In Little Rock’s Highly Competitive Dessert Market, These 9 Ladies Reign Supreme

Ever had Local Lime’s tres leches cake or the cinnamon roll bread pudding at Natchez? What about the strawberry shortcake at E’s Bistro or the Boston cream pie at The Pie Hole? Maybe you’ve tried a salted caramel popsicle from Le Pops? Somewhere along the way, you’ve attended a wedding that featured one of Sweet Love’s fancy cakes, right? Behind all of these creations are the blood, sweat and tears of nine fantastically talented women. Read more about them and their decadent, inspired desserts.

portrait photography JASON MASTERS  •  food photography DEAN WHEELER

1. Lauren Harrison | The Pie Hole

The Pie Hole, one of Little Rock’s newest food trucks, is owned and operated by Lauren Harrison. Specializing in both sweet and savory pies, Harrison makes everything from scratch, using locally-sourced ingredients whenever possible. A full spectrum of pies, including coconut cream, lemon icebox, oatmeal cream and Boston cream, as well a variety of quiches, are part of the menu. “I actually use several of my grandmother’s recipes. I have them framed all around my kitchen …,” says Harrison. She continues, “There are so many things I love about owning The Pie Hole. Typically with pastry chef jobs, you make the food, it goes out the door and you never see the customer. With the truck, I’m able to make pies and see the look on people’s faces when they take their first bite. It is so rewarding to know that the love I put into each pie is returned,” says Harrison.

Where/When: Check The Pie Hole’s Facebook page for location and times.

2. Kelli Marks | Sweet Love

Sweet Love is a west Little Rock bakery specializing in custom cakes and cookies. At the head of it all is owner and head baker Kelli Marks. “There’s something about cake. It’s almost the chicken and the egg, ‘Is it a party because there’s cake or do you get cake because it’s a party?’ People invite me (my cakes) into some of their most special events — birthdays, baby showers, weddings. That’s a special feeling to a be part of these momentous occasions,” says Marks. Outside of beautiful cakes and cookies, folks can expect a variety of cupcakes, including the popular White Wedding and Peanut Butter Yum. Marks also makes brownies, tarts, kolaches and individual salted caramels, just to name a few. This writer’s personal favorite is the Sweet and Sassy Sweet Potato Pie (two-year winner of the “Say it Ain’t Says” Sweet Potato Pie Contest).

Where: 8210 Cantrell Road
When: 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday

3 & 4. April and Kristi Williams | Brown Sugar Bakeshop

Brown Sugar Bakeshop, the dessert parlor located in the heart of downtown, is co-owned by sisters April and Kristi Williams. Together, they combine old-fashioned sweets with fresh, gourmet ingredients, all with a no-frills, unpretentious approach to baking. Regulars love the red velvet cupcakes, blondies (our personal fave), caramel pecan cheesecake and chocolate chip cookies. The ladies also make brownies, pies, cakes, muffins and various pies. Also, keep an eye on their social media for specials. “What we love most about what we do is that it is downright fun. We like coming here. Yes, it gets tough and tiring sometimes, but we love each other, connecting with the people, good music and great sweets,” says Kristi Williams.

Where: 419 E. Third St.
When: 10:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; 10:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday

5. Jacquelyn Pittman | The Pie Shop at Terry’s Finer Foods

The Pie Shop is the dessert counter located right inside Terry’s Finer Foods in the Heights. Managed by Jacquelyn Pittman, it offers daily pies (both whole and by the slice), as well as custom orders Monday-Saturday. Some of the more popular items include oatmeal cream whoopies, German chocolate pie and Key lime pie. Pittman couldn’t be happier with her unique partnership with Terry’s. “The most important aspect of our business model and plan is community involvement. Many areas of Little Rock have seen tremendous growth in the past 10 years. We felt that it was time some of the local food talent set their sights on bringing the west Little Rock-sized crowds into an area that truly needs it. The Heights and Terry’s Finer Foods, in particular, is truly a local gem that needs to be appreciated by a larger demographic of people,” says Pittman.

Where: 5018 Kavanaugh Blvd.
When: 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday; 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday

6. Elizabeth McMullen | E’s Bistro

Elizabeth McMullen, chef and owner of E’s Bistro in North Little Rock, has a love for food that started at a young age and continues to be the driving force behind each of the desserts at E’s Bistro. Her signature lemon pecan pie, along with the coconut cream pie, Mandarin orange cake, fresh peach cake, strawberry shortcake and bread pudding with caramel sauce, are all popular desserts at the restaurant. Part of McMullen’s inspiration comes from a familiar name. “I was a big fan of Julia Child, and I used to watch her cooking programs and always try out her recipes. I had the opportunity to meet Julia when I was in New York several years ago. What a great lady!” says McMullen. Of all her unique culinary creations, we’d have to say the strawberry shortcake is our favorite and definitely worth the short drive over the river.

Where: 3812 JFK Blvd., North Little Rock
When: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday (lunch service); 5-9 p.m. Thursday-Saturday (dinner service)

7. Zara Abbasi | Natchez Restaurant

Executive pastry chef Zara Abbasi of Natchez Restaurant has made quite a name for herself in a relatively short period of time. This is due in large part to some of her delicious desserts, like the peanut butter pie, cinnamon roll bread pudding, Nutella cream pie and Cowboy cookies. Chef Abbasi’s creativity and use of seasonal products often lead to a varying dessert menu, and her passion for baking shines through in each creation. “The entire reason I was ever drawn to food is because I wanted to bring people together. I don’t like overly scrutinizing ingredients or food snobbery because I just like to make my friends, family and, now customers, happy. It’s not just about food to me. It really is about happiness,” says Abbasi.

Where: 323 Center St.
When: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday-Friday (lunch service); 6-9 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday (dinner service)

8. Autumn Hall | Yellow Rocket Concepts

When you’re Autumn Hall, the director of pastry for Local Lime, Big Orange and ZAZA’s, creating and overseeing desserts for various restaurants can, at times, pose some challenges. “It’s certainly never boring. As much as it can be like herding cats at times, I absolutely love my job, and I love cats. At the rate we’re growing, you have to accept challenges and chaos. But it’s the right kind of chaos. Baking takes time, patience and science, things which don’t always mesh well with the fast-paced restaurant world,” says Hall. Judging by the reception of her desserts, things are meshing quite well. Some of Hall’s more popular items include the lemon ice box pie at Big Orange, as well as her key lime tart and 3-rum tres leches cake at Local Lime, and of course, her variety of shake specials. “I get to use local, organic and the best ingredients whenever possible. I can’t imagine working for anyone else or doing anything else now. I’ll wrangle cats in retirement or teach them to bake, I guess,” says Hall.

Where/When: Various locations and hours of operation; visit each individual Facebook page for regular updates.

9. Laurie Harrison | Le Pops Gourmet Iced Lollies

Laurie Harrison is the owner and general manager of Le Pops, the handmade popsicle and shaved ice shop located in the Heights. Harrison works closely with family members and makes everything from scratch, using only the freshest and highest quality ingredients with no additives. “My son David, for example, came up with the waffle mix for the waffle-wrapped pops,” says Harrison. Big sellers include the salted caramel, chocolate marvel, French vanilla and strawberry popsicles. “We have about 40 flavors that rotate, and we are always experimenting with new ones. We offer five cream flavors and five ice flavors each day, and we usually have Pure Sunshine available because it has no added sugar,” she says. Le Pops offers flavors for more adventurous palates as well, such as cucumber jalapeño, blueberry cardamom and our personal favorite, the pineapple cilantro.

Where: 5501 Kavanaugh Blvd. When: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Sunday

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