Danish Birthday Cake

3 Laight Street bet. Sixth Avenue & Varick Street

*Please note that this cake was special ordered.

"American birthday cakes are over-the-top and full of sugar," my Danish boss told me randomly in conversation, "In Denmark, when I was growing up, my mom would bake a traditional Danish birthday cake for me. It was shaped like a man and it would be decorated with licorice and candies." 

It was then that I knew that we had to surprise him with a Danish birthday cake for his birthday. The only problem?  I couldn't find a Danish bakery in Manhattan. One would think that you could find anything here! Thankfully, though, I recalled him mentioning a new Danish restaurant in TriBeca called Aamans-Copenhagen which seemed as good a starting point as any. So, I rang them up.

"Hello, would it be possible for me to order a traditional Danish birthday cake? It's the one that shaped like a man with all the different candies on top... We'd need it by 5 p.m. tomorrow. WHAT?! Oh nooooo... There's not enough time? Sigh. Thank you anyway." 

Don't worry—this story has a happy ending. I called them back.

Turns out, there's another traditional Danish birthday cake that's easier to whip together. It's a two-layered vanilla cake (a thinner, denser, and less sweet version) that is slathered with fresh whipped cream and filled with fresh strawberries. Red and white like their beloved national flag. Actually, it's also decorated with tiny paper Danish flags on toothpicks that are punched into the cake. Yes, they sure do love their flag! The cake has this loose, handmade quality that makes it look super special. 

My boss was shooting that day at Pier 59 Studios. As it wrapped, we wheeled the cake on set, birthday candles lit and all, with three buckets of champagne and bigger Danish flags. Everyone waved their little flag and sang "Happy Birthday." For a man who doesn't easily get surprised, we totally got him.

The cake was heavenly. I think it must've brought back a lot of memories because he had three slices. 

*This cake was special ordered at $8.00 per person. The one pictured above was made for 10 people, but it was definitely plenty for about 15 or 20 who just wanted a taste to take part in the celebration at the end of the day.


Lady M Cake Boutique



41 East 78th Street bet. Park and Madison Avenues

The Plaza Food Hall
1 West 59th Street

My first encounter with Lady M occurred at Takashimaya, the elegant Japanese department store on Fifth Avenue whose doors sadly closed in 2010. There were many afternoons where I would tuck into the hidden tea salon downstairs and treat myself to a cup of frothy matcha green tea and a slice of Lady M's signature mille-feuille cake, which was then a secret enjoyed only by true insiders. At the time, the confections were baked by one baker in Japan and flown to New York. The price tag for a whole mille-feuille cake back then was a hefty $90. Today, it's $75. (Still hefty, I know.)

Thankfully, just because Takashimaya vanished did not mean that we had to bid adieu to Lady M's gorgeous creations, as its own retail space soon appeared on the Upper East Side—a white lacquered box filled with baked jewels. The mille-feuille (which means "thousand layers"), of course, is a must: twenty delicate layers of crepes filled with an airy almond custard cream and finished with a caramelized burnt sugar top. It will quite possibly be the lightest "decadent dessert" you will ever try.

I also adore their pristine cheesecake, which is topped with a glossy white blanket of sour cream and named gåteau nuage, or "cloud cake", for a reason. However, if it's grandeur you're after, go for the banana mille-feuille, which is an architectural stunner of flaky puff pastry, whipped cream, layers of vanilla sponge cake, ripe bananas, and a kiss of triple sec.

*Lady M Confections is also found at The Plaza Food Hall and a selection of goodies is available for shipping online.

Cortado with Orange Blossom & Chocolate Pound Cake

6 East 7th Street near First Avenue

A cortado, according to the barista at Abraço, is a short cappuccino. The ratio of steamed milk to espresso is 1:1, and it's sometimes topped off with microfoam. The first time I had one was last Christmas at the home of my friends Michael and Tricia in Houston. Michael is an expert at making them, so his lucky wife Tricia gets a freshly made cortado every morning!

Since then, I honestly hadn't thought about it until I saw it scribbled on the mirrored menu at Abraço. I ordered one out of nostalgia's sake and also tried a thick slice of the orange blossom & chocolate pound cake. It's fragrant with the perfume of orange blossom and studded with rich bits of dark chocolate and crushed almonds, semi-sweet and dense with just the right amount of texture and crumble. After tweeting and Instagramming the above photo, though, everyone told me that the olive oil cake is where it's at, so, duly noted.