On the corner of Waverly and West 11th Street is a bakery with glass windows and an interior done up in bright pink, the word "Royale" boldly splayed across the wall in white cursive. Aside from the shock of color, the interior is sparse and sparkling clean—it's the kind of bakery one would pop in for a daytime treat but never stay long to linger. If you look carefully at the pastries neatly arranged on the counter and the hefty cookies in glass jars, they may appear oddly familiar. Do a double take—yes, that's right—the sweets are splitting images of the ones from Brooklyn's famed Baked. The partners from Baked have opened up a spot cozily nested in the heart of the Village, bringing with them cupcakes and cookies previously only attainable in Red Hook.
The cookies are as good as ever, a small but solid selection. Most memorable is the Chocolate Cloud. The deep, dark chocolate cookie looks daunting in appearance but proves deceivingly light on the tongue. Intense in flavor, this cookie is purely chocolate from the crackling surface to the chocolate chip studded fudge-like interior. The Monster Cookie is the ideal solution for those who cannot decide. This type of everything-in-one cookie goes by other common names: Kitchen Sink, Jumble, and Ranger Cookie. A crumbly sweet round loaded with oatmeal, peanut butter, chocolate chips, and M&Ms, it satisfies a bit of all cravings without any one element outshining another. It's solid but not too dense and could easily pass for a midday meal (albeit not so healthy).
The selection of sandwich cookies were found to be disappointing across the board. Chocolate and oatmeal raisin cookies alone were passable—the oatmeal raisin was achingly sweet. However, sandwiched together with sugary icing (for the chocolate), and a whipped frosting (for the oatmeal raisin), it was too much, and not in a good way. A mundane and heavy mass not ideally suited for the stomach. Single cookies are already so large and heavy; the thought of sealing two cookies together with more sugar is nauseating.
However, stay away from cookie sandwiches and head straight for cupcakes to be rewarded manifold. The cupcakes are moist throughout with a delicate crumb more akin to layer cakes as opposed to the dense and crumbly cakes found at classic American bakeries. The frosting is pure butter, smooth and easily melting into the cupcake by the warmth of your mouth. No gritty sugar oft encountered in Manhattan cupcakes, but simply silky from first lick to last bite. How such frosting manages to feel so deceivingly light is beyond my knowledge.
The chocolate & peanut butter buttercream was an instant favorite, the light chocolate complementing peanut buttery after notes of the frosting in a common combination, that is strangely enough, rarely found in the form of cupcakes. Coffee & coffee buttercream, with a chocolate covered espresso bean and a simple red velvet & vanilla buttercream were but a few of the many classics done right, though extra effort to properly pair red velvet with cream cheese frosting would have surely been worthwhile. The lighter end showcases lemon & citrus buttercream, a pale summery yellow, teasing of warm month flavors hopefully soon to come.
Notable is the minimalist and understated cupcake presentation. A simple mark—coffee bean or halved peanut, upon a clear cut swirl of frosting in the perfect cake to frosting ratio is all one needs. A single qualm? Too delicate flavors—greater assertiveness couldn't hurt. We do, after all, live in times that embrace spicy chocolate cupcakes, olive oil pound cakes and savory-sweet combinations that were foreign a decade past.
Royale Cafe + Pastry
461 Sixth Avenue, New York NY 10011 (near 11th Street; map)