After three years of living in the Twin Cities, I finally accomplished what I thought was unachievable: being invited into someone's home, albeit following months of aggressive yet polite courting (thank you for your hospitality).

To increase the likelihood that I am invited back, I do two things. First, I refrain from sharing any bold opinions — in true Minnesotan fashion, I defer to saying "interesting" when I am lost for words. Secondly, I bring a meaningful gift. So, dessert.

The eight on this list aren't necessarily my favorite desserts in the city for several reasons. Some desserts are best consumed within the restaurant and don't transfer well; others won't fit the occasion. But I will not hesitate to turn to the tarts, doughnuts and even pizzas from the restaurants and patisseries on this list. Consider being a good guest and do the same.

Pineapple Coconut Meringue Cake, Black Walnut Bakery

Last weekend, I was asked to bring a cake to a friend's party, with 10 in attendance. The first thing that came to mind were all the requests I successfully fulfilled on prior occasions. The second was to order one of Sarah Botcher's unpretentious yet supremely technical cakes. Her meringue cake is designed to be shared because it will be universally loved, including by those suspicious of tropical fruit in their dessert. Beneath the burnished edges and the billowy furls of meringue is an airy, moist chiffon sponge, layered with a coconut cream redolent of pineapple. At 6 inches (9-inch is also available), the cake is a relative steal at $40 because it's as tall as a drum and could easily feed my friend's discerning guests — all of whom went for seconds.

3157 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls.,

Chocolate 'Square' Cake, Four Seasons Hotel

You could do a bait-and-switch by placing a pound cake within this beauty of a cake box — sleek black, lacquered with a magnetic enclosure, triumphantly stamped with the Four Seasons Hotel logo. Few would bat an eye. But why would you? Pastry wiz Eddy Dhenin brings the same care and attention he lavishes on Mara's excellent desserts to the ones he sells through Socca Café. My favorite among the handsome array of cakes on offer is the Square (from $75) — milk chocolate tonka mousse with a shiny mirror glaze and a crisp, appealingly dense hazelnut financier base. It's for chocolate lovers as much as it is for those who seek more complexity out of your everyday chocolate mousse.

245 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls.,

Chouquettes, Pâtisserie 46

Have we forgotten that John Kraus is one of the nation's most accomplished and decorated pastry chefs? That the glossy pâtisseries and confections on display at his south Minneapolis shop, Pâtisserie 46 (and sibling Rose Street Pâtisserie in St. Paul), could upstage the dessert cart at the most decorated restaurants nationwide? May we never forget. And so, to jog my memory, I greedily ordered seven pastries that caught my eye, then tried them all at once. Happily, there were no clear winners — merely proof that the lemon tart, liberally adorned with lemon and lime zest, is properly radiant (soft-curd, a thin but sturdy crust); that the seasonal Elle Petit melds delicate vanilla sponge, Bavarian cream, a cloudy Chantilly and tart green apples wonderfully; and that the Kraus signature chocolat petit is as glorious as ever. Your best bet is to cobble a flight of desserts ($8-$9 each) and ferry them to your discerning host. But if you must pick one, the chouquettes ($30) could rule them all — bite-sized puffs filled with pâte à choux and dusted with pearl sugar. They're populist, readily transportable and very shareable.

4552 Grand Av. S., Mpls.,

Toasted Vanilla Pie, Hot Hands Pie & Biscuit

There are many compelling options at Hot Hands, Tara Coleman's ode to the retro pie parlor. The biscuits, for one, are uncontested (buttery, flaky, moist), and so are the pot pies. The sweet pies deserve equal mention, though. I've gifted their signature vanilla pie on many occasions, and it was consistently met with rousing praise. Perhaps it's the easygoing simplicity of it, the satisfyingly crumbly Nilla wafer crust or the way the malty custard is so rich with vanilla that it makes you a little dizzy. It's old-school wizardry — and one that can be bought for a reasonable $36 and, refreshingly, doesn't come in the nondescript packaging some bakeries defect to. The pie rests on kitschy tiled parchment, and the bag is stamped with the Hot Hands logo. Bonus: The shop delivers.

272 S. Snelling Av., St. Paul,

Passion Fruit-Raspberry Tart, Marc Heu Pâtisserie Paris

Yes, Marc Heu's selection has dwindled a little (his discontinued apple tart was sculpted art); yes, the people there behave like the gatekeepers at a Hermes boutique; and, yes, that vaunted passion fruit tart the size of a coaster is now $10. No matter. Everything on his menu delivers, including his croissant doughnuts, which are even better than the original version (the Cronut by a New York pastry chef) on which they are modeled. It's endearing to witness a team under the spell of its visionary leader, who they refer to as "chef" in all whispers; and that tart is maddeningly peerless. The better move, frankly, is to order a whole 7-inch tart, for $55, to appreciate it fully: the passion fruit curd, as sunny as the moon on a dark night, with the raspberries and edible flowers swept to its side, like a crescent. And don't miss the Frasier and Chocolate Saint Honoré, either.

156 N. Dale St., St. Paul,

Banana Cream Pie, Revival

This one made the list from my previous story on favorite desserts because this pie can be ordered whole, to-go, from the restaurant (special order; slices from $6). Is it kosher to mention that Revival's former pastry chef, Tess Bouska, developed a dessert that would become one of the highlights at the restaurant today? While it's less frilly than others you'll find, there's something gratifying about the whipped cream, a cloudlike, lightly sweetened chantilly fortified with mascarpone that towers over a slender base of ripe bananas and rich vanilla cream.

525 Selby Av., St. Paul; 8028 Minnetonka Blvd., St. Louis Park; 4537 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls.;

Crème Brûlée Doughnuts, Snack Bar

If I'm not at Snack Bar for the pizzas — the thick, appealingly chewy cornicione never gets old — it'll be for the desserts, which provide ample reasons why Snack Bar deserves to be on equal footing with its sister restaurant, Bar La Grassa, from Isaac Becker and Nancy St. Pierre. It can be strange to order doughnuts for takeout (simply order ahead), but the restaurant knows the drill. They emerge from the kitchen slightly warm, in a plastic takeout container with a cutout so the doughnuts can vent properly and give you plenty of time to transport and share them. Or you could refrigerate the doughnuts; the cream thickens beautifully. Either way, you'll share what surely are the finest doughnuts in the Twin Cities: fluffy, sweet, creamy and deliriously indulgent.

800 Washington Av. N.,

Peras Pizza, Boludo

Much has been written about Boludo's empanadas and pizzas. I can't think of a better capstone to the more spirited evenings I've enjoyed lately. But there's life beyond Facundo DeFraia's Puerro and Margarita. Think of the Peras as a dessert pizza, one that rules the others I've had prior: the pear atop it is baked until semi-translucent and caramelized; the Gorgonzola provides a funky-enough counterpoint, and the liberal amounts of dill elevate this to something that you could very well serve to the most discerning of crowds. Plus, who would turn down pizza?

8 W. 38th St., Mpls.; 530 S. 4th St., Mpls.; 1519 Como Av. SE., Mpls.; 2935 Girard Av. S., Mpls.;

Jon Cheng is the Star Tribune's restaurant critic. Reach him at or follow him at @intrepid_glutton.