Photos by Garrick Ramirez
If you’re like us, your craving for creature comforts kick in the moment the air turns crisp and the leaves change colors. A wood-burning fire, a cozy wool blanket, and a creamy slice of pumpkin pie are our go-to’s in the fall season. Thankfully, apple, cinnamon, and pumpkin reign supreme at Santa Cruz’s many bakeries throughout autumn. From luscious pumpkin pies to killer apple dumplings, we’ve rounded up the best places to enjoy fall-tastic flavors.
Gayle’s Bakery + Rosticceria
The mile-long case of pastries and cakes at Gayle’s is legendary, and just like autumn leaves, the treats inside reflect the changing seasons. From now through November, Gayle’s does autumn right with seasonal treats like caramel apple bread pudding, mocha snap cookies, and a take-me-now-Lord butterscotch pot de creme. This fall, look for Gayle’s new pear frangipane galette, a pear-and-almond-spiked filling wrapped in a crisp, buttery crust. There’s also a new brown butter pecan cookie that’s quickly become the staff favorite. Good luck deciding, but whichever treat you choose, be sure to pair it with a glass of their delicious homemade apple cider.
If fall was a place, Gizdich Ranch would be it. Homemade pies, spiced apple cider, and pick-your-own apples lure visitors to their picturesque, countryside orchards each fall. Follow the sweet aromas to the bake shop where plump, overstuffed pies are made from scratch and baked fresh each day. You’ll see most visitors digging into slices of apple or pumpkin, but don’t miss their amazing, warm apple dumplings topped with a melting scoop of vanilla ice cream. Pro-tip for procrastinators: you can order your Thanksgiving pie starting November 1st!
Pacific Cookie Company
We’re hooked on the fresh-baked Chocolate Chip and Snickerdoodle cookies at this locally-owned downtown cookie emporium but, when the temperature dips, we switch to the Ginger Spice cookie for the warm zing of ginger, clove, and cinnamon. Pacific Cookie Company also does a monthly Throwback Thursday cookie that features a favorite selection from yesteryear. Throughout October, cookie lovers can relive the nutty-citrus taste of the Orange Walnut Spice cookie every Thursday. And for a little Halloween drama, try the Dr. Midnight, a devilishly good triple-chocolate delight.
Two words: Pumpkin Cheesecake. The Buttery has become Santa Cruz royalty thanks to Cake Boss-worthy cakes and a game-changing pecan sandie but, come fall, all we can think about is their heavenly, seasonal cheesecake. Made in a California style, its rich, pumpkin-laden body rests over a toothsome graham cracker crust with a thin layer of sweet and sour cream. Snag a personal 4” size for yourself or share the love with a 7” family serving. Through mid-November, you’ll also find other pumpkin goodies lining their shelves including pumpkin muffins, pumpkin creme brûlée, and of course, pumpkin pie.
Mission Hill Creamery
We love the pure, vibrant flavors of downtown’s Mission Hill Creamery. The local ice cream shop sources wholesome local, ingredients which means no weird unpronounceable ingredients. Straus organic dairy products lend a rich, creamy base to flavors like Salted Caramel and Ricotta Cherry Cheesecake. Each fall, we look forward to their full-bodied Country Pumpkin. Wrapped in a toasty waffle cone, it’s everything we love about the season in one hand!
Whale City Bakery
Surrounded the beautiful pumpkin-filled farms of the north coast, Whale City Bakery is an idyllic destination for fall goodies. Using pumpkins fresh from nearby Frambrini Farms, their bakery whips up pumpkin cookies, pumpkin muffins, and a spiced pumpkin-apple streusel. Plus, fall also means fresh-baked tins of their decadent Walnut Chocolate Pie, made in the fashion of a traditional pecan pie and topped with a silky, chocolate ganache. But the fall treat that is an absolute must is their secret Pumpkin Spice Latte. Available through Christmas, the sweet off-menu sipper is made using fresh Alta Organic espresso beans, topped with whipped cream, and dusted with nutmeg. It’s a creamy, warm mug of perfection on those crisp, autumn days along the coast.
Got room for more? Check out our Coffee & Sweets page for more places to indulge your sweet tooth. Plus, keep an eye on our Events page for fun happenings throughout the season.