It’s been a while since we did a review of an emerging NYC dessert trend. You may recall our dessert reports from previous years: 2017 was the year of rainbow-coloured desserts and ice cream egg waffles, 2018 the year of peak soft serve creativity, 2019 the year of trompe l’oeil desserts and mochi doughnuts, and 2020 started being the year of bubble tea desserts and instead, ended with dessert deliveries. What about 2021? Hmmm… maybe cream puffs? From a single store to more than a handful now, it’s a dessert that certainly sums up the past year — getting crusty on the outside from all the anxiety (and mask-induced chin acne!), getting soft in the middle from WFH and indoor “exercise” attempts. Well, without further ado, here’s our list of the best cream puffs in NYC for you to munch through. While you embark on this dessert adventure, please excuse us as we attempt to fulfill our 2021 resolution of transforming our physique from cream puff shape to more like a svelte eclair shape. 😛
First in the game
- Dessert destination: Beard Papa’s, various locations.
- Best for: Custom-made cream puffs.
- Must-try flavour: Original (plain shell + vanilla cream), or Honey butter shell with chocolate cream.
- Short and sweet story: Unlike the other cream puff vendors featured in this round-up review, Beard Papa’s isn’t a NYC local. Conceived in Japan some 20 years ago, it’s an import, and a reminder that immigration is the foundation stone of all good things in this country. Although the new generation of cream puff purveyors may attract greater social media attention, one must not forget to pay tribute to the original. Beard Papa is still the only place where you can pick your shell and your cream, and the entire puff is custom-made for you! With 9 shell types and 4 cream fillings available, go original or go crazy, we say!
Cloud pillows of cream
- Dessert destination: Keki, 79 Mott Street, Chinatown. (Also located uptown).
- Best for: Extra cloud-like cream puffs.
- Must-try flavour: Ube, or pistachio.
- Short and sweet story: Keki may be most well known for its “bouncy” cheesecake, but not being cheesecake lovers, we prefer its cream puffs more. You could try to resist, but we recommend just succumbing to the joy of three individually packaged cream puffs in one box for $10. Vividly crusted in purple, green or brown, Keki’s cream puffs are the softest cream puffs in the city, strongly reminding us of pineapple buns commonly found in Chinese bakeries, albeit filled with cream here.
A cup of tea and cream, please
- Dessert destination: Bibble & Sip, 174 Hester Street, Chinatown. (Also located uptown).
- Best for: Giant puffs with the best pastry crust.
- Must-try flavour: Earl Grey.
- Short and sweet story: You may recall that we have featured Bibble & Sip in our report of NYC’s Best Trompe L’oeil Desserts. It is the place in NYC for the most “OMG-that’s-sooo-cute-I-need-to-take-a-thousand-photos” desserts. Aside from cakes and macarons, it also makes cream puffs. They are more subtly flavoured (and less sweet) when compared to other cream puff vendors in this list. The stand-out feature of Bibble & Sip’s puffs is the pastry crust – hefty and flakey and airy all at the same time. They are larger than a tennis ball, so do bring an empty stomach and a friend along.
- Note that pictured below is also Bibble & Sip’s Bubble Tea cream puff, with a brulee brown sugar cap. Due to the paucity of tapioca pearls, we prefer Alimama’s version (see further below).
Mad for all the balls
- Dessert destination: Alimama, 89A Bayard Street, Chinatown.
- Best for: Cream and flavour explosion.
- Must-try flavour: Bubble tea, or yuzu.
- Short and sweet story: Alimama is another dessert spot that we have previously reviewed on this dessert blog – it was featured in our report on NYC’s Best Bubble Tea Desserts and NYC’s Best Mochi Doughnut and Mochi Desserts. Indeed, its Bubble Tea Cream Puff was the puff that triggered our quest to find the best cream puffs in NYC. And yet, at the end of that quest, it continues to be our gold standard. Like a Russian doll, it’s full of surprises – biting into the ball reveals even more balls (aka the tapioca bubbles). It has far more bubbles than Bibble & Sip. Do note though, it’s ultra sweet. For something a little less saccharine but no less intensely flavoured, consider the yuzu cream puff.
- Dessert destination: Barachou, 449 Amsterdam Avenue, Upper West Side.
- Best for: Petite french-style cream puffs.
- Must-try flavour: Rose, Lemon Meringue, Tiramisu.
- Short and sweet story: By comparison to the other cream puffs in this list, Barachou offers cream puffs at a higher price spectrum and in the traditional French-style – i.e. smaller, one bite puffs, with a slightly heavier cream filling. We think they would look particularly picturesque on a crystal platter for an afternoon tea or high tea party.
C’est la vie
- Dessert destination: Petit Chou, 229 1st Avenue, East Village.
- Best for: Giant french-style cream puffs.
- Must-try flavour: Passionfruit Blueberry.
- Short and sweet story: Petit Chou is sooo deceiving, but in a quite wonderful way! Its cream puffs are anything but petit! In the gargantuan ball style similar to that found at Alimama and Bibble & Sip, Petit Chou’s cream puffs resemble voluptuously-sized snowmen. It offers two flavours, passionfruit blueberry or pistachio. We highly recommend the former for a burst of sunshine energy.
For one day again
- Dessert destination: Domi (recently shuttered, but previously located in Canal St. Market, Chinatown).
- Short and sweet story: Being more of a fancy one-bite petit four, rather than a giant creamy orb as the others in this list, Domi’s cream puffs veered closer to a French style, similar to Barachou’s. However, Domi used Asian-esque flavours for its cream fillings. At the time of publishing this review, Domi is actually no more, having very recently shuttered and relocated to the West Coast. Perhaps one day, we will see it back in NYC again. Until then, we will dream of the delightful hojicha, earl grey lavender, and milk honeycomb puffs that we enjoyed in the past.