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Jun 25, 2013 01:15 PM

Birthday Cake Greats

Los Angeles hound here. Any recommendations on Chicago's top birthday cakes? I'm headed there for the weekend to celebrate a birthday. The birthday girl's preference is usually for very light, not too sweet cakes. But I know she would be open to anything amazing. Any suggestions would help me out a lot, and it also seems like a topic that hasn't been discussed on here.

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  1. First question - do you want a custom-made cake, or do you want to walk in and buy one off the shelf?

    Second question - is there a particular style you have in mind?

    Where will you be staying, and will you have access to a car? If you're in a distant suburb, mention which one and we can tell you about good bakeries nearby. The places I'm recommending below are on the north side of the city and in a nearby northern suburb. I can give you public transit directions if you need them.

    One more thing to consider - will this cake need to sit at room temperature, or can you keep it refrigerated?

    Here are some recommendations.

    Swedish Bakery is terrific for this sort of thing. They have a wide variety of cakes - some sweet, some not as sweet. And many are outstanding. They do get very busy on weekends, though, so you may want to order ahead, especially if you want anything custom.

    Lutz is another possibility. They have European style tortes and layer cakes.

    If she enjoys buttercream type cakes, the very best buttercream I've had in years is at Sweety Pie's in Skokie. (It's rich but not overly sweet, just yummy.) Plus they can do custom stuff while you wait; Dana, their main cake decorator, is usually in the shop and can create anything you like.

    Two of my favorite bakeries are Floriole and Vanille, but I have no idea what they can do for a cake. Both's offerings are more along the lines of individual-sized items. I'm sure they can do something custom if ordered in advance. and

    You might want to check out all their websites to see if something sounds like what you're looking for. Their websites also give their hours (some are closed Sundays).

    Distances: From the Loop, Floriole and Vanille are around 3-4 miles north, Swedish Bakery and Lutz are 6-7 miles north, and Sweety Pies is 12 miles north.

    Bottom line - if you want something custom - that says "Happy Birthday Jessica" on top - either order in advance from Swedish Bakery, or walk in to Sweety Pie's. If you want something already made, I'd go to Swedish Bakery as my first choice, and if you don't see anything there, go to Lutz (it's not far from there).

    2 Replies
    1. re: nsxtasy

      That's some great information. More than I expected. Thank you very much.

      I'm leaning toward a walk-in cake where they can add a message on the top. Nothing fancy or customized.

      We'll be eating at Volare's in the Magnificent Mile area. I already verified that we can bring the cake there and that they could refridgerate it if necessary. Swedish Bakery and Lutz seem perfect for what I'm looking for. I'll definitely be checking them out first. Thanks again!

      1. re: Octhemike


        Incidentally, if you don't have a car, you can get to Swedish Bakery from downtown and the Mag Mile by taking the CTA Red Line to Berwyn and then walking west a half mile. Coming back, since you'll have a birthday cake, I'd recommend avoiding the long walk and taking the #22 Clark bus that runs along Clark Street. It takes 5-10 minutes longer than the Red Line but avoids a long walk with the cake.

        Just FYI - one of my favorite cakes at Swedish Bakery is their marzipan cake, pictured in green with the Swedish flag underneath it at the bottom of their web page at While the outer marzipan layer may be too sweet for your birthday girl, the inside is very light; it consists of layers of genoise (light sponge cake) and in between is a layer of pastry cream (custard) and a layer of whipped cream. So the insides are lighter and not as sweet as a cake with conventional frosting between the layers.