The Best Cupcakes in NYC
The cupcake craze may be over, but that doesn't mean there aren't still great cupcakes in NYC. These are our favorites.
We all know that cupcakes haven’t been cool since the original Sex and the City was on the air (and for that matter, since TV shows were on the air, period), but the fact remains that some situations practically demand a cupcake. Maybe your kid or coworker is having a birthday that needs to be celebrated in public without the use of plates or cutlery, or maybe you just had one of those days where a tiny cake and a pile of frosting are the only things standing between you and a total meltdown. These moments are rare, but when they strike, here’s where you should go to get the best cupcakes in NYC—no dry cake or cloyingly sweet buttercream allowed.
Sugar Sweet Sunshine
Sugar Sweet Sunshine has been on the LES since 2002, and they take a classic yet cheeky approach to the humble cupcake. The shop is small, with just one table tucked in the front window, so plan to grab and go. You’re not going to find wild flavors or outlandish toppings here, but their simple menu is filled with personality. Take, for example, the Holla Back Girl, a super moist banana cake with a tart cream cheese frosting. Sugar Sweet Sunshine’s cupcakes are incredibly well-balanced. They’re tender and sweet but not too sweet. If you want something that feels a little more festive, they also do miniature birthday cakes.
Molly’s Cupcakes in the West Village doubles as a secretly awesome place to get work done or have an extremely casual date thanks to a combination of plentiful seating, fast WiFi, and board games. They also make some of our favorite cupcakes in the city. There are always 15 center-filled options available, as well as a rotating seasonal selection and a handful of vegan options. We especially love the creme brulee cupcake since it comes sans frosting, but with a pastry cream filling and a crackly burnt sugar top. If you want something a little more intense, there’s a peanut butter-filled chocolate cupcake that tastes like a giant peanut butter cup.
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Huascar & Co Bakeshop
The cupcakes at Huascar & Co. in Hell’s Kitchen are some of the best in Manhattan. They make liberal use of sprinkles and sparkles, so if you have a friend who’s a little extra, they’ll appreciate these. The Vanilla Extrovert is our favorite cupcake here, a vanilla cake filled with dulce de leche and topped with a chocolate buttercream—and it's one of the flavors that pays homage to the chef's Dominican heritage. We're also pretty obsessed with their cheesecake, which gets extra tang from creme fraiche and comes in a cute little glass jar topped with whipped cream and cinnamon. Note that this place is tiny—three people waiting in line feels like a crowd—but there is a covered outdoor seating area with a few tables. There's also a second location in the Bronx.
Empire Cake is a little spot in Chelsea that makes sophisticated little cupcakes. The space is a bit spartan, but it’s quiet and they have plenty of seating if you need a little refuge to eat your cupcake in peace. Expect flavors with more of a gourmet spin, with options like pistachio praline, mocha latte, and bananas foster. The classic red velvet is also great, because the cream cheese frosting is perfectly tangy and creamy. We like to think of this as a spot where you can just pop in and have a cupcake in the middle of a hectic day. Empire Cake also makes delicious black & white cookies, though we’d argue they’re more like flat cakes, and fun riffs on classic snack cakes.
Lloyds Carrot Cake Shop
Lloyd’s is an iconic bakery in the Bronx that’s famous for carrot cake, and while there’s no seating or space to hang out here, it’s worth a visit because the cake is that good. Their carrot cake comes in both raisin and raisin-free options, and it’s perfectly dense, moist, and packed with flavor. You can get single cupcakes to grab and go, but note that larger quantities need to be ordered three days in advance. Their carrot cake comes in cupcake form, and they also make chocolate, vanilla, and red velvet flavors.
You know what? Magnolia Bakery makes a good cupcake. Yeah, there are now about a million locations and it’s kind of a tourist trap, but Magnolia didn’t get famous by serving dry, flavorless cupcakes. Their classic vanilla cupcakes taste like dipping a stick of butter in a bowl of sugar, in a good way, and the red velvet and chocolate flavors are textbook examples of the form. The original location is on Bleeker Street in the West Village, and yeah, it’s kind of charming in that “I love New York” kind of way. Their beloved banana pudding is also very much worth the hype.