Dessert Offerings of 2015

In addition to the annual list of readers you know it’s also time for the annual list of desserts I had, the good, the bad, the ugly. And it seems fitting to post it on my birthday! Yay sweets! As you know I like to keep it honest. Life is too short for bad books and bad desserts.

Sweet Buttons Desserts – This place has been around for about 3 years in the Lower East Side. It’s in walking distances from Sugar Sweet Sunshine and they specialize in small treats. Passionfruit is one of my fave items on dessert and when done well in a tart it can be refreshing and perfect. Sweet Button’s had a great gelatin filling and thick buttery crust with meringue on top that was delectable and worth a winter splurge. I loved it big time. In fact I owe that place a visit.

Joyce Bakeshop – I partook in the strawberry croissant which was disappointing because it’s simply a croissant with strawberry preserves inside. However, the croissant itself was fantastic! Reminds you of what a good, homemade one tastes like versus the packaged ones you buy at the store. I can never go back to those. In addition I got a banana, nutella handpie which was meh. This may have been tastier warm and the pie crust was flaky yet had no distinctive flavor or sweetness. Too much nutella and not enough banana. Usually this combo is a great mix in a crepe. Upside the handpie was a solid size for the price.

Balthazar – They regularly deliver pastries there to one of my favorite tea houses in NYC, Serengeti Tea. The croissants are addictive and what a good French croissant should be. Buttery as heck, a slight sweetness, flaky like a friend of yours who always cancels last minute, and simply good. I stuff my mouth with it and a good Ethiopian chai as a treat to myself in winter. It’s one of the best things about winter. The canelle is a French mini bundt cake that is extra baked outside. With the alcohol inside (rum I believe) it gives it an almost chocolatey taste but is super soft inside.

Make My Cake – The oatmeal raisin cookie was what I got though I took out many raisins because raisins are not my thing. Of the cookies I purchased the oatmeal raisin was the best cookie of the bunch. Their coconut pecan one was hard and nondistinct, neither was another cookie I had. It may have been white chocolate macadamia nut. See? Not memorable. MMC is supposedly known for the cake so get that rather than the cookies. Though the cookies are cheap at 75 cents each if you’re on Frederick Douglass and tight on cash.

Levain Bakery – Their cookies are expensive but worth the price and walk to Levain over Make My Cake. I had the raspberry bomboloncini (Italian for ‘small donut’) twice. This is an Italian doughnut filled with raspberry preserves and covered in powdered sugar so it's a sugary mess. The first time I had it it was a treat, the second time it was a dry, hard mess that I threw out. It’s cheaper than other doughnuts at a $2.25 pricetag. So on a good day try it but on a bad one skip. Additionally I tried Levain’s cinnamon sugar brioche. Okay, not sweet as I was told and okay next day but something I wouldn't buy again. Their breads (banana, pumpkin) and cookies are the real draw. Though their signature walnut chocolate chip cookie seemed way undercooked when I had it again.

Londel’sNoticing a trend in terms of Harlem eats? This is a restaurant where I had the peach cobbler during the AALBC party during BEA week. Fantastic crust. Fresh peaches (not canned) in a ramekin and I wanted more of this cinnamony syrupy goodness. To me, peach cobbler is only worth eating with fresh peaches, which is why I usually eat them, when offered, in spring/summer.

Little Cupcake Bake Shop – A worthwhile carrot cake cupcake! Thing is their buttercream icing is very buttery so overly sweet and stiff. Also had the vegan mango cupcake which was fantastic and had a passionfruit filling. This vegan dessert could compete with everything else I’ve had in it being super solid. Do not let the word ‘vegan’ scare you! As with the carrot cake the mango icing was very sweet but the cake was so good and moist that all this along with the passion fruit filling hit the spot. Loved! Great summery cupcake.

Nunu ChocolatesHandmade chocolates in Brooklyn. They were fine, however I wasn’t a huge fan of the ganache assortments. You can't choose what you'll get in a variety pack so you may be disappointed. A bit too sweet for some of the ganaches paired with the dark chocolate candy exterior.

Jam Jar (Pie or Cake) – I really wanted to like this. The packaging and design were so spot on as is the idea of dessert in a jar. It’s a big “thing” now. This is a small vendor who was at Smorgasburg over the summer. I chose the Flea Nut "pie." While her packaging is fantastic, colorful, vibrant, easy to read from afar, the Flea Nut was not. The brownie was too fudgy (read undercooked) for me and the chocolate was subpar, way too sweet, sweeter than anything I've ever had really, which makes me think it wasn’t fine chocolate but some cheap variety that’s more sugar than cocoa. The texture of the cake was the same as the peanut butter on top making it super heavy to eat. So basically this was a fudgy brownie with peanut butter (which was good) on top and chocolate chips. Just too too rich and not a good balance. Perhaps her other pie/cake flavors work better but this one was not made with great ingredients and perhaps much of the money went into the packaging rather than the execution.

4&20 Blackbird – Tasted their caramel apple pie which was very, very good. Been awhile since I had a pie without a crumb topping that I enjoyed as much. I really need to get more of 4&20’s stuff, their menu is often filled with things I’d love. Why are they not in Queens?

Dessert Club ChiKaLicious – I tried their vanilla bean mille crepe cake which was fine. It’s half the price of Lady M's but a bit rich in the homemade vanilla bean cream which is delicious though a mille crepe cake shouldn't have the cream oozing out of it so much. The vanilla bean comes out well in the delicate whipped deliciousness of the cream. This cream is also used in the Dough'ssant which is supposedly a take on the Cronut. I didn't find that the croissant was too doughnut-like beyond the shape. I had the salted caramel and I think the salted caramel topping (which was a lot) overwhelmed the core taste of the croissant. It is filled (in the bottom) with the same vanilla bean cream and tastes delicious but again the salted caramel was overflowing on this one. I'd like to try the others on site and see how they compare as the croissant's texture was a fantastic flaky one.

Amy's BreadI bought the lime cornmeal cookie. It was fine. And by fine I add a slight attitude to that. “How are you doing, Jenn?” “Fine.” My money could’ve gone to their coconut bar which is awesome. The cookie has lime zest that somewhat comes through and that’s one of the few shining things about that cookie that I can remember.

Butter & Scotch – As much as I love everything that comes out of this place the orange bun is okay. It’s a bit too orangey for my taste and not enough caramel evenly distributed, plus the pastry was a tad dry. Conversely, the key lime pie is the friggin' BEST! As always the pies come through big time in this place and even when sharing the key lime with friends they attested it was one of the best things they ever tasted.

La Gran Via Bakery – During the Sunset Taco crawl I bought their black & white cake. This was a mistake as it’s nothing special and reminded me of box cake (not to hate on box cake which can be quite tasty). This was a chocolate and yellow layer cake with "mousse" in between that didn't taste too mousse like but that may have been because it was out in the heat. Nothing special to write home about. If you want a cake fix this is affordable and a good portion but I'd save the calories for something more delicious.

Georgetown CupcakesKey lime cupcake. (I do like my citrus.) Solid cupcake and I see why people like it. Not the best of the best but this seems to be one of those touristy spots just like Magnolia. I’d visit Georgetown again (except for the annoying clientele of tourists, hipsters, teens, cash-laden types who push and shove to get through). Also the overall vibe is that of a cast of the CW rather than an NYC bakery. Anywho, cupcake was soft and had the necessary hint of lime in the cupcake, not hidden but there and not overly subtle. The cream was soft and not a mountain of it on the cupcake so a good balance and yes the lime was there too! A good size and $3 isn't a bad price tag.

Baked – They have a new Tribeca location! If I still worked there this’d be very dangerous. First up, the peanut butter milk chocolate chip cookie which wasn't as good as I thought it would be. Not bad but not sweet enough and I think they may have used some all natural/organic PB that took away from the peanut butter taste and was more like a peanut cookie with a lot of dark choco chips in it. Good chewy texture but not a fan. And its way too big considering. Also got zucchini nut bread which was solid! Next was the pumpkin muffin because pumpkin. Also good stuff! Super moist inside. Would buy that ten times over with their zucchini bread or any of their breads! Had a key lime bar that was perfection. Light and creamy and very citrusy in taste. Some of their other items are actually gaining steam over their brownies!

Macaron Parlour – Noticing a trend with this being an annual staple? I had the carrot cake macaron with cream cheese filling and holy crap it's just like a carrot cake. They did it again! Also had the candied bacon one with maple cream icing which was okay. The bacon overwhelmed the flavor of the macaron which I believe was caramel.

Craftsman & WolvesDuring my San Francisco visit and Jackie suggested it. This place has a lot of fancy fare happening but I played it safe (and to be honest by the time I got their most of their stuff was sold out) and got a brownie with caramel and salted almonds that was a good size. Brownie was split in half and caramel & almonds a thin layer. Very good and not too chocolatey. I’m eager to see if I can try more from them my next time in San Francisco this year.

Dandelion Chocolate – Also in San Francisco. When I saw it I knew I had to try it and so I did it: the brownie bite flight. This was a solid life choice. My fave of the three was the Guatemalan one with notes of chocolate cookies. Since Dandelion is artisan made on the spot chocolate from various regions' cacao the chocolate was intense, not too much but definitely unique to each brownie in the flight and made you take notice. Second favorite was the middle one from Papau New Guinea and least (but good after tasting it more) was the last from Madagascar with dried cherry notes that hit you fast and settled down the more you let the chocolate linger. Super good. Their cinnamon chocolate roll with cocoa nibs not as much a life changer. There was no taste to the pastry, all I could taste was the cocoa nibs and even the cinnamon sugar gets lost. The pastry was a fine texture but again nothing stood out about the taste of it so I could barely remember this one. They also make their marshmallows on site and that was good stuff. Pure vanilla taste and I know this would go great in their homemade hot chocolate.

Psycho DonutsSince I was in a doughnut mood and in San Jose I found the closest shop. The options were vast but I went with the Marla and also the Drunkin' Punkin'. Like a friend said if a place has that much on top of the donuts they may be overcompensating for something. The Marla was a fine yeast donut with no filling that had butterfinger crumble on top and a peanut butter drizzle. Not at all dry and combined some of my fave things. But the donut itself would have no discernable taste without the toppings. The Drunkin' Punkin' was a sad case. A cake donut that had NO pumpkin but pumpkin spices and really it tasted mainly of cinnamon not the pumpkin spice combo, sadly. It was dry-ish and the cream cheese icing on top hardened with a bourbon drizzle and pecans. Again if it weren't for the topping nothing would stand out and as a donut it's not at all enticing for pumpkin lovers. Super nice staff but they do not make their donuts onsite, they get shipped from elsewhere. Not the best donut game at all.

Spot Dessert Bar - Had the Kabocha Brulee cake. A warm caramelized pumpkin cake with cookie crumble and condensed milk ice cream. I ate this during BinderCon and by the time I got to it the ice cream was soup but tasty soup! I drizzled it over the pumpkin cake and it was delish so a necessary addition to the overall dessert. A flat and blech sugar cookie came with as decoration which you can forgo but the pumpkin cake has all the flavors of ACTUAL pumpkin (not just pumpkin spice) so that you can enjoy this dessert being filling but not overwhelming and having a firm custard delicacy to it. So far I have very much enjoyed Dessert Bar's desserts and those with Asian flair as well. I need to go there more often!