"Dessert Awesomeness" is the apt legend scrawled across the top of the menu of this North Mississippi cart, which is painted in three fat horizontal bands of brown, white and pale pink like a gigantic brick of Neapolitan ice cream.
But rest assured: The housemade, from-scratch desserts exiting the window of pastry chef Kir Jensen's sweets shack far surpass anything being pushed by the neighborhood ice cream truck. No endless loop of "The Entertainer" being pumped out of a Dodge panel van here—only a solid lineup of thoughtfully concocted, top-notch creations served on charming vintage china plates and saucers, giving a noticeable boost in classiness to cart society.
Several of Jensen's now signature delights have survived the closure of her original, downtown cart last year, a move across the river and a monthlong hiatus this winter when both the cart's pipes and Jensen's butter froze solid: The Triple Threat Cookie ($2.75), a layer of dark chocolate ganache sandwiched between two espresso- and pecan-laced chocolate-chunk cookies, will kick you in the ass. Another favorite, the fabulously moist Amy Winehouse cupcake ($3), is a riff on the 1960s classic brandy-infused Harvey Wallbanger cake. This version snubs the excessive mountains of buttercream suffered by so many bakery cupcakes in favor of a just-right coating of ganache. Milkshakes ($5), including the Banana What What (Tahitian vanilla bean ice cream, bananas and meadowfoam honey), are too thin and milky, though. Fruit smoothies are also available for a more nutritionally virtuous pick-me-up.
The bruléed passion fruit panna cotta ($5) had me mercilessly dueling spoons with my 7-year-old tasting partner/nephew. A dessert I usually find cloying, this tropical fruit treat's flavor maintained a graceful low profile against a remarkably smooth and velvety cream.
"Most of what I make is an extension of my childhood, but I like to put an interesting spin on basic items and expand people's chocolate and vanilla horizons," says Jensen. While there are those who initially shy away from a warm brownie sprinkled with fleur de sel and grassy olive oil or ginger ale lifted with a splash of Japanese plum drinking vinegar, Jensen has found that most people become converts to "challenging" flavors quickly. Traditionalists are welcome, too: The warm, tart cherry pie ($5, made off-site by Lauretta Jean's) is a slice actually worthy of Warrant's "taste so good make a grown man cry" line. If you can't find something to love at this sugar party in your mouth, well, then, God help you.
- Order This: Amy Winehouse cupcake ($3).
- Best Deal: Triple Threat ice cream sandwich ($5).
- I’ll Pass: Milkshakes could use more muscle ($5).
The Sugar Cube, 4237 N Mississippi Ave., 890-2825, thesugarcubepdx.com. Noon-7 pm Wednesday-Saturday, noon-5 pm Sunday. $. See website for custom orders.