Ding Dongs at Essential Chocolate Desserts ($5)
More monolith than mini-cake, this gleaming cube of chocolate intensity is everything a Ding Dong was meant to be. It starts with a gooey and luscious coating of gleaming chocolate glaze, and then gives way to a springy, moist chocolate cake layered with vanilla frosting. The gourmet Ding Dong is also available in espresso or red velvet, but really, the original needs no improving.
Tarts at Fruute ($2.50 to $3)
Walking into this austere new West Hollywood bakery, you might mistake it for some kind of strange high concept museum, with glass cases lined with tidy rows of colorful, fastidiously decorated tiny squares. But these are tarts not art, and though each doll-sized treat is a mini masterpiece for the eye, they do right by the taste buds too. With almost twenty varieties, it's hard to choose, and at three bucks a pop, you probably won't try them all in one sitting. So start with the sea salt caramel, Fruute's most popular tart, which combines macadamia nuts with caramel and dried berries to an almost pecan pie-like effect. The lime meringue, with its nutty pistachio crust, and bright citrus flavor is also a well-balanced choice. But my favorite is the seasonal apple crumble, which manages to pack all of the flavors of a full-size apple dessert—succulent ripe fruit, nobbly streusel, and aromatic spices—into a dainty one bite wonder.
One Bite Treats at Platine ($1.50 to $3)
It only seems appropriate that this diminutive bakery offers a rotating menu of similarly diminutive one bite treats. Though the fillings vary, you can bet there will be at least one flavor of cakelette (like the chocolate with vanilla buttercream pictured here) and one type of cheesecake bite (the seasonal pumpkin cheesecake, left, is fragrant and creamy, with a smooth, buttery texture). And you can't miss with the Disco Ho Ho with sticky chocolate frosting and beautifully jelly-rolled layers of moist cake and light buttercream. It's as fun to eat as it is to order.
Gingersnap Icebox Cake at Lark ($3.75)
A traditional icebox cake can be a pretty hulking creature—a towering assemblage of wafer cookies and cool whipped cream. So it makes sense that the snack cake version would hit the upper percentile for height and girth on our roundup's size charts. Luckily, it also hits the upper percentile for serious deliciousness. The tiers of gingersnap that make up this seven-layer beauty have more than a hint of warm, toasty spice, with a cake-like crumb and a sweet earthiness, which is complemented perfectly by the generous blanket of crisp, somehow refreshing whipped cream.
Red Velvet Cakewich from Cake Monkey ($3.50)
The melty bittersweet glaze that envelops Cake Monkey's crimson red velvet Ding Dong-style treat is somewhere between ganache and chocolate bar. It's smooth and pliant enough to perfectly coat the contours of its cakey interior, but it's substantial and tasty enough that you're tempted to break off a piece to savor it on its own. But don't give in to too much temptation, lest you disturb the balance of this perfectly proportioned treat, which wins points for its moist red velvet base (with none of the cloying blandness that can bring red velvet down) made berry-forward with a layer of lip-smacking raspberry vanilla frosting.
At stores throughout L.A.; 877-640-2253; cakemonkey.com
Cakes at Bottega Louie ($2.50)
This rainbow of gorgeous delicate cakes, each topped with a teeny tiny macaron, borders on cupcake. But there's something about their compact tidiness, a dusting of crystallized sugar, and a conservative spread of buttercream that puts them in a different class. Our favorite flavors are the rich chocolate caramel, the light and airy vanilla, and the lemon, which is bright with intense citrus flavor, and impressively not too sweet.
Petits Fours at Valerie Confections ($16 for four)
Think of the petit four as the original snack cake. And the delicate four-layer versions from Valerie Confections do the old classic proud, each swathed in a thick blanket of bittersweet or white chocolate glaze. Of the wide assortment of flavors on hand, we're particularly smitten with the mint chocolate cake with white chocolate mint ganache (upper right) and the orange and marzipan (lower right). But the queen of these petits fours is without a doubt the rose petal (upper left). The coating of white chocolate oozes into layers of vanilla bean cake and subtly floral rose petal ganache. Though it's not at all overly perfumey, there's a distinct and delightful aromatic, earthy finish.
Caramel S'muffins from Gotta Have S'more ($2.95)
I'm generally skeptical of any pre-fab s'more concoction—I'm pretty particular about the level of marshmallow char and the ratio of chocolate to graham cracker. But I'll admit to being won over by these handsome little guys. The base is naturally graham cracker, with a good chewy bite and a nice hint of salt; the muffin top is chunks of dark chocolate with a velvety pre-toasted marshmallow as a cap; and tucked inside there's some thick, gooey caramel for good measure. Though the snack-sized treat is incredibly rich and awfully sweet, there's a great balance to the ingredients. I couldn't have put it together better myself.
At stores throughout L.A.; 888-957-6673; gottahavesmore.com