10 Essential Dessert Destinations in New York City

Gentl & Hyers

Among other things, New York City is known throughout the world as a food mecca, boasting exceptional restaurants like Gramercy Tavern, Le Bernardin, and Eleven Madison Park, among many other bucket-list spots. With good food comes great desserts, so there’s no better place to leave your diet at home and indulge your sweet tooth. Whether you’re opting for a quick pastry on the go or a three-course meal of confections, these 10 New York dessert staples are sure to make you smile.

By Megan Suckut

Mary Robnett

Two Little Red Hens

With its country theme and chicken motif, Two Little Red Hens may appear to be an unassuming Yorkville bakery, but its cakes and confections rank among the best in the city. Seasonal desserts abound, but the signature cakes and cupcakes are what keep bringing customers back for more, notably the red velvet and the Brooklyn Blackout, which is chocolate cake filled with chocolate pudding and topped with fudge frosting. The gourmet grocery store Dean & Deluca carries these cupcakes, so those who can’t make it up to the actual bakery can experience Two Little Red Hens in Midtown and Soho instead.

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Courtesy of ChikaLicious

ChikaLicious

Since 2003, ChikaLicious Dessert Bar has been serving innovative desserts from a three-course prix fixe menu that allows guests to choose an amuse (the “appetizer” dessert), a main dessert, and assorted petits fours (the “dessert” desserts). The small 20-seat restaurant is arranged so that guests can interact directly with Chef/Owner Chika Tillman and her staff and get wine pairing advice from the sommelier. The menu changes daily, but the warm chocolate tart with pink peppercorn ice cream and red wine sauce is a perennial favorite. Pick up treats to go across the street at the ChikaLicious Dessert Club if you don’t have time for seated courses.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s New York City Travel Guide

Peter Petracca

Ample Hills Creamery

Ample Hills Creamery sells handcrafted small-batch ice cream in its Prospect Heights and Gowanus parlors year-round, as well as at a Brooklyn Bridge Park kiosk in the summer. Popular flavors include the Salted Crack Caramel (salted caramel ice cream brimming with crushed chocolate-covered butter crackers), Ooey Gooey Butter Cake (vanilla ice cream with chunks of St. Louis-style gooey butter cake), and Sweet as Honey (homemade honeycomb candy in a sweet cream base), but Ample Hills is constantly creating new flavors on-site that celebrate everything from seasonal flavors to pop culture.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s New York City Travel Guide

Gentl & Hyers

Four and Twenty Blackbirds

Founded in 2010 by sisters Melissa and Emily Elsen, Gowanus-based Four & Twenty Blackbirds sells pie by the slice, made from locally-sourced, seasonal ingredients and natural sweeteners. The Elsen sisters’ pies have been featured in The New York Times, Food Network, and Martha Stewart Living, among other media outlets. Stop by the petite shop for a slice or two of Salty Honey, Salted Caramel Apple, or Black Bottom Oatmeal—or find Four & Twenty Blackbirds at the Brooklyn Public Library and various restaurants and cafés around the city.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s New York City Travel Guide

Jennifer Arnow

Momofuku Milk Bar

A member of David Chang’s Momofuku empire, Momofuku Milk Bar takes cereal milk to a whole new level with its signature flavor of soft-serve ice cream dedicated to the oft-forgotten byproduct of breakfasts across America. In addition to its cereal milk soft serve, the café is known for large, chewy compost cookies, with pretzels and chocolate chips among other ingredients, as well as the indulgent Crack Pie, a buttery brown sugar treat. Momofuku Milk Bar has six locations, with slightly differing café menus, spanning Manhattan and Brooklyn, as well as a branch in Toronto.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s New York City Travel Guide

Thomas Schauer

Dominique Ansel Bakery

Every morning, customers form a line down Spring Street, waiting two hours or more for the famous Cronut, and more show up every afternoon for milk and cookie shots. These hyped offerings have recently brought Dominique Ansel Bakery into the national spotlight, but the café has been a Soho favorite since its opening in late 2011. The Cronut is great if you’re willing to wait for it, but if not, skip the line and head straight into the bakery for a wide selection of other masterfully-created desserts and pastries like Dominique's Kouign Amann, canneles, and the Frozen S’more.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s New York City Travel Guide

Evan Sung

Le Cirque

An iconic Midtown East restaurant, Le Cirque pairs sophisticated French cuisine with a sleek business-meets-circus theme in the ground floor of Bloomberg Tower. Beneath folds of cloth evoking a big top, guests in the main dining room order a la carte or from a prix fixe menu, enjoying specialties like pig’s feet and foie gras with a side of people-watching. One of the most prized menu items at Le Cirque is the famous crème brûlée, served in a wide, shallow ramekin imprinted with the recipe in the bottom of the dish. Le Cirque’s smooth yet crunchy custard has inspired imitations throughout the country since owner Sirio Maccioni opened the restaurant in 1974.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s New York City Travel Guide

Mary Robnett

Serendipity 3

Evoking an antique-laden tea party, the whimsically decorated Serendipity 3 is a long-time Big Apple favorite, especially for celebrities like Marilyn Monroe, Andy Warhol, and Jackie O. Guests are seated with a comically large menu to peruse, but many know exactly what they want right away: the Frrrozen Hot Chocolate. Just as decadent as the restaurant that serves it, the Frrrozen Hot Chocolate is a towering milkshake-esque dessert topped by a mountain of whipped cream and chocolate shavings. Although the famous treat comes with two straws, it’s so good that you may want one just for yourself.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s New York City Travel Guide

Courtesy of Max Brenner

Max Brenner Chocolate Bar

Any chocolate lover in Union Square will feel at home at Max Brenner: Chocolate by the Bald Man. The international chain has a respectable food menu, with selections like the Brenner Burger and waffle fries dusted with chili and cocoa powder, but most people come for the desserts. The classic whipped hot chocolate, melting marshmallow hot chocolate, and hazelnut hot chocolate are bit hits, as are the Banana Split Waffles, the enormous Euphoria Peanut Butter Chocolate Fudge Sundae, and Max's Famous Chocolate Mess Party for Two, with chocolate mug cake and tons of ice cream and fixings.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s New York City Travel Guide

Courtesy of Pasticceria Rocco

Pasticceria Rocco

Family-owned since 1974, Pasticceria Rocco is a beloved Italian pastry shop that prides itself on selling some of the best cannolis in New York. With a flagship location in the West Village and a newer shop in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, this bakery serves regular-sized and mini cannolis of various flavors, stuffing the shell with ricotta upon order so that the shell remains crisp and flavorful. Cheesecakes, biscotti, and specialty pastries round out the dessert menu, and you can choose from a variety of espresso-based drinks to wash it all down in authentic Italian style.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s New York City Travel Guide

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