A Cakespeare Special Episode: New York’s best bakeries


New York City: land of the high life, people who don’t seem sleep and gastronomic delights. It also has a ton of bakeries. Many, many bakeries.

For some strange reason, patisseries don’t seem to be common here whereas bakeries or hybrid bakery/patisseries are far more frequently found, sometimes in department stores and usually as standalone boutiques. Probably some of the most famous in the bunch (within Manhattan) include Magnolia, Balthazar and Francois Payard. Amy’s Bread is also very well loved and has a fantastic business name if I do say so myself ; )

In the name of research for this special episode, I embarked on the start of quite of a few bakery visits to get familiar with the best bakeries in New York. In my own personal bid to find the best baked goods establishment New York, I visited well about 12 bakeries or “hybrid” bakery-patisseries in the space of a few weeks. I’m sure this is no real record but it was quite an achievement for me and my oversized tummy!

Now after some extensive nibbling, sampling and a backlog in numerous kilometres required to be run before I’m back to an calorie neutral state, here are my top 5 picks for bakery goods or desserts in New York. It was very, very hard to decide and I’m sure plenty of people will disagree with me but this is just my take on it, feel free to comment vehemently if you violently disagree!

In reverse order…..

#5 – Carlo’s Bakery (Carlo’s Bakery Way, Hoboken, NJ)

Ok so these guys aren’t technically in New York. But it’s only a couple of stops away so it might as well be. I had to include them in my top 5 not just for novelty factor but the fact that their lobster tails and cannolis are very, very, very, very good. Very. Marks deducted heavily for pretty much everything else but the lobster tails and cannolis (especially the chocolate ones) make up for the rest of the bad stuff.

Lobster Tails

Cannolis

4. Levain Bakery (167 W 4th Street, NY)

Nestled in the Upper West Side in a tiny basement level shop, this place is definitely one for the cookie monsters out there. Specialism taken to new heights – this is by the far the chewiest, softest and biggest cookie you can buy that is of this level of quality in Manhattan. Hands down winner in the cookie category. Because of the cookie factor alone, it leapfrogs Carlo’s in my book. They also have locations in Harlem and the Hamptons and a cookie cam on their website!


Peanut butter by far the best..

# 3 – Balthazar Bakery and Boulangerie (80 Spring St, corner Crosby St, NY)
This place isn’t a NY institution for no reason. It has very good baked goods! Famous also for its brunch next door, the boulangerie offers a quick afternoon pick me up and the benches outside have provided a comfortable little spot for me to chill out many an afternoon after class and so some great people watching.

Sticky Bun – the caramel is a little too toffee-like but the fantastic gooeyness of the inside makes it worth the toothpicking afterwards!

Chocolate Raspberry tart – I only took 1 bite of this but it was decadent and delicious. Look at those plump raspberries too!

# 2 – Dessert Club Chikalicious (3 E 10th St, between 1st and 2nd Ave)

This funnily name dessert bar has some of the most indulgent yet refreshing desserts I have seen. They also serve a range of cupcakes and macarons with an Asian twist in terms of flavours but their most famous has to be the chocolate pudding and their “Lin-sanity” sundae.. The macarons here (along with every other place I have tried in NY were sub-par though…). I will let the photos speak for themselves.

Cupcakes

Chocolate pudding

Green tea yuzu lava pudding with lime sorbet

Drumroll…………..*cue dramatic music*

My #1 Bakery in NY is………Betty Bakery! (448 Atlantic Avenue,  Brooklyn)

The only thing I could fault about this place was that it was slightly out of the way. Betty is Cake Artist Cheryl Kleinman’s retail bakery in Brooklyn and it serves up just about the best cakes and pies I’ve seen in a while. It’s location did require me to be highly tenacious (I even walked in the rain to get here with nothing but a plastic sheet protector to cover my head carrying my ginormous duffel of school stuff) but it was well worth the trip and perhaps because it isn’t in Manhattan itself, made me like it even more. For a cake lover, plenty of eye candy in the windows and on the shelves inside, extra bonus points!!

I asked the staff to pick their favourites and was recommended the Carrot Cake and Blueberry Pie.

The carrot cake was one of the best I’ve eaten with some surprise coconut shavings for amazing texture. Not too sweet and very moist and dense, just the way I like it. The frosting was lickable and very light and fluffy.

My next favourite was the blueberry pie with a beautiful compote, not too sweet and the blueberries still juicy and plump with a crisp crust that was too thin or thick. No soggy crust at the bottom too – extra marks here!

Next on the hit list – the sea salt caramel chocolate tart…. I have only one word for this. Phenomenal. That’s all.

I told the friendly staff that I was rating Betty #1 and they got excited! Which really just cemented the decision.

On that fine note, I’ll round out with a few honourable (and less than honourable) mentions and my recommendations on what to order if you do go and visit them one day…

Honourable Mentions

Epicerie Boulud:  Raspberry tart, Chocolate tart. Fun for other non-sweet related stuff too.

Empire Cake: Homemade Twix Bar is my recommendation

Bouchon Bakery: Pistachio Croissant (don’t get the Bouchon, it’s a rip!)

Eli Bazar: Fabulous pastries and their bagels look great. They also serve gelato which is an added bonus!

Amy’s Bread: You can’t go wrong in here – it’s all good.

Less Than Honourable Mentions

Francois Payard: Highly overrated macarons and very overpriced. Disappointing. These are supposed to be NY’s best as well!

Laduree: Apart from the pretty factor, this place is pretty much all packaging. Macarons were disappointing and not worth their inflated price – go there and snap your photographs but don’t buy anything!

Magnolia: I think we should all just agree that this place is still living off its SATC fame when it really doesn’t deserve to! Disappointing and average.

Disagree with my top 5? Post a comment below and let’s bash it out!

3 comments

  1. Wow, can’t wait to go to New York and try out these places. Also very excited when you get back to Sydney with all of your ideas!

  2. You really went beyond the call of duty in researching this post, I gotta say. Geez it must have been hard. But I wholeheartedly agree that in order to develop as a baker, you must develop your palate and know what makes a good pastry and in order to do that, you just have to eat lots. Lorinda x

  3. Your post made me want to go to NYC to try your top three!

    I’m surprised Carlo’s made it to the top 5, but then again, they are known for their cannolis.

    I’m NOT surprised Magnolia’s is not in the top. It is overrated. It’s sad that just because you have appeared on TV, you are automatically equated with perfection. This goes for Carlo’s as well.

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