My 10 Best Fat Pants Fridays
Cake Shop's peanut butter bomb.
I have spent the last 18 months or so eating untold amounts of fat and sugar, often but not always in the name of Fat Pants Friday. This column has given me a great excuse to coddle my sweet tooth, and more importantly, to visit and revisit some of the city's best bakeries and pastry pushers. It has, as one would expect, been a lot of fun, and a lot of calories. Today is my last Fat Pants Friday, and I've been asked to mark the occasion by revisiting my 10 all-time favorite excursions, the ones that have continued to haunt my daydreams long after my blood sugar has descended to a safe level and my teeth have stopped hurting. They're in no particular order, for the simple reason that I love them all.
Cannelle Patisserie's pear tart.
1. Quality Cakes's Chocolate-Covered Grasshopper Cake. Behold, chocolate fudge cake layered with mint Oreo chunk ice cream, and then topped with little squidges of chocolate mousse, chocolate curls, and a dainty scoop of ice cream. Like the other Quality Cakes, it is an exquisite monument to excess. But it's not so much the excess that makes these cakes so memorable. It's how effectively they carry one back to a time when all that was needed for a good birthday party was a piece of cake whose only requirement was to act as a sponge for melting ice cream -- the more garishly colored, the better. 57 West 58th Street; 212-371-7777
2. Cannelle Patisserie's Pear Tart. Cannelle makes many beautiful and drool-worthy pastries, but my favorite, hands-down, is its pear tart. Its crust is tender, crumbly, and so buttery it borders on savory, and cradles half a pear that has been poached to almost melting consistency. It's simple, effective, and utterly blissful, and swiftly demolishes any measure of restraint I pretend to possess. 75-59 31st Avenue, Jackson Heights; 718-565-6200
3. Shandaken Bakes' Parsnip Bread. Although parsnips don't typically appear in loaf form, Shandaken Bake has convinced me that it deserves a pride of place in the quick-bread pantheon. The root vegetable''s inherent sweetness makes it as natural a fit for baking as carrots, pumpkin, or sweet potatoes; here, combined with maple syrup, it creates a bread that's unbelievably moist and tender, with a measured sweetness that has both depth and body. Overall, the flavor is as big and generous as the portion it's served in, and would work well with a morning dose of coffee or dunked in a cup of tea. Or, as I can attest, just scarfed down on its lonesome. shandakenbake.com
4. Peels' St. Louis Sticky Gooey Cake. A cake so sticky it had to be emphasized twice, the St. Louis Sticky Gooey Cake at Peels pays loving tribute to the St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake, a concoction invented -- depending on who's telling the story -- in the early 1940s at either the Koppe Bakery or the St. Louis Pastries Bakery. At Peels, Shuna Fish Lydon has put her own impressive spin on the St. Louis signature, obscuring its pleasantly dense, subtly sweet brioche foundation beneath a thick layer of sweet, buttery custard that's barely protected by a crackly, fissured crust. In a way, it's like the best breakfast Danish ever created. In another, it's original sin, served in a paper wrapper. 325 Bowery; 646-602-7015
5. The Big Gay Ice Cream Truck's Mermaid. Comprised of vanilla soft-serve, whipped cream, graham-cracker crumbs, and lime curd, the Mermaid is a little like a Key lime pie that melts. The curd is abundant, zigzagged both on top of the ice cream and up and down the cone's interior. Every bite yields a tart response to the vanilla's placid sweetness, sassing up what could otherwise be a bit of a one-note wonder. The graham-cracker crumbs are scattered like fairy dust over all available surface area. Crammed into a waffle cone and wearing its whipped cream like an Elizabethan collar, it's fairly fantastic. 125 East 7th Street; biggayicecream.com
Levain's walnut-chocolate chip cookie.
6. The Dutch's Rhubarb Pie. This may very well be the Platonic Ideal of rhubarb pie: It's got that tanned, latticed crust fringed with raw sugar, a vibrant, sweet-tart filling accented with a wisp of rosewater, and a smooth orb of lemon sherbet to keep it company. There's also a scattering of sliced strawberries and candied kumquat rinds, the latter of which may be the best thing to happen to rhubarb since sugar. It's generous proportioned, extremely satisfying, and a depressing reminder that rhubarb season is now a long ways away. 131 Sullivan Street; 212-677-6200
7. Cake Shop's Peanut Butter Bomb. It's not so much a slice of cake as a fortress of calories, standing several inches high and endowed with a sizable arsenal of creamy peanut butter mousse and unspeakably moist chocolate cake. The top layer of mousse forms a dome not dissimilar to a camel's hump, and is concealed by a layer of chocolate, which further lends itself to the camel-like appearance. Not so incidentally, it's vegan, and owes many of its attributes to soy. Possibly one of the most perfect displays of the holy union between peanut butter and chocolate, it's a cake that will please even the most hardened dairy die-hard. 152 Ludlow Street, 212-253-0036
8. Levain's Chocolate Chip-Walnut Cookie. Weighing in at almost a quarter-pound, it's less cookie than the product of a union between some chocolate chips and a double-decker bus. Impregnated with walnuts, semisweet chocolate, and butter, it could easily serve as a doorstop or be employed in a bocce ball tournament. Though it long ago became a thing of legend, the cookie has plenty of detractors who like to complain that it's just this side of raw. I, however, have absolutely no problem with its gooey interior, particularly when it's still warm from the oven and sagging with semi-melted chocolate. Eating the thing is less indulgence than event, one that you may consider rearranging the day's dining schedule for -- its consumption is best followed by either a nap or a cigarette, depending on your preferences. 167 West 74th Street; 212-874-6080
9. BabyCakes' Double-Chocolate Crumb Cake. The "chocolate" part of the cake -- which, like everything else the bakery sells, is vegan and gluten-free -- comes from unsweetened cocoa powder, which lends the cake a robust, elemental flavor. The crumb is thick and moist, almost like a cross between a brownie and one of those monolithic chocolate layer cakes that diners like to keep rotating behind glass. Since it's sweetened only with pear and agave nectar, the cake won't leave you climbing the walls, though the zigzags of chocolate sauce that embellish it are gooey enough to trick you into thinking you're eating something that will. 248 Broome Street; 212-677-5047
10. Bouchon Bakery's Nutter Butter. Bouchon's spin on the Nutter Butter is by this point legendary: It is to the Nabisco original what 450-count Frette sheets are to a roll of toilet paper. Its building blocks are deceptively ordinary: two plus-size peanut butter cookies sandwich an obscene amount of butter, peanut butter, and confectioners sugar that has been whipped into a submissive frenzy. The cookies are less peanut butter cookie than buried childhood memory of a mythical peanut butter cookie that probably never existed. The filling is neither too sweet nor too buttery, and has the texture of a bolt of silk. The bakery could make a killing selling jars of it on its own, though such a move would probably make the Time Warner Center resemble a methadone clinic. Altogether, it's a cookie for the ages, to say nothing of a Friday. 10 Columbus Circle; 212-823-9364
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