It’s no secret that New York is one of the culinary capitals of the world. With that responsibility comes a duty to have some of the best desserts in the world; here is our favorite 10 desserts in New York.
10. Magnolia Bakery
There is only one dessert you should get here, the famous banana pudding. With vanilla wafers, vanilla pudding and fresh bananas, what’s not to like? The blend of these ingredients creates a deliciously creamy, smooth flavor profile that is the ultimate coating after a great lunch, dinner or even breakfast as they open at 7:30AM. They have a small size for snacking or a large party size (serves 20) for those who want to really go to town. Their expansion to Chicago and Los Angeles proves just how popular this bakery is. Again, stick to the banana pudding as other items are good, but not great.
Photo credit: Yelp user Min C.
On old-fashioned Italian bakery, Veniero’s has boasted a large variety of pastries, cakes and other sweets since 1894! However, older does not always equal better. Luckily for New Yoker’s Veniero’s serves some of the best cheesecake, lobster tails and cannolis in the city. While their cheesecake is often hit or miss, when it hits, boy oh boy does it hit. This amazingly creamy, velvety cheesecake has bursts of flavor that will make you wish you had gotten a bigger slice (and since they sell by weight, you can pick how big you would like your slice to be). Don’t stop there though, try some of their world-famous cannolis with a chocolate or normal shell and experience the cream cheese and ricotta blend of filling that defines what a cannoli should taste like. Don’t skip out on their lobster tails, a puffier pastry filled with filling similar to a cannoli, or their large variety of other pastries. Their dining area is emblematic of an old-time pastry shop and that greets you with warm, open arms.
Photo credit: Yelp user Karen N.
8. Ample Hills Creamery
On a hot summer day in NYC, there is nothing better to cool off with than ice cream from Ample Hills. Ample hills is renowned for the deliciously creamy nature of their ice cream and the huge variety of exquisite flavors (without going over the top) that they offer. We love the Snap, Mallow, Pop with a fluffy marshmallow base for the ice cream mixed with buttery rice krispie clusters and the Astoria shop’s Nectar of the Queens which is a honey cinnamon ice cream with galaktoboureko and baklava. The combinations are unique here, but Ample Hills does a fantastic job ensuring that the flavors of their combinations go well with one another to create the ultimate flavor. If you go to their factory in Red Hook, you can even propose a new flavor inspired by a backstory.
Photo credit: Yelp user Roman A.
7. Molly’s Cupcakes
With lusciously moist, soft and center-cream-filled cake, delectable creamy frosting, a variety of unique flavors, there is so much to love about Molly’s Cupcakes. With flavors like our recommended The Ron Bennington (chocolate cake, peanut butter filling, chocolate ganache, crushed butterscotch topping), Boston Cream (classic vanilla cake, delicate pastry cream filling, chocolate ganache), Cake Batter (vanilla confetti cake, raw cake batter, vanilla buttercream, festive sprinkles) and many others, you’ll want to get at least a dozen of these angelic cupcakes. The ambiance is reflective of how joyful their cupcakes are, there are swings and various games in this small West Village establishment, as if we needed more excuses to spend more time at Molly’s!
Photo credit: Yelp user Jessica N.
6. Aux Merveilleux De Fred
“Merveilleux” literally means “marvelous” and we certainly marvel at these perfectly flakey masterpieces originating in Paris. They are every bit as scrumptious as they are visually appealing and with flavors like the Incroyable (meringue, speculoos biscuit, whipped cream coasted with white chocolate) the classic Merveilleux (meringue, chocolate whipped cream coated with shavings of dark chocolate), the Magnifique (meringue, praline whipped cream coated with almond chips and caramelized hazelnuts) or a few others, there is something for every desserter’s palate. The incredibly light, wafery texture of the merveilleux make it a guiltless treat and the rich combinations of flavor in every bite reminds us why Paris is the one of the food capitals of the world (it’s no New York, though).
Photo credit: Yelp user Anna C.
5. Tres Leches Café
While the previous desserts on our list are fairly famous and well-known, Tres Leches Café is a hidden gem. Tres leches cake is a sponge cake made with three kinds of milk (good job all you “Spanish speaker”): evaporated milk, condensed milk and cream. While there are many variations and additions one can add to tres leches cake, Tres Leches Cafe serves it’s tres leches in the classic, no-frills style. This small, unassuming shop in East Harlem serves up the most moist, fresh, sumptuous tres leches cake in New York. The cake is drenched with a rich creamy taste without being soggy or overly sweet and every luscious bite is a bite of heaven. This friendly establishment will customize a full-size cake for any occasion.
Photo credit: Yelp user David T.
4. Lloyds Carrot Cake
Carrot cake is often controversial, there is a dichotomy amongst carrot cake lovers and those who are ambivalent about carrot cake (since there is no such thing as a cake hater). That being said, there is unanimity that Lloyds Carrot Cake is one of the best desserts in New York. The moist, spiced carrot cake with nuts and raisins is our favorite option here and while they have many varieties of other cakes (red velvet, chocolate, etc.), we strongly recommend the carrot cake with nuts and raisins (or if you’re allergic, carrot cake without nuts and raisins). Even those who don’t like nuts or raisins in their cake rave about this specific carrot cake as all the ingredients come together perfectly to create a moist, rich cake. The cream cheese frosting is loaded onto this cake and some argue that it’s the best part of this cake. Buy a full cake for a heavenly experience with the ultimate moisture and perfect amount of sweetness to the cream cheese frosting. It’s so affordable, that you’ll find yourself buying Lloyds for any excuse to celebrate.
Photo credit: Yelp user Heidi V.
3. Wafels & Dinges
Anyone who has been to New York is sure to have seen one of these iconic Belgian dessert trucks. They serve a Liege Wafel which is made with pearl sugar and dough which instantly caramelizes when it hits the wafel iron, leading to a wafel that one could eat by itself for dessert. While that would be a fantastic dessert on its own, we must remember the dinges (aka toppings) that seamlessly compliment this wafel. Our favorite dinges are the classic speculoos (a Belgian cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and cardamom-spiced shortbread cookie spread) the Belgian chocolate fudge, bananas and whipped cream, however with nine different dinges, the possibilities are numerous! They also have various classic creations with preselected dinges for those who can’t decide. The crisp and flavorful wafel in combination with the creamy, spice-based speculoos make this dessert delectably unique. Our favorite location is the brick & mortar location in the East Village, but there is something magical about getting a piping hot wafel and eating it in Central Park. Thank you, Belgium.
Photo credit: Yelp user Emily X.
2. Two Little Red Hens
This is without a doubt the best all-around bakery in New York; you could randomly pick any item on their menu and it will likely be the best you’ve ever tasted. That being said, there is one dessert option that you simply cannot leave here without trying and that is the Brooklyn Blackout cupcake (or full cake); stunningly moist chocolate cake with chocolate pudding filling topped with fudge frosting. This ambrosial experience has turned those who did not think they were “chocolate fans” into chocolate lovers. New Yorker’s infatuation with the cupcakes from Two Little Red Hens extends to their other amazing flavors like Marble (black and white cake with a swirl of chocolate fudge & Swiss vanilla buttercream), Boston Cream (chiffon cake, vanilla pastry cream, topped with a fudge & chocolate glace with chocolate shavings), Key Lime (chiffon cake, key lime cream filing with lime zest), PB Fudge Swirl (chocolate cake, PB buttercream filling topped with PB chocolate fudge swirl frosting) and many others. They also have miniature cupcakes for those who don’t want to splurge on one of their fairly large cupcakes. It is much more than a cupcake shop, their morning scones are some of the fluffiest, airy delightful pastries in NY, their cheesecake is one of the best this city has to offer, their cinnamon rolls are some of the best we’ve ever tasted and even their numerous pies are dangerously addicting. Two Little Red Hens is one of the (if not, THE) best bakeries in the country. The excellence of their desserts is only superseded by the friendliness and helpfulness of their staff. Hens, you are a true American Bakery and a true American Hero.
Photo credit: Yelp user Joy W. and Connie H.
S & S Cheesecake (this would have been very high on our list, but a recent change in management/ownership has at times affected the quality and consistency)
Caprices By Sophie
Bibble and Sip
Dominique Ansel Bakery
Eileen’s Special Cheesecake
Stuffed Ice Cream
Petee’s Pie Company
1. Levain Bakery
What do Oprah, Taylor Swift, Neil Patrick Harris, Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds have in common? Correct, they are part of the millions of Levain fanatics. If I had a 4-hour layover in New York, Levain Bakery is a place I would absolutely HAVE to go. In New York, there is no better pizza in the world, the bagels are unparalleled and there is a myriad of uniquely cosmopolitan cuisines, but I would want to go to Levain Bakery, which serves a cookie that ruins all other cookies. Levain Bakery is a rite of passage for newcomers to New York; you cannot consider someone a New Yorker if they do not know about Levain. These 6-ounce behemoths come in four flavors (chocolate chip walnut, dark chocolate chocolate chip, dark chocolate peanut butter cup and oatmeal raisin) and are $4 each, but we would gladly pay at least five times that much for this glorious cookie. So, what makes this cookie so good? The size of the cookie actually contributes to its taste, the large size of this cookie allows it to be superbly crisp on the outside, while still having that warm, gooey, slightly doughy center that is oh so comforting. The flavor profile of this cookie is off the charts, it is impeccably sweet, has just the right amount of sweetness and is cooked to absolute perfection. Our favorite is the chocolate chip walnut and we recommend getting at least one of these (as we have no doubt you will get more than one cookie). They also serve delicious scones, bread rolls, muffins, brioche bread and sticky buns, but make no mistake, the cookies are the star of New York. Warm, fresh, gooey, yet crisp, a perfect 10 out of 10, Levain truly makes the world’s greatest chocolate chip cookie and is a holy experience every visitor or resident of New York needs to have.
Photo credit: Yelp user Ty H. (@TastesWithTy) and Brandon F.