The neon sign at Plaza Piaxtla Bakery (663 Seneca Avenue, Queens; 718-417-4961) burns through the daytime fog that hovers in Ridgewood, the letters glowing “Pasteles 3 Leches.” The luminous glass tubing of the sign may suggest something lascivious, though all they are selling are many formations of flour bound with butter and sugar, plus bags of chips and soft drinks.
It’s cramped inside. For years, the space has felt like its residents are in mid-move, with rolling racks parked in the center of the room and stacks of dry goods waiting to be shelved. Among the treats on those rolling racks are doughnuts rolled in cinnamon sugar; shaggy, dry biscuits meant to be dunked into hot chocolate and sweet breads cut on the bias, frosted thick with icing and generously sprinkled. Tamales sell out early on the weekends when neighbors come in to order cakes for their grandson’s birthdays and to sip weak coffee from styrofoam cups.
The most emblematic offering is, of course, the tres leches cake. As advertised in the window, it’s a vanilla-scented sponge cake rich with heavy cream, bolstered by evaporated and sweetened condensed milks. Its heft is captured in a plastic clamshell, the slice seemingly bigger than the container that holds it. A glistening strawberry is plunked on top.
The cake is saturated with a cold dairy sweetness released when cake crushes against tongue. The icing is a smooth, fluffy contrast to the porous cake, without the saccharine barrage of Cool Whip. You can promise yourself you won’t eat the thing in one sitting, though you’ll have to sit on your hands until time creeps towards the next mealtime.
Scarlett Lindeman is a Brooklyn-based writer covering the city’s best taquerias, fondas, and cantinas.