 orange
  • ½ Cup orange juice
  • 3 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 Slightly beaten egg
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • ¾ Cup grated coconut

Combine all ingredients except coconut; cook and stir over low heat until clear and thick.

Cool mixture and then add coconut; spread between cake layers and frost with jiffy frosting.

Jiffy frosting recipe

  • ¾ Cup sugar
  • 1/8 Teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 Egg white
  • 1/3 Cup boiling water
  • 1 Teaspoon vanilla

Heat small mixing bowl by rinsing with hot water.

Combine in bowl sugar, boiling water, cream of tartar and egg white while beating.

Beat until icing reaches a good spreading consistency about 5 minutes; blend in vanilla.

Spread on cake and sprinkle with grated coconut.


This California dessert makes you think of sunshine with every bite.

  • 8 Ounces Phyllo dough
  • ½ Cup melted unsalted butter
  • 1 Cup fresh raspberries or blackberries
  • 24 Mint leaves

Brush sheet of dough with melted butter; top with another sheet and brush again with melted butter.

Cut into 4 inch squares and place into regular size cupcake tins.

Add 2 more squares to each tin rotating a little to form petals.

Bake Phyllo cups at 375F degrees for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown.

Cool and remove Phyllo cups from tins; cool completely.

Spoon 1 rounded teaspoon lime curd into each cup and top with berries.

Garnish with dab whipped cream and mint leaf.

Lime Curd Recipe

  • 4 Egg yolks
  • 6 Eggs
  • 2 Cups sugar
  • 1 Cup fresh lime juice
  • 2 Tablespoons grated lime zest
  • 1 Cup unsalted butter

In a heavy saucepan combine egg yolks, eggs, sugar, lime juice and lime zest.

Whisk until well blended; cook over low stirring constantly until thickened.

(Curd will coat back of spoon; DO NOT BOIL).

Remove from heat and gradually whisk in butter.

Pour into glass bowl and let cool; refrigerate until ready to use.


  • 4 Cups fresh raspberries
  • 1 ¼ Cups superfine sugar (If you do not have, you can put in blender a few seconds)
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice strained
  • 4 Teaspoons unflavored gelatin
  • 1/3 Cup cold water
  • 1 ½ Cups cold whipping cream

Set 1 cup raspberries aside for garnish.

Puree remaining berries in blender and run through fine sieve to remove seeds (should have 1 cup)

Stir into pureed berries 1 cup sugar and lemon juice.

Sprinkle gelatin over 1/3 cup cold water in a small saucepan to soften.

Heat gelatin mixture over low heat until gelatin dissolves.

Remove gelatin from heat and stir puree into gelatin mixture.

Fill a large bowl with ice and add 1 cup cold water to ice.

Place saucepan in ice and stir constantly until gelatin mixture cools and thickens to consistency of unbeaten egg whites. (About 5 minutes)

Remove pan from ice; beat whipping cream until stiff.

Whisk a large spoonful of whipped cream into puree mixture to lighten.

Now fold puree mixture into remaining whipped cream; blend thoroughly.

Spoon into a Bundt pan, cover and refrigerate for several hours or until set.

Add ¼ cup sugar to remaining raspberries and toss to blend; refrigerate until serving.

Unmold Bavarian cream by quickly dipping bottom of mold into hot water.

Place chilled platter over the top and invert mold onto platter.

Garnish with sprigs of mint and fresh raspberries.


This nostalgic California dessert takes you bake to Ghirardelli square.

  • 8 Ounces sweet chocolate
  • 1 (8 ounces) milk chocolate bar
  • 1 Teaspoon water
  • 1 Tablespoon flour
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 2/3 Cup softened butter
  • 4 Eggs separated
  • Powdered sugar
  • 4 Portions seedless grapes halved
  • 1 ½ Teaspoons rum or more if you like rum
  • 1 ½ Teaspoons brown sugar
  • ½ Cup sour cream

Melt chocolate and water in double boiler over hot water (Not boiling water)

Remove chocolate from heat and stir in flour, sugar and butter.

Beat egg yolks vigorously and stir into chocolate mixture.

Beat egg whites until stiff and fold into the batter.

Pour into a round greased and lined 8 inch cake pan; bake at 425F degrees for 15 minutes ONLY and cool.

Mix rum and brown sugar; marinate grapes in rum mixture for several hours, stirring occasionally.

Before serving mix grapes with sour cream.

To serve chocolate gateau recipe dust with a little sifted powdered sugar and top with grape mixture.

Very rich and delicious!


Tart shell

  • ½ Cup cut into pieces
  • 1/3 Cup ground almonds
  • ¾ Cup flour
  • 2 Tablespoons powdered sugar

Combine all ingredients and press into greased and floured tart pan.

Bake at 425F degrees for 8 to 10 minutes; cool and loosen slightly.

Make filling, glaze and garnish.

Marzipan filling

  • ½ Cup almond paste
  • ¼ Cup powdered sugar
  • 1 Egg yolk
  • 2 Tablespoons softened butter

Beat all ingredients in a small bowl; spread over the cooled baked crust.

Apricot Glaze

  • 1 Cup dried chopped apricots
  • 1 Cup water
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Grand Marnier

Combine chopped apricots, water, brown sugar and Grand Marnier in medium size pan.

Heat over medium for 10 to 15 minutes; drain.

Cool mixture; spread over tart.


  • 1 Cup dried apricots
  • 1 Cup water
  • 1 1/2 Cup sliced almonds
  • 1 Cup heavy whipped cream
  • 1 Teaspoon sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon Grand Marnier

Simmer apricots in water for 15 minutes; drain and cool.

Start at center and make circles with apricots covering apricot glaze on tart.

Place almonds between apricots.

Whip cream adding sugar; fold in Grand Marnier.

Put whipped cream in pastry bag; decorate tart with whipped cream and fruit.

Refrigerate and cut into wedges to serve.