Dominique Ansel Bakery
Mixed-berry fantasia at Locanda Verde (Photograph: Marlene Rounds)
Jacques Torres Chocolate
Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookie at Levain Bakery
Manhattan is a dessert island. Some of our brightest culinary stars have come out of pastry kitchens, building careers out of gorgeous cakes, burnished custards, and jaw-dropping tarts. To honor these sugary masters we’ve plunged our spoons into some of the best desserts in New York City, coming up with this concise list of the top places to get your sweet fix. From savory restaurants with superstar pastry chefs to blockbuster bakeries offering refined goodies, here are the ten best places to get dessert in New York City. Did we miss your favorite dessert shop? Let us know in the comments.
Dominique Ansel, the haute wunderkind formerly behind Daniel’s four-star desserts, delivers sugary delights like pastel meringue kisses; bright, airy macarons; and chocolate-slicked éclairs at this stunning bakery. But his exotic offerings are the most memorable. Ansel's DKA is a caramelized, flaky take on the Breton specialty kouign amann. And his cotton-soft mini cheesecake, an ethereally light gâteau with a brûléed top, leaves the dense old–New York classic sputtering in its dust.
Purveyor of indulgent pastries and whipped-cream-topped einspänner coffee by day, this Kurt Gutenbrunner outfit inside the Neue Galerie—with marble tabletops, high ceilings and booths peering onto Fifth Avenue—becomes an upscale restaurant four nights a week. Try the Klimt torte, which masterfully alternates layers of hazelnut cake with chocolate.
This Gramercy chocolate cafe is a homecoming of sorts for Larry and Paula Burdick, who started a wholesale business in Red Hook in 1987 (their top customer was David Bouley) before moving the factory to New Hampshire. The excellence of Burdick's hand-formed bonbons—such as the signature mice, available in dark, milk and white chocolate, and filled with a sophisticated ganache that's whipped with orange juice, espresso, and cinnamon with port wine, respectively—seduced us years ago. Also available at the cafe: Viennese-style desserts and velvety hot chocolate.
Master baker François Payard is behind this casual bakery and café. The menu includes sandwiches made with the chef’s signature breads, simple salads and, of course, show-stopping pastries and desserts. A glass wall lets customers watch as bakers prepare items like croissants, beignets and stunning seasonal fruit tarts in the spacious open kitchen; stay and eat in the airy, industrial dining room, or grab items to go.
Andrew Carmellini's seductive, family-style Italian fare is the main event at this Tribeca hotspot. But don't forget about dessert. Karen DeMasco, one of the city’s most acclaimed pastry chefs, is a maestro at perfecting treats at once homey and over-the-top. The seven-year vet of Tom Colicchio's Craft empire, James Beard Award winner and cookbook author raids the savory pantry, using ingredients such as extra-virgin olive oil and the sherrylike white balsamic vinegar to add flavorful, aromatic accents to cakes, ice creams and sauces.
The Provence-born Jacques Torres cut his teeth constructing cheeky, baroque French desserts at Le Cirque in the '90s (his famous "chocolate stove" featured a cake served inside an edible chocolate oven). These days he juggles a gig as dean of pastry studies at the French Culinary Institute and a cocoa empire that includes several stores throughout New York City. Whimsical chocolates by the piece are his specialty: from compact, meticulously decorated bonbons to Cheerios enrobed in milk chocolate. If you’d rather sip your chocolate than munch on it, indulge in the famously suave, rich hot chocolate.
As the pastry honcho for chef Kurt Gutenbrunner's family of Austrian eateries, chef Matthew Lodes executes tantalizing Central European desserts like mohr im hemd (warm chocolate cake) and marillenkndel (apricot dumplings) using skills he honed working at Financier Patisserie and the erstwhile Lutece. His secret: incorporating peak market produce like succulent peaches and pulpy huckleberries to help brighten the region's famously fussy recipes. Look out for the Mozartkugel, a baseball-size sphere of dark-chocolate mousse encircling an airy core of nutty pistachio parfait.
Mario Batali’s Babbo is still one of the hardest tables in town to score—and pastry chef Gina DePalma's desserts aren't helping thin the crowds. The James Beard Award winner is still turning out some of the city's most consistent Italian sweets. Having worked under Claudia Fleming at Gramercy Tavern, DePalma made a career out of simple but lusty desserts that call upon the same high-quality ingredients used for the restaurant's savory menu: Olive oil works its way into her gelato, balsamic vinegar into her custard and semolina into a rich pudding. Keep an eye out for her saffron panna cotta, a quivering knob of milky saffron-infused custard resting on a pool of bittersweet chamomile-and-apricot marmellata.