It’s safe to say that food is one of the greatest things in life. It is a reflection of culture and tradition, of climate and geography, and of economics and demography. And with thriving cities attracting people from all over the world, all sorts of yummy food is sure to follow. Its no wonder then that for many, food is the driving factor when deciding where to travel next.

If, like me, you fall into this group, you’ve probably at least considered a trip to New York – a global food mecca – where travellers can enjoy all sorts of exquisite and unique dishes and desserts as they trek from borough to borough. And so, when I had the opportunity to return to the Big Apple recently to, well… eat, I felt that I had died and gone to heaven.

In addition to a truly cosmopolitan cuisine, New York City is also chalk full of incredible desserts, both authentic and adopted. Spending your entire trip trekking across town to find them all, however, can be arduous – even with a well researched guide. Instead, consider getting your bearings by taking a sugar-loaded mini tour in the trendy SoHo neighbourhood. Centre yourself at Spring St. and Broadway and get ready to enjoy a variety of sweets worthy of a trip to NYC. To get you started, here are a few shops you shouldn’t miss.


The Classics

Georgetown Cupcakes / 111 Mercer Street

Sweet Soho - Georgetown Cupcakes

These legends hail from Washington DC, where I had my first Georgetown Cupcake years back. Unlike the original location, you will not find block-long lineups to get your hands on one of the many deliciously flavoured cupcakes that Georgetown has to offer.

While I enjoy a good dessert, I always wondered what the whole fuss was about cupcakes. My enthusiasm about the highly touted Georgetown Cupcakes was equally mute when a friend bought me one as a small gift. It only took one bite to change my mind completely.

Sweet Soho - Georgetown Cupcakes

Georgetown Cupcakes offers delicious classics like chocolate and red velvet all year long, as well as daily specials. The best thing though, and what sets them apart from any other cupcakerie, are their seasonal flavours. Feel like a Cherry Blossom cupcake? Visit them in March. Pumpkin Spice is their go to for October.

This time around I chose coconut. It tasted of the Caribbean, or like a Piña Colada, without the pineapple. The cake was fluffy like a sponge and its frosting was soft, melting as soon as I took a bite. While I would have liked to try a more exotic flavour, their seasonal varieties simply means I may have to head back to NYC sooner rather than later.


Ladurée / 398 West Broadway

laduree2

Macarons are another dessert that I’ve never fully appreciated. People seriously go crazy over these little French sweets. But to be fair, I had never had one of the legendary macarons from Ladurée, so I didn’t know what I was missing. Founded in 19th century France, what first began as a humble bakery has slowly transformed itself into the most iconic pastry shop in the world. With more than 50 locations around the globe, I knew there had to be one in Manhattan. Thankfully, I found two! Going to Ladurée is like teleporting yourself to a chic Parisian arrondissement. And yes, their macarons are the best for a reason. In the same way as Georgetown Cupcakes has their funky flavours; Ladurée has its share of unique macarons.

Sweet Soho - Laduree Exterior

Sweet Soho - Laduree Paris Macaron Rose Petal

I tried a rose petal macaron because when do you ever have an opportunity to eat rose petal anything? It was delicious, tasting similar to rose perfume but in the most positive way – and not at all as disgusting as it sounds read aloud. The cream was soft, melty and sweet. It got two thumbs up.


The Different

Rice to Riches / 37 Spring Street

Rice-to-Riches

I was pretty familiar with arróz con leche from my motherland, Venezuela, and was convinced it was a standard dish until I bumped into Rice to Riches. I not only learned that the rest of the world called the dessert rice pudding, but also that it came in all sorts of flavours and colours. Being a fan of arróz con leche (because I don’t often crave sweets, but when I do, it’s for the healthier sounding things like rice pudding or carrot cake), I knew that I needed to check this place out.

The shop is possibly the first of its kind in NYC, and maybe the world – I’ve only seen something similar in Costa Rica but it was years after Rice to Riches opened. Flavours are not only varied, but also come with quirky names like “Play it again Butter Pecan”, “The secret life of Pumpkin” and even “Sex, drugs and Rocky Road”.

The shop is stylish and well designed down to the most minute details – from the store front to dish the the rice pudding is served on – drawing from that futurist design sensibility many people in the 1970’s thought the 2000s would look like. The store originally opened in 2003, and I’ve returned many times since I first discovered it. My favourite flavour is Dulce de Leche, though the menu regularly features new flavours to keep things fresh.


The Very “New Yorkish”

Dominique Ansel Bakery / 189 Spring Street

Sweet Soho: Dominique Ansel Bakery

New York is home to some of the most innovative and creative people, and they in turn come up with many innovative and creative things. Some put the cronut in this category – for right or wrong. Regardless of your opinion on the matter, Dominique Ansel Bakery basically invented the category. Nothing – I repeat – nothing can prepare you for this bakery and its founding take on this iconic dessert. The cronut, for anyone who’s been living under a rock, is a doughnut and croissant hybrid. It has the texture of a croissant, comes in the shape of a doughnut, and has the health properties of a bathtub full of Big Macs. It’s wonderful and, at Dominique Ansel Bakery, this iconic dessert is served in a variety of flavours alongside a plethora of other delicious confections.

Dominique Ansel Bakery Cronut

You would think that the cronut craze would have died down by now – or perhaps that its largest supporters would have died – but you’d be dead wrong. The first time I went to the bakery, I innocently walked up to the counter to ask for my first cronut and was told that it was sold out…at 11:00am in a bakery that opens at 8. Feeling discouraged but determined, I made it my mission to get my hands on a cronut. Arriving at 7:40am the next day, I was greeted by a line of considerable size so I joined it and waited patiently to see what all the fuss was about. To keep the peace, bakery staff handed out small sweets to patrons eager for their cronut fix. The line, of course, is exclusively for the iconic sweet, so if people want something other than a cronut they can just walk in.

People are allowed inside in groups, so once the lineup starts to move, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will get in right away or get the maximum 2 cronuts per person allowed. I finally got in and was a bit anxious to see what this was all about. We were informed that the day’s flavour was pear and sage.

While I originally thought the lineup had to be part of a marketing strategy to keep the cronut relevant and the craze alive, it only took one bite for my opinion to change entirely, and for an overwhelming desire to join the line the following morning to kick in. Trying the cronut was a revelation, one that made me realize that there are pastries, and then there is the cronut. There are bakeries, and then there is Dominique Ansel. And so on. I was honestly teary eyed while eating it and then got a bit depressed after I finished, knowing I wouldn’t be able to get my hands on any more – feelings I am somewhat ashamed to share, even to prove a point.

Dominique Ansel Bakery Chocolate Chip Cookie Shot

For those prone to addiction and perhaps avoiding their first cronut, Dominique Ansel has other fantastic snacks on offer – which I felt deserved at least some post-cronut attention. One in particular warrants mention. While milk and cookies is a classic holiday snack, Dominique Ansel has elevated the art form (yes…the milk and cookie art form) with the chocolate chip cookie shot – a shot glass made of chocolate chip cookie and filled with milk. Seriously, why hadn’t anyone think about this before?

Like the cronut, the chocolate chip cookie shot is one of the bakery’s specialties and is sold exclusively after 3pm, creating a similar afternoon line that begins up to two hours in advance. Luckily for me, weather was on my side, and apparently when it’s raining even cookie monsters are discouraged to line up for cookie shots. As for the rules, after waiting in line, customers are allowed to purchase two shots or boxes of eight, but nothing else. If you take them to go, they will give you the milk as well.

After the cronut and a pair of chocolate chip cookie shots, I likely should have left the store, but, since I’m also a bit of a pig, I thought it fully appropriate to try the coco mango riz au lait (remember my rice pudding obsession?) and, after all of it, I concluded that Dominique Ansel’s distinctive mark is that he makes edible art. Not only is the presentation impeccable, but if you were to eat, say, a Van Gogh, it probably would taste like one of Dominique Ansel’s sweets. If you’re in New York, pay this shop a visit, then try everything. Especially the cronut.


While I’ve only scratched the surface of New York’s delicious sweet scene with these Soho recommendations, I encourage you all to explore – and to share your favourite spots in our comment section below. It will help us keep the list updated, and provide some inspiration for the next trip to NYC.


Photos by Laura Delgado Ranalli