Sweet Satisfaction: Vegan Desserts

Jeremy Lehrer

Desserts are an equal opportunity addiction. Even the healthiest of eaters can be subject to unstoppable longings for something sweet and rich—a concoction with the perfect combination of intense flavor, texture and endorphin-generating bliss. There is an unmistakable satisfaction that comes from finishing a meal with dessert, or even making a couple of them your main course.

While vegans in other cities might be left to their own devices, those in New York City—and dessert lovers of all stripes, for that matter—have plenty of options when that yearning strikes. Throughout the City, vegan-friendly or strictly vegan bakeries, cafés and restaurants offer such dairy- and egg-free delicacies as cupcakes, cookies, ice cream, cheesecake, carrot cake and brownies, to name just a few. These desserts will intoxicate the taste buds of vegans and non-vegans alike, proving that there is far more than one way to send the sweet tooth to the moon.

BabyCakes NYC
If you swoon when thinking of the frisson of frosting and crumbly cake moisture embodied in a cupcake, BabyCakes NYC has just the treat for you—many of them, in fact, in flavors of chocolate, vanilla, carrot, lemon and red velvet. Founder Erin McKenna started this bakeshop in 2005 with an eye for using all-natural and essentially healthful ingredients and to provide a bakery for those whose food sensitivities or proclivities prevent them from eating dairy, eggs, gluten or artificial sweeteners. The Lower East Side bakery is a cozy spot for a post-dinner dessert date or a solo sweets outing. Though there's not much space to sit here—a corner nook and a few seats adjacent to a small counter provide the only places to roost—the communal intimacy is part of the charm. The homemade sensibility of the treats made here—which include cookie sandwiches, brownies, scones and apple pie, among others—is complemented by the vintage decor and a wooden screen-door entryway.

On Rivington Street on the Lower East Side, Teany gives vegetarian and vegan diners, tea lovers, music fans and many others much to celebrate and imbibe. The musician Moby, a vegan, launched Teany in 2002 along with Kelly Tisdale as a teahouse-cum-restaurant/café. A selection of 98 teas ranging from "Golden Nepal" to "Monkey Picked Superior Ti Kuan Yin" is displayed in numbered tins on shelves throughout the space. Among the dessert choices, which rotate seasonally, are an extraordinary carrot cake with cream-cheese frosting, strawberry shortcake, chocolate peanut butter mousse cake and a lemon-lime cheesecake. The cream-painted café has an outdoor seating area, gets beautiful indoor light through south-facing picture windows and has a welcoming modern interior with plenty of tables. Good music, good food and good vibes abound at Teany, an ideal locale for conversation or writing.

Lula's Sweet Apothecary
With its offerings of floats, flavored sodas and seltzers, shakes, malts, sundaes and all the accompanying toppings and sprinkles you could wish for, Lula's Sweet Apothecary hearkens back to the era of soda fountains and drugstore lunch counters—if that era were entirely dairy-free and had a few gluten-free options to boot. Located on a quiet block in the East Village, Lula's was started in October by partners Blythe Boyd and Derek Hackett, who wanted to create an ice cream parlor where vegans could indulge without reserve. The decor of the spot reflects the apothecary moniker with swivel bar stools, a checkered floor and ingredients displayed in large glass medicine jars. Lula's offers up to 12 flavors of ice cream daily, which include classics like vanilla and chocolate in addition to such varieties as peanut butter fudge and cake batter. The owners handcraft the ice cream in small batches on-site, using either soy, coconut or nut milk—the latter two ingredients being a welcome selection for those with soy allergies. "Our specialty is actually the nut-based variety," says Boyd, "as we feel it offers a creamier product."

On a quiet stretch of Henry Street in Carroll Gardens, Naidre's has a selection of homemade vegan baked goods and desserts in addition to a full menu of coffee, tea and food offerings. The mellow and comfortable café is a good place for conversation, contemplation and working; a counter along one wall is set up for freelancers and other day-trippers, who make use of the venue's free WiFi. The vegan coconut date and double-chocolate-chip cookies here are made by Little Buddy Biscuit Company, a local Brooklyn baker who specializes in such delectables. Vegan granola and a delicious array of vegan muffins are available daily, and the in-house chefs continually develop new treats, such as a gluten-free cherry brownie.

Atlas Cafe
What Atlas Cafe lacks in space, it more than makes up for in selection. The sheer quantity of desserts, sandwiches, wraps and other vegan menu items at this spot is enough to make one's mouth water, particularly for those visitors who can only dream of this kind of variety. Atlas' dessert display contains vegan delights like strawberry shortcake, German chocolate cake, blueberry cheesecake, "peanut butter bomb" and "death by chocolate," as well as mint chocolate, oatmeal raisin and peanut butter cookies. All of these desserts are made by Vegan Treats, a bakery based in Pennsylvania. The main courses at Atlas include vegan Philly steak, vegan barbecue chicken and veggie burgers; the eatery also has meat items, so vegans should be careful when ordering. With the cramped quarters consisting of a diminutive indoor seating area and a small outdoor area, Atlas is not necessarily the sort of place where one lingers. But how long do you need to savor a hearty meal and a sweet-tooth fix?

Café Blossom
Visitors making a trip to Upper West Side destinations such as the American Museum of Natural History or Central Park would be well advised to also make a stop at organic vegan restaurant Café Blossom. A sister eatery to the gourmet restaurant Blossom, in Chelsea, Café Blossom offers "casual fine dining" and features lovingly crafted desserts as part of its full-course menu of entrees and juices. The homemade sweets on offer here include chocolate, lemon and carrot cakes; soft-serve ice cream; cookies (one of them raw); and a variety of milk shakes (the Butterfinger variety is a particular favorite). The selection of artisanal and deliciously flavorful main courses and appetizers changes seasonally.

Vegan's Delight
Vegan's Delight, in the northeast section of the Bronx, has been in operation for 21 years. In addition to most likely being the oldest vegan eatery in the borough, Vegan's Delight may well be the oldest in the City—but we'll leave it to the folks at supervegan.com to hash that one out. The business comprises a natural and organic foods store, a holistic health and nutrition education center and a confectioner extraordinaire. The bakers here make red velvet, mocha fudge chocolate and pineapple coconut cakes as well as a variety of vegan cheesecakes, including strawberry, mixed berry and cherry. The sweets derive their taste-bud-tingling potency from all-natural ingredients and solely natural sweeteners like agave and stevia. In addition to groceries and desserts, a deli service area offers hot prepared Caribbean foods like escovitched veggie fish, jerk tofu and ital stew. While it is primarily a take-out operation, Vegan's Delight is completing a renovation so customers can savor its meals and desserts at the establishment instead of waiting until they get home.