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LA Cake Roundup

Over the course of last week, I tried many of LA's finest cakeries (places famous for cake, as opposed to bakeries maybe famous for bread and pastries).

This list is nowhere near exhaustive. A girl can only eat so much cake in one week, even with help. But, to make a long story short, I was pretty disappointed by this city's offerings. Even the most expensive cakes fell short, in one case so much so that I've e-mailed the owners to ask what the heck went wrong last week (hopefully a fluke, because otherwise I don't understand the hype). I'll try to be brief, and go from favorite to least favorite.

Doughboy's $5.50 red velvet. This was my favorite cake. It's not fancy, but it is delicious. Incredibly moist, lightly chocolately, vividly red, with a tangy smooth cream cheese frosting. For the price you get a large mini cake, enough for two or three people for sure. Plus, it's better the second day and still good the third day.

Berolina $3 (I think) Princess cake. The cake and jam were great, but the custard was closer to whipped cream than custard for my taste and the marzipan was rolled to thick. If you look at the photos you can also tell that there's a gap between the marzipan and cake, which tells me the marzipan is too dry and/or too thick.

Porto's ($2.75 or less per slice):
Carrot cake--great flavor, a little mushy in texture
Cuban cake--way too sweet, with very little of the advertised brandy soaked flavor
Opera cake--too heavily coffee flavored for me and the coffee was a little bitter, but that's a personal preference.

Sweet Lady Jane ($7 a slice)
Lemon curd cake--not enough lemon curd, and the cake was so dry it fell apart on the fork. I served this to guests and the first comment out of everyone's mouth was "this would be good if it didn't fall apart because it's so dry." I had two crowds sitting separate from each other, so it was independently thought that there was someting really wrong with this cake.
Triple Berry Shortcake--fantastic flavor, but again the cake part was dry. Is this a fluke? My friend who suggested this said it tasted nothing like the one his mom bought a month ago.
Chocolate raspberry--fine, but I can get a good chocolate cake with ganache frosting at a number of less expensive places.
Plus, the piped decorations on Sweet Lady Jane cakes are so darkly colored that they taste like food coloring. The light green, specifically, smelled stinky (my sister said it tasted like sewage).

Delice Monte Blanc ($5+)
Terrible. Just plain terrible. First of all, I can't believe the guy suggested to me when I said I'd like to try a classic cake. There's zero cake involved. It's two layers of sugary, flavorless mousse (white chocolate and dark chocolate, though the dark chocolate was more like a pale milk chocolate) sandwiching two layers of soggily sweet almond cookies. The chocolate curls on top were rock hard and sugary as well. It was basically one big sweet mess that no one wanted to eat, and that no one should rightfully call cake. It was barely passable as mousse.
Berolina's chocolate croissant was INCREDIBLE, and for that alone I will be going back to the bakery. So buttery and flakey, and such a better value than the "cake."

photos:

http://www.chezpei.com/2007/02/let-us...
http://www.chezpei.com/2007/02/portos...
http://www.chezpei.com/2007/01/doughb...
http://www.chezpei.com/2007/01/few-me...

I know I still need to try Susina and Bluebird Cafe (the line was too long there when I stopped in). Anywhere else? This group of bakeries was, to be frank, kind of disappointing.

So far, my favorites are:

Doughboy's for homey, no frills cake
Buttercake on Pico/Manning for basic cupcakes
Amandine for fancier cake

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  1. Susina is yummy. Buttercake has other things that are delicious as well. Bluebird is good but I don't think it is worth a trip. I like Sprinkles Mocha Cupcakes. I love Rosebud cakes but you have to order in advance-- they don't have "walk in service." Emil's Swiss pastry near Nook Bistro has a great chocolate cake.

    5 Replies
    1. re: roxhills

      Buttercake's chocolate mocha cookie (crackly on top, fudgey on the inside) is as far as I've ventured. What else am I missing? I can't get past that cookie and their red velvet.

      1. re: Pei

        That is a great cookie. I think I have a recipe for something very similar from Bon Appetit from years ago--a Mocha Cookie from "The Bakery" that is also in Sara Moulton's cookbook.
        Buttercake flourless chocolate cake is delicious. The marble cake is yummy. I haven't had anything bad from Buttercake.

        Also, B&L bakery on 3rd near Cedars makes a delicious chocolate truffle cake.

        1. re: roxhills

          You. Have. The. Recipe? Will you be my best friend? Or, will you please post it on the home cooking board? I would be very grateful, though Buttercake would probably lose some business from me.

          1. re: Pei

            I'll try to put it on home cooking later after my kids go to bed. I am not positive it is the same but when I tried the buttercake cookie, it remided me very much of this recipe-- from Gourmet October 1990.

            There are so many other delicious things at Buttercake-- you can branch out. BTW, if you make them, let me know if you think it is the same recipe.

            1. re: Pei

              your new best friend posted it on home cooking for you... enjoy

      2. I love all of Doughboys' cakes, especially the hummingbird.

        1. Sweet Lady Jane's cake always tastes dry and stale to me. I used to get stuff from them all the time and I finally gave up on them. Also, I used to get SLJ at events and the cake was marginally better, perhaps because it wasn't as stale.

          2 Replies
          1. re: choctastic

            i have no clue about the per-slice cakes, but i recently ordered the lemon curd cake from sweet lady jane and i was pleasantly surprised. it wasn't dry at all.

            i've never been nuts about their triple berry shortcake, however.

            1. re: choctastic

              I have had several cakes from Sweet Lady Jane, all have been dry. I don't understand the appeal of this place at all, you can get much better tasting cakes for half the price.

            2. Add Auntie Em's in Eagle Rock to the list ... her cakes are actually better than her cupcakes because they stay moist longer. I can't vouch, though, for if you are buying by the slice ... any cut cake will start to dry out.

              1. how 'bout the chocolate sin cake at broadway deli?

                1. I'm not a cake fan, so I can't comment on your choices. As a non-cake fan, the only cake in town that I can recommend is the strawberry short cake from Phoenix Bakery in Chinatown. Excellent, always made with fresh whipped cream and berries, and made with a cake that lives up to expectations.

                  1. Am I the only one here who likes B&L?
                    Try the Parisian cake, the Dobosch torte, their sacher - it is supposed to be dry, whip some cream up and serve it alongside, moistens right up, etc.

                    3rd st just west of the beverly center.

                    ALso, michel richard - more french pastry than cake, but it was once great and is still quite good.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Jerome

                      No, I threw in a nod to the B&L choclate truffle cake up above...

                    2. Sorry to hear about SLJ causing dry mouth... I've rarely been disappointed there; in fact, I don't recall ever being disappointed there... but then again, I tend to choose whatever looks like it just came out of the back, whether it's cakes, pies, cookies, or anything else. I am suspect when I see something that is served by the slice, and more than a few slices have already been served. Had learned my lesson many times over at other bakeries - some
                      with great reputations.

                      I know that SLJ has been suffering growing pains with their commercial bakery. I think that is where most of their basic cakes - as opposed to made-to-order - have been coming from lately. Maybe that has something to do with it.

                      1. Wow -- what a great project!

                        Also try Susie Cakes in Brentwood. (On San Vicente at Bundy.)

                        Absolutely the best German Chocolate Cake ever.

                        1. was fretting about getting a cake for my boyfriend last weekend, wish this thread had been around then!

                          working in a restaurant, ive seen quite a few sweet lady jane cakes come through and they have always been dry and terrible. not quite sure what the fuss is about with them.

                          worked in another place that had susina cakes and pastries. amazing. didnt try a lot of them but what i did have was quite decadent. they also have the best scones ive had so far in LA.

                          i do love doughboys little cakes, have yet to try the full size red velvet, i think its a pre-order deal.

                          i ended up getting a cake at mousse fantasy (which also now has a beard papa franchise!) on sawtelle near olympic. the classic "asian" strawberry shortcake with light moist cake layers, whipped cream frosting and fresh strawberries. very good. we also tried a slice of their chocolate cake which had an excellent chocolatey ganache but the cake was a bit too sweet and light in contrast.

                          1. Actually, whipped cream is the norm for the Princess Cake. Also, the usually put a thin layer of the cream between the cake and marzipan so it stays.

                            1. Sweet lady jane makes very beautiful cakes - the icing, the decorations are really quite lovely.

                              But I'm not a huge fan, either.
                              And sorry roxhills. Yes you did mention the B&L. It may be that I just never had the chocolate truffle cake there, so it didn't register. My favorite growing up was the Parisian chocolate cake with the chocolate shavings. Now, I love the hazelnut torte, the sacher,the dobosh, the pressburger crescents, etc.
                              and they have a nice princess cake, although the Benes ones at Gelsons do just fine and are easier to get. As well as the Benes "alligator" pastry.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Jerome

                                We had an "alligator" from the Gelson's Benes in Northridge a couple of weeks ago. What a disappointment! It was dry, and didn't have as much of the filling as the "alligators" of memory (and I grew up on Benes - I think my grandma was their best customer!). Even the alligators Benes used to package for Costco years ago were better than the one we had.

                              2. Stolichnaya Bakery on fairfax in Whole Foods shopping center.
                                Amazingly moist, delicious, and inexpensive cakes - I've had the chocolate and the mocha.
                                7875 Santa Monica Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 323-656-7136 (on the corner of Santa Monica Blvd. and Fairfax Ave.)

                                1. Good call on Stolichnaya -- though it never would have occured to me to get a regular frosted cake there. Instead, go for the poppy seed cake, which is more of a coffee cake, and is only worth eating when it's fresh from the oven and still warm. At its best, the dough is light and fluffy and the inside is a gooey mess of sweet poppy seeds. You'll be flossing for days, but it's totally worth it.

                                  My personal cake favorite, hands down, is Hansen's Cakes (locations on Fairfax and in Beverly Hills). I'm a fan of the white cake with vanilla buttercream and raspberry jam filling. Maybe it's a nostalgia thing, as I had a Hansen's cake for every birthday of my childhood. My husband maintains that its sugary frosting is overkill, thereby qualifying it as "Kool-Aid Cake," but my girlfriends and I remain obsessed. Plus, you can get a cake that looks like a giant burger, tho' the cakes with the basket design and flowers have more frosting and are more appealing looking than the burger cake with its pickles and lettuce made of icing. :)