Where in the World is CakeSpy This Time?

Unicorn farm road

If you've been following me on social media lately, you've seen posts from a wide variety of locales, from Asheville, North Carolina to New York City to Litchfield County, Connecticut to...Amarillo, Texas? 

It all might make one start to wonder: where in the world is CakeSpy? Where the heck IS CakeSpy? 

Why don't we catch up so I can tell you where I've been and what I've been doing--and more importantly, eating. 

Before I departed Asheville, I made three very important stops that I feel I should tell you about. The first was to Unicorn Farm Road. I need to tell you: THIS IS A REAL PLACE. One of my yoga school classmates told me about it, and basically I got there as soon as my GPS said I could. 

Unicorn farm road

I wouldn't say that the road matches its name (unless the unicorns are living undercover), but seriously. UNICORN FARM ROAD! 

If that interested you, FYI, there is also a Unicorn Road in Newburyport, Massachusetts (also home of Eat Cake!). Just saying.

After Unicorn Farm Road (can you tell I love saying it?), we hit up Dough, a bakery that had been closed most of January for renovations. Well, it re-opened the day we left, and it had some truly glorious offerings, including their take on a Cronut...


and a cocoa nib doughnut...


And many things other than doughnuts, but we didn't try them.


Yumz. We took a few bites but saved some room, because I'd never been to Whit's Frozen Custard before. Yes, it's a chain, but it was a new chain to me. And I'm glad I went there. We got their version of a concrete, which you seriously could have turned over and it wouldn't have dripped out of the cup, it was that thick. I got the cookie dough version, thankyouverymuch.

New Boots

Oh, and. It's a bonus fourth thing I did in Asheville, but I got new boots.

After I departed Asheville, North Carolina (read about what I ate in Asheveille!), me and my family packed up and drove to Richmond, VA to visit an old family friend. Time was at something of a premium there, but we did get a chance to enjoy a fantastic breakfast at Lulu's (red velvet waffle, anyone?), and to pick up some sweet treats at For the Love of Chocolate.

Photo via Lulu's Yelp page

We didn't have time to hit up Dixie Donuts this time, but I can tell you from my previous visits to Richmond, they're worth a visit. 

From Richmond, we backtracked westward, ultimately bound for Santa Fe, New Mexico. But as that drive is impossible to do in one go, we had some pleasant side trips along the way. 


First up was Knoxville, Tennessee. One of my yoga school classmates, Emily, lives there, so we stopped to visit! That's us together, above. We're cute, don't you think? We had lunch at an adorable place called Just Ripe, where they had pecan sorghum pie. We didn't get it, but I was intrigued. Note: Sorghum is big in this area. I was seeing it all over Asheville, too.


After lunch, we went to an adorable chocolate shop called Coffee and Chocolate.

Photo via Coffee and Chocolate's Yelp page

We also couldn't help a quick stop in this adorable gift store called Rala, which sort of reminded me of my old store! They have cute cards by Gemma Corell, pictured below. 


I also saw this, in another gift store. I forget the name of the store, but the unicorn left a lasting impression.

Unicorn, Knoxville
Fried pie

We stopped for a quick dinner in Nashville, and I will tell you, this is my first time having BBQ there! We went to a place charmingly called Peg Leg Porker to partake. They also had locally made fried pies, which we tried...I promise, they tasted better than my picture looks.

We also stopped for a coffee at Crema, then were on our way. 

Drive, drive, drive. We stopped in Arkansas so I could take a yoga class, but didn't stop too long otherwise. I didn't eat anything there, but I should let you guys know that I was able to knock Arkanasas off of my "50 states of yoga" list. Along with the trips detailed later, I am up to this point:


More driving, then we had a brief stopover in Oklahoma City to visit Whiskey Cake. I love this restaurant. It's weird because it's oddly chain-y, or it looks like they want to become a national chain, but while it's still a small chain, it's very good. We had (surprise) the whiskey cake.

Photo via Whiskey CakeNo visit to Pinknitzel or Ingrid's Kitchen this time, because then we were on our way to...

Donut Stop
Donut Stop

Amarillo, Texas. If you've never been to Amarillo, I'm not going to give it a hard sell. But I am going to tell you that if you dig a little, there are some fun bakeries to be found. There's Donut Stop, which is very old school but has good, "like Dunkin' Donuts used to be" sort of donuts. Because it is amusing, I will pause to show you some photos of Porkchop exhibiting curiosity about their donuts for a moment.

As a note, I bought a t-shirt there, which smelled like donuts (really). I didn't want to wash it! But, in case you were worried, I finally did. 

There's also my favorite bakery in Amarillo, Belmar Bakery.

Texas cookies

Belmar Bakery is my favorite probably because it's the same name as the town I grew up in, in New Jersey. It also oddly reminds me of a bakery called Freedman's that was in Belmar forever until last year. But this is in Texas.

Turtle brownie, Belmar Bakery

They have a variety of not-fancy but sweet treats, ranging from kolaches (it's Texas, after all) to cupcakes to brownies. We picked up a nice variety of treats, including brownies, cookies, petits fours, and more. The brownies, in my opinion, were the standouts. 

We also stopped at Braum's, a regional chain which has its last outpost to the west in Amarillo. I love their birthday cake ice cream. 


Back in Santa Fe, we were delighted to pick up our favorite cake from Whole Foods (here's my homemade hack of it!). As a note, this one says happy birthday because it is an old photo. My birthday was in August, but you're allowed to send me a present if you like.

Birthday cake

But after about 4 days back in Santa Fe, I was back on the road. I had a trip planned to New York City, Boston, and Connecticut, to try to make some publisher connections. 

So, I got on a midnight plane and the next morning, found myself in cold, cold, cold New York City.

Right after hopping on a red-eye flight, I went straight into Manhattan, to Black Seed Bagels. It was a re-schedule; Arcade Bakery, the initial venue, was closed for the winter break. 

Photo via Black Seed Bagels on Yelp

I walked by the new BAKED location on my way to the meeting, and I can tell you, Baked is good no matter if it's in Tribeca or Brooklyn. 


Photo via BAKED Facebook page

I then got a rental car in New Jersey (it was a lot cheaper), stopped for a cookie with my parents...

Mom's super secret chocolate chip cookies

and drove up to Connecticut. There, I had another meeting but then stayed with some family. To be a good houseguest, I made sure to get them a little cake. I don't know if you can tell from the photo, but it was a tiny cake--about 5 inches. This highly adorable cake was purchased at Whole Foods, where they personalized it for me with a heart. Aww!

Little cake from Whole Foods, Danbury

I also had time to stop at Love Heart's Bakery in Litchfield, which I already loved just based on the name, but loved even more once I tasted their English Toffee. 

English Toffee from Love's Heart Bakery, CT

From there, I headed up to the Boston area, where I got to finally meet Andris of Baking Steel, with whom I am collaborating on a project. We talked pizza and steel, then I helped him with a pizza class. 

Photo via Baking Steel

The next morning, I knocked Massachusetts off of my yoga list by taking a class at Dancing Crow Yoga, and then went to a meeting at Redeye Coffee Roasters in Hingham.

Snowy boston

After that, I had a weather advisory so I basically headed back to New Jersey for a visit with my parents. First stop? Hoffman's ice cream. Even on the coldest week of the year, it's a necessary stop for me every time I go to NJ.

Hoffman's Ice cream, nj

My dad had an impressive pastry from Mueller's in Bay Head on the same night, which I thought I would show you. 

Chocolate claw

In NJ, I made sure to hit up some of my favorite places: Kane Brewing Company, Younique Yoga, and Rook Coffee.

Rook coffee and an apple

I also had a standout pastry experience at Simona's Bakery in Sea Girt, NJ. We had gone there because their chocolate blackout cupcake was named one of the best in NJ. Well, we got one of those, but also a Fluffernutter cupcake, which was a melange of peanut butter and marshmallow. Look at it!

Cupcakes from Simona's

And now, look at how it looks in the center.

Fluffernutter cucpake, Simona's

Now, I'm not one to even believe in the existence of "half a cupcake" (just eat the thing! is my opinion), but this cupcake was so large that it really was like two cupcakes, so I separated it into two portions. This means I got to enjoy it over two days. Score!

How to: stippling

It was snowy and cold in NJ, so I spent some time doing stippling. You can read about it in this post I did for Craftsy.

I of course also hit up Nature's Corner for one of my favorite Shazaam cookies.

Shazaam cookie

I headed back up to NYC, where I ate some pizza and recorded a podcast with Food Psych by Christy Harrison.

City Bakery

Oh, and I also got to go to City Bakery for some hot chocolate and an expensive marshmallow. Classic!

I stayed with my friend James, and he made gluten-free pancakes in the morning. I had never tried them before but these were actually quite nice--extra nice since they were made for me by a friend.

GF Pancakes

The next day, I went back to the city for a meeting and the editor had treats from Bouchon. Pinkies ouuuuut!

Ho-ho from Bouchon Bakery

I went back to NJ, feeling like a real live commuter, and spent the night. The next AM, me and my mom went back to the city. We enjoyed the most frigid walk I've ever had, but we had each other's company.

We had a tasty dinner at Benny's Burritos, and I picked up some sweets at Zaro's Bread Basket at Penn Station (which hasn't changed a whole lot since this roundup). 

Black and White Cupcakes

The next day was my last in the city, and this is a good point to ask an important question: is it really a visit to NYC without a cupcake from Amy's Bread? I think not. 

Cupcakes at Amy's Bread in Chelsea Market, NYC

Have you ever tried Dough Doughnuts? Based in Brooklyn, this is a store that cannot be missed. They also sell their doughnuts at Whole Foods locations in Manhattan.

Photo via DOUGH

We got some coffee at Ms Delilah's, an adorable place with biscuits from Balthazar that they will dress up in a number of different ways. 

Once at JFK, I was just happy to have survived the weather, and I was on my way back to Santa Fe. 

Whew! What a few months it has been. I'm ready for a nap!

Happy Sweet Winter, everyone!

Baker's Dozen, CakeWalk Edition: Thirteen Bakeries, Thirteen Zip Codes in NYC

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.

Peter Pancakes: Ricotta Pancakes With Fruit from Five Leaves, Brooklyn NY

For those of you who have ever thought "Pancakes! Great Idea!" and then carb-o-loaded only to find yourselves sugar-crashed, carb-full but oddly still hungry two hours later, I have two words for you: Ricotta. Pancakes.

This sweet stack of awesome was obtained at Five Leaves Cafe in the Greenpoint/Williamsburgish crossroads of Brooklyn, NY, after we saw the party at the next table order it and couldn't keep our eyes off of it. 

These ricotta pancakes were served with a healthy array of fresh fruits, maple syrup, and--joy!--something  called honeycomb butter.

Fluffy yet substantial, these pancakes are a little richer than most, with a beautifully filling batter that will keep you fat and happy for hours--and yet, magically, they don't make the batter leaden-dense, but somehow achieve a lightness that scrunches most satisfyingly under the hungry tines of your fork and keeps you coming back for more...until...

...of course, if you can't be in Brooklyn right this instant, you might consider this recipe from Baking Bites.

Five Leaves, 18 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, NY; online here.

Five Leaves on Urbanspoon

Seeking Sweetness: Daily Snapshot, Tiffany Blue Petits Fours from The St. Regis Tiffany Suite

Photo: Business InsiderCakeSpy Note: if you follow me on facebook or Twitter, you probably know I'm partial to observing (and sometimes adding) sweetness in the natural world and urban landscape. Here's where I post a daily feel-good photo or image, for no particular reason other than to showcase these sweet little nothings, in hopes that they'll make you smile.

Recently I was tipped off to a sweet find by Not Martha, who, knowing of my great love for all things Tiffany & Co., told me about the Tiffany Suite at the St. Regis. This luxe suite is $8500 a night (!) and includes everything Tiffany-themed, including the gorgeous petits-fours pictured! Find out more here.

Pastry Profiles: Chocolate Cake, The Best Chocolate Cake in the World, NYC

Here's the thing.

It takes some serious...ah, cake truffles, shall we say, to call your establishment “The Best Chocolate Cake in the World.” And, with a small case to the side of exceptions (breakfast treats, mostly), to only offer this self-proclaimed superior product. 

But it is also intriguing, and when I came across their Upper East Side location the other day (their latest location, which has only been open a few months) I simply had to go in.

The world's best doesn't come cheap; it's nearly $55 for an entire cake, $6 for a slice, and $3.50 for a macaron-sized bite of it. I went for the cheapie bite, I'll tell the truth.

Now, (spoiler!) the cake was very, very good. It was interesting though, because if asked to conjure an image of “chocolate cake” I think that probably most people in the US would think of a chocolate layer cake slathered with chocolate frosting, sort of “like grandma used to make”. And this cake was most certainly NOT that.

It's a delicately composed series of layers, alternating between a biscuity, almost meringue-y chocolate, and a rich ganache. Each layer itself doesn't necessarily scream out “cake”...but when you take one pleasurable bite with each layer contained, it kind of combines into a chocolate cakey experience, and it is just gorgeous.

While the title may invite some naysayers (after all, everyone's definition of “the best” is different, isn't it?), this one is a very fine specimen of chocolate cake indeed. And the store is just darling, so if you're in NYC, it's worth making the effort to make a visit happen. You can learn more about the story behind the cake here.

The Best Chocolate Cake in the World, multiple locations; online here.

The Best Chocolate Cake in the World (opening soon) on Urbanspoon

Sherlock Scones: Alice's Tea Cup, NYC

Alice's Tea Cup in New York City is a magical place. Well, actually, magical places--there are three, cleverly entitled "Chapter One"...and so on.

Why so magical? Well. It is an establishment based around the idea that tea need not be relegated only to teatime. It is Alice in Wonderland-themed. They have delicious scones.

Honestly, the only thing they're missing is a bunny hopping around telling you to “eat this”. Which, I suspect, might have happened if I had stayed around a little longer.

I had the great pleasure of visiting this establishment (the Upper West Side location, down the street from my new building crush, 126 W. 73rd street, which resembles a slice of wedding cake with draguees, really it does) with my extreme cake crush Elisa Strauss (you may know her as the famous cakemaker to the stars who released the books The Confetti Cakes Cookbook and Confetti Cakes For Kids, or from her numerous TV appearances). We ventured down the rabbit hole and enjoyed tea and scones. Here we are together to prove it:

But luckily, the scones also taste good. The basic buttermilk biscuit was a drier, more biscuity sort, which definitely needed cream and preserves (don't you dare not order the preserves and cream); far more interesting was the pumpkin variety, which was lightly sweet, more moist, and had a delicate glaze on top. The scones were actually on the saltier side (a definite pro for me), so they were perfect when topped with the sweet preserves, each and every sweet and salty bite a teatime revelation.

Perhaps the loveliest thing, though, is that these scones are so clearly in their natural element, and the full experience of eating them surrounded by a sort of magical-realism world is very queenly indeed. In fact, I may or may not have found myself humming a line from the animated Disney Alice In Wonderland movie as I exited...”you can learn a lot of things from the flours...especially in the month of June...”

Final thoughts: Alice's Tea Cup makes for a golden afternoon. If you can't make it to NYC this very instant, you can at least buy their cookbook, Alice's Tea Cup: Delectable Recipes for Scones, Cakes, Sandwiches, and More from New York's Most Whimsical Tea Spot.

Alice's Tea Cup, 102 west 73rd Street; online here.

Bake the World Better: Sharing BAKED Blondies with Capitol Hill, Seattle

Not long ago, the extremely cute and talented boys of BAKED (one of Brookyn's finest bakeries!) collaborated with Williams-Sonoma to create Blondie and Brownie mixes based on their award-winning recipes.

And I'm just going to say it: while the impulse might be to say that homemade is generally better than a mix, these are definitely better than any I've ever homemade (perhaps sad; definitely true).

But I don't want you to take my word for it, especially since I am well-documented as being in love with the proprietors of Baked. So, I took it to the sweet--at my store.

I left this note:

...here are some of my favorite responses:...and someone maybe had a religious experience?

...and at least one person was knocked on their side:...but perhaps this eater summed it up best:

So there you have it. Don't take my word for it, take it at the trusted word of the hipsters of Capitol Hill, Seattle. Baked Blondies are your new BFF. For reals. 

Baked Blondie mix is available at Williams-Sonoma locations, or you can also fly to the East coast and pick up a batch at BAKED, buy them to ship online, or buy their books here and here .

Cakewalk in Manhattan Part 2: Upper West Side

Not long ago, I heard about a group of artists who do the most wonderful thing to keep themselves inspired: they will navigate that city with a map of a different city. The idea, of course, being that sometimes, removing yourself from your natural element can help you see the world through new eyes. Well, to say I was enamored of this idea would be a bit of an understatement, and I have since tried to incorporate this idea into my pastry-eating and adventuring.

So when I was headed to NYC, to create an adventure to rival my pastry half-marathon, I knew I'd have to think of something good.

And then it came to me: a literal cakewalk. Here's the 411:

  • How: I took a map of Manhattan, and on both the upper east and west sides, I wrote the word “Cake” and transcribed it into a walking route (can you see it on the map above?)
  • Why this route: Well, because it was going to involve a lot of backtracking, I realized that choosing these neighborhoods, which bookend Central Park, would result in not only an interesting comparison, but would also ease up the physical amount of walking.
  • But what if I missed a good bakery? Well, I made a few side trips, but the idea in general was to have a route that might take me by places I might not otherwise have heard about and to possibly make some new discoveries.
  • Total Miles Walked: Many.

What did I find? So many sweet discoveries. Read on for the chronicle of the Upper West Side trek (you can also find the East Side Cakewalk here):

Necessary Side Trip: Hungarian Pastry Shop. How could you not stop here? It's a treasure.

105th and Broadway: Silver Moon Bakery. If you've never visited this breadmaker/bakery, you are in for a treat. Carb-o-load on freshly baked pretzels (if they still have any left), which are salty, yeasty, and completely addictive; get your sweet fix with pastries and truffles of all manner. Do it.

96th and Amsterdam: Maybe you've seen one before, but I never had: an Altoid Gum machine.

96th and Columbus: Sing Sing Market, where they have good crumb cake.

Image: Threadless.comAlso at 96th and Columbus: I saw a girl wearing a t-shirt that said “Stupid raisins stay out of my cookie”. No, I wasn't looking in a mirror. I will be, soon, though, because I found it online and ordered myself one.

Side note: Not that you asked, but I fell in love with a new building: 498 west End Avenue.

80th and Amsterdam: Sarabeth's. Favorite two things there: cookies, and jam. Not necessarily together.

81st Street at Broadway: Zabar's. Oh em Gee. Same family that owns Eli's on the East side. The crumb cake is some of my favorite in the city, and everything else—the cookies, the babka, the Hello Dolly bars—isn't so bad either.

72nd and Broadway: Grandaisy Bakery. A teeny tiny storefront, this spot offers a variety of pastries and cookies, as well as little pizzas; this time, I tried the Lumaca, or as I was told to call it, “the snail”, a sweet flaky roll filled with apricot, honey and pistachio. Sort of like a morning roll gets kissed by baklava.

Necessary side trip: Levain Bakery. With half pound cookies that taste as good as they weigh, you'd better make a short side trip to this place.

70th Street and Columbus: Muffins Cafe. This place has my favorite corn muffins, but they sell out early and I'll be honest, I've never tried anything else.

70th and Columbus: Soutine Bakery. Like a little dollhouse bakery at the first level of a brownstone on a side street, this place is as charming as can be, and has a loyal following.

69th and Columbus: Magnolia Bakery. If you've never had a cupcake from one of their outposts, do try the ones at this spot, the second location they opened. If you're so over cupcakes, dive into their banana nilla wafer pudding, which is a strong second-bestseller.

...and to finish, at Columbus Circle: Time Warner Center. You must go here, because they have two things of interest to the avid pastry-eater. For one thing, Whole Foods sells a variety of baked goods from many local bakeries, so if you aren't going to get to visit every neighborhood, you can find sweets from places like Two Little Red Hens, etc, here. Also, you must visit Bouchon, where you can get the most pinkies-out homemade oreos or Ho-hos you've ever seen.  

For highlights from the Upper East Side Cakewalk, click here!

Cakewalk in Manhattan Part 1: Upper East Side

Not long ago, I heard about a group of artists who do the most wonderful thing to keep themselves inspired: they will navigate that city with a map of a different city. The idea, of course, being that sometimes, removing yourself from your natural element can help you see the world through new eyes. Well, to say I was enamored of this idea would be a bit of an understatement, and I have since tried to incorporate this idea into my pastry-eating and adventuring.

So when I was headed to NYC, to create an adventure to rival my pastry half-marathon, I knew I'd have to think of something good.

And then it came to me: a literal cakewalk. Here's the 411:

  • How: I took a map of Manhattan, and on both the upper east and west sides, I wrote the word “Cake” and transcribed it into a walking route (can you see it on the map above?)
  • Why this route: Well, because it was going to involve a lot of backtracking, I realized that choosing these neighborhoods, which bookend Central Park, would result in not only an interesting comparison, but would also ease up the physical amount of walking.
  • But what if I missed a good bakery? Well, I made a few side trips, but the idea in general was to have a route that might take me by places I might not otherwise have heard about and to possibly make some new discoveries.
  • Total Miles Walked: Many.

What did I find? So many sweet discoveries. Read on for the chronicle of the Upper East Side trek:

Bonus coverage: because I couldn't NOT, I did veer off of the grid slightly for a small side adventure before starting the east side cakewalk:

First, Breakfast at Tiffany's: I drew a little Audrey Hepburn-inspired croissant to kick off my journey.

And now, on to the Cakewalk. Here are highlights from the love letter I sweet-walked across the grid of the Upper East Side (click here for the West Side tour):

59th Street: Macaron Cafe. A cafe dedicated to la belle macaron—what could be sweeter?

60th Street and 3rd Avenue: slightly off of my C route, Dylan's Candy Bar was worth the block diversion, because, after all...

59th Street and 3rd Ave: Financier Patisserie. A cute-as-a-button bakery featuring all manner of Frenchie Sweets.

Sidebar: I headed over to one of the little parks that dot the side streets off of Sutton Place, where you can see the view of the Queensboro bridge made famous in Woody Allen's Manhattan. Sweetness!

63rd and York: Sweet serendipity! De La Vega is an NYC artist who is very prolific with sidewalk chalk—it was a delight to discover some of his work. I kept on finding it around the east side, which made me feel like I had a sidewalk chalk compatriot.

73rd and York: Sugar Loaf Cafe. Gawd, isn't that just the best name you've ever heard?

75th and York: The best of the Delavega art I came across, wherein “become your dream” was “become your ice cream”. I left a little response. xo.

78th and 1st Avenue: Bagel and Appetizing. I always love the crumb cake at places like this.

Between 79th and 80th Streets on 1st Avenue: Anneliese's Pastries. Featuring row after row of cupcakes, cookies, and a very surprising variety of roulades, this place gave the entire block a nice, buttery scent.

80th and 1st Avenue: Agata & Valentina. This gourmet grocery not only had great produce but a nice array of treats obtained from various local wholesale bakers.

81 st Street: Gracie Mews Diner. Sweet tip: on the Sunday I walked by, their brunch menu featured something so magical it almost brings a tear to my eye: Brownie Waffle Sundae. I did not try it, but it evoked such sweet fantasies that I couldn't not share.

80th Street and 2nd Avenue: H+H Bagels. Complete with a second entrance for tiny people! (Kidding—it is where the flour is pumped in, I believe). 

82nd and 2nd Avenue: Sweet Temptations, Nut City: It was closed, but the sign did make me smile.

76th and 2nd Avenue: Caffe Noi. For when it's Gelato o'clock!

76th and 77th and 2nd Avenue: Pick a Bagel. Once again, the crumb cake!

75th and 3rd Avenue: Citarella. This gourmet grocer always has some nice sweets, generally from nicer local bakeries.

79th and 3rd Ave.: Crumbs Bake Shop. I've had hot and cold experiences at this cupcake chain, which has proliferated around NYC and now beyond. If I am going to tell you the complete truth, I have enjoyed their cookies more reliably than the cupcakes.

79th and 3rd Ave: Corrado Pastry. This bakery has a location in Grand Central Terminal too, and I was delighted to see a bigger cafe. Good cookies.

80th and 3rd Ave: Eli's. Now, this place is kind of like heaven for foodies. Let's pause to see just a few of the sweeties on offer (a mix of baked in-house and outsourced). The picture above really does not show how extensive their baked-good and sweet offerings truly are--candy, confections, cakes, pastries, pies, cookies...the works. It is like heaven.

Necessary side trip: Wm. Greenberg's, for some of the most celebrated black and white cookies.

83rd and 84th at York: Yorkville Creperie.

86th and 2nd Avenue: Dunkin' Donuts. If you believe it, this is the first one I ran across (unless I missed on along my route previously?)

Necessary side trip: Two Little Red Hens, where you can get your cupcake on, old school style. Just walk over to York Avenue.

86th and 3rd Avenue: This isn't necessarily sweet, but I totally saw Emeril filming at Gray's Papaya at this corner. Cool.

86th and Lexington: Tim Horton's. Just donut. Also, Shake Shack--anyplace that has a Custard Calendar is just fine with me.

93rd and 3rd: Corner Bakery. Featuring fauxtess cupcakes, cookies, and more, this spot was packed.

3rd Ave at 95th: Zesty's Pizza, one of my guilty pleasures, has delightfully greasy zeppole.

96th and Park: Gourmet Garage. Another good bet for baked goods wholesale from some of the city's nicer bakeries.

101st at Park: A sweet heart on the street.

102nd and Lexington: Delicious Bread House. Believe it or not, I used to live on this corner. But when I lived on this corner, this place wasn't there, just a friendly guy who would stand in front of this empty storefront and, I think, deal drugs. Maybe I wouldn't have moved away if this place had been there. The place is roughly the size of a postage stamp, and baking is not done on premises—instead, they receive their baked goods from a variety of wholesalers—but the two workers there during my visit, who were adorable, told me that their goal was to bring artisan bread and delicious pastries to Spanish Harlem. I told them I loved them. Everything was stupid-cheap: I picked up a three-pack of cakey Lemon drop Italian cookies for $1.50. More info here.

110th and 1st Ave: La Tropezienne. This was the jewel gilding the lily of the E on my final turn. Unmarked and unassuming from the outside, I probably wouldn't have looked twice but for the crowd and the singular, heady scent of butter and sugar that I know signifies “Bakery”.

Inside, I discovered a sweet spot indeed: cases and cases of delicate french pastries, cakes, tarts, and even cream puffs shaped like swans. More info here. 

Click here for the West side companion Cakewalk.

Sweet Soutine: Cookies and More from Soutine Bakery, NYC

If you haven't heard of Soutine Bakery in NYC, you're not alone. But I'd like you to discover it now, please and thank you.

Soutine is just off of the main drag, on a residental townhome sidestreet. It is tiny—I think of it as a dollhouse bakery. And this appeals to my love of all things tiny and cute.

But it's a double threat, because while their bakery case is small, there is no lack of delicious treats. They have frenchie treats like milles fueilles, sweet gateaux and other American standards (brownies, cookies, etc), but on this trip I zeroed in on the cookies.

The Soutine Chocolate Chip cookie is a crunchy affair, sort of along the lines of Tate's Bakeshop. Generally your dear spy's personal tastes lean toward soft and gooey when it comes to cookies, but, you know, it's never a good policy to eliminate the possibility of a delicious cookie experience solely because the cookie is crunchy. And ultimately the Soutine cookie was a sweet reward: light and crispy but still very buttery and rich in brown sugar flavor. I'd bet they taste even better warm, with a nice contrast between the crispy cookie and some gooey chocolate, but I wouldn't turn these cookies away any day.

I brought a bag to share with my buddies at the Serious Eats headquarters, and they approved, too.

Soutine Bakery, 149 W. 70th Street, NYC; online at soutine.com.

Just Donut: Sweet Love for Peter Pan Donuts, Greenpoint, Brooklyn

I'll tell you something. My first apartment, after moving out of my college dorm, was in a magical little Polish corner of Brooklyn known as Greenpoint. And my first bakery visit in my first apartment was to Peter Pan Donuts.

The first visit (this was in 2001, btw) was sort of like stepping into a time and space machine: the staff was seemingly completely comprised of teenage Polish girls wearing (totally non-ironic) pink zip-up uniforms. But amazingly, the donuts were only about 80 cents. Score!

To say I fell hard for this place would be an understatement: I even learned how to say “thank you” in Polish to endear myself to the counter girls (it worked).

What is it that is so great about these donuts? Well, they are unfussy, unpretentious, and just straight-up good. They are fried to perfection, slightly greasy without being soggy, and cakey and thick without being leaden. Just out of the fryer they are a donut revelation; even at the end of the day, they hold their own.

Since 2001, Peter Pan has gained some acclaim, capturing the heart of Tina Fey; the donuts are now $1; but it's still just as magic as I remember.

Also tasty: the crumb cake and corn muffins. This visit, I heard that they had cupcakes too, but they were out by the time I arrived.

Peter Pan Donuts, 727 Manhattan Avenue, Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop on Urbanspoon

Sweet Discovery: Pastries at Locanda Verde, NYC

It's high time that we discuss the exquisite joy that is pastry-eating at Locanda Verde in NYC.

I've been excited to visit this place for a long time, for three main reasons:

  1. My customer-turned buddy too, Kelly Fink, works there as a baker.

  2. A few visits ago, Ed Levine of Serious Eats said that their sweets could not be missed. You listen to a guy like this.

  3. They have homemade pastries. Really, while #1 and #2 sweeten the deal, #3 alone would have brought me to this place.

yes, looking this good DOES hurt sometimes.So. After arriving in a mild-hurricane state (I had a train to catch, to visit another bakery, in 20 minutes, natch), I was able to quickly give Kelly a hug and nab a cinnamon sugar doughnut and an espresso chocolate scone. Basically, then I had to run.

But that was not the end of my Locanda Verde nirvana.

First, the scone. Dense, biscuity, and extremely moist, it was studded with little landmines of warm, lightly gooey bittersweet chocolate and nibbly little bits of espresso—all topped with a crunchy sugar coating. It was—because other words escaped me while eating it on the subway on my way to Grand Central—very, very good.

Next, the doughnut.

Doughnut lasted all the way to 125th street on Metro North, but had a sweet and rapid demise as the train hurtled in the northerly direction. With a crispy exterior dusted with sandy sugar-and-cinnamon, the crust gave way to a soft, cakey treasure inside—an old-fashioned style doughnut with a rich, moist crumb and a full flavor that tasted something like heaven with a cafe au lait.

And then I napped the rest of the way to my stop, because while I was headed to Pleasantville, it kind of felt like I was already there.

CakeSpy Note: I should note, of course, that this is not a bakery--it is a restaurant--but during the day they do have a takeaway bakery counter. 

Locanda Verde, 377 Greenwich Street, NYC; locandaverdenyc.com.

Locanda Verde on Urbanspoon

Have a Ball: Birthday Cake Truffles by Momofuku Milk Bar

Cake Gumshoe Leandra kind of rules. Not only is she the grande dame of NYC doughnuts, having tasted just about everything on the menu at Doughnut Plant and having tempted us all with her account of the very wonderful Peter Pan Donuts, but now, she's shared a very sweet find: Birthday Cake Truffles by Momofuku Milk Bar.

As Leandra puts it, 

Since they stopped selling slices of their cakes, they made up for it by creating "truffles" out of them. Balls of sugary dense cakey wonder packed with rainbow goodness.

Now, I don't want to speak in grand generalizations, but basically, if the very thought of these doesn't make your toes curl with happiness, then you're probably a fairly joyless person.

Of course, if cake truffles aren't your thing, you probably know that you should try their cookies. As Leandra puts it,

Also, their cookies are out of control! My favorite? the chocolate chip cornflake marshmallow. WOW.

Of course, she included a picture to illustrate the "WOW".Want more? Learn more about Momofuku Milk Bar here; read more of Leandra's delicious adventures on her site, Snacks in the City.

Cake Byte: Cake Pops by Stick & Pop, NYC

Cake Pop Wants to know where its face went.Dear Stick&Pop,

I don't want to be to forward, because I just met you, but I think I love you. But no, I don't want to break up my marriage. Because you see, Mr. CakeSpy loves you too.

What we propose is that you leave NYC and move to Seattle, live in our spare bedroom, and instead of paying rent, give us an endless supply of your delicious cake pops.

Please, consider it.



- - - - - - - -

OK, so the preceding is a slight dramatization of actual events. We haven't invited the owners of Stick & Pop to live with us--yet.

But after each bite of their delicious pops, we're coming closer and closer. Not convinced? Well, read their bio and you might come a few steps closer:

French Culinary Institute graduate, Jacki Caponigro, and design professional, Christy Nyberg, launched Stick&Pop in New York in the Fall of this year. The pair has crafted a menu of 12 delightfully creative flavors that are as fun to look at as they are enjoyable to eat.

The eye-catching flavor, Darling (marble cake dipped in white chocolate and covered in sugar sprinkles), made a splash as The Savoy Hotel re-opened in New York—the treats were covered in gold and silver sprinkles to announce the occasion.

The diversity of flavors on the menu though, show that Stick&Pop is not relying on the novelty of a new “food-on-a-stick” but instead putting flavor and creativity at the helm. Johnny Cakes, for example, is peanut butter cake dipped in dark chocolate covered in pretzel and sea-salt and Griswald is essentially a S’more on a stick.

These cake pops are hands down some of the best I've ever tasted. The interior cake is decadently moist and buttery, and the candy coating is firm but not to the point of cracking and hurting the roof of your mouth--and each is so adorably decorated that you can't help but fall in love a little bit, just looking at the packaging.

Favorites so far? The "Darling" (marble cake, rolled in white chocolate and coated in sprinkles); the "Birthday Cake" (buttery cake coated in dark chocolate, with sprinkles); and of course, the "Johnnycake" (peanut butter cake coated in dark chocolate, with pretzel coating).

Seriously, I don't know what else to say other than these pops are a good investment. Lucky you if you live in NYC and can access them easily; even if you're not, they're worth the splurge for a special event.

Find out more at stickandpop.com.

Pastry Half Marathon: An Epic Chronicle of Visiting All The Bakeries on Broadway in Manhattan

It's true: a few weeks ago when I was in NYC, I performed an incredible feat of cakespying: I walked the entire Manhattan length of Broadway (about 13 miles, in case you were wondering), and visited every single bakery.

Why Broadway? Well, first of all, it's a street that everyone recognizes. Whether it evokes visions of the great white way, a corridor to Wall Street, or dreams of Zabar's, it will ring a bell with everyone. Also, it's a very long road--it runs the entire length of Manhattan (and beyond that, nearly to Canada!) and I knew that I was guaranteed to hit a variety of different neighborhoods and therefore styles of baked goods. It had been an idea I'd been kicking around since discussing it with Leslie (author of Let Me Eat Cake ) a while ago, and it seemed like the right time.

What about all the other great bakeries just off Broadway? For the purposes of this trip, I did not foray much off of Broadway. Not because I was disinterested in the fantastic bakeries off of Broadway, but in fact because there are just so many great ones in NYC! To make it a project I could complete in one day, I stuck to Broadway. Well, OK, with one or two stops to the side.

Why do this? Not just to burn off the calories from the massive amounts of sugar and butter consumed (although that aspect certainly didn't hurt)--as something of a pastry flâneur, I really wanted to take a bakery tour around the world, and this seemed like such an interesting way to do it in one day.

Did you eat something from every bakery? No, I did not. I did however go to every bakery, and I bought things from many of them--some I ate, some I shared. But in all cases, I made notes about items that seemed unique or interesting to chronicle my journey.

Did you really visit every single bakery? It's possible that I missed a bakery or seven; one thing about Broadway that I hadn't actively considered is that for a large chunk of it there is a partition down the middle, and sight lines were blocked sometimes. However, I did visit every bakery or seller of baked goods that I saw.

When possible I made a note of what side of the street the establishment was on. Also, you'd be surprised at how many "dead zones" there are, bakery-wise, on Broadway. For instance, from the bottom of the Upper West side through Times Square, there really aren't many bakeries aside from chains; Broadway is a high-rent street though, so this is not to say that there weren't many bakeries along side streets where I traveled.

OK, with that business out of the way...are you  ready to take a very sweet journey with me? Here's a roundup of how the day went down.

4:15 a.m. Wake-up time. The day starts in Belmar, NJ, where I'd spent a few days with my family. I put on my walking shoes, and my mom gave me a ride to the train station (dear sweet mom drove slightly out of her way to the 24 hour Dunkin' Donuts so I could get a coffee).

5:06 a.m. The train departs for Penn Station. Probably carb-o-loading before a day of pastry is not such an awesome idea, but I was hungry, so I ate half a slice of colossal crumb cake which I had picked up the day before. Fact: colossal crumb cake makes you feel unstoppable. By the time I reached Penn Station, I was ready to walk a half marathon and a half.

7:30 a.m. Arrival at Penn Station, and a transfer to the A train, where I ride it uptown to the last stop in Manhattan, 215th Street. I walk up to the uppermost tip of Broadway, right before the bridge over to the Bronx.

And on 220th Street, Tour de Pastry Begins. Here are my notes from the journey, heading south:

218th Street, left side: First bakery sighting: Twin Donut Plus. I didn't stop here because I have tried their donuts in the past; they're pretty good, if not world-changing. 

214th Street: Carrot Top Pastries! This full-service bakery was catering to the breakfast crowd when I came in. It felt kind of like a hidden uptown treasure, with a case full of carbohydratey treats at very affordable prices. Interesting: the staff appeared to be mostly hispanic, but the baked goods were incredibly varied, with Italian and Jewish specialties along with American favorites--one of the things I love about New York. I asked the employee what she liked best, and she suggested the chocolate rugelach. Sold! 

207th Street: First Dunkin' Donuts sighting! (I was wondering when I'd have it)

206th Street: Sad sight: a Halloween candy massacre.

204th Street: Not sweet, but of interest: if you walk by, you'll be treated to a view of the Dyckman House, built in 1784 and now a museum--a sort of monument to early Manhattan. Very cool!

190th Street, Left side: La Dona Carmen Bakery Cafe. Most people were bustling in for a cafe con leche, but I scored a butter cookie for like, 60 cents. Le yum!

186th Street: Another Dunkin' Donuts sighting--this time, connected to a gas station. Don't worry, I marked DD sightings for a while, but stopped at a certain point south when it lost its novelty.

179th Street, right side: Another Twin Donut Plus sighting. Interesting history from their site: 

Twin Donut is a coffee and donut retailer that was founded in Boston, Massachusetts by George Psathas in 1959. Twin Donut has been licensing franchises as of 1960 and has locations all over the Tri-State area. Our founder, George Psathas, was employed by Dunkin’ Donuts of Quinzy, Massachusetts from 1951-1958. During that time, he rose from Store Manager to Division Supervisor. From 1960-1963, he was Division Supervisor for the Mr. Donut company. He then left Mr. Donut to develop Twin Donut, Inc.

168th Street: First Starbucks sighting. Pretty impressive that there are over 50 blocks of Broadway devoid of a Starbucks in Manhattan!

Observation: Around here I notice Cohen's Gentle Dental. I may need you later, Cohen.

167th Street: I spy a fellow carrying a Carrot Top Pastries bag! I give him a knowing nod, because clearly he must be doing a pastry half-marathon too. We are sympatico! He doesn't give me much of a reaction.

164th Street: another Carrot Top Pastries location. OK, so they have another location, which probably explains why I saw someone carrying a bag a few blocks away, and also why he ignored my knowing nod. Feel sheepish for approximately five seconds, but then walk into the bakery. This one is larger, and seems to have a larger cupcake presence. 

Also: in case you can't read the note under "Bakery", it says: "All customers illegally parked - Please give us your order, we will bring it to your car. Traffic officers will give you a TICKET! Thank you". Now that's service!

161st Street: Estrella's Bakery Corp. This bakery has sweet and savory, and what really caught my eye were the Dominican-meets-Italian offerings in the cake case, which included fruit tarts, tiramisu, and pineapple cake co-existing in a sort of pastry melting pot of deliciousness.

160th Street: Another Dunkin' Donuts between 160th and 161st Streets. Oh, I may not have mentioned it earlier, but this is on their menu now:

158th Street: A pretty building caught my eye down the street at 611 West 158th Street. Learn more about it here.

153rd Street: Sweet Hereafter...the Trinity Church Cemetery. No, it's not a bakery, but I had to share how interesting I thought it was that they referred to themselves as "an active cemetery".

148th Street: Another Dunkin' Donuts.

146th Street: I see a young girl pushing a stroller who appears to have forgotten to wear a skirt on top of her tights. If for a single moment you think that maybe this was a sexy look, I assure you, it was not.

144th Street, left side: Compres Bakery Corp. This tiny bakery specialized in what looked to me to be Dominican baked goods--I picked up a macaroon-type sweet, which I believe they called a "coquito". The counter lady didn't speak much english, and I don't speak too much Spanish, but we connected over pastry--she pointed at it and said "yummy". Total cross-culture pastry moment! As for the cake: I think it had a pineapple glaze on top, but it could have been another type of fruit.

140th Street: Tanteo Dulce. How darling was this place? It was teeny-tiny, but full of a well-curated selection of baked goods, including cheesecakes, bread pudding with cream sauce, mini palmiers, and more. Because I must have been on a coconut kick, I picked up a couple of coconut macaroons. Theirs were nice and toasty, just how I like them.

136th Street: Panaderia Las Americas. What struck me here was the great selection of guava cakes--I picked one up. The cake was very light, but the frosting very creamy.

123rd Street, right side: Chokolat Patisserie. Located close to the point at which the subway emerges from underground, this is an unexpected but welcome spot for a bakery. Chocolat is very small but has a great variety of baked goods, including cheesecakes, gluten-free macaroons, and cakes--and at very low prices. I picked up a few of their Red Velvet cupcakes ($1.35 each!), one of which I shared later on with the Serious Eats crew. They served their cupcakes chilled, which is actually a bonus for me, but I know is not always preferred.

120th Street: Happy dance! 100 block mark!

118th Street: Spotted--a cakesplosion! Oh noes!

114th Street: Mondel Chocolates. Alas, they were set to open at 11 and it was well before, so I skipped this spot.

113th Street, right side: Nussbaum & Wu. A deli with a tricked-out bakery case, this place is popular with Columbia students, but truth be told I've always just found it to be good-not-great.

112th Street, left side: Just a shout-out to Tom's Diner, which you may recognize as the diner facade from Seinfeld and from the Suzanne Vega song.

Foray off Broadway to 111th Street and Amsterdam: OK, I made a brief foray off of Broadway because I simply had to visit the Hungarian Pastry Shop. I used to live right down the street, and it's always like taking a walk down memory lane. Plus, how many bakeries offer you a view of a huge gothic cathedral?

111th Street, right side: Samad Deli. This isn't a bakery, but they do carry a wholesale brand of crumb cake that I like. So there you go.

107th street, left side: Absolute Bagels. Once again, not a bakery, but some of this spy's favorite bagels in the city. And I'm not alone in my good taste: they have a review from Ed Levine on the wall too.

105th Street, left side: Silver Moon Bakery. This place is magical, offering breads, pastries, and chocolates. Cake Gumshoe Katie and I have shared many a swoon in regard to this place. Sadly, the jerk in front of me in line picked up the last Pan de muerto (not shaped like Frida Kahlo), so I drowned my sorrows in one of their delicate--but decadent--chocolate truffle petits fours. It helped. Note: it was here that I had my first macaron (parisian-style) of the journey.

104th Street, left side: First Hot & Crusty sighting. This is a local chain that has pretty good baked goods (if not great)--but one thing to note about them is that they are often open very late, and this is a very good quality in a bakery, in my opinion.

101st Street: Dunkin' Donuts! I feel like I might have missed logging a few.

97th Street: Another Dunkin' Donuts! Hello again.

93rd Street: EuroPan. Another kind of deli-bakery chain (you'll see them in the train stations, etc) that you'll see around town.

92nd Street, left side: Rita's Water Ice! I always get excited about seeing this chain because it used to be much smaller, with only a few locations (happily, some were by the shore in NJ where I grew up). It tastes like the boardwalk to me.

91st Street: Le Pain Quotidien. This international chain may have a lot of locations, but I always find their quality to be very good, and each location seems to have its own character. Favorite baked good: these doughnut things filled with cream.

89th Street, left side: Dunkin' Donuts. Hello, friend. Again.

89th Street, right side: The Gary Null health food store. I stop in to see if they have cookies. They do. This makes me happy. Oh, and I have to tell you, I once ran into Alec Baldwin here. For realz!

88th Street, right side: Hot & Crusty.

87th Street, right side: Godiva Chocolates. I will say, I love their hot chocolate.

80th Street, right side: Zabar's. Like, OMG. I could spend all day at Zabar's for a variety of different reasons, but the first thing that I always go for is the all-butter crumb cake with big, fat brown sugar crumbs.

78th Street, right side: EuroPan, again.

76th Street, right side: Beard Papa, where you can get cream puffs filled to order. They have locations elsewhere now too. Also, observation at their neighbor, Lush: the display is pastry-themed. Yea!

75th Street, right side: Citarella. This fancy grocery store mainly has baked goods from other bakeries, but they have a well-chosen case of goodies, including rugelach, rainbow cookies, marble cake, and more.

74th Street, right side: Fairway. If, at some point in my life, I were ever posed the question "what grocery store would you like to live in?" this would certainly be the one. It's stacked high with everything, and they have a bakery case full of goodies. Some of the items definitely look better than they taste, but the one thing that I consistently love is the lightly sweet and incredibly carbohydratey Sweet Potato Biscuits. Related: here's a recipe for Sweet Potato Biscuits.

Observation: you'd be a fool if you didn't stop and admire the Ansonia for just a moment. Not only the setting for Single White Female as well as a building with an interesting history, it also kind of resembles a big ol' wedding cake.

72nd Street: Just off Broadway, you'll find Grandaisy Bakery, where they make lovely sandwich cookies (and lovely everything, if you ask me).

Brief foray off Broadway: I was intrigued by the prospect of Royale Pastry, which apparently served as the inspiration for the Babka episode of Seinfeld. I found the address online, but what did I see when I got to 237 West 72nd Street? Worse than simply a closed bakery, I found this:


70th Street, left side: A gelato place. Confession: I don't get that excited about gelato. There, I said it.

63rd Street, left side: Breadsoul Cafe. I have always loved this place.

61st Street, right side: Melissa's Deli: it's a deli, but they have the kind of crumb cake I like. Observation: when I go to a deli in NYC, I think that I classify them in two ways: the kinds that have the type of crumb cake I like (made by some wholesaler, available in three flavors: plain, rasberry, and chocolate, and comes in plastic wrap), and the kinds that just have the pre-packaged, Drake's type.

59th Street (Columbus Circle): A veritable sweets-fest at the Time Warner center, which boasts an epic Whole Foods (always a good spot, in my opinion, for decent baked-on-site goods). I love Whole Foods when I visit a city where I don't have much time, because often they have a variety of baked goods from several good local bakeries, so I can scope them all out at once. 

Of course, if you're at THIS Whole Foods, my best advice is to get out and get up the escalator, because upstairs you'll find Bouchon Bakery, home of the homemade Ho-Ho, the TKO, and so many other decadent treats.

57th Street: PAX Wholesome Foods. A lunch spot, but they have these reese's bar cookies that you'll find at various delis around the city that I have a soft spot for. Who IS that wholesaler?

55th Street: Cognac. This restaurant has a small adjoining bakery, and it is here I picked up the mini Tropezienne, a cream-filled cake. After one bite I decided it was too good not to share, so I picked up a second which I later gifted to my buddy of Blondie & Brownie fame.

52nd Street: Another deli with the kind of crumb cake I like. Hooray!

48th Street: We're hitting Times Square, where around here you see the M+M store on your left, the Hershey Store on your right. Look at the signs and power through, because there will be more baked goods soon.

44th Street: A moment of confusion. Around this part of Times Square several streets cross each other, and I'm not sure if I am still technically on Broadway at the moment, but I do see a Carvel ice cream that has cannolis in the window. Yes!

42nd Street: Gaze to the left and look at 4 Times Square for a moment. Did you know that I have a deep wish for my artwork to appear in The New Yorker one day?

38th Street: Back on Broadway for sure. Harrie Cafe and Bakery (really a deli) on the right, and they have the type of crumb cake I like.

37th Street: Crumbs. I stop at this one and pick up a Grasshopper cupcake.  Later, when I go to the Serious Eats offices, Ed Levine makes no secret of his distaste for Crumbs. My thoughts? They're not my favorite cupcakes in the city, but they're not the worst, either. Oddly, Mr. Spy and I really enjoyed a cupcake from their Los Angeles location, and I felt that it tasted better than the ones I had tasted in NYC. 

Other interesting observation at Crumbs: they had black and white cookies in TWO styles: with fondant icing, and with a buttercream frosting. I found this fascinating, because although I believe that the fondant style is more traditional, I've always preferred the taste of the lesser-found buttercream-frosted ones.

My friend James got to eat aforementioned cupcake, and he was very pleased.

Brief Foray off Broadway: At this point, I walk over to the Serious Eats offices near FIT, where I always love to visit the staff and tell Ed Levine that he's basically my hero.

Several awesome things happened at Serious Eats, including: a cranberry sauce taste-test, I got total validation on my morning eating habits, and I got to share some of my booty from the long walk so far with the totally sweet crew there. Serious Eats, you always leave me inspired!

25th Street, right side: Hill Country Fried Chicken. You heard me. A Fried chicken place. But I didn't even notice that right away: looking in the window, the first thing I saw was PIE. They had it in a variety of flavors, even offering Pie Shakes (!), which you know I love. 

I chose the "Cowboy Pie" (pictured at top of post), which was kind of like a magic cookie bar in pie form (not all that different from this pie I made for Serious Eats). It was absolutely brilliant. This place, just opened in September, is a treasure for pie-lovers, and I was delighted to see it receive accolades in the New York Times!

24th Street: You're close enough to Shake Shack to call it Broadway--good.

20th Street: Lucky find, the Van Leeuwen truck was parked here today!

Union Square: The Greenmarket, where you'll always find a great variety of sweet treats. 

13th Street: Max Brenner. A mecca for chocolate lovers, this place is a full experience, if you're into chocolate being delivered via syringe, and chocolate sandwiches, and stuff.

8th Street: There's this deli that has a lot of the same barcookies that PAX has right here. They're open late.

Great Jones Street: Au Bon Pain. I love this place. I know that they're a chain, but I like their crumb cake and cookies a lot.

Funny aside: Around Houston Street, a mother and her daughter ask me where the Hollister store is. Now, you may not know how I dress, but I wouldn't classify it as tres fashionable, so I have no idea where this store is. "Do you know the cross street?" I ask. "It's on Broadway", they respond. "Well," I say, "Broadway is a very long street." Trust me.

Prince Street: Dean & Deluca. Once again, a mix of on-site items and a great selection from local bakeries like Doughnut Plant and Sage American Bakery. You'll generally pay a little more here, but hey, SoHo is a high-rent neighborhood.

Observation: SoHo seems to be a bit of a stopping point for bakeries on broadway--it seems like from this point on, it's mainly lunch places or delis that happen to have baked goods (which makes sense, because this area is mainly home to offices, with residences off on side streets which would also be home to the bakeries).

Grand Street, left side: L'ecole, the restaurant of the French Culinary Institute. I didn't go in, but with a dessert menu boasting things such as "Calvados Baba with Chestnut Ice Cream", "Pumpkin Souffle with Eggnog Sauce", and "Pear Tarte Tatin with Chartreuse Ice Cream", it's worth a mention.

Worth Street (just off): Farinella, which has a handful of sweets but is primarily a pizza place.

Cortland Street: Pret a Manger, that charming chain from Europe. Observed at this location: A guy eating a hunk of carrot cake in the style that one would eat an apple, out of his hand. I silently applaud you, guy eating carrot cake like an apple.

At this point, it's about 6:00 p.m., and offices are closing and commuters are on the street. Sadly, the final stretch of Broadway is underwhelming when it comes to bakery offerings (a Starbucks here, a deli there), but quite overwhelming when it comes to lovely architecture. 

And then, all of a sudden, there it is: 1 Broadway.

By the time I reach Bowling Green, the sun is setting and the park is clearing out as commuters get on the ferry and park-dwellers are beginning to leave for warmer places.

Overall observations? By the end of this journey, I was tired. Like, really tired. But I was also kind of feeling no pain, such was the surge of accomplishment I felt at the end of the journey. Sitting for a moment at Bowling Green on a bench by the southernmost tip of Manhattan, I observed the Statue of Liberty and reflected on it as a symbol for the United States as one of hope, freedom, and the ability for all sorts of cultures to be -- and to bake -- whatever they want to be. I felt like during the course of the day, not only had I experienced some wonderful pastries, architecture, and people watching--but almost as if I'd had a mini world tour. 

So, ultimately after my 13+ mile pastry half marathon, I felt something even better than runner's high: a supreme, and complete, sugar high. So much, in fact, that I somehow managed to stay up all night with James watching horror movies (Zombies of Mass Destruction and Gay Bed and Breakfast of Terror, in case you were wondering) instead of doing the smart thing and sleeping, a lot, before my 5 a.m. flight back to Seattle.

Of course, my feet kind of hurt the next day.

Note: for more pictures, I will be making an album on my Flickr page, check back in a few days! If I missed your favorite Broadway bakery, send me a line or leave a comment!

Sweet Tart: A Bakery Crush on Three Tarts, NYC

Right now we really, really need to talk about how much I adore Three Tarts, a little gift and confectionery shop in NYC's Chelsea neighborhood.

Now, you know it's got to be special to stand out, especially in such a star-studded neighborhood which is also home to the Chelsea Market, Billy's Bakery, and La Bergamote.

What sets Three Tarts apart is that it's not completely a bakery--it's more a gift/treasure store that happens to have a lovely little bakery case. And the tiny sweets are indeed big-time treats. Why don't I tell you about some of the treats I've enjoyed there?

How about...a homemade marshmallow? SpyMom and I have sampled the raspberry ones, and let me tell you that I'm not even a big marshmallow fan, but these are evidence that when something is executed well enough, it can make you a believer.

Of course, if you like your marshmallows a little more tricked-out, you might enjoy something like the reverse s'more, a chocolate-covered marshmallow and graham cracker confection (pictured top). Le yum!

If marshmallows aren't your thing though, you might like what they call a "yumball". You probably already like it based on the name, but it gets even better when you bite into it: these are basically fancy cake truffles, small but intensely flavorful and decadent. My favorite? The Vanilla-Lemon, "Vanilla and lemon cake mixed with cream of coconut and Malibu rum, rolled in white chocolate and shredded coconut". Oh, yes.

Another treat worth noting? The cookies. I picked up an "Annie" cookie last time I visited, and this meltaway-type cookie was redolent of butter, beautifully crumbly, and made me regret not having bought a second one.

Happiest of all, even if you're not in NYC, Three Tarts does ship their goodies--you can shop online here. But seriously--next time you're in the city, you must visit, because it really is such a happy and sweet shop!

Three Tarts on Urbanspoon

CakeSpy Undercover: Doughnut Plant, NYC

You know that dream where you walk into a bakery and order one of everything? Well, Cake Gumshoe Leandra may not have quite lived that dream, but she must have come pretty close on a recent series of extensive taste-testing visits to NYC's Doughnut Plant, which she was kind enough to share with us (oh, all of the great photos are by her, as well). Read on:

Doughnut Plant – just the name alone conjures images of a secret lab where delicious, mysterious donut perfection is created. And it’s not really that far off from the truth. Descendant of pastry shop owner, Mark Israel began making his donuts with his grandfather’s recipe in a basement in the Lower East Side in New York City. His emphasis on quality ingredients, including seasonal fruit and fresh roasted nuts, has set Doughnut Plant on a level all its own in the donut and even bakery world.  He actually created the method of filling a ring donut with cream or jelly.

Critical acclaim is splashed on every wall – Saveur, New York Times, Bon Appetit, etc. The peanut butter and jam donut is lauded as of one of  Food Network’s “The best thing I ever ate” items.  It could be said that the gourmet donut trend was started by Doughnut Plant. And the quality lives up to the hype.

A bright, colored chalk handwritten sign lures the crowds with an advertisement of the masterful flavors. Inside, their signs, bearing scientific descriptions of doughnut names, draw notice as well.

On my first visit, near the end of the day, nearly all the donuts were sold out. Not surprising. What was surprising is that there was still a line!  My sister and I selected several doughnuts, with hopes to return a few days later and get a few more.

There they were, nestled in their wax paper bag. I love the sight of goods nestled in a bakery bag! Next to it, the counter, an artful ode to the doughnut – enhancing the experience.

What we chose: Vanilla Bean (yeast), Valhrona chocolate (yeast), Lavender (cake) and Carrot Cake (cake). Our thoughts:

Vanilla bean - simple perfection. Flaky vanilla glaze giving way to a delicious doughnut that has none of that “french fry” flavor doughnuts occasionally take on.

Valrhona Chocolate – while the doughnut it self is nothing overly special, you can actually TASTE the quality of the chocolate in the glaze. This is no Hershey’s, gang. So good.

Lavender – stunning. A soft, cakey donut encased by a sweet, salty savory fragrant glaze, with the lavendar flavor just strong enough. Incredible.

Carrot cake – a crumbly yet moist take on its non-donut relative – complete with cream  filling. Rich flavor of spice. Phenomenal.

Ok – I had to return for one more. The frosty white Tres Leches called to me…

Tres Leches – an INCREDIBLY moist donut filled with rich cream that isn’t too sugary. Delicious, unique, everything a high-end donut should be.

My second trip to Doughnut Plant was in the morning. Ah, it was quiet and less crowded and the doughnuts greeted me  with big happy morning smiles. I selected four more doughnuts: Blackout Cake (cake), Peanut Butter and Jam (yeast), Fresh Blueberry (yeast), and Creme Brulee (yeast).

Fresh Blueberry - oh my goodness – this donut is incredible. Sugary and fluffy with a crackly glaze of sweet blueberry perfect. I should not have selected this one first, as I am partial to blueberry and almost made myself sick on it when I had so many more doughnuts to officially test. 

Crème Brulee – very good – hardened sugar glad that actually crunches like the real thing, thick custard that isn’t overwhelming. My friend Eunice’s favorite. She came with me and brought milk in a thermos. She rules.

Peanut Butter and Jelly – ah, Food Network, I am so sorry to disagree with you! In fact I hate even saying this, but I just did not love this doughnut. I love peanut butter, and the glaze itself was delcious. I love jelly donuts. But perhaps I am too low brow for this. I love the crunchy sugar and fake bright ooze of a classic jelly donut. This specimen…tasted like a sandwich. The strawberry jelly, the peanut butter, the heavy soft doughnut emulating bread, I just felt like it was lunch time. It was just a lot all at once.

Blackout Cake – again, hate to say it but was not thrilled. The cake crumbs on top were a bit dry and though there was a fudgy chocolate filling, which was great, it was just like a big old piece of chocolate cake. Nothing doughnut-y about it. But if you love chocolate, I suppose this is your choice.

The morning was young and our doughnut lust was not quenched, so I went back for 2 more (+1 lavender cake for Eunice, who had not had it), Lavender (yeast) Fresh Blueberry (cake)

I had tried their respective counterparts and now was interested to see how these (probably my two favorite flavors) fared otherwise. Note, I am normally a yeast donut  fan all the way. Unless its like Entemanns…or…yeah ok I love donuts let’s leave it at that. (Yes, I realize the blueberry comparison has been..compromised).

Back to the action.

Lavender yeast – delicious  soft doughnut with a sweet glaze that held less lavender flavor than the cake.  If you are wary of lavender but want to try, this is the way to go. The cake one held more flavor and while more daring, was ultimately better in my humble opinion.

Ah, my #1 choice of the whole damn thing – Fresh Blueberry cake. I would have never guessed it, but this doughnut rocked my world. Sweet, flavorful glaze gives way to insanely moist, blueberry cake which will rival any muffin. This specimen is beautiful inside and out.

Of course, for drink offerings, you aren’t getting your run-of-the-mill coffee. There is Ronnybrook milk, chocolate milk and coffee milk, along with iced chai and organic iced coffee. Oh also, these donuts ain’t cheap, gang. Be prepared to spend $2-4 dollars per doughnut.Worth every penny.

Doughnut plant is a doughnut paradise. A doughnut lover's dream. Its unique flavors, high quality ingredients and great artsy vibe (opposite your regular cutesy doughnut shop) support it as an iconic New York Spot. It joins various places in the Lower East Side rich with history and local character, lauded as some of NYC’s best eateries. I LOVE DOUGHNUT PLANT.

For more of Leandra's adventures, visit her site, Snacks in the City; for more Doughnut Plant magic and information, visit their website.

Donut Delight: The Inimitable Experience of Early Morning Eating at Donut Pub, NYC

Here's the thing about Donut Pub.

The donuts might be merely good, but the experience of visiting the establishment is great.

Located at 14th Street and 7th Avenue in NYC, it's perched in a nether region that isn't quite the West Village, isn't quite Union Square, isn't quite Chelsea. It's been there forever (OK, since the 60s)--and is open 24 hours--yet somehow manages to be one of those places that people have never visited.

This place that lies in-between vibe carries over when you walk into the place: it perpetually feels like it's about 4 a.m. at Donut Pub--perhaps it's the clientele, bellied up to the donut bar, or maybe it's the weird lighting. Maybe both; either way, it kind of feels like you just walked into a David Lynch movie.

But it is this very ambiance that makes walking into Donut Pub and getting one of the first-fried specimens of the day at 3 or 4 in the morning, whether you're up early or late, one of the most exquisite donut experiences imaginable.

The "great whites" (black and white cookies, minus the black) are another story, though--not sure if I am ready to go there.

Donut Pub, 203 W. 14th Street, NYC. View the menu here.

Donut Pub on Urbanspoon

Sublime: The Lime Cornmeal Cookie from Amy's Bread, NYC

Today I'd like to tell you about the subtle but sublime pleasure that is the Lime Cornmeal Cookie from Amy's Bread in NYC.

This cookie isn't flashy in appearance--it's actually rather unassuming. It would be easy to pass it up for something more classic like chocolate chip or oatmeal, or for something sexier like the double chocolate pecan.

But if you do opt for it, you're in for a sweet reward.

The crumb is lightly coarse and gritty-textured from the cornmeal, but a healthy amount of butter somehow keeps it tender and cohesive (happily, it doesn't crumble apart like its cousin cornbread likes to), and the sugar and lime add sweet and tart hints that perhaps don't sing, but definitely hum, in a very pleasing way. 

A lightly sweet cookie like this is refreshing and hearty all at once--and the cornbread almost makes it feel healthy. At least healthy enough that I'd consider it a completely appropriate breakfast cookie.

Amy's Bread has three NYC locations; visit their website, amysbread.com, to find out more. If you're not in NYC, the recipe for this cookie can be found in the book The Sweeter Side of Amy's Bread: Cakes, Cookies, Bars, Pastries and More from New York City's Favorite Bakery.

Amuse Bouchon: The Bouchon Ho Ho, Bouchon Bakery, NYC

It's time to talk about the fanciest Ho Ho you'll ever meet: the Bouchon Bakery Ho Ho.

I'll admit, when I first encountered this $5.25 log of chocolate and buttercream at Bouchon Bakery's Columbus Circle location, I was, to put it mildly, conflicted.

On the one hand: Awesome! It's a Ho Ho! But Fancy!

But on the other hand: Hey! This Ho Ho costs more than $5! What are they trying to pull?

And while tasting it was delightful, it actually made me even more confused.

On the one hand: This is a well made baked good. Each bite is exquisite, obviously made with fine ingredients, redolent with rich, dark chocolate cake, rich buttercream all enrobed in a decadent dark chocolate.

But on the other hand: Somehow it seems with every bite that nostalgia is playing a game with you, because it tastes so right...but isn't all of the wrongness of the original what makes it so wonderful?

Faced with a sweet dilemma, a piece of said fancy Ho Ho was presented to Cake Gumshoe Margie (um, also my mom), whose eyes widened upon the prospect of such a fancy version of a childhood favorite. Her esteemed opinion?

"It's very good...but if anything...it tastes just a little too fancy".

So, where does this leave us?

On the one hand: When we make bad stuff good, there's an appeal that can't be denied, something deeply rooted in nostalgia that appeals to our developed tastes.

But on the other hand: Unfortunately, as it seems, as much as we might want these treats to grow up with us, sometimes we can't get past the fact that the bad is sometimes what makes these treats so good.

Of course, in conclusion, I would like to say that you wouldn't have to twist my arm too hard to buy another one of these deliciously decadent treats--because never has existential musing been so sweet.

What do you think? Is making junk food gourmet a good or a bad thing?

The Bouchon Ho Ho, available at Bouchon Bakery; for locations, visit bouchonbakery.com. Call to ensure availability.