I love birthdays. Other peoples’ birthdays, because I love to buy presents for friends and family, but let’s be honest, my own birthday is still my favorite. I love how it is a special day, where you can do whatever you want. And even though this might, technically, be possible on every other day as well, birthdays are special though. I decide who to invite, the activites are my choice, the location is, and the food of course.
Birthday Cake as a Flavor
When I was a kid, you could wish for a special cake for your birthday. And our mom probably would have made whatever cake we wished for, but for most of our childhood it ended with a marble cake, which I’m actually not the biggest fan from. These days, my sister usually bakes something different (and vegan) for her birthday, while my brother and I have another “birthday cake” (a no bake cake with a crunchy nutella and almond crust, mascarpone cream and smarties on top.)
In the US, “Birthday Cake” describes not only as every cake served at a birthday, but is also popular as a flavor. In terms of cake, it usually is a plane cake with white batter and sprinkles mixed in. I wouldn’t consider this a decent cake, and always opt for our no-bake cake, especially for birthdays – but Union Fare’s Birthday Cake Croissant is a whole different story.
Having the dry, boring birthday cake in mind I somehow associate with the “Birthday cake” term in the US, Union Fare has been a small note on THE LIST for quite a while. I wanted to go, but thought it wouldn’t be to bad if I didn’t make it. I did not know how wrong I was.
My First Visit to Union Fare
If I would have done any research before, I probably would have stumbeled across this article from Spoon University, describing Union Fare’s croissants as “game-changing” or about how “Pastry Chef Thiago Silva Makes Croissant Magic.”
Completly unaware of all this, I eventually decided to go there, on a rainy morning, right before work. And ohh myy, it only took me seconds to realize how wrong I have been about this place. It turned out the bakery is located within the Union Fare Gastrohall, quite a big place with many food options, including breakfast deals like pretzels, muffins, cookies – and a wide range of colorfully glazed, shiny and dusted croissants.
Union Fare’s Croissants
There’s the Cookies’n’Cream Croissant with white glaze and cookie crumbles on top, one that’s green-tea dusted and filled with a matcha-flavored cream, there even is a Crème brûlée Croissant with a crackling sugar shell. Nevertheless, a friend of mine, L, and I went for the most famous flavors: She took the Red Velvet Croissant, who Food & Wine described as “the Queen of Hearts’ dream come true.“ It’s topped with white glazing and red crumbles and filled with a light cream cheese mousse. I, however, went for the said Birthday Cake Croissant with funfetti sprinkles in the dough, a sweet, pink and creamy filling and “fairy dust” on top, aka grounded sprinkles. Also a favorite from Kirbie, Kirbie, who tried all croissants. And who’d blame her? Only looking at the flaky, thin layers of the Croissant now, wrapping themselves around the creamy filling, makes me drool… it was so so good!
The Inventor: Pastry Chef Thiago Silva
I honestly couldn’t believe how much a little filling on the inside could change – and that there should be a way to make croissants even better than they already are. But it probably wasn’t just the filling, but the creation’s overall appearance and taste that blew my mind away. That, at least, was the intention from pastry chef Thiago Silva – who TimeOut rightly titels as “pastry pro.” He did not only wanted to fill and decorate a croissant, but turn the whole pastry into something special. “I wanted the dough itself to taste and have elements of what we were doing so I laminate the dough with flavors,” said Silva in an article from Today. So while Resident states that the creations are “deconstructed takes on dessert classics“, which matches the chosen flavors, nothing seemed deconstructed to me. On the contrary, the croissants rather appeared to be another form of the desserts they are inspired from.
Out-of-the-box Thinking Lead to the Croissants
The food world has taught us, that green tea doesn’t have to be tea, but can also be used to enrichen the flavor of ice cream or cake. Maybe, Crème brûlée doesn’t have to be a custard dessert, and Birthday Cake doesn’t have to be a cake? Being picky with food vocabulary has never helped anyways. So what if Birthday Cake can also delight us as a Croissant? Or a milkshake? Or cake truffles?
The inventive out-of-the-box thinking necessary for such food inventions is, by the way, nothing new to Thiago Silva. He also is the mind behind the cinnamon-roll-stuffed donut, served at Catch NYC. I didn’t get the chance to try it, and the Cinnamon Roll Pancakes I ate at Catch have been a disappointment. Nevertheless, pushing a dish further to make it more special, to create something new and unique, is one of the reasons why I love New York so much. The quantity of restaurants in and around the city forces bakers and chef to do so, to be in search of something new every day. And while this is hard for them, challenging and frustrating as well, it also is the reason for great, awesome, mind-blowing dishes like the Birthday Cake Croissant.
So if you go there, you might be having the same experience as I did: What sounded like someone was playing around with a childish idea turns out to be the enhancement of a classic croissant, a simple yet tricky idea, perfectly executed to enlighten your taste buds. The Croissant 2.0. One more reason to love birthdays.
Union Fare Bakery
7 East 17th St
New York, NY 10003