While I struggle to walk past an outpost of the now-world famous Magnolia Bakery without popping in for a peanut butter cookie or red velvet cupcake, there are many more dessert options to explore in New York City – some more opulent than others.
Ladurée is one such extravagant option. When a less-than-mouthful-sized macaron costs $4 a piece, you know you’re indulging. The U.S. outpost of this 151 year-old French institution is located in the classy Upper East Side, and looks every bit the Parisian tea salon of old.
Macrons of rainbow hues are arranged in the windows like expensive artwork – which, in a way, they are. Inside a sweet perfume fills the air, and uniformed ladies assist you in choosing between creations. Chocolate or salted caramel? Pistachio or lemon? We chose a selection of six, which came delicately wrapped in a gift box and luxurious-looking Ladurée bag.
It’s almost impossible to explain the exquisite flavour that fills even the tiniest taste of these light-as-air desserts. ‘Perfection’ comes to mind. After all, Ladurée does declare that they “firmly believe a weakness for sweets is a noble approach to everyday living.”
A few blocks east of Ladurée sits Serendipity 3, another sweet spot with a storied history that began back in 1954. Yes, this is the same Serendipity that plays a starring role in the 2001 rom-com of the same name, and yes, it’s touristy – but it’s also tasty.
Whether you’re comfortably crowded under Tiffany lamps on the ground floor, or dining under elegant chandeliers upstairs, the desserts are always delicious. The Frrrozen Hot Chocolate is infamous, but my personal favourite is the giant Forbidden Broadway Sundae. Serendipity portions are perfect for sharing… and perfect for a personal feast, too!
On the other side of Central Park, on the Upper West Side, lies Levain Bakery. It looks like more of a local staple – they actually bake fresh bread on site – than a world-famous sweet stop, but it fits both bills equally. They have cookies, of course, but not as you know them.
Here, the cookies are anything but cookie-cutter: they are mounds of cookie dough, hot and melted in the middle, and filled with flavour. If you can bear to wait before taking a bite, walk a few blocks back to Central Park and enjoy them by the banks of the Lake.
Momofuku Milk Bar has outposts across the city (Midtown, East Village, Brooklyn) and you will be hard pressed to find anything else like it. Run by owner and pastry chef Christina Tosi, the Milk Bar is the dessert branch of the famous Momofuku restaurant group, and was described by magazine Bon Appetit as “one of the most exciting bakeries in the country.”
The treats here are salty and sweet, and nearly always unusual, like the cereal milk soft serve ice cream. A creation made from butter, heavy cream, sugar, and corn flour with a toasted oat crust might not sound like much, but the Crack Pie is my go-to here; the name gives you an inkling of just how incredible it really is on your tastebuds.
Newly relocated to the West Village is The London Candy Company, a life-saver for the Big Apple’s British ex-pats and loved location for New Yorker’s who hate Hershey’s (there has to be a few of them out there, right?). While pricey compared to the UK, the presence of Cadbury’s, Galaxy, and Quality Street is just enough to give you a taste of home right when you need it (and even when you don’t; there’s always time for Cadbury’s).
A little further afield, across the bridge in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is a family-run chocolate factory that turned my expectations of American chocolate upside down: Mast Brothers Chocolate.
Before I pushed through the glass doors on North 3rd Street, I had thought the coolest thing about Mast Brothers would be the quirky patterns on their chocolate wrappers. While the wrappers are indeed exceptional (you can even buy stationery sets of the prints) the chocolate is some of the best I have tasted – and I eat a lot of the sweet stuff.
In the factory-come-shop-front, you can sample the chocolate and take a sneak peak at what’s going on behind the scenes. There is intense flavour in this craft chocolate made from single origin cocoa beans. Nothing fancy is added – it contains only cacoa pods and cane sugar – yet hints of raspberry, strawberry and honey seem to seep out onto my tongue.
A bar costs $9, so choose wisely: I opted for a dark chocolate bar from Belize, and savoured it piece by piece. Pair a trip here with a coffee at Blue Bottle around the corner – they serve chewy double chocolate cookies made with the Mast Brothers magic.
So there you have it: six of New York City’s best sweet treats, and not even a cupcake in sight!
Where are your favourite spots (at home or abroad) for indulging a sweet tooth? Do you have any favourite spots for sweet treats in New York City?