A cross between cinnamon rolls and babka, Chocolate Roses ($2) from Zucker's Bakery are the perfect size when you need a little sweet something to satisfy the craving. Unwind your way from outside in. The first layer is eggy and buttery, slightly crisp at the outmost exterior. The center is soft, borderline gooey, and melting with chocolate when still warm.
Lady M Confections
Red Velvet is the richest and most indulgent of the Lady M cakes. It has all the elegance of their other creations, only this cake is a bit wicked, darker and intense. The cocoa sponge is moist with a dense, chocolatey crumb. You get three layers, each separated with a cream cheese and fresh cream frosting that's as silky smooth as you'd imagine. So we'll place our order: Banana Mille Feuille, Mont Blanc, and a slice of Red Velvet. Who said we can't have cake for lunch?
Spot Dessert Bar
The key to Golden Toast ($8.75) is the bread, a plush and sweet white loaf found in Asian bakeries. The bread is scored, buttered to bliss, and baked till the top is golden. It's crunchy on the outside and soft inside, buttery throughout. With the traditional version, the toast comes with drizzles of condensed milk. At Spot, they replace the drizzle with condensed milk ice cream and honey. The best way to devour this is to rip off a toast hunk, spoon on the ice cream, slather on whipped cream and finish with strawberries.
Dominique Ansel Bakery
This particular Marshmallow Apple was a special Halloween treat from Dominique Ansel Bakery, but we always look forward to the limited edition sweets he creates each season. They're consistently imaginative and fun (that marshmallow apple had a core of liquid caramel), and most importantly delicious. Think along the lines of that Cheese Crate Berry Crumble he did for Mother's Day (with a brioche bread pudding base) and the variety of full-size and mini buches de noel for holidays.
At Pain D'Avignon, the signature Bread Pudding ($4.50) is baked in a long pan and sliced to order. It's a croissant bread pudding to be exact, textbook perfect with a handful of raisins on one occasion, and tender apples on another. No matter the fruit, the pudding is consistent, dense, sweet and eggy. Indulgent! There's a whiff of cinnamon, but vanilla comes through moist prominently. Ask for crème anglaise on the side, and pour it on just before eating.
A good coconut cake is one of my major weaknesses, and Kin Shop offers the lightest coconut cake in town. It goes by the name Coconut Cream Cake, and $9 buys you an enormous slab that goes down dangerously easy. Accented with a slight hand of makrud lime syrup, the cake is only faintly sweet. The cream filling is light as air and the cake itself is more akin to chiffon than a typical vanilla cake.
François Payard Pâtisserie
Meet the Strawberry Éclair ($7) from François Payard Pâtisserie. Delicate and airy, the pâte à choux shell is split down the middle and outfitted in three components. At the bottom, a cool, whipped vanilla mascarpone cream, the richness countered with thick slices of sweet strawberries. It's finished with piped ribbons of vanilla bean pastry cream, full-bodied and unusually rich. There's a light citrus flavor to the cream that comes in the form of candied lemon peel, and this is one dessert where every element is absolutely essential.
Fruit tarts ($7.50) at Petrossian are beautiful, deep-dish tarts with shells that are like a cross between phyllo and puff pastry. Complete with a sugar-dusted rim, the many layers flake and shatter upon that first bite, so load up on napkins. A nutty frangipane filling lines in the base, making a plush bed for the final layer of poached apricot quarters (the fruit changes with the seasons). Pure and sweet, a simple glaze gives it extra polish.
A Raspberry-Almond Croissant ($4)? Oh yes. It's a traditional croissant that's split and spread with both crème d'amandes—that devilish mix of ground almonds, sugar, butter, and eggs—and a housemade raspberry jam. It's topped and baked until golden, a little bit of crème d'amandes flowing out the pointy ends, which makes for crisp first bites. With a finish raspberry powder over the surface, it might difficult to return to plain almond croissants after this.
The John Dory Oyster Bar
Sticky Toffee Pudding ($9) at John Dory Oyster Bar comes to the table with a voluptuous mound of earl grey-infused whipped cream. I might have even enjoyed the cream more than the pudding itself. But that's not to dismiss the pudding, an equally great creation. The toffee sauce is poured on right before serving, seeping into every nook of the dense sponge cake, moist with dates and sweet with brown sugar. Apparently it's even better when the whipped cream melts from the heat and blend into the toffee sauce. But I wouldn't know, I ate all the cream before it had a chance.