An American Tale: Baked NYC

An American Tale with Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito
Baked NYC’s Tribeca location / Photography by Michel Arnaud

Has your family influenced the way you cook and run Baked NYC?

ML: My grandmother didn’t emphasize precision as much as taking your time in the kitchen, making sure all your ingredients are ready and that you’re concentrating only on the recipe and not all that is going on around you. I still have that with me.

RP: In the Mediterranean way of cooking, my mom used very classic and natural ingredients, and not too many in each dish. My mom was also very fastidious in the kitchen, and both of those things translated over to me. I try to stay very tidy and organized not only in the way that I cook but in the way I run our business. A bakery should always feel clean and well kept.

What is your favorite cake that Baked NYC serves?

ML: That’s like trying to choose between children, but I love our classic, diner-style Chocolate Cake.

RP: My favorite cake is actually a secret cake that we never promote, The Black and Gold. It’s hidden on the website, so you have to search for it to be able to order it. People learn about it by word of mouth. It’s a Devil’s Food Cake made with black cocoa with a whiskey and chocolate pudding filling covered around the edges with black and gold sprinkles.

What makes a baked good distinctly “American”?

RP: American desserts, compared to German, French, and Italian desserts, tend to be more abundant and rustic. We’re not afraid for something to be imperfect, and I think that’s a good thing. French desserts tend to be so delicate. They’re gorgeous, but they’re almost too pretty to eat. When you see an American dessert, you want to dig in.

ML: Two things. First, American desserts tend to be larger and more substantial in the classic “bigger, badder, better” way. If you’re getting dessert in America, you’re going to get dessert. Our baked goods are not petite, and they’re not dainty. Second, American desserts tend to be sweeter than those from Europe and Asia, which is not always a good thing. We tried to pull back on sweetness in our recipes, but almost anyone who visits us from overseas says that ours are sweet.

RP: Also, I think what makes a dessert American is the ingredients used. Classic American desserts pull from ingredients that are readily available like seasonal pies and cakes with certain flavor profiles. Different regions of the country have specific desserts.

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