We’re easing back into birthday parties, and boy is it exciting! For a kid, there’s nothing more exciting than a birthday. And having a great cake—and we mean one that tastes good and looks cool — is an important part of their day. No matter what your child’s superhero, video game or character obsession du jour may be, you will find a Chicago-area bakery to create a canvas for those candles. Here are our favorites. Make a wish!
For Nostalgic Bliss: Sweet Mandy B’s
When you hit up Sweet Mandy B’s you can’t fight the urge to slow the pace and plant yourself to savor whatever treasure you find in the glass encasement and soak up the old-school nostalgia. One taste of their icing will have you wishing you had a vat full and a giant spoon. Call the bakery or stop in to place your special cake order and enjoy the warmth the pastel colors and old-fashioned decor evokes.
1208 W. Webster Ave., Lincoln Park & 254 E. Ontario, Streeterville; Online: sweetmandybs.com
For Artistic Genius: Alliance Bakery
Break the cake mold and dream beyond the traditional sheet cake with one-dimension designs. Having served as Executive Pastry Chef at downtown hotels and winning or placing in several design competitions, Chef Peter Rios’ Alliance Bakery is ready to show you that if you can think it, he can bake it. Besides his three-dimensional edible works of art, Chef shows off skills he picked up training in Paris with his European-inspired pastries and desserts.
1736 W. Division St., Wicker Park; Online: alliance-bakery.com
For Gluten-Free in the Western 'Burbs: Sweet Ali’s
Inspired by her son’s, and subsequently her own, celiac diagnosis and lack of quality baked goods available in 2007, Ali Graeme set out to blaze gluten-free trails. After playing in her kitchen with different blends of flour and receiving encouragement from family, she opened Sweet Ali’s two years later with recipes perfected that all would enjoy, gluten-free or otherwise. Beyond the cakes, you’ll find pre-packed pasta, bread and baked goods to enjoy later.
13 W. 1st St., Hinsdale & 1107 Waukegan Rd., Glenview; Online: sweetalis.com
For Organic Cool: West Town Bakery & Diner
Whether you’re seeking a traditional cake or need to spin the wheel of dietary restrictions — vegan, nut-free, sugar-free, soy-free and gluten-free — this organic bakery with a funky, retro vibe can knock your cake request out of the ballpark. They strive to use as many local, natural ingredients for everything from the flour down to the eggs and their products come in environmentally friendly packaging.
1916 W. Chicago Ave., West Town; Online: westtownbakery.com
For Gluten-Free Deliciousness: Defloured
Gluten-impervious baker Johanna is only sensitive to wheat in the way she feels that every person should have the ability to enjoy worry-free heavenly desserts. She took on and conquered the challenge of making desserts that were indecipherable from their glutenized counterparts. For kids who might be gluten-sensitive or for anyone just looking for a delicious cake to celebrate their special day, call or send Johanna an email to place an order. Keep your eyes peeled while you’re out and about, you might find samples of these gluten-free goodies at your nearest Whole Foods or coffee shop in addition to their Andersonville storefront.
1477 W. Balmoral, Andersonville; Online: deflouredbakery.com
For Pre-Made, Gotta-Have-It-Now Cakes: Bennison’s Bakery
Let’s face it: Some of us are a little more last-minute with party planning than others. If you find yourself cakeless the day of, you could either pull through the nearest Portillo’s drive-thru and enjoy the reaction when you order an entire chocolate cake with a side of cheese fries or you could find a bakery with amazing pre-made cakes. Bennison’s, a North Shore institution since 1938, is one of those gems that stocks delicious 7” and 9” chocolate and yellow cakes with either fudge or buttercream icing. Ask them to fancy it up with the birthday boy or girls name and you’re good to go.
1000 Davis St., Evanston; Online: bennisoncakes.com
For a Cake that’s the Center of the Party: Urban Icing
If the birthday star wants to share the stage with an over-the-top cake, Urban Icing is the place to go. Whether you prefer some traditional sweet confections or a 3D-shaped cake, this spot has got you covered. In addition to being a boutique bakery, Urban Icing is an event space where you can let them take care of all the details of your child’s party. You can choose from a Lego Party, Mermaid Party, Ice Cream Social and more. There's something fun – and delicious – for everyone!
1944 N. Damen Ave., Bucktown; Online: urbanicing.com
For Sweet Tradition: Roeser’s Bakery
It doesn’t get any more old school than Chicago’s oldest family-owned bakery, which has been servicing Humboldt Park sweet tooths since 1911. As a specialty, Roeser’s offers low-glycemic options for birthday boys and girls who could benefit from reduced sugar, carbs and calories. Follow the bakery’s iconic neon sign to find cakes baked using recipes perfected over 4 generations with culinary skills to decorate to any theme you could possibly imagine, including a wide variety of licensed character cakes. Pop into Roeser’s Party Palace next door to tick decorations off your birthday planning checklist.
3216 W. North Ave., Humboldt Park; Online: roeserscakes.com
— Maria Chambers & Lisa Snart