New York City has an expansive history that doesn’t neglect food. With immigrants from all parts of the world, the rich melting pot of New York is sprinkled with culinary traditions that fuel our appetite for adventure. Whether traditional or cutting edge, the dessert scene has something for everyone. And with competition growing by the minute, and oversaturated newsfeeds, restaurants and bake shops must fight to stay relevant in a city of short attention spans.
So if you’re here to visit, or here for a while, make sure to check out our top picks for the best New York City desserts.
The Black and White Cookie
A perfect balance of cakey cookie base and sugary icing, this little cookie has quite the reputation in New York. Founded in the early 1900s by Bavarian immigrants, the black and white cookie has remained a NYC staple ever since. Do you eat the vanilla side first, or chocolate? Or do you take bites straight down the middle to get a taste of each in every bite? There’s a lot of room for debate when it comes to how to eat a black and white cookie. Stop by Glaser’s Bake Shop on the Upper East Side to try a black and white cookie from the place that invented them. You can’t get more authentic than that.
New York Cheesecake
You’ve heard its name, seen it frozen in the aisles of Trader Joe’s, and perhaps tried it from a reputable bakery in your hometown. But nothing compares to a New York cheesecake when you’re actually in New York. Simple sponge cake base and plain cheesey goodness on top—the traditional slice is nothing fancy. But when it’s done right, boy is it good. Cream cheese itself was founded in New York in 1872 when William Lawrence attempted to make a French cheese. But thankfully for us, things didn’t go so well and he wound up developing cream cheese instead. Check out Junior’s restaurant in downtown Brooklyn for a no-fuss all-flavor slice of New York cheesecake done right. If you’re feeling a little extra, order from a list of 20 different cheesecakes at Eileen’s in Nolita. If you’ve got the stamina—try both in one day.
Skip the gym membership and start lifting chocolate babka in both hands for an hour. This dense cake is heavy to hold and heavenly to eat. An Eastern European Jewish bread doubled and twisted before being baked in a high loaf pan. Chocolate is woven throughout the flakey layers and the top is covered in streusel. Find it across the city in delis and bakeries, but make sure to stop at Moishe’s for the real deal stuff. The Grand street location transports you back to a time when New York was simpler and high rise apartment buildings weren’t even a glimmer of imagination. Bag up a loaf and grab a pastry for the road.
Cookie Shot / Cookie Skillet
Interested in something a little more inventive? Stop by Dominque Ansel Bakery for a cookie shot. A perfectly moist yet crisp little cup crafted out of chocolate chip cookie dough, filled with a shot of milk. Or head over to Boulton & Watt for a warm skillet filled with chocolate chip cookie dough—pour over a pitcher of milk for a melt-in-your-mouth dessert. A twist on the classic with the flavors you love. Try them both and see which one you prefer!
Chocolate Chip Cookie
Looking for the classic? Hands down the best cookie in all of New York City can be found at Levain Bakery on the Upper West Side. These massively thick cookies are enough to fill you up for a few hours—but never have the calories been so worth it. The line runs long out of the original location on West 74th, so if you’re ok with skipping the iconic history of the founding cookie stand, stop by their other location on Amsterdam, just a short walk away. Or, order ahead and be queen of the party with cookie boxes delivered to please.
Chinatown Ice Cream
This one’s less about one particular item and more about the place itself. Chinatown Ice Cream Factory is an unofficial NYC landmark, and for good reason. From durian to don tot, red bean to taro—this ice cream join has the wildest flavors that will melt your soul as much as it melts in your mouth. The flavors are inventive and on point, each one better than the last. Stop by for a cone or order an ice cream cake for your next event. There’s nothing vanilla about this place (except for their Madagascar vanilla, which just might be the best vanilla ice cream we’ve ever had).
This isn’t your grandma’s pudding. Magnolia Bakery’s banana pudding is something else entirely. Creamy and sweet with just enough banana to make you feel like it’s healthy—this dessert is sure to be a crowd pleaser. Grab some for your next party or hoard it all to yourself. We dare you to eat just one spoonful. Stop by the original location in the West Village, or one of the many others now scattered around the city.
Of course, these seven New York City desserts are just the start to your culinary adventure. Satisfy your sweet tooth in all five boroughs with one of the classics or something new. Once you’re ready to pass out from a sugar rush, check in to a Bedly apartment, conveniently located all around the city. Furnished units with flexible lease terms mean less time spent apartment hunting, more time spent dessert researching.
Photo credits in order of appearance: The Dusty Baker, Tourist Meets Traveler, Best of NYC, Dominique Ansel, Spoon University, Delish, Ahoy New York, Food Joy