Sugarcube Dessert & Coffee, new Queens bakery, uses 3-D printed molds to create unique desserts

All photos by Angela Matua/QNS.com

A new bakery in Long Island City is fusing geometry with unique flavors to create a new experience for those with a sweet tooth.

Peter Zaharatos, an architect who teaches classes at New York City College of Technology, opened Sugarcube Dessert & Coffee earlier last month to “explore form and chocolate” and to introduce flavors from his native Greece.

“There’s a great coffee culture in Greece,” Zahartos said. “And for anyone who’s been there similar to what happens in Italy … basically dessert and coffee in general becomes an event at night.”

Zaharatos makes molds for his chocolate using a 3-D printer and many of the desserts sold at Sugarcube take the form of cubes and other geometric shapes. Many of the designs have been explored as client projects and Zahartos’ first job out of Pratt Institute involved making 3-D models.

“Sugar cube is part of my sort of architectural background but also the idea of three different directions and kind of combining them ― very small bite size, in an individual size and in the cold form.”

Mauricio Santelice, the pastry chef at the helm of Sugarcube, is best known for his Don Huevo dessert creation ― a white chocolate egg, which he drizzles with warm caramel sauce to reveal a chocolate cake topped with horchata ice cream.

He makes all the desserts in-house, including bite-size chocolate fruit and liquor-filled bonbons, chocolate mousse cake, a salted caramel popcorn cake and a host of gelato and sorbets with flavors such as lime and fresh basil sorbet, passion fruit and mandarin sorbet, Greek yogurt strawberry gelato made with honey from Greece, chocolate valrhona gelato and lightly roasted pistachio gelato.

The bakery also sells scones, croissants, muffins, espresso and brewed drinks and staples such as tiramisu and fruit tarts.

Many of the desserts incorporate ingredients that can only be found in Greece. The pistachio eclairs, which resemble a cupcake instead of the traditional oblong eclair shape, are filled with pistachio buttercream filling using the seeds from Zaharatos father-in-law’s pistachio groves in Aegina, Greece.

The vanilla bean gelato is infused with mastiha, a sap from certain trees on the Greek island of Chios. According to Zaharatos, the sap was used as chewing gum by Greeks and has medicinal properties that help with indigestion. The ingredient helps elevate the vanilla flavor, he said.

“[Peter] wants to incorporate flavors from Greece and kind of elevate the desserts to [add] different flavors, different textures, different look[s],” Santelice said. 

Melomakarona, a Greek vegan cookie flavored with a honey and cognac is a family recipe. The menu is expansive and ever-changing. Zaharatos projects the menu on to a wall so that changes can be made quickly. He works with Santelice to brainstorm ideas for different flavors and uses his 3-D printer to create different forms for chocolate bars.

The Bay Ridge native designed the bakery digitally and created many sections of the bakery on a 3-D printer before building the space with his brother, who runs the design company Arxis League. Zaharatos was also the lead designer on the Second Avenue Subway project and the College Point Police Academy.

Though some may think architects and pastry chefs are two very divergent careers, Zaharatos sees a deeper connection.

“Pastry chefs are very similar to architects because they’re building and structuring things,” Zaharatos said. “[They’re] combining very minuscule proportions in ingredients and they’re making things that actually have to stand and hold shapes.”