BabyCakes NYC

babycakes gluten-free banan cupcake

gluten-free banana cupcake with maple frosting

A throwback “BAKERY” sign hangs from the exterior of a hole-in-the wall bakery better known as BabyCakes. Once you approach it, you’re certain to be charmed.

If you know anyone with food allergies, BabyCakes is the place to send them. A vegan bakery, they serve up gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free, vegan sugar/agave-sweetened confections that are quite delectable–even for the non-allergic.

I have been to BabyCakes many times. In fact, it’s one of my favorite bakeries, and I don’t even have a food allergy or autoimmune disease.

Today, My Dining Partner (MDP) and I opted for a few delectables from BabyCakes’ well-rounded menu.

I selected a favorite of mine: a gluten-free banana cupcake. It was frosted with a subtle maple-inflected icing that nicely complemented the dense banana cake underneath it. BabyCakes refrigerates their cupcakes at, what seems to be, a moderate temperature, so the cake actually tastes cool and more firm than it would were it left standing on the counter. We noticed you could order a frosting shot for $1.50  and I considered it for a moment, so good was the maple topping.

babycakes cookie crunch doughnut

cookie crunch doughnut

MDP decided to try one of BabyCakes’ doughnuts. He ordered the cookie crunch option, which is gluten-free and made with vegan sugar. It tasted lemony and had a surprisingly nice consistency–much better than anything you might find at cringeworthy Dunkin’ Donuts.

BabyCakes also sells brownies, biscuits, an array of cupcakes (some made with spelt), tea cakes, crumb cakes, pies and cookies.

And the staff are incredibly accommodating and knowledgable about the ins and outs of their product. One patron came in with her daughter, who sounded like she had celiac disease, and asked a ton of questions about the ingredients of the various items. Erin, the founder, was on site (which is kind of incredible since she’s pretty famous as far as bakery proprietors go) and was happy to provide useful, intelligent responses.

Try BabyCakes, no matter what your dietary needs are.

BabyCakes NYC

248 Broome Street (between Orchard and Ludlow streets)

Lower East Side, New York

Take the F/J/M/Z to Essex-Delancey or the B/D to Grand Street.

Molly’s Cupcakes

I love cupcakes. There, I said it. If you’ve been reading this blog for any period of time, you probably know that already, but I had to put it out there again.

Knowing I love cupcakes, someone once gave me a gift card for Molly’s Cupcakes that she couldn’t use. (She’s gluten-free and Molly’s offers nothing edible for her.)

molly's cupcakesLocated in the West Village down on Bleecker Street (by Carmine and Sixth Avenue), Molly’s Cupcakes brightens up the block with its bright yellow exterior and delicate sign with “Molly’s Cupcakes” emblazoned upon it. When you peer inside, you’ll notice a banquet up against the right wall with a number of tables and grade-school chairs in front of it. What will steal your attention are the swings, right smack in front of a coffee bar. I wasn’t so sure about the swings–can I really take a cupcake place seriously if it has swings indoors?–but the last time I went to Molly’s, I saw a number of people enjoying their cupcakes and coffees while merrily seated upon them. Swings work.

More important than the swings are Molly’s eponymous cupcakes. They’re incredible. Priced at a whopping $3.75 per serving, the cupcakes are dressed to impress. As My Dining Partner contended, the cupcakes involve a great deal of care and preparation, more so than those of Magnolia or Sugar Sweet Sunshine, making their high price point more palatable. Why so much care and preparation, you ask? If you get up close to the display case, you’ll notice an array of flavors, first of all. Molly’s is not about your standard vanilla/chocolate permutations. No, Molly’s is all about variety. Kahlua, Nutella, Peach, Red Velvet, and Cake Batter  are just a handful of the flavors you’ll find. And they’re beautiful. Hand-frosted and -decorated, Molly’s cupcakes are each filled with a corresponding substance (such as the frosting that’s on top of the cake) that delights the eater once he or she gets to the center of the cake. I know I was surprised the first time I bit into one, and even on my most recent visit, when I had forgotten about the prospect of filling, I found myself overwhelmed by the stuff in the middle.

kahlua and cake batter

kahlua and cake batter

So, how do they taste? In a word, delicious. Recently, we tried the Kahlua cupcake and the Cake Batter cupcake. The Kahlua cupcake is chocolate with Kahlua flavoring and a light chocolate-Kahlua-y frosting. In the center, the liquid filling tasted of Kahlua–a dream for any drinker. The Cake Batter cupcake was too big to finish (but I did anyway), and tasted of Funfetti with a rich buttercream frosting. Cake batter–that must have been injected post-oven–filled the middle and seeped out of the bottom of the cake. The real winner at Molly’s is the Peach cupcake. It’s a vanilla-peach cake topped with a white frosting and a wedge of peach perched on top. The peach was sweet and the frosting was creamy. It was fantastic.

If you’re tired of Magnolia’s hum-drum sugary offerings, you’ll want to try Molly’s. Mix up your cupcake consumption a bit with a giant, expensive, fun-filled (literally) cupcake from a cupcake shop that will steal your heart.

Molly’s Cupcakes

228 Bleecker Street (by Sixth Avenue)

West Village, New York

Take the A/C/E/F/M/B/D to West Fourth Street and walk south on Sixth Avenue.

Your NYC Alternatives to Hostess

cupcake cafe

cupcake cafe

In the wake of Hostess’ plight, it’s important that we come together and rally around confections–in particular, the kind that can’t be bought at 7-11. Now, I know, it’s convenient to just pick up a package of Twinkies and scarf ’em down, but better sweets await you.

Located in the deep west side, there are a number of bakeries (three, to my count) that can satisfy your sweet tooth. Though they aren’t nearly as convenient as 7-11–and my walking shoes can attest to that–they are each worth the walk it takes to find them.

Cupcake Cafe is one of those places that you’ve heard of and probably have never seen. A hole in the wall found on Ninth Avenue in the low 40s, Cupcake Cafe serves up ornately frosted buttercream cupcakes. The cupcakes are on the small side, but are beautiful. If you’re looking to impress a date or your coworkers, you should definitely buy cupcakes from Cupcake Cafe. Now, as for the taste, well, not so impressive. I ordered a vanilla cake with vanilla frosting cupcake. The cake itself is on the dry side and borderlines flavorless. And the frosting tastes a lot like butter–I suppose it puts the butter in buttercream, as it were. One of the places I interned for while I was in college used to order cupcakes from Cupcake Cafe, and I think everyone wondered why the cognitive dissonance–something that looks so beautiful yet tastes so … average. How could this be? Well, it was and it is, and I would only recommend Cupcake Cafe if you’re going to the hellhole that is Port Authority anyway. (Although, I’ve heard that Buddy Valastro is setting up a cafe in Port Authority soon–so maybe Cupcake Cafe will fall into further obscurity.)

empire cake snack cake and lemon bar

empire cake

Now, on the other hand, Empire Cake is worth going to. Found on Eighth Avenue down by Google’s sprawling office compound (you can tell it’s Google’s office building because the name “Google” is emblazoned across the fifth floor windows–because we were all wondering where the great and mighty search engine’s office was …. but I digress), Empire Cake is a very beautiful bakery. With just enough seating to satisfy their hungry customers, Empire Cake sells an array of cupcakes, snack cakes, bars, black-and-white cookies and a number of other comestibles. MDP and I ordered the Brooklyn Blackout snack cake which is a chocolate cake with chocolate pudding filling, dipped in chocolate. For the chocolate lover, this is heaven. Previously, we had tried the Chocolate-Covered snack cake and Lemon snack cake, both of which were outstanding. We also opted for the much-celebrated lemon bar, which I found to be just okay and nothing to write home about (yet here I am, penning a post about it). I didn’t try the cupcakes at Empire Cake because they looked like cupcakes I might not like–too much frosting and not enough cake. That cake/frosting balance is a tricky one, but well worth striving for.

billy's bakery

billy’s bakery

Last, but certainly not least, we went to Billy’s Bakery found on Ninth Avenue in the low 20s. I had been to Billy’s before to purchase some cupcakes for coworkers. When I was thinking about writing this post, I decided to go to Billy’s the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Bad idea. The line was out the door! But, I persisted and returned to Billy’s a few days later to pick up some cupcakes. Not only does Billy’s sell cupcakes, they also have cake, cookies, pies and other confections. I opted for the vanilla-vanilla cupcake and the banana cupcake, which has a cream cheese frosting. The cupcakes were fantastic, and when MDP asked me which I liked better, I struggled to choose, but ultimately decided upon the banana cupcake as the winner in this taste test. It looks like there’s a lot of frosting on these cupcakes–something I just lamented in the previous cupcake entry–but the frosting is high quality and not too sweet. The cake was moist and delicious. These cupcakes are irresistible! As an aside, but as something you might value, I found the service at Billy’s to be way below par. When I walked into Billy’s, I was the only patron around, yet waited five minutes to be served. Four workers ambled behind the counter, talking amongst themselves before waiting on me. Strange and annoying, and has made me think twice about returning to Billy’s.

So, who won this taste test? Well, I think Billy’s earned the highest marks, but, as I said, their service is nogu.

If you have any tips on good bakeries, let me know about them in the comments section!

Pink Icing Bakery

The wait is finally over. Pink Icing Bakery has opened.

pink icing cupcakes

pink icing cupcakes

The long-awaited bakery has been teasing Sunnyside residents for more than two months now. First, Sunnyside Post said it would open the first week of March. Then, Pink Icing’s sign went up some time in April. Then, I saw a “we’re hiring” sign a few weeks later. As of yesterday, Pink Icing is in business.

Nestled between a fish market and Mr. Wonton Chinese food eatery, Pink Icing (which took over a failed Indian restaurant’s space) is just a few doors down from The Sugar Room baking supply store, which is owned by Juan Arache, the man at the helm of the much-anticipated bakery.

So, what exactly does Pink Icing offer?

Well, tons of stuff.

Today, when I visited, they had mini and full-size key lime pies for a few bucks. There was also a pecan pie and what looked like an apple crumb pie (both in mini and full-size form). But the real attraction here is the cupcakes.

Available in big and small portions, the beautifully decorated cupcakes–at a fair $2 price point–are delicious. Without a thick slather of icing (who can bear that?) but rather a delicate application of it, the small cupcake has the ideal balance of frosting and cake. Moist and not-too-sweet, the vanilla cake was just right. I can’t speak for the larger cupcake, but, based on what I saw, I believe it mirrors the perfection of the smaller cake–just more of it.

In addition to the decorated, vanilla cupcakes, Pink Icing serves up red velvet cupcakes, in both large and small sizes. The woman ahead of me ordered a red velvet small, and I envied her. I’ll have to go back and try it. But, then again, I want to try everything at Pink Icing.

pink icing cupcakeThough the space is cozy, there’s room for a handful of tables and a countertop with stools. Several customers milled around the bakery, talking over coffee and cupcakes and enjoying the morning. It seems as though Pink Icing has already become a hallmark of the neighborhood in the mere two days it’s been open.

I sincerely hope Sunnyside residents partake in the wonder that is Pink Icing. After all this time–the waiting, the hand-wringing at the closed door–Pink Icing has finally arrived. Hopefully, to stay for a long time.

Do I think Pink Icing is a destination bakery? We’ll have to see. The cupcake trend in New York has certainly died down (is it fried pizza that everyone’s fascinated with now?), but the cupcakes are so good–and so cheap!–that it just might attract the non-Sunnysiders. Pink Icing is open until 8 p.m., which gives the Manhattanites who frequent Salt and Fat just enough time to grab dessert (before a late dinner, perhaps?) prior to heading back to the city.

If you’re in the neighborhood, try Pink Icing. It’s the kind of cupcake that wholly satisfies the body and soul. You don’t want to miss out.

Pink Icing

44-12 Queens Blvd.

Sunnyside, Queens

Take the 7 to 46th Street and walk west for two blocks on the north side of Queens Boulevard. Do check out The Sugar Room, too!

burgers and cupcakes, Hell’s Kitchen

Though they’re two of my favorite foods, I was skeptical about burgers and cupcakes. I love burgers and cupcakes, but is it possible for one establishment to do both justice? Methinks not.

And I was right, sorta.

burgers and cupcakes cheeseburger

cheddarburger with avocado

Don’t get your hopes up. The burger that was served to me looked nothing like the picture of a cheeseburger on their website. Instead of an artisanal roll, as depicted, the burger came with a standard squishy white bun, which was fine…but false advertising. Also, the fries are presented in a large basket, as was the burger, instead of a trendy tin. I’m not sure who they’re paying for stock imagery. Anyway.

I ordered my burger with cheddar and avocado, one of my favorite toppings. The avocado was fresh and just ripe enough. Though the burger was on the greasy side, I still enjoyed it.

The fries weren’t exceptional, but many in number and tasted fine. My dining partner ordered onion rings, which were slight, crisp strings and delicious (much better than the fries).

burgers and cupcakes chocolate frosted cupcake

chocolate frosted and vanilla cake cupcake

We both ordered cupcakes: vanilla cake with chocolate icing and chocolate cake with chocolate icing. The cake was dense and the icing not too sweet. You could explicitly taste the unsweetened chocolate they used to flavor the frosting. All said, the cupcakes, small and amply iced, are nothing to write home about.

burger and cupcakes’ decor is odd. As New York wrote, it’s straight outta Dunkin’ Donuts land with its pink and orange hues. Cramped chairs and tables litter the floor. There doesn’t appear to be any waitstaff, so you might be inclined to order at the front and wait for your food at your tiny table. But you’d be wrong. There is one waiter who tends to 15+ tables in the joint. Odd. Mitchel London is a well-known catering company. You’d think they could afford to hire another waiter.

Overall, the food was fine, but not worth going out of the way for. We happened to be in the neighborhood en route the 34th Street AMC theater, so it was local enough.

burgers and cupcakes

458 9th Avenue (between 35th and 36th streets)

Hell’s Kitchen, Manhattan

Take the A/C/E to 34th Street and walk over to 9th. 

Carlo’s Bakery: an experience

Carlo's bakery

Carlo's Bakery in Hoboken

I had plenty of time to take this photo. I could have waited until people weren’t standing in front of the bakery. But wait, people are always standing in front of Carlo’s Bakery, posing for photographs or peering through the large glass windows. Carlo’s is best known by TLC viewers as the Cake Boss bakery, which is why people from all over the tri-state area spent their Saturday morning standing in line for confections.

We waited an hour to get in and then had to stand around about ten minutes for our order to be taken. We started our wait in front of Carlo’s, but were then  ushered by a police officer to a faraway corner. Apparently, the Carlo’s line disrupts the peace of Washington Street.

Carlo's cakes

Beautifully decorated cakes, their signature

People were buying cakes, loads of goodies, and even Carlo’s apparel. It was nuts! People were nuts.

Carlo's Mary

Mary, Buddy's sister

Here’s Mary, one of Buddy’s sisters. Her acrid personality grates on the nerves of most Cake Boss viewers, I’m sure. We also saw Mauro, who is as big as he seems on television. After we left, we peeked down the alley where their delivery car is parked and saw Buddy loading a cake. He was pretty adorable in his bakery outfit.

Carlo's lobster tail and cannoli

Lobster tail and cannoli

We bought cookies, cannolis, lobster tails, and a cupcake. The cookies were bleh; I commented that Hungarian Pastry Shop has much better fare. I enjoyed the cannoli. The shell was crisp and slightly sweetened by confectioner’s sugar. Its filling was creamy and not-too-sweet, dotted by mini chocolate chips. The lobster tails had filling slightly sweeter than the cannoli. Eating one was like biting into a giant cream-filled croissant.

Carlo's cupcake

Carlo's cupcake

My favorite treat was the cupcake. Its yellow cake was denser than that of Magnolia and its ilk.The frosting was rich and fudgy and there was just enough.

Overall, I think the trip was worth it. We got to see Buddy and the treats aren’t bad. I’m not sure I’d wait another hour to get into a bakery. This isn’t the Shake Shack, after all.

Magnolia Bakery::City wide

MAGNOLIA BAKERY

I know, I know. The cupcake revolution has passed. It’s all about doughnuts. Momofuku soft-serve. Dessert Trucks.

I get it.

If that’s true, why must I step around snaking queues of eager patrons outside of every Magnolia location?

Because the cupcake is still on–whether you like it or not.

Magnolia, the quintessential cupcake purveyor of the city, has had its chance to cultivate a new post-Sex and the City Manhattanite clientele. Instead, they’ve chosen to cater to tourists without discerning palates, who are, more likely than not, cupcake shop virgins. The novelty of it all.

Well, Magnolia is spreading its wings and landing in Grand Central’s Feeding Area. Their new location will overtake the Little Pie Company (overpriced and underwhelming), a few steps from the Two Boots counter. An ideal audience.

That doesn’t mean I’ll go there … even though I love that Two Boots counter.

It’s a Love Story

Goody Bathtub and I visited the original Magnolia on Bleecker Street. It was nearly empty, eerie. The serve-yourself style at Magnolia works well on quiet days, even though I sometimes catch customers groping for chocolate frosted vanilla cakes with their bare fingers. Shudder.

magnoliacupcakeHaving tried all of their cakes, I selected what I consider to be their ultimate creation: the vanilla-vanilla ($2.50 each). Ordinarily, a boring choice, but Magnolia has found their balance in this cupcake. The chocolate frosting boasts a sweetness that pains my face to swallow–too much confectioners sugar? And their chocolate cake tastes dry and stale.

In contrast, the vanilla cake wasn’t too sweet. It didn’t steal from the frosting’s perfection, but finely complemented it. At Magnolia, one cupcake is more than enough.

Also, I like the decorative (and, obviously, edible) sprinkles.

Another Menu to Burn

Goody Bathtub ordered the legendary Banana Pudding ($4.50 for small, $5.50 for large). It’s not what your grandmother makes. Think of the thickest, creamiest pudding parfait you’ve ever had. Add whipped cream, Nilla wafers, and freshly sliced bananas. Sounds good, right?

magnoliabananapudIt is …. but because Magnolia makes vats of the stuff well in advance the bananas change and infuse their sugary ripeness further into the pudding, thus–in my mind, at least–corrupting the velvety pudding mixture. It’s best when fresh. (Try making it here.)

Please take this warning: Do not, under any circumstance, visit the Magnolia in Rockefeller Center. Madness^25. They have three ordering areas: Beverages, Non-cupcake confections, Cupcakes. The space can’t be bigger than my living room and most people are so thrilled to finally experience Magnolia that they’re willing to trample over innocents such as myself.

So they’ve gotten in the line for beverages but want a dozen cupcakes? Why not storm forward and push patient patrons up against the ineffective (and harsh) glass partition at the cupcake area!

Tied Together With (or Without) a Smile

Magnolia’s Magnolia. No denying that. But they’re not the best in the city. Sugar Sweet Sunshine is number one in my book, but there’s cupcake shops I haven’t tried. If you know of any, please tell me. I’m dying to try something new.

You live in the city? Yeah, take your out-of-towners to Magnolia. “This is the one from Sex and the City,” they’ll giggle as they step up to the line on 11th Street. It’s worth $2.50, for sure. I’ll give it that much.

Magnolia Bakery
various locations