Food History Podcasts

Just Desserts: The origins of New York cheesecake, cannoli and other glorious sweet things

EPISODE 306 Recorded live at the WNYC Greene Space

In this special episode, the Bowery Boys podcast focuses on the delicious treats that add to the New York experience. These aren’t just the famous foods that have been made in New York, but the unique desserts that make the city what it is today.

The origins of some of these treats go way, way back — the Dutch New Amsterdam. Others have become staples of the New York diet thanks to immigrant groups who first developed and perfected them in neighborhoods like the Lower East Side.

So while this show may seem like a trifle, the underlying story celebrates the contributions of local communities in creating timeless food classics, served in historic bake shops, candy stores and cafes.

Cheesecake and cannoli are two of our five historic treats. What are the other three? Tune in and find out! (And definitely save some room after dinner for dessert.)


THE TAKEOUT — A bonus after-show podcast for those who support us on Patreon. Greg dives into further tales of sweet history. Near the Brooklyn Bridge sits a remnant of an old Revolutionary War sugar house with a disturbing history (and possibly ghosts). The Gilded Age shopping district of Ladies Mile was also the home of a short lived chocolate factory. And the tragic story behind the Tootsie Roll.

PLUS: More on the history of soft drinks. Who was Doctor Pepper?

A big thank you to WNYC and the Greene Space for holding this Bowery Boys live event. You can watch video of our recording session at the Greene Space website.

DESSERT PLACES WE MENTIONED ON THIS WEEK’S SHOW — and a few others that we love. Pay them all a visit!

Donut Pub, Manhattan (Chelsea), 203 W 14th St
Doughnut Plant, various locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn
Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop, Brooklyn (Greenpoint), 727 Manhattan Ave
Economy Candy, Manhattan (Lower East Side), 108 Rivington St
Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain, Brooklyn (Carroll Gardens), 513 Henry Street
Gem Spa, Manhattan (East Village), 131 2nd Avenue
Ray’s Candy Store, Manhattan (East Village), 113 Avenue A
Junior’s Cheesecake, various locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn
Eileen’s Special Cheesecake, Manhattan (Nolita) 17 Cleveland Place
Court Pastry Shop, Brooklyn (Carroll Gardens) 298 Court Street
Caputo’s Bake Shop, Brooklyn (Carroll Gardens) 329 Court Street
Cafe Ferrera, Manhattan (Little Italy), 195 Grand Street
Caffe Palermo ‘The Cannoli King’, Manhattan (Little Italy), 148 Mulberry Street
Veniero‘s Pasticceria & Caffé, Manhattan (East Village), 342 E 11th Street
William Greenberg Desserts, Manhattan (various locations)
Hemstrought’s Bakeries, Ithica, New York

FURTHER LISTENING: Check out our other food history episodes!

Inside the wonderful world of Junior’s in Brooklyn
A view inside Caputo’s Bake Shop in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn
A no-fuss egg cream can still be had at Gem Spa, which has been serving them for generations.
Sweets to your heart’s delight at Veniero’s, celebrating 125 years.
Ferrara’s in Little Italy is always hopping with hungry patrons….
…as is Caffe Palermo’s around the corner, aka the Cannoli King!
Sheet music celebrating the World War I ‘doughnut girl’
A 1922 Salvation Army ‘doughnut race’. Harris & Ewing, photographer, Library of Congress
The Donut Casino, delivering thousands of free doughnuts to World’s Fair goers.
A well-dressed employee working a doughnut machine at a shop in Times Square. 1945, Bob Leavitt, Look Magazine. Courtesy Museum of the City of New York
Nancy Templeton, the 1952 National Doughnut Queen flanked by her runners-up. orld Telegram & Sun photo by Fred Palumbo, Library of Congress
A New York City candy store, advertising egg creams, 1935. Arnold Eagle, photographer. Courtesy Museum of the City of New York.
A photo taken by Stanley Kubrick in 1947 of a child admiring pastries. Courtesy Museum of the City of New York

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *