Pumpkin Eclair from BabyCakes
I first visited the well-known Lower East Side hotspot BabyCakes about a month ago, when I picked up some gluten-free chocolate cupcakes for a friend's birthday party. I thought the cupcakes were fine, but on a recent visit I was more interested in trying BabyCakes' non-cupcake offerings which include loaf cakes, cookies, and specialty items. In doing so, I stumbled upon the pumpkin eclair ($6.50) which sandwiches creamy vanilla frosting between two moist, cakey and intensely pumpkin-y layers, then drapes the whole shebang in a glossy chocolate glaze. This eclair tastes like a whoopie pie dunked in chocolate icing, and, well, who wouldn't want to eat that?
Peanut Butter and Jelly Doughnut from Dun-Well Doughnuts
I guess I'd never really thought about the fact that doughnuts aren't vegan (the yeasted dough they're made from typically contains both eggs and butter) and at Dun-Well, I didn't have to. In flavor and texture, the doughnuts found at this Bushwick upstart are light and airy but still substantial—in other words, indistinguishable from their non-vegan counterparts.
The bakery offers a host of interesting yeast-style doughnut flavors like almondine, glazed and flecked with toasted slivered almonds, and snickerdoodle, a tiny powerhouse rolled in cinnamon sugar. But my favorite was the decadent peanut butter and jelly doughnut ($2.75), filled with a not-too-sweet raspberry jam, its seeds providing a subtle crunch, and topped with a shiny, peanutty glaze.
Raspberry Bran Muffin from Birdbath Bakery
I know, I know: the name "Raspberry Bran Muffin" doesn't exactly shout decadent or exciting, but I can tell you from experience that finding a good vegan muffin just ain't easy: many are leaden, gummy, or shockingly sweet. So I thought it was important to share this find. Birdbath, owned by the good folks at City Bakery, offers this superb example of muffindom ($3.50). The muffin is perfectly light and moist with a great crumb. It's also wholly devoid of grease and has just the right amount of sweetness, which is complemented by a hint (and not a wallop) of cinnamon in the batter. The raspberries on top are sweet and juicy.
Birdbath Bakery: various locations in NYC; visit thecitybakery.com/birdbath
Coconut Crème Sandwich from Blossom Bakery
Blossom is a full-service vegan restaurant in Chelsea that serves up items like smoked tempeh ravioli and seitan scallopini. I can't speak to the savory side of things, but I was pretty much blown away by every single dessert I tried from the restaurant's bakery, Blossom Bakery. Lemon cake with cream cheese-style frosting was a moist, towering example of bright lemon flavor; brownies were dense and fudgy. But the real winner for me was the coconut crème sandwich cookie ($4.13). Two soft, crumbly chocolate cookie-cakes are flecked with ground almonds and surround a rich, moist vanilla filling. When I shared the cookie with a friend we nearly came to blows over the last bite.
Black Sesame Orange Ginger Bundt Cake from Champs Family Bakery
Champs is another full-service eatery. It serves comfort-style desserts to match its diner menu, and they are excellent. One night I tried a slice of this bundt cake ($4), which is incredibly packed with flavor for a sweet, vegan or not. The cake is rich and moist with a crackling orange glaze, and the warming flavors of ginger and sesame are addictive. Not your grandma's bundt cake.
Chocolate Crème Roll from Clementine Bakery
Located in Bed-Stuy, Clementine's desserts are also homey and comforting. This behemoth of a crème roll ($5) is a perfect example: the cake looks like, and tastes like, an oversize version of a Ho-Ho, but about a million times better. The cake is moist and fudgy, especially at the center, and the vanilla filling is rich but not overly sweet.