Let’s spice up the season — just not with pumpkins!

From figs to chestnuts, here are some treats that take a spin on classic fall desserts.


(Irum Han for WSN)

Daeun Lee, Contributing Writer

I can’t remember the last time I walked into a restaurant or cafe in the fall without seeing some version of a pumpkin — edible or not. Being from Korea, I just never quite hopped on the train of pumpkin spiced-somethings that I see every person holding as I walk down the street.  

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good festive fall, but unfortunately I think many can agree that it can simply be too much. Whether you’re in love with the pumpkin-packed plates or not, here’s a compilation of pumpkin-less desserts you should try this fall. 

H Mart

39 Third Ave.

Every time I take the subway during autumn, the smell of these chestnut manjūs would metaphysically fill my body and soul, signaling the official beginning of the season. Believe me, food in Korean subways is a big thing and you can treat yourself to a pretty delicious snack.

This delectable manjū is a traditional Japanese confection with regionally different fillings, but chestnut jam is my favorite. It’s smoothly mixed with mashed, sweetened white bean. There are no lumps, hence making it much easier for everyone to enjoy every bite of this fall savory. 

The outer part of the manjū is extremely soft, but it is not too thin so as to prevent you from savoring the slight sweetness. For those who think the outside is too bland, don’t worry — the sesame seeds sprinkled on top give the manjū that extra punch. 

One bite of the manjū is sufficient to fill your mouth with the flavor of autumn. This treat balances perfectly with a cup of Hōjicha that only emphasizes that toasty feeling. 

Sweet Rehab

135 Sullivan St.

The exterior of Sweet Rehab. Blue wooden frames surround window panes. On the window pane to the left is a symbol of a bee printed in gold and texts that read “SWEET REHAB BAKERY,” also in gold.
(Jennifer Ren for WSN)

Delicately surrounded by lightly sweetened vanilla chantilly and topped with strawberry jam, the fig tart, which is $15.50 is part of Sweet Rehab’s seasonal menu and is served until mid-November. I was a little apprehensive at first: not only are figs available for a very short time throughout the year — from late summer to early fall — but they go dry easily. 

Upon first bite, the fig skin was extremely soft and fared well with its succulent interior and the pleasant texture of the strawberry jam. As for the fig flesh itself, the tiny popping seeds added an unexpected twist to the softness of the fruit. 

The interior of Sweet Rehab. A marble stone counter top is filled with plates of cakes, loafs of bread and cookies. On the shelves on the wall are champagne bottles and hats of various colors sitting on top of white mannequin heads. In the middle is a mirror with a gold decal that reads “SWEET REHAB NEW YORK” on it.
(Jennifer Ren for WSN)

I cut the tart in half to taste the fig and mixed berry jam and the pistachio biscuits at the same time. The natural sweetness of the jam blended well with the crunchy biscuits and the almond dough tart shell. 

Sweet Rehab’s fig tart perfectly satisfied my expectations by filling my mouth and soul with the spirit of a soft autumn breeze. 

Homemade Goguma Latte

A Goguma latte in a black paper cup with foam and brown powder at the top.
(Irum Han for WSN)

If you don’t feel like going out, make this latte in the comfort of your home! To the people who are not fans of sugar-heavy desserts, I recommend making a Goguma Latte — a Korean sweet potato latte. Sweet potatoes are a great source of fiber, so why not start the day off with this nutritious, relaxing drink?

Back in Korea, I would use a family-sized pot to steam several sweet potatoes for the entire family, but for the sake of convenience, you can just place one small sweet potato on a microwave-safe dish and cover it with microwave-safe plastic wrap. 

Using chopsticks or a fork, make three to four holes in the plastic wrap and microwave it until the sweet potato is tender. Remove the wrap, carefully peel back the sweet potato, and put it in a blender. 

Those without a blender can simply mash it using a fork until there are no noticeable lumps. Adjust the portion of milk or any non-dairy alternatives to your preference and add a tablespoon of honey to the mixture. 

After blending or mashing, you can add toppings such as chopped almonds or walnuts and finish with a touch of cinnamon powder. 

The rich texture and the natural sweetness of the ingredients of the Goguma Latte are sure to warm you up before you head out on a crisp autumn morning.

Contact Daeun Lee at [email protected]