Now that the weather is cooling down, the thought of a hot oven full of freshly baked cakes and pies and tarts and, well, we could go on forever… is getting more appealing by the minute.
So what better time to check out some of the tastiest destinations in the area? But fair warning, when it comes to making a choice, things could get sticky.
Make My Cake which has two locations uptown, one at 121 St. Nicholas Avenue at West 116th Street (212-932-0833) and another at 2380 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard at West 139th Street (212-234-2344). With more than 15 years in business and several generations of recipes to build on, the promise of Make My Cake is whatever your style, they’ve got you covered — in German Chocolate Cake, in Red Velvet Cake and local favorite Sweet Potato Cheesecake to name just a few. What started as a home-based operation specializing in holiday-only cakes has evolved from its Southern baking traditions rooted in Mississippi and Alabama to a heavenly Harlem favorite that attracts visitors from the four corners of the world.
For more bite-sized yums, try Tonnie’s Minis at 264 Lenox Avenue and West 123rd Street (212-831-5292 or 5293). Leave the mega-chains and tired old grind of coffee shops behind and enter the cupcake world of Tonnie’s. Doesn’t Golden Sponge cupcake sound better than that apple turnover that’s probably been sitting there for who knows how long at the usual place? At Tonnie’s, you can pick your cupcake, icing and toppings and grab one of the fresh batches made daily. Have a little ice cream sitting on top of that Carrot Cake if you want. Enjoy a coffee or any number of hot and cold drinks available. Tonnie’s also custom creates cupcakes for your special events. Pick them up or have them delivered. Again, it’s your choice.
They’ve got more than just pastry at Patisserie Des Ambassades, which is located at 2200 8th Avenue at West 155th Street (212-666-0078) where they serve breakfast, lunch and dinner and offer everything from sandwiches and salads to lamb, vegetarian and shrimp (and a weekend brunch). But a patisserie wouldn’t be worth a stick of butter if it didn’t have something soft and sweet cooking in the oven. No worries, Patisserie Des Ambassades serves up croissants, pain au chocolat, pain aux raisins, tarte aux pommes and éclair au café. Or you can take the dessert route and try the tiramisu and crème brulee. Hey, men and women do not live on bread alone.
At Lee Lee’s Baked Goods, located at 238 West 118th Street between St. Nicholas Avenue and Frederick Douglass Boulevard (917-493-6633) the main draw is the rugelach. Coined the “Rugelach King of Harlem” by the New York Daily News, Alvin Lee Smalls has been baking rugelach for forty years and serving up his specialty at Lee Lee’s for just over a decade. Aside from the famous apricot, chocolate and raspberry rugelach, be sure to indulge in some of the other treats Lee Lee’s has to offer, including red velvet cake, bread pudding and carrot cake.
Levain Bakery has several locations throughout Manhattan and Long Island, but you’ll find their Harlem location at 2167 Frederick Douglass Blvd between 116th and 117th Streets (646-455-0952). Opening in 1995, Levain started out by making delectable artisanal breads and have since expanded their menu to include muffins, brioche, cookies and more. Though it may be difficult to choose which sweet to try first, maybe it will help to point out that the New York Times crowned Levain’s chocolate chip cookies as “Possibly the largest, most divine chocolate chip cookies in Manhattan.” These six-ounce cookies have also won the chocolate chip cookie throwdown with celebrity chef Bobby Flay and have been featured on several other Food Network shows.
As you run your personal taste test, do let us know your thoughts!