2011 Year in Review of NYC’s baked good offerings.

Another year has come and gone and I have done a boatload of dessert eating, my friends! And with that brings another annual review of baked goods I tried, mainly in NYC, sometimes a rogue item gets in from another state (see Red Hen Baking Company's fantabulous maple bun!) I tried new faves and old haunts and wasn't disappointed, well most of the time anyways.

These are listed in no particular order but I definitely suggest trying them at least once. It's nice to get around the city every once in awhile.

Cream Cakes from Flushing mall (Delmanco) - I was first introduced to these when I first went to the Flushing Mall in Queens. As someone who went to high school in Flushing I was saddened I was just finding it. Especially after hearing last year that the mall would close in 2012 due to a bunch of unnecessary government intervention. Of course, that's going off topic.

Prior to entering the food court on the first floor you will see a Delmanco booth where they make these tasty sponge cakes with custard filling. You can get them hot off the presses which is a real treat. They are small in size but have a great buttery, vanilla flavor that is pure but also really addictive. I could eat a box full (24 count) and have. The light sponge cake is a delicacy in a lot of Asian desserts you may have. Fay Da Bakery and other places in Chinatown tend to have cakes in a similar consistency.

Baked - Soon after 2011 had begun, well like a week into January 2011 I went to brunch with Yoshie of Ramen & Friends, her husband, and her baby CK soon after the new year began. Since we had a car at the time it was cool wandering around a week after the blizzard in Brooklyn. And a place to hit up at the top of my list was Baked! Since I didn't know when I'd be in Red Hook again I bought a bunch of items. First up was the brookie (brownie/cookie), which was wonderful! An even mix of a brownie and a cookie in one with a cookie crust and brownie filling. As advertised on The Best Thing I Ever Ate with Claire Robinson noting that the salty and sweet brownie was the best thing she's ever had. For me it was good, not the best thing ever. The consistency was there with the more fudgy texture to the brownie but because it was more dark chocolate it lacked an additional sweetness that I enjoy in brownies. I also tried the pumpkin chocolate chip loaf, which stayed moist after a week when well sealed. The loaf had an even amount of pumpkin and chocolate, though there were a bunch of chocolate chips.

Dessert Truck - The Dessert Truck was MIA for much of 2010 due to licensing issues with parking and such or whatever food trucks have to get to to own their turf. With the return of the dessert truck I introduced my friend Ric to it. He had the creme brulee which was extremely tasty, perfect custard texture and not too thick of a sugar charred topping. I had the chocolate bread pudding, perfection with the creme anglais and some choco wafers atop. The donut squares with nutella didn't taste too great. I held them for the next day and toasted in the oven. Perhaps something about that took away from the taste as the texture was fluffy like a yeast donut and the nutella was good, but there was a somewhat metallic taste to the donut after I toasted it in the oven. And I had placed it on parchment paper so that was a bit odd. An additional bonus is that the Dessert Truck has opened two locations called DT Works in the Lower East Side and in Brooklyn.

Fat Witch Bakery - At my blondie/brownie themed birthday party last year a friend of mine introduced me to Fat Witch. She brought brownies (walnut & regular) and blondies. It was a good thing that I read that molasses was in the blondie because I didn't taste it and may have hesitated beforehand since I loathe the stuff. The blondie was brown sugar goodness! Fat Witch has nice bite-sized goodies that were like homemade in singularly packaged bits. Both the brownies and blondies are moist with a chewy consistency not too cakey and stayed moist in tightly sealed wrapping. My favorite was the walnut.

Steve's Authentic Key Lime Pie - As per the name their specialty is key lime pie/tart. I got the mini version. The filling was nicely tart and very creamy in texture (since I carried the stuff home from Red Hook, Brooklyn to Jamaica, Queens). So it held up pretty well! The graham cracker crust is mighty thick for containing the filling and can withstand storms! The crust may be a bit much for some but it can be a good balance, especially when you need your key lime fix.

Butterlane - I was disappointed in Butterlane in years' past because of the fact that I got a stale cupcake and the icing was pretty mediocre, even by pumpkin standards. I tasted the cupcake with chocolate icing and toasted peanuts. This time around the cake was much better and moist. The way it should be. So I may give them another try.

Cake and Shake New York - Their stand is set up right outside of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. They had a big crowd so I decided to give it a try. Cake & Shake offers savory and sweet cupcakes and also cupcakes for dogs. Go figure. I tried the moon cake (yellow cake that the menu said there was vanilla cream inside, but is probably baked into the dough). It was pretty big and moist enough, but they kind of over did it with the mountain of icing on top. However the butter cream frosting was darn tasty. My friend Jen can attest to this. This was not the best cupcake I've had and for the price I may be hesitant to try another.

Big Gay Ice Cream Truck - After stalking them or really it's called following for a reason when it comes to food trucks. I stood online for what seemed an obscenely long time (It was 4th of July weekend) and had the "Bea Arthur" (vanilla ice cream cone with crushed Nila wafers and dulce de leche). The guys running the truck are uber-friendly and sweet, which probably added to the line wait. They put dulce de leche inside the ice cream as well as on top and inside the cone! It's not an overly outrageous choice but a good solid one that I did not regret. Time goes faster when you have company.

Babycakes - I tried Babycake last year and had a half/half like/dislike with their cupcakes. During a Ramen & Friends outing to Far Rockaway beach there was a stand. I have to say I was very disappointed in the frozen cookie sandwich (no ice cream, vegan icing and refrigerated). I was pretty irritated with the cashier that she gave me an overcooked cookie. Someone else in our party had a better one, but in the end the dessert itself was not that tasty. The missing element being the dairy for me unfortunately on top of a rock hard cookie.

Motor Boat and the Big Banana - The Far Rockaway outing also proved to have a favorite place many people went to. The day was really hot and so a frozen banana seemed an ideal treat. I purchased the frozen chocolate covered banana with peanuts and sea salt. It was good but the tastes kind of fought each other in my palate. I probably would have enjoyed the chocolate and peanuts and sea salt and then the chilled banana separately. But, it did cool me off on a hot day.

Blue Smoke Bake Shop - Went to Blue Smoke during NY Restaurant Week in the summer. When you enter you pass by their Bake Shop right across from the hostess stand. As soon as you walk in you get sugary eye candy! The Bake Shop is across from the hostess stand. I bought a few things. My favorite was the mini pecan pie. My first taste of pecan pie believe it or not. It was sweet but not overly so as I imagine it could've been. It had a nice flaky crust that was not overly buttery but worked for the pie itself. The mini tollhouse cookie pie was a bit much in pie-form. The choco chunks and cookie were overwhelming and I could barely taste the pie crust. I've had truffle pies which are brownies in a pie and think that may have worked better. Upon next visit I wouldn't mind trying their cookies on their own.

Sweet Chef Southern Styles Bakery  - I tried their offerings when I was uptown near Grant's Tomb for Harlem Week. Now that I work very close to Harlem (literally a few blocks) I was excited to try some places in the area. I bought a handful of goods. One of which was their chocolate chip cookie. It was chewy, but didn't taste like your run-of-the-mill cookie. The sugary butter taste just wasn't there. Depending on your palate that may be a good thing. One of my faves was their mini sweet potato pie, perfection. They got it right with a buttery crust (which may have been made with lard to get the crisp texture) and the sweet potato filling reminded me of Grandma's. Maybe not my own, but someone's. Also a hot pick was the apple crumb pie! (I seem to have a preference for crumble pies these days. Particularly Mrs. Smith's Dutch Apple.) The crumbs were a good standard to which all should be held since it's mainly butter, sugar, perhaps some flour and lemon zest. The apples inside had a working harmony of sweetness and cinnamon flavor that wasn't too overwhelming. Again, perfect crust! The pecan pie (my second after having Blue Smoke's)  was gooey, sugary goodness.

Clinton Street Baking Company - Just wanted to reiterate how much I LOVE the scones and blueberry pancakes here. By the by, Pancake Month is being held in February. Go! That is all.

Bread Alone Bakery - My mom purchased a pie from here at the farmer's market that regularly visits areas in Manhattan, particularly during the spring/summer. She got the apple crumb pie. As mentioned I'm more partial to a dutch type of apple pie than the regular these days so a crumbly/praline crust is right up my alley. The crust is the best part of a pie, for me, and the fact that Bread Alone's was sweet and crumbly was the ultimate test for me.  I should also note that Bread Alone uses local ingredients from upstate New York. Good stuff and they use local ingredients.

Coolhaus Truck - The arrival of the Coolhaus truck was a nice surprise once I started my new job uptown this summer. They primarily sell homemade cookies and ice cream. So there may be a lull in service during the winter months, maybe not. They serve these items separately or as ice cream sandwiches and are pretty heavy handed with the ice cream when they make it. I was interested in trying the red velvet cookie (red dyed chocolate cookie with cream cheese icing) with red velvet ice cream (vanilla ice cream w/ red velvet cake chunks). But figuring that may be a bit much I ordered the maple white chocolate cookie with Tahitian vanilla bean ice cream. The ice cream was creamy and reminded me of Breyer's with the vanilla bean specks. The maple white choco cookie was amazing! Super chewy, lovely crunchy white chocolate bits, and the maple flavor was spot on! Not too subtle and not too overwhelming. Perfect cookie. I ordered the cake "pancake" cookie which was similar in taste to the maple white chocolate cookie. Red velvet cookie was chewy and chocolate-rich. Streaks of hardened cream cheese icing are okay but don't really add much to the cookie and flake off easily. Their snickerdoodle is good, pretty basic sugar cookie with a bit more crunch than the other cookies. Cinnamon sugar on top is not too heavy, which is good for a snickerdoodle.

First Prize Pies - I had the pleasure of meeting Alison at Pie Party Live in October. Her contribution was a s'mores pie at pie party live. Ridiculously delicious. So of course, I had to try her other offerings. I bought three mini pies to enjoy on my lonesome. And I guess share. Of the three I purchased my new favorite is Jay's cream apple pie. The crust is perfect buttery Graham cracker mix with apples and a cream topping that balances out the tastes with some cinnamon on top. Her samoa pie encompasses many of the pieces of the girl scout cookie and is also good. Especially for those that love their Girl Scout Cookies. As a fan of the peanut butter chocolate combo I liked this pie also but found with the dark chocolate it was a bit more bitter for my tastes. The peanut butter filling was light in fluffy texture but tasty.

Little Pie Company - Mom bought Sour Cream Apple Walnut Pie! I had tried this for the first time last year during Just Desserts Day. I had it several times over the Christmas holiday so I'm a bit stuffed. Mmm, praline topping. Mom also bought the Mississippi Mud Pie, which is uber chocolatey. It tastes like a concentrated brownie and is very good warm/room temperature with vanilla ice cream to offset how intense the chocolate is. Crust, filling, topping the chocolate is everywhere!

Chipsy - Via a MunchOnMe coupon I got to try the newest deep fried shop's hot item: deep fried oreos with nutella. These are far superior to Chip Shops as the batter was more cake like and reminded me a of a donut which was a nice compliment to the oreo which got chewy inside. The nutella had a nice sugary addition and all the flavors meld well together so you can taste everything. Chip Shop had one bland batter that they seem to use for everything from the savory items to the desserts and it adds no taste to the overall dish. I'd go back to try Chipsy's deep fried candy bar as well. And they have a range of fries. Good stuff.

Spot Dessert Bar - I have passed this place many, many times and always said to myself "I'm going to go in there one day." Well, with a coupon for a free macaron that day came! I really enjoy the East Village and think this is a great addition. I had a red velvet macaron which truly captured the light cocoa flavor of red velvet cake with a sweet cream cheese filling. Not too sugary, but crispy and chewy. Perfect macaron. And since I was there I purchased the apple crumble cupcake. It was a moist yellow cake with cream cheese icing (light and fluffy) which was reminiscent of cheesecake and sweet apple bits on top. It was good and I'll definitely frequent this place again, but I would've liked apples inside the cupcake as well.

Apple Cafe Bakery - Again with the MunchOnMe coupons! After frequenting a bunch of places and getting free items I couldn't help but also purchase something else to get a sense of what their offerings were. Apple Cafe Bakery is brand spanking new, opening last fall. I had a peanut butter cookie, perfectly peanut buttery, nutty, and chewy! It was also pretty oily, so much so that it started to seep through the paper bag. A treat for those that enjoy peanut butter. I also got a sugar cookie which was fine, sort of lackluster in terms of taste, very basic but sugary. Lastly I got a white chocolate macadamia nut cookie which was tasty and very chewy (more so than the sugar cookie) and had a good balance in taste. Had more macadamia nuts than white chocolate which was fine. Tasted this thanks to MunchOnMe coupon. They also have pumpkin & red velvet cheesecake and pumpkin whoopie pies which I may be inclined to go back and try.


Soul Snacks NYC - This is a small operation and gets distributed through many locations in Harlem. At Manna's I saw the sweet potato cookie. In texture and taste it reminded me of  one of my favorite cookies: pumpkin chocolate chip sans chocolate chips. It's more cakey than crispy and a nice size and bits of sweet potato in it. It's on par with pumpkin but the after taste is definitely sweet potato. It's a great balance of sweetness for this type of cookie. I'm very interested in trying more from Soul Snacks.