Dream Cream

Café Röckenwagner's new pastry chef makes serious sweets

A visit to any of the city's Röckenwagner outlets has always included the essential purchase of at least one salt-speckled Bavarian pretzel.

Thanks to César Bermúdez Cifuentes, the new head of pastry at the expanded Brentwood location, Café Röckenwagner, we have a new default order: an impossibly puffy éclair piped full of lighter-than-air salted caramel pastry cream and glazed with chocolate.

After more than two decades working as a pastry chef in Monaco, France and Spain–including a seven-month stint at elBulli–Cifuentes moved to L.A. two years ago to work at Jose Andres' Bazaar at the SLS Hotel.

Café Röckenwagner in Brentwood

His latest endeavor, comprising a dozen elegant desserts (all $6 each) available at Café Röckenwagner, showcases his classical talent: A sugar-dusted Tarte Tropézienne displays immaculate French technique, while a raspberry and lemon tart–overflowing with vibrant farmer's market berries–glows like a polished ruby.

"At elBulli, I learned flavors should be pure," says Cifuentes. "If you are creating a dessert with raspberry, it has to evoke the most essential raspberry flavor imaginable."

We're currently fixated on his bombs, which are far more delicate than they sound. These shiny half-domes are made from layers of olive oil cake, crème fraîche and chocolate mousse, coated in a smooth dark chocolate shell. Cifuentes prefers to lighten the chocolate's richness with Meyer lemon cremé, but he also makes a version with peanut butter because "it's a combination that Americans love."

As for those salted caramel éclairs, Cifuentes admits he takes one home to his girlfriend once a week as a present.

With Valentine's Day around the corner, you might consider pulling the same sweet move.