NYC’s Most Iconic Desserts


When friends or family visit NYC, they invariably ask us, what are our top dessert recommendations?  In true lawyer fashion, we typically answer, “that depends.”  You see, if you want to blow your mind, and a good wad of Benjamins, skip high teas and restaurants, and go straight for the dessert bars.  If however, you want some decent change back from your greenback, and you want something you may not be able to get anywhere else in the world, then here’s our list of the most iconic New York desserts.  Note that we have not included “fad desserts” here (e.g. bubble waffles, crazy ice cream, freakshakes etc). Rather, this is a list of desserts that have stood the test of time.  We have listed both the original birthplace of these desserts, as well as an “awesome alternative” (in some cases, we love the alternative far more!).  Enjoy!!

The Cronut

  • ☑ Dessert destination: 
  • ☑ Short and sweet story:  Did you know that it was really only in 2013 that the thing called the “cronut” was invented?  A mere 6-7 years ago really, it’s the baby of the desserts featured on this list.  Yet 6-7 years hence, the pastry shop that started the worldwide phenomenon (yes, we have seen it in London to South-East Asia to even our home town in Australia) still has lines winding around the block.  So what is it?  Think croissant on steroids.  It’s for when you can’t decide between croissant or doughnut.  Made for the greedy guts.  Pictured below is the strawberry iced variety from Mia’s Bakery, our personal favourite patisserie in NYC (and just a block or two from our apartment too, hehe!).

The Babka

  • ☑ Dessert destination: 
    • The original: Breads Bakery, Union Square, Manhattan.
    • The awesome alternative: Michaeli Bakery, Lower East Side (for a crustier version); Orwashers, Upper East Side (for a softer version).
  • ☑ Short and sweet story:  One of the best aspects of travel is the opportunity to learn about new culture, to broaden’s one mindset, outlook, experiences and memories.  Here’s a confession – we never heard of the word “babka” until we came to NYC.  Never heard of it, never ate it.  Don’t live with that regret.  Babka is a delightful pastry knot loaf perfect for desserting throughout the day – from breakfast to after-dinner treat, and repeat.  Head to Breads Bakery for a version with hazelnut Nutella tones, Michaeli for a pure chocolate one with an incredible crispy edge (our favourite, and as pictured below), or Orwasher’s for a softer brioche-like, sticky-bun-flavoured creation.

The Chunky Cookie

  • ☑ Dessert destination: 
    • The original: Levain, various locations.
    • The awesome alternative: Chip, various locations.
  • ☑ Short and sweet story:  Nowhere else in the world are people more obsessed about cookies than the Americans.  There are “cult cookies” here, we tell you, followed by intense cookie groupies.  Cookies are often, the subject of intense debates with friends, family, colleagues and even strangers.  Indeed, Americans know their cookie preferences more clearly than they know their political allegiances.  And, there are many, many specialty sweet boutiques dedicated to worshipping all forms of the cookie – from the small homely type to the chunky boulders.  We have blogged two entries of the #NYCookie encyclopedia previously (read them, here and here), and of all the cookies in NYC, if you could only eat two, make sure one hand holds a cookie from Levain, and the other holds a cookie from Chip.

The Crack Pie

  • ☑ Dessert destination: 
    • The original: Momofuku Milk Bar, various locations.
    • The awesome alternative: …there is none!
  • ☑ Short and sweet story:  Momofuku Milk Bar is one of the most divisive dessert places in NYC.  You are either going to love it and rave to the highest levels of dessert heaven about it, or you are going to hate it.  Our opinion is this: it is the cleverest of dessert shops, backed by a powerful PR network, marketing childhood junk food transformed into cult dessert favourites.  See our previous review here.  We are not the greatest fans of its cereal milk soft serve ice cream, the soft serve cone that arguably triggered the soft serve dessert trend— but Momofuku’s crack pie is something else.  The story of how the crack pie came to be is the essential NYC dream wrought into dessert form.  A diamond in the rough, composed of a mishmash of underdog elements, discovered by accident and brought to life and love and glory.  The rest, as they say, is history, or in this case, made history.

The Cheesecake

  • ☑ Dessert destination: 
  • ☑ Short and sweet story:  You know that scene from the Lion King movie, when Mufasa tells his son, Simba, not to venture to the shadowy place beyond?  When we first arrived in NYC, Brooklyn to us was the dark beyond.  Yet, it was – true to our nature – dessert that lured us to Brooklyn.  Specifically, none other than the NY cheesecake.  We are not cheesecake fans by any measure, but really, Junior’s is something that you cannot miss.  t’s funny where life takes you sometimes, because we now live in one of the prettiest neighbourhoods in Brooklyn, and Junior’s is about a 15-min stroll away.  At Junior’s, there are many flavours.  Our personal favourite is the pineapple, which balances the cake’s richness perfectly.  And for something truly decadent, you can’t go past the cheesecake sandwiched between red velvet cake.   Whichever you choose, there will be a sponge cake base and the thickest layer of cream cheese.  It’s retro-American nostalgia in one slice. If you prefer a crustier base to your cheesecake, we would recommend Eileen’s in Nolita or Little Red Hens in the Upper East Side.

The Cupcake and the Cream

  • ☑ Dessert destination: 
  • ☑ Short and sweet story: To make a list of NYC’s most iconic desserts without listing the cupcake would be an exercise of gastronomical blasphemy.  Our favourite cupcakes in NYC are actually found at Molly’s or Little Red Hens, but Magnolia Bakery promises the complete and comprehensive “Sex and the City” dream.  There’s the “city” when you eat one (or more) on the top of the Rockefeller building or near Bryant Park and the NY Library,  and as for the “sex,” Magnolia offers pretty pastel buttercream cupcakes with a side of more cream (aka its fabulous banana pudding, not another type of cream, you naughty person).  Like how can you resist, eh?  🙂


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