Decadent NYC Bakeries, Cookies, Cakes and Culture

Madison Troyer

New York City has a rich tradition of delicious baked goods with multicultural inspiration. Despite the rise of chains, it’s no surprise that NYC is still home to some of the best boutique bakeries in the world. Our list highlights outstanding bakeries in New York City, offering some of the most delicious cakes, cookies and donuts in the boroughs.

1. Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop

Bakery, Pastries

Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop opened its doors over 60 years ago right in the heart of Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Though it changed ownership in the early 1990s, the shop still uses the same doughnut recipes it used back in 1952. In fact, much of this small shop has remained unchanged, from the S-shaped green counter for eat-in customers to the $1.10 price per doughnut. Handmade and hand-cut each morning, their wallet-friendly doughnuts are some of the best in the city, with flavors ranging from a standard cake doughnut to red velvet to cream-filled. The earlier you arrive the better selection you’ll have, especially on the weekend as they sell out fast.

2. Glaser's Bake Shop

Bakery, German

Cookies, Levain
© angela n./Flickr
This Upper East Side treasure often gets overlooked by locals and tourists alike. Opened in 1902 by German immigrant John Glaser, the bakery has been passed down through the generations and still uses all original recipes. Mr. Glaser’s grandson, Herbert, is now the Vice President and Head Baker at Glaser’s, where he spends his days in the back kitchen making each pastry from scratch. Glaser’s Bake Shop is best known for their black and white cookies, which, with their cupcake-like base and not-too-sweet frosting, are head and shoulders above any other in NYC.

3. Levain Bakery

Bakery, Pastelaria, Pastries, American

© Katrin Gilger/Flickr
Don’t let Levain Bakery’s quaint size deceive you; this is the place to buy huge cookies. Each weighs in at roughly six ounces, guaranteeing that you’ll walk away completely satisfied having gotten your money’s worth. Levain Bakery is best known for their chocolate chip walnut cookie, but their sticky buns, brioche and freshly-baked breads are also to die for. Levain was opened in 1994 by two friends on a mission to bake the perfect chocolate chip cookie and judging by the long line of regulars out the front door, it’s mission accomplished.

4. Breads Bakery

Bakery, American

Man and two cars outside the cream-painted exterior of Breads Bakery, which has a canopy sign with its name hanging over it
© Warren Eisenberg / Alamy Stock Photo
Located just off Union Square, Breads Bakery is a bread lover’s heaven. With dozens of varieties of bread made fresh throughout the day, there’s always something new to try. Grab a house-made sandwich or opt for the delicious chocolate babka with a light and flaky crust that gives way to a warm and buttery center. Owner Uri Scheft found great success in Tel Aviv before beginning this new venture in the city; his Israeli heritage and European pastry training give all of his offerings a rich and authentic feel. The menu exclusively includes high-quality ingredients with deliciously layered cultural influences, making Breads Bakery a must-stop destination.

5. Two Little Red Hens

Bakery, Cafe, Pastelaria, American

This little mom and pop shop on 86th and 2nd makes some of the most decadent cakes and cupcakes in the city, so skip the chains and grocery stores and make the trip to the Two Little Red Hens. Their cakes are freshly-made in a variety of flavors, topped with rich and creamy icing. Stop by for a cupcake or a slice of real, New York-style cheesecake, or order a custom-made treat for your next special occasion.

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