Manhattan Monday: Devilishly Delicious Desserts


Even the most basic desserts are tempting in New York - such as a soft-serve cone from a Mr. Softee truck on a hot sumer day.

Mmmmm, ice cream. Mmmmmm, chocolate bread. Mmmmmm, cake. Mmmmmm, cannoli. Mmmmmm Chocolate Mess. Indeed, those are utterances often heard around the M&M household, and they would be heard around yours as well if you were bombarded on a daily basis with temptations unrivaled in their culinary desirability. As the Green One alluded to in her excellent post last week, every street corner in the city seems to have a bakery they beckons with its sugar-loaded treats. Every diner has a slice of fresh pie ready to serve. The Mr. Softee ice cream truck is literally blaring its siren song on every block. The now-ubiquitous Dunkin’ Donuts/Baskin-Robbins combos are like a double-whammy of caloric temptations. And even a little place called Starbucks offers an array of delectable avant garde snacks. So avoiding dessert is difficult in New York…then again, why avoid it? We use virtually no some restraint, so here are some of our favorite desserts and where to get them:

Mom's Mother's Day cake - don't you just want to go swimming in that icing?

Mom's Mother's Day cake - don't you just want to go swimming in that icing?

1. Cake. Melissa and I have somewhat different views here. I like my cake light and airy with a rich butter cream icing. As such, there is no better cake peddler than Magnolia Bakery. Located on Bleeker Street (a street you’ll see repeated often on this blog) in the heart of Greenwich Village, Magnolia Bakery is known for their cupcakes, but also offers some superb cake – my personal favorite is the red velvet cake, with its soft moist came and engrossingly creamy icing. VenierosSign (1)Melissa’s favorite cake place (and my 2nd favorite) is the charming, ultra-feminine Alice’s Tea Cup, so named because of its theme adapted from Lewis Carrol’s book. The cake and cupcakes are excellent (I like the vanilla on chocolate), and of course the tea is good as well. And surprisingly, they make a pretty darn good cheeseburger!

Of course Veniero’s Pastry Shop is world famous for its superb cakes, and its smaller East Village neighbor, Pinisi, makes some very good, fruit & nut laden cakes. Billy’s Bakery (see below) makes a pretty good cake as well. So there are plenty of cake options in the city – almost all within walking distance of each other and us.

Cupcakes at the exquisitely dainty Alice's Teacup

Cupcakes at the exquisitely dainty Alice's Teacup

2. Cupcakes. As a close relative of the cake, cupcakes are found at virtually all the same places. We could almost just say “ditto” to the Cake section, but there are some differences. My favorite cupcakes are still those produced by Magnolia’s, but the difference between Magnolia, Billy’s, and Alice’s Teacup is razor thin. The reality is you’ll be satisfied with your cupcake at any of these places. Melissa would choose Billy’s over the others, but I would stick with Magnolia.

The best way to finish off a wonderful steak dinner at Wolfgang's Steakhouse.

The best way to finish off a wonderful steak dinner at Wolfgang's Steakhouse.

3. Ice cream. This is a tricky one, because I don’t have a particularly refined palate when it comes to ice cream: as long as it has ice and cream, I’m pretty much satisfied. That said, there are a few places that definitely pique my interest more than others. For starters, I’ll admit that I still like a nice scoop of Jamoca Almond Fudge from Baskin Robbins. Not exactly highbrow ice cream, but tasty nonetheless. Though a nationwide franchise, Coldstone Creamery also offers a nice array of ice cream goodies. Big Daddy’s Diner serves some excellent milkshakes and a big concoction of ice cream, caramel, and apple – I’m not sure exactly what’s in it, but it’s delicious. But my personal favorite ice cream dessert is the Sundae at Wolfgang’s Steakhouse. Yes, of course the steaks are superb (my absolute favorite), but the overpriced sundaes are worth every penny and more. Thick, rich cream, pure warm chocolate cause and excellent vanilla ice cream make this a must-have.

Nothing beats a Rocco's cannoli

Nothing beats a Rocco's cannoli

4. Pastries. I’ve never been one for delicate, flaky pastries, but I also will go out of my way to inhale a cannoli at the incomparable Rocco’s. Founded 35 years ago, Rocco’s is now the crown jewel pastry shop of Greenwich Village, and arguably all of Manhattan. Rocco’s makes your cannoli right in front of you, injecting the fried pastry rolls with their delicious home-made cream filling and topping it with your choice of pistachios or chocolate chips – I go for the pistachios. As home-made fresh pastries go, Rocco’s cannoli cannot be beat.

Melissa likes a Rocco’s cannoli almost as much as I do, but she also loves pain au chocolat, especially at a little bakery called Tisserie. Originally from Argentina, this little pastry shop has delicious desserts as well as light deli items, but the chocolate bread is exquisite.

Originally ensconced in Union Square, Tisserie disappointed us both (but especially Melissa) by moving to the netherworld of Midtown – out of convenient walking distance.

The unique and delightfully filling Doughnut Plant cake doughnuts.

The unique and delightfully filling Doughnut Plant cake doughnuts.

Doughnuts fall into the pastry camp, and neither of us are particularly huge fans. I personally prefer doughnuts of the flamingly foppish variety: pink glazed with multi-colored sprinkles from Dunkin’ Donuts. Melissa likes the considerably flintier Boston Creme at the bagel/doughnut stand down the block. The Doughnut Plant in the Lower East side serves up an excellent selection of cake doughnuts – one is enough for a meal of its own.

Two words: Chocolate. Mess.

Two words: Chocolate. Mess.

5. The Cherry on Top. Max Brenner’s Chocolate by the Bald Man is a very important part of our marriage in more ways than one. This little chocolate temple is often derided by hipster New Yorkers because of its schmaltzy vibe and appeal to tourists, but the reality is this place lives up to the hype when it comes to dessert, especially chocolate. CBTBM has an eclectic menu that features provincial French cuisine, but is best known for its unique chocolate offerings, including a Chocolate Syringe, Chocolate Pizza, and the now-defunct Chocolate Mess. For the uninitiated, Chocolate Mess is just that: a heap of chocolate cake, three flavors of excellent ice cream, whipped cream, sprinkles, caramel coated bananas, and…well, isn’t that enough? It is for us, but sadly the Chocolate Mess is inexplicably off the menu. Nonetheless, CBTBM is well worth the frequent visit for its slough of great offerings, including my all-time favorite chocolate milkshake.

I’ll stop here, lest this post become as bloated and overstuffed as my waistline since I moved into the garden of tempting desserts…


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Filed under New York

6 responses to “Manhattan Monday: Devilishly Delicious Desserts

  1. I will always remember my Mother’s Day cake from Magnolia’s! Since you gave me the cookbook from Magnolia’s a few years back, I have made that velvety smooth buttercream icing often, but it must be the magic of Manhattan, because it doesn’t taste quite the same. I must confess, I usually go to the dark side, gastronomically speaking, when we come to NYC and it is always worth it!

  2. atletico0517

    I’m more of a potato chip kinda gal but these pictures do make me want some dessert…especially that cannoli…yum.

  3. Natalie

    Any idea what the place was called where I got the pistachio cupcake? That was a seriously good cupcake!

    Boo to the demise of the chocolate mess!! How sad.

  4. Abuela

    Mason, thank you for your words and fotos! I love all the food in New York! I am missing that and you three! Have a great week-end and eat some cannoli for me!

  5. I don’t know whether it’s just me or if everyone else experiencing problems with your site.

    It appears as though some of the written text in your posts are running off the screen.
    Can somebody else please provide feedback and let me know if this is happening to them
    too? This might be a issue with my web browser because I’ve had this happen before. Cheers

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