When you hear that a place has the best carrot cake in New York, you make the effort to get out there and taste it. So that's what I did.
I consider myself a pretty good judge of carrot cakes, but that said, there are certain elements that will always be more a matter of personal taste when judging. For example, I like the icing to have a creamy consistency with a hint of citrus zing, and a sweet but not too sweet taste. I don't like a hard-set icing on my carrot cake at all. When it comes to the cake itself I don't mind the addition of walnuts or raisins but don't mind if there aren't any either. The cake must be moist, not crumbly and dry but not too light either. For me, it's got to have some density.
I Googled on the off-chance that I'd get a result for best carrot cake in New York and was delighted when I found quite a few articles claiming that this honour went to Carrot Top Pastries.
There are two locations for this bakery/cafe. I visited the Washington Heights location. We jumped on a 1 subway train uptown and hopped out at 168th St into a rather industrial looking area. There was a hospital nearby that we passed and a few street vendors selling brand-name knock-off bags. It seemed that we weren't in tourist New York anymore (or Kansas).
After the hype of the articles I was snobbishly wondering if we were in the right place. We didn't know which way to go along Broadway from the stop but I knew the number so we eventually figured out which way. Builders scaffolding largely hid the shopfront from view but I could see the glow of a neon sign saying Carrot Top Pastries. That's right, a neon sign for a bakery, but this isn't really that unusual in the city from what I've seen so far. However, it doesn't exactly scream 'class' and I was wondering what we'd got ourselves into.
The interior feels like a diner, which I wasn't expecting, but once I got used to the idea that that was what we were getting it was okay. The coffee system also confused me a bit. There was some brewed in a stainless steel urn on the counter and then there was a real coffee machine and then there was a push-button one that said cappuccino on it. I wanted a latte to go with my cake but couldn't be sure which kind of coffee I'd get if I asked so I went without.
The carrot cake itself was good, nice and dense, and moist with a good flavour. There were some nuts and raisins added too. The icing however was far too sweet for my liking and there was far too much of it. I think, had we gone for a slice of a larger cake rather than the small cupcakes, we may have been better off as the cake to icing ratio would have been more to my liking. That said however, many carrot cake slices I've seen in cafes and diners here have icing in the centre too, like a sponge, and so maybe that wouldn't have been better either.
Overall, I'd give the carrot cake itself a pretty good rating but the icing kind of got in the way, and I'm not sure that I believe it really is the best carrot cake New York has to offer. We didn't really linger in the area after we ate our cupcakes either so while I'm glad I had the experience I'm not sure I'd recommend it to other travellers or natives alike. My quest for New York's best carrot cake will continue.
How disappointing for you Kathleen. At least it was not an expensive meal and you got a different view of NYC. The way you described the perfect carrot cake is just the way I like mine so Carrot Top would not be doing it for me either.