The questionable world of gimmicky New York desserts is hit or miss. I am neutral about the hybrids (cronuts and brookies) but skeptical of spectacles (loaded milkshakes, tie-dye anything). I find an abundance of olive oil quite pleasing (drizzled on soft serve, olive oil cake), while the gold flakes tax is just embarrassing (because a freckle of gold is a pathetic scam to charge $18 a pastry). All this is to say that no amount of innovation can top the quiet majesty of the humble cake. A good slice of cake, whatever that means to you, needs no reinvention, no outlandish collaboration du jour, no celebrity chef to declare its future. Cake will be cake for all eternity, and I like it that way.
With far too many places desperate for era-defining, Levain-level fame, Manhattan is fortunate to have the quaint little cake shop, From Lucie. It single-handedly keeps me optimistic that the dessert menu landscape can return to a place of old-fashioned deliciousness and superb quality.
From Lucie, which opened in January, sits on 10th Street between First and Avenue A. It’s easy to identify with its cute-as-a-button mustard yellow facade, gingham curtains and country garden chairs. Lucie Franc de Ferriere describes it as her “love story with the French countryside.” Growing up in Bordeaux, Franc de Ferriere would assist her mother making cakes for the family’s bed and breakfast. The countryside’s earthy flavors and her family farm’s high-quality ingredients would go on to influence her baking as she took her cakes from French vineyards all the way to the East Village.
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At $11 to $12 a slice, From Lucie cakes definitely cost a premium. But hear me out: I could wax poetic about the near-perfection of these cakes. (Because will I ever find a perfect cake? I’ll have to reserve that title.) They’re light but punched with flavor, moist without heaviness and sweet but never tooth-achingly so. Somehow, they’ve mastered the slippery balance of tidy craftsmanship with homestyle ease and warmth.
Franc de Ferriere’s cakes are most identifiable for her trademark design, fresh flowers. Each slice is full of whimsy, topped with haphazardly scattered petals, dusty roses, bulbous peonies and delicate daisies hanging on fragile stems. Yet, the flowers aren’t a schtick to upcharge nor a means to compensate for lackluster quality. Take the bouquets away, and every single From Lucie cake is still downright delicious in all its fluffy, decadent glory.
The menu boasts a playful yet refined selection of oohs and ahhs-inducing flavors. This includes, but is not limited to, lemon olive oil cake with lavender swiss-meringue and lemon curd; gluten-free zucchini cake with fromage frais buttercream; and, my personal favorite, the chocolate cake with dark chocolate salted espresso buttercream — it has the richness of classic chocolate cakes from childhood. “Our menu changes seasonally, so within a month or two you can expect some fun fall flavors,” Franc de Ferriere tells us.
If you are without an upcoming party, a slice of the French countryside is still worthy of celebration on any day. After all, cake, much like flowers, needs no occasion.
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