Although French and Italian bakeries seem to be the most well-known in Manhattan (and with lines out the door), there are dozens of Asian and Asian-owned bakeries across NYC. Most bakeries in Chinatown are long-standing, Chinese-American, family-owned operations, and generally offer a serve-yourself format: grab a tray and a pair of tongs, and pick out several freshly-baked pastries, buns, and breads from rows upon rows of options. Whereas most European bakeries tend to feature flakier, more textured pastries (think croissants and danishes), Asian bakeries are more about soft, round buns with various types of filling, such as roast pork, egg custard, and red bean.
Outside of Chinatown, newer Asian-owned bakeries have emerged and typically serve pastries that feature both Asian and European flavors and baking techniques. To celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, here are some of my favorite Asian-owned bakeries in NYC.
With Warm Welcome is a community organization that amplifies and humanizes Asian American chefs, restaurateurs, and founders by producing podcasts, crafting meaningful experiences, and collaborating with artists. It’s become ever more apparent that we need to find ways to advocate for Asian-owned small businesses as they’ve been the hardest hit during the pandemic. In partnership with The Infatuation, we’re spotlighting some of our favorite Asian-owned businesses to support now and forever.
Kitsby is a café/bakery in Williamsburg that’s decorated with wood-paneled walls and marble countertops with Asian-inspired desserts that don’t disappoint. Taiwanese-American Amy Hsiao and Hongkonger Maverick Wong created Kitsby because they were inspired by childhood memories of baking days past. Kitsby started as a standalone DIY baking kit - as of 2019, Hsiao and Wong expanded Kitsby to include a full-blown brick-and-mortar location. Order a crème puff baking kit off their website for a fun at-home activity, or stop by their dessert bar. I can’t get enough of the salted egg yolk lava cake, which is basically the warm, oozing salted egg yolk buns found at dim sum but come dressed in a lava cake outfitted with scoops of vanilla ice cream.
Kam Hing Coffee Shop is a landmark of Chinatown. It opened its doors about 35 years ago and is famous for its light, fluffy, and moist sponge cake. Chinese-American owner Liz Yee and her family opened Kam Hing Coffee Shop as a way to pass down memories from generation to generation. Besides the original sponge cake version, you can find a multitude of flavors such as pandan, matcha, ube, black sesame, and coconut. I like to stop by in the mornings and start my day with at least two sponge cakes - I usually go with original and matcha, but depending on the day, I’ll mix and match. And of course, I have to get a milk tea as well.
Moul Kim and Lawrence Wai Keki set up Keki Modern Cakes in Chinatown after traveling through Asia and seeing how popular Japanese cheesecakes were overseas. They recruited Kevin Kim as their executive chef, who spent time at Per Se and Nobu, to help bring this cheesecake sensation to New York. Keki is famed for its “bouncy” cheesecake, where the consistency is more spongy than cheesy. While I prefer the ube flavor because it’s my favorite dessert flavor, the cheesecakes come in an original flavor as well and have a slightly bouncier texture - like what I imagine biting into a cloud would be like. And although they’re listed as serving three to four people, in reality, they serve a maximum of two. But maybe I’m only speaking for myself since the cakes are so light and delicious that I prefer not to share. You should also pair your cake with a Wow Tart, which is basically like if a Japanese cheese tart and an egg tart had a baby.
Prior to opening Patisserie Fouet in Union Square, owner and executive chef Yoshie Shirakawa had already won awards as a pastry chef, taught classes at a culinary school in Tokyo, and worked as the executive pastry chef at Dessert Cafe Luxee and Bohemian in New York. This is what suffering from success actually looks like (take notes DJ Khaled). At Patisserie Fouet, Shirakawa’s Japanese and French flavors really shine in her dessert jars, particularly the soba pudding and green tea tiramisu that work great for takeout. They also offer covered and heated outdoor seating, which is perfect when I’m looking for a cute weekend sit-down spot for afternoon tea.
Two Geese Bakery is a newer spot currently located in Gansevoort Liberty Market, run by executive pastry chef Jessica Lee. They serve boozy cookies (or “boozkies,” as they call them) in flavors such as Rum Soaked Butter Pecan and Coffee with Whiskey Ganache. I prefer to hold the booze and go for a baked treat instead, like the sweet-and-savory cherry and yogurt danish and eggy matcha caneles.
Formerly a communications major and design company founder, Gary Chan followed his passion for baking and opened Bibble & Sip in 2014 after graduating from the International Culinary Center. This spot is known for its cute llama motifs and crème puffs, but I’m also a big fan of the matcha pearl egg tarts, mostly because of the chewy boba that’s embedded in a jiggly matcha-flavored egg custard held together by a buttery and flaky crust. There’s also the fact that these egg tarts are kind of exclusive - they’re only available Friday through Sunday. Bibble & Sip’s first location is in Hell’s Kitchen, Chan just opened a second one in Chinatown if you’re looking to get away from the hectic crowd by Times Square.
Yeh’s Bakery has been around in Flushing for a very long time and is a staple at many birthdays of Asian Americans who grew up in Queens. Though this Taiwanese bakery is most well known for its Boston pie (picture a lighter, flufflier, spongier Boston creme), I love coming here for the birthday cakes, which meet the Asian gold standard for baked goods and pastries: airy, delicate, and lightly sweetened. The cakes also come topped with fresh fruit. The strawberry and green tea flavors are my go-to orders - the strawberry cake reminds me of a light strawberry shortcake, whereas the matcha cake tones down the sweetness even more and adds a hint of bitterness.
Before the pandemic, I would’ve recommended going inside Hong Kong bakery Kam Boat in Chinatown for the full Chinese bakery experience: grab a tray, a pair of tongs, and pick out some baked goods from their wide assortment. These days, I still recommend dropping by, but expect that an employee will handle your treats of choice. The egg tarts here are also some of the best in the city - the crust is a little more crumbly than flaky, and the egg custard center is impossibly smooth. I like to buy these egg tarts by the dozen, save two for myself, and bring the rest to potlucks to share with all my friends.
After Japanese owner Hiroyuki Takahashi opened his first restaurant, Takahachi, which serves sushi, teriyaki, and other Japanese dishes, Hiroyuki decided to introduce Japanese bread to New York when he opened Takahachi Bakery in 2011. This cozy bakery is located on a quiet street in Tribeca and specializes in matcha-flavored desserts. No trip here is complete without getting the green tea crepe, which is strong on the matcha flavor and filled with light cream and red bean. It’s rolled into a wrap and held together by parchment paper designed like a piece of newspaper, which is perfect for enjoying on the go and getting the optimal matcha-cream-red bean ratio with each bite.
Former international model-turned-chef Clarice Lam owns The Baking Bean, a self-proclaimed “oven-to-door” Brooklyn-based bakery. Before The Baking Bean temporarily closed due to the pandemic, Lam created made-to-order “small bites,” such as macarons and sweet potato-and-orange buttermilk biscuits, chocolates, and confections like caramel bonbons and raspberry and honeycomb chocolate bark, along with a variety of cakes and pies. Lam’s desserts also can be found at Kimika for dinner and brunch - I love the mochi bomboloncini with Nutella, toasted sesame, and hazelnut. They remind me of the sesame mochi balls I’d get at dim sum crossed with a Ferrero Rocher.
Owned by Japanese-American Ayaka Ando, Tadaima is a bakery currently based out of Industry City specializing in beautiful pastries and baked goods. I love the yuzu lemon cake, which has perfect hints of citrus without the flavor being too overpowering and is dense in texture in the best possible way. The presentation is also beautiful: purple, yellow, and pink dried flower petals and rosebuds sit atop the glaze on the cake, with glimpses of gold cake glitter sprinkled throughout. I’m also a fan of any of the matcha-flavored desserts, which are all rich in matcha flavor and not too sweet. Tadaima serves coffee and tea as well, so you should order a chai latte to help wash down all of the sweet pastries.