My self-appointed spy mission on my most recent visit to NYC? To visit 13 bakeries I'd never visited before (or at least to get a treat I had never tried, if it was a bakery I had been to), in 13 different zip codes.
Reasons? Threefold. #1, I might make some sweet new bakery discoveries and branch out from just the famous spots or my old favorites. #2, the number 13 because it's a baker's dozen. #3, you know, for a great adventure and all.
My adventure took place over 2 days, and directly before it commenced, two very serendipitous things happened. First, I had a date with one of my favorite bloggy bff's, Blondie from Blondie & Brownie. She's awesome and supplied my first two leads listed below--as well as having tipped me off to the fact that D'aiuto (famous for their cheesecake) was worth a visit for something else entirely: the fritters. She is to be trusted. And without further delay, the great adventure:
10018: Gregory's Coffee. This coffee shop might be unassuming, but there's something special about their baked goods case. While many of the items are brought in from wholesalers, a handful are made on-site, including their crumb cake. As a documented die-hard of the crumbly stuff, I found this to be a deeply appealing version, with a wonderful ratio of crumb (lots) to cake (little).
10016: Culture Espresso. Every day at 12 and 3, something magical happens: the chocolate chip cookies that they bake in-house come out of the oven. Now, I will be honest, I did not arrive at the serendipitous time to try one fresh out of the oven, but if it is a tip trusted by Blondie, that is good enough for me.
11103: Frank's Bakery, Astoria, Queens. Old school as all get-out, I decided to pick up a rainbow cookie here. “Can I get just one rainbow cookie?” I said, and the shopkeeper replied “you can, but you look like you could use a dozen.” Flatterer! These cookies were a keeper, with jam between the cakey layers, and that wavy chocolate topping that is so lovable.
10028: William Greenberg's. Now, I have been here—they are famous for their black and white cookies—but I have never tried the Pink and White cookies. Not only were they the perfect color palette, but they are ideal for the rare eater (like yours truly) who actually prefers the “white” side taste-wise but enjoys the contrasting color visual (still weirded out by the “just whites” at Donut Pub). Best method of eating? Slowly nibble the pink side first, obvi.
10003: Tu-lu's Gluten-free cupcakes: Nestled right next to gluten-rich Veniero's, this place is fairly adorable and has a small, but very pretty, array of gluten-free treats. I chose the pistachio frosting-topped chocolate variety. I was delighted to find that the cake wasn't excessively dense or overly fall-apart crumbly (my two frequent complaints with gluten-free cake); the frosting was very buttery and delicious.
10075: The Best Chocolate Cake in the World: With a name like this, you're going to draw customers simply out of curiosity; however, you've got to have a product that is great, or they'll never come back. This is a very unique chocolate cake, not your grandma's style, but a more boutique, fancy confection. It's worth a return visit.
10002: Economy Candy. Oh. My. God. How have I never been to this place before? It is like candy land. Not in the over-the-top way that Dylan's Candy bar is (although there is certainly a time and a place for that), but in a very old-school, Lower East Side kind of way. Any childhood favorite that you've found yourself craving, any regional sweet you miss from your hometown, any faraway favorite that you've been mail ordering...they have it here. I picked up one of those elusive old-time favorites for me, the candy ice cream cone. It tasted like being seven.
10023: Alice's Tea Cup. It is my greatest regret that it took this long for me to visit Alice's Tea Cup, because it is made of magic. Alice in Wonderland-themed, they specialize in tea and scones, and they do both well (and sandwiches and other stuff besides). I had the added pleasure of visiting with Elisa Strauss, who is kind of my cake hero and who is as cute and sweet as you could possibly imagine. Our advice: try one of the flavored scones, which we found to be more interesting than the basic buttermilk (and, you know, we're experts). And don't even try to skip the preserves and cream on the side, what, do you not like joy?
Photo: Bee Desserts10011: Bee Desserts. Honey? Chocolate? Cake? OK. I had heard of this place but never visited their retail outlet; it's very cute, and fans of mellower sweets will have a very happy time here.
10014: Amy's Bread. Of course I have been here before. Don't even kid about that! It is one of my favorite places in the world (although, truth be known, my favorite is the Hell's Kitchen location!). BUT. I realized I had never tried their version of the magic cookie bar (here it is called the Coconut Dream Bar). The name may not say it, but this thing is made of magic.
10021: Cake & Shake. The most magical mobile truck in the world? Possibly. I found it perched outside of another magical place, the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
10009: Ray's Candy Store. Belgian Fries. Beignets. Candy. Softserve at a belgian fry place? Believe it. An unassuming but magical spot.
11211: Joyride Truck: it's mobile, but I caught it in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and picked up some delicious macaroons. Worth noting: this is a delicious zip code, and at a nearby cafe I spied treats by Robicelli's and Liddabitsweets, two other delicious bakers who don't have their own retail storefronts.
10001: LaNewyorkina Paletas. Is it just me or is the high line the most magical place ever? Well, on the day I visited there was sweetness added to the magic by way of popsicles in the 10001 zip code.
Bonus: 10036 sighting! I spied Treats Truck parking in 10036. The truck drove right by where I was walking. But I already knew I loved them, so there was no visit (this time).
All in all? Beyond a baker's dozen of deliciousness.