Not many of us have the Martha Stewart gene when it comes to birthday cakes, or the Smitten Kitchen gene, or or or…ok, you get the point. And, while some of us may yearn for high-end or homemade birthday cakes for our little ones, others of us are partial to the brightly-airbrushed artificially colored cartoon-y designs atop a good ol’-fashioned supermarket half-sheet from our own childhoods.

Non-DIY East Bay parents frequently turn to the following bakeries, from most Martha to most kitch, to score their kids’ birthday cakes.  So even if you don’t live in the East Bay, we think these below bakeries are definitely work checking out. After all, anything beats an entire afternoon laboring in the kitchen, right?

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Taste of Denmark
Towering buttercream mountains, your kid’s favorite Thomas or Cars characters racing across, even taller princesses whose entire bodies are made of cake, a 3-D Nemo scene, or an edible photo of your choosing? Formerly the landmark Neldams, renamed after a change in ownership last year, Taste of Denmark turns out the same beloved classic birthday cakes that families in the area have relied on for generations.

3401 Telegraph Avenue
Oakland, Ca
510-420-8889

Merritt Bakery
Given enough advance warning, Merritt Bakery could turn out a cake shaped like a hamburger and fries, if that’s your fancy. They’re flexible like that. They also can accommodate most short-notice special requests. Located on Lake Merritt, the bakery is attached to a mighty fine diner that turns out a mean fried chicken and waffles as well.

203 E. 18th Street
Oakland, Ca
510-444-6955

Top picks where you can get your Martha on:

Katrina Rozelle
Fabulously elegant and delicious cakes from this highly artistic, artisanal Oakland bakery will cost a pretty penny. Do not expect to get your kid’s favorite basketball team logo emblazoned on top of a sheet cake at this top-tier establishment. They can however, sculpt you a three-dimensional, fondant-covered creation akin to those served at celebrity weddings. Note: This place is worth an in-person visit as they frequently offer generous free samples.

5931 College Avenue
Oakland, Ca
510-655-3209

215 B Alamo Plaza
Alamo, Ca
925-837-6337

La Farine
Where the cakes are only round (merci very much) and the flavors fantastical. This traditional French patisserie can apparently do Dora and SpongeBob, so feel free to inquire about your licensed character of choice. Just make sure that you choose the one of their non-alcoholic varieties, because, it’s, you know, for kids. Multiple locations.

Rockridge: 6323 College Avenue, Oakland, Ca, 510-654-0338
Dimond: 3411 Fruitvale Avenue, Oakland, Ca, 510-531-7750
Piedmont: 4094 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, Ca, 510-420-1777
North Berkeley: 1820 Solano Avenue, Berkeley, Ca, 510-528-2208

Sarah Lindsay Cakes
A San Francisco native, graduate of Tante Marie’s Professional Pastry Program, and huge fan of those crazy cake challenges on the Food Network, Sarah’s creativity is sky-high, with cake and frosting varieties of the highest quality to match. Red Velvet is a specialty. Due to the level of artistry, and the intimacy of the operation, a one-month lead-time is required. Email or call to inquire: 415-409-1242, email: info@sarahlindsaycakes.com.

SusieCakes
High quality all-American goodness (and chipper décor) and a 1950s-era sensibility, SusieCakes offers simple yet beautiful custom cake, cupcake, and cookie options to meet your party design needs.

Marin: 310 Bon Air Center, Greenbrae, Ca, 415-461-2253
San Francisco: 2109 Chestnut Street, San Francisco, Ca, 415-474-2253
Menlo Park: 642 Santa Cruz Avenue, Menlo Park, Ca, 650-324-2252

Most Honorable Mention for Vegan and/or Allergen-Free (Online/South Bay): 

let them eat cake!
This San-Jose-based allergen-sensitive bakery features an incredibly well-organized ordering system on its website to accommodate almost any combination of special requests you can imagine, with a selection of simple frosting designs available. These lovingly hand-crafted cakes, baked to order, can be picked up at the facility or delivered to your door in San Jose for an additional fee. Orders must be placed 2-3 weeks in advance, by phone or online only as they do not have a retail location. (Special note, new orders are not being taken until May 2012 due to the baker recovering from surgery).

326 Commercial Street
San Jose, Ca
408-940-6887
Online: allergyfriendlypastries.com

— Julie Feinstein Adams

photo courtesy of SusieCakes