For the last five years, Mary Fitzgerald has baked custom-order sweets for weddings, birthdays and other occasions in a rented commercial kitchen in Long Island City, schlepping her ingredients and finished products hither and thither and relying on word-of-mouth advertising.
Baking evolved from a hobby into a new occupation while Fitzgerald spent two decades working in the fresh flowers industry. Her jobs included a stint at a flower shop on Grand Street, where she was a co-worker with Bill Frazer, who now operates Essex Flowers (which just relocated to Grand Street) and Flowers Café, a small restaurant also on Grand.
This spring, those two experiences coalesced into an offer Fitzgerald couldn’t resist: She was looking for a stationary home for her baking business; Frazer was looking to fill an empty storefront at 155 E. Broadway (at Rutgers Street).
Desserts NYC opened May 20, offering a daily assortment of cakes, pies, tarts and cupcakes, as well as custom-order sweets, breakfast items and house-made ice cream based on old family recipes from the South Carolina aunt of one of her bakers.
“Every day is getting busier,” Fitzgerald said, serving up strawberry lemonade and iced coffee on a hot day last week. Nearby, an assistant hand-rolled dozens of tiny balls of white fondant, destined for use as bubbles on the top of a 1-year-old’s bathtub-themed birthday cake. “It was an opportunity I just had to take.”
A native of Massachusetts, Fitzgerald now lives in Chelsea, but has come to appreciate the melting pot that is the Lower East Side. A 10-month work assignment in China during her flower years helps her feel right at home on the edge of Chinatown, and when a neighboring business owner wanders in to deliver unsolicited advice about conducting commerce in a heavily Jewish neighborhood, she’s unabashedly gracious.
All the sweets are baked on the premises; breakfast breads such as bagels and croissants come from another specialty baker. In addition to her signature yellow butter and Swiss chocolate cakes, Fitzgerald focuses on seasonal specialties, many based on fruits and vegetables sourced from neighborhood vendors: blueberry pies with brown sugar and cardamom now; apple tarts with cheddar cheese and rosemary in the fall. Gluten-free and sugar-free desserts are also available.
Desserts NYC is open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and weekends 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Most custom orders can be accommodated on one to two days’ notice, and pancakes, waffles and other hot breakfast items are available all day.