Although our field research for Our 10 Best Bakery Desserts had by the middle of the week made us ready to swear off sugar until the next presidential election, we were lured back into the hyperglycemic fray by Lulu Cake Boutique, which opened its doors on Wednesday.
This is the first Manhattan location of Lulu, which has two others in Scarsdale and Brooklyn. This Lulu is located in Chelsea, a bakery-friendly neighborhood if ever there was one — the white and pastel-blue color scheme on Lulu’s Eighth Avenue storefront even recall those of Billy’s Bakery, which sits a few blocks north, on Ninth Avenue.
If the opening-day crowd was any indication, Lulu has done its location research well: By 12:30 p.m., many of its cake slices had disappeared, and the counter swarmed with customers who regarded its pneumatic wares with goopy, dumbstruck grins, as if they were looking at puppies or bags of cash.
Lulu serves the kind of pastries that invite that sort of reaction: They’re big, happy desserts that don’t so much beckon from behind the display glass as threaten to break through it and tackle you to the ground. Everything is outsized, as is the friendliness of the staff, who on our visit handed out free samples like business cards.
After an embarrassing amount of deliberation, we ordered a slice of dulce de leche cake ($4.50) and a Nutella-cornflake brownie ($3), with which the counter guy threw in a free piece of chocolate-raspberry rugelach.
That rugelach ended up being our favorite of the three desserts we tried. Although we’ve never really thrilled to rugelach, Lulu’s persuaded us of its bountiful charms, thanks to its tender dough and bittersweet chocolate chips, which were held together with a smear of raspberry jam. We could have eaten it like popcorn, and, someday, we plan to.
Both the brownie and the cake were comical in their proportions — they were more suited to giants, or at least to people who’d been doing manual labor. Fortunately, quantity was matched by quality: The cake had a springy vanilla crumb with a warm, rounded flavor, and a buttercream frosting that, despite containing at least half a stick of butter, boasted the toasty, spicy burn of caramelized sugar and milk.
The brownie was very dense and moist, and contained a center layer of Nutella that had been blended with pulverized Cornflakes and then smothered beneath a thick coating of bittersweet chocolate ganache. The Cornflakes were sadly more a suggestion than a reality, but if you’re looking for a brownie that displays the brawn and subtlety of a rugby team at happy hour, you could do much worse.
Excepting the rugelach, everything we tried or laid eyes on at Lulu proudly occupies the sweatpants end of the Fat Pants scale, though it’s more accurate to say that the cake belongs in the realm of the burlap sack held up with a length of rope. We definitely plan on going back, preferably after completing a triathlon or hauling bales of hay for several hours.
Lulu Cake Boutique
112 Eighth Avenue
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