Bosie Tea Parlor
Could there be a prettier bakery creation in all of New York? Bosie Tea Parlor's Ispahan is a perfect rendition of the Pierre Hermé classic. There key flavors: rose, raspberries, and lychees, which all come together with silky rose buttercream—fragrant but not perfumery, pale pink macaron cookies, a ring of fresh raspberries and a single sweet lychee tucked in the center. Now if only they would re-create all of the Pierre Hermé creations!
It's a classic Asian strawberry shortcake (think light sponge cake layers and soft whipped cream), but with a twist: matcha sponge cake layers in place of the typical vanilla. There are plenty of fresh strawberries tucked into the cream, the berries a perfect complement to the smooth but prominent matcha flavors. And since this cake is so light, you'll also have room for Paris Baguette's signature Royal Pudding, which has a smooth texture akin to panna cotta and a base of smoky caramel. Stir and spoon up!
Now this could be breakfast every day. One tidy sourdough roll ($3), neatly scored with browned surfaces. Crisp crust, gentle tang. But it's not just a sourdough roll. Crack open and you'll find... dark chocolate! Valrhona dark chocolate, to be exact. Come early enough and the roll will still be warm and crackly, and the chocolate molten, fine shards melting into every nook and cranny. One of the few instances in which I had to agree when the fellow next to me remarked, "There's no need for butter!"
The orange color in Boubouki's Carrot Bread comes from both grated carrots and fresh oranges. A citrus spin on your ordinary carrot bread, it's abundant with cinnamon and black walnuts. Each thick-cut slice is $3. The crumb is loose, so tender that if you attempt to pick up the whole slice at once, it will simply crumble apart. (Also keep an eye out for Boubouki's Pear Cake. Served by the generous wedge, it's made with olive oil and comes studded with fresh pears, a note of cinnamon lingering in each bite.)
No visit to Bottega Falai is complete without a stop at the bakery counter where petite strawberry tarts are lined up with black moon cakes and housemade macarons—but the one you want is a darling cake wedge completely coated in toasted and crushed pistachios. Barely an inch in height, the cake is plenty moist and dense with marzipan. The wedge is topped with a dollop of whipped cream, strawberry quarters, and pistachio halves pressed in the center.
Bottega Falai:267 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012 (map)
The sweets at Petrossian—cakes, pastries, cookies—blow me away time after time. There are only few New York bakeries that never fail to impress, and this is one them. Meet the Petrossian Blueberry Tart ($7.50). The tart shell is the highlight and nothing short of perfect: just browned enough, at the finest intersection of crisp and flaky. It's not as buttery as one would except, but breaks into shards with each forkful. A filling of marzipan and an overflowing bounty of fresh blueberries, with a slight glaze for shine, candied orange, and a shake of powdered sugar. Delicious.
$4 buys a round of Tortino Di Zenzero, a homey ginger spice cake, big enough for two at Grandaisy Bakery. The sugar-dusted cake is not so much spicy as robust and hearty, made with whole grain rye flour and offering a light crunch at the surface. Break in and you can actually see strands of fresh grated ginger, a terrific sight. Smell and you'll pick out sweet molasses, cinnamon, and lingering black pepper. The scent, especially when warmed in the oven, is borderline intoxicating.
Lady M is most famous for its Mille Crêpes, though other sweets at this Upper East Side cake boutique deserve equal attention. Case in point: a towering Strawberry Mille Feuille, in which airy vanilla sponge cake and a full-bodied cream custard are layered with strawberries and shatter-prone puff pastry. The best bite is when you capture both the chilled custard folded with whipped cream and puff pastry in the same bite. This Strawberry Mille Feuille is regularly rotated with a Banana Mille Feuille, which is served in wedges, and replaces the sponge cake with double the fresh custard cream and banana slices tucked in the middle.
Lulu Cake Boutique
At Lulu Cake Boutique it's not easy to pick among the Twinkies. There's a classic yellow cake, filled with a fluffy vanilla buttercream and dipped in dark chocolate; red velvet is equally moist, with a whipped cream cheese filling and white chocolate shell. But if I had to pick just one, it'd be the Blackout Twinkie featuring dark chocolate, four times. A fudgy chocolate cake, a chocolate pudding center, the cake dipped in a dark chocolate shell, and rolled in chocolate cake crumbs. I confess to having had this for breakfast on multiple occasions.
The owners and pastry chefs of Cannelle Patisserie in Jackson Heights have a way with pâte à choux, the light, eggy pastry used in eclairs and profiteroles. The Paris Brest is a classic done well at Cannelle, the halved ring of pâte à choux filled with a light, almost mousse-like praline cream. Dusted with sugar and toasted almond slices, there's nothing new or fancy here, just tradition, finely executed. Did I mention that this Paris Brest is only $3? A bargain you'll never find in Manhattan.