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Wednesday
Sep172008

Cakewalk Special: a Whirlwind Sugar Rush in the Windy City

Canele, Floriole Bakery, Chicago
The most important lesson learned spending 48 hours in Chicago?

48 hours are not nearly enough to taste all of the fantastic baked goods the city has to offer. Nonetheless, we were armed with suggestions from friends Natalie (of Bake and Destroy), Sandy (the Milwaukee Cupcake Queen) and Claudia Saraniecki--and so we tried our damndest to try all we could in our short time in this gorgeous city. No, we didn't try every bakery--but we certainly did try some good ones:

Ice Cream Cone Cookies, BittersweetChocolate flecked Sable cookie, Bittersweet
Bittersweet Pastry Shop: This pastry shop feels a bit like a Parisian pâtisserie has gotten an American makeover: gorgeous cases full of French treats (sables, tarts, croissants) existing peacefully side by side with American standards (cupcakes, cobblers, muffins). The sables, which were made in a slightly more rustic way than we've seen, were perfect--that is to say, full of butter and completely delicious. Hours: Tues-Fri, 7 a.m.-7 p.m.; Saturday 8 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sunday 8 a.m.-6 p.m. 1114 W Belmont Ave., (773) 929-1100; online at bittersweetpastry.com.

Bleeding HeartCookiesBleeding HeartBleeding Heart

Bleeding Heart Bakery: This small space packs a punch--an amazingly extensive array of cookies, cakes, tarts, bars and more inhabit their cases, with a large variety of vegan choices.It also seems to be a popular spot for kids--on a brief visit, no less than four groups of parents with strollers or small children came in. Having already picked up some cake at nearby Chaos Theory, we settled on a vegan Earl Grey shortbread cookie here, curious to see how that (dairy-heavy) recipe might translate. In one spy's opinion, though it didn't taste like other shortbreads, this was a gorgeous cookie: crumbly, with a subtle tea flavor that managed to avoid being bitter, and a slight saltiness in the afterbite. This is all to say--yum. Hours: Tues-Sat, 6 a.m. - 7 p.m; Sun, 8 a.m. - 6 p.m.; closed Monday. 1955 W Belmont Ave., (773) 327-6934; online at thebleedingheartbakery.com.

Red velvet from Bombon Americano, ChicagoVanilla-chocolate from Bombon Americano
Bombon Americano: This was an extra-special spot because it's here that Head Spy Jessie met Natalie of Bake & Destroy fame! This place is a treasure in a neighborhood full of chain restaurants, with a well-stocked bakery case full of tarts, cupcakes and other assorted treats. We enjoyed a black and white (vanilla-chocolate) and red velvet cupcake respectively--the cake was moist and flavorful, but even more impressive was the silky buttercream, which seemed somehow light and decadent all at once. Hours: Mon-Sat, 7 a.m.-7 p.m.; closed Sunday. 1000 N. Clark St., (312) 787-7717; online at bombonamericano.com.

Chaos Theory, ChicagoChaos Theory, ChicagoChaos Theory, ChicagoCAKE
Chaos Theory: Approaching from the opposite side of the street, the first thing you'll see is a huge, light-up, hot pink sign that says "CAKE". If that doesn't bode well, what does? Chaos Theory is the newest retail spot opened by Michelle Garcia of Bleeding Heart Bakery fame, and walking into the shop is like walking into an alternate universe--neon-toned chairs at funky, mismatched tables, cool graffiti and artwork on the walls, and cake--and cookies, and truffles with Jesus motifs. If this is another planet, we want to stay here: take us to your leader. PS-Desiree, who was working during the Cakespy visit, was awesome! 2961 N. Lincoln Ave., (773) 281-2353; online at chaostheorycakes.com.

Floriole (pictured top): A surprise find! Floriole runs a booth at the Lincoln Park Farmers market, which is where we came across them closing up for the day. Luckily, we were able to snag a Canelé de bordeaux before they shut down completely. What's that, you wonder? Who cares? It's soaked in alcohol and vanilla, and it's a beautiful little bite. 2119 N. Rockwell St., (773) 252-0095, or see there Farmer's Market schedule here; online at floriolebakery.com.

Brownie from Letizia'sLetizia's
Letizia's Natural Bakery: Heavy, rich, decadent, and huge--that pretty much sums up Letizia's. But most importantly, delicious. Sure, it's all natural and organic--but does that make up for the fact that the average pastry here weighs about a pound? Probably not, but with rows of slablike brownies, cookie sandwiches with enough ganache to feed a village, and tiramisu that might make your head spin, you might just stop caring. In fact, our only complaint here was that when we asked the employee what his favorite treat was, he said "I don't care for sweets". Sacrilege! Luckily he came around and described some of the most popular treats for us. Good boy. Hours: Weekdays, 6 a.m.-11 p.m.; Weekends, 6:30 a.m.-11:00 p.m. 2122 W Division St., (773) 342-1011; online at superyummy.com.

Molly's Cupcakes, ChicagoMolly's Cupcakes, Chicago

Molly's Cupcakes: Prepare for cuteness overload as you enter the cheerful orange-and-teal entryway. They have a sprinkle bar! And swings for seating! Even their story is adorable! While some salty old types might be cynical in the face of all this cuteness, not us. The carrot cake was moist, and we tried something a little different and went for the brown butter frosting instead of the classic cream cheese. It was good, but made us realize how much we enjoy that creamy tang--so we'd likely go for the cream cheese next time. A nice array of cookies, brownies, and even ice cream too; overall, a solid stop and a really fun shop to visit. Hours: Mon, 12 p.m.-10 p.m; Tue-Thurs, 8 a.m.-10 p.m.; Fri-Sat, 8 a.m.-12 a.m.; Sun, 8 a.m.-10 p.m. 2536 N Clark St, (773) 883-7220; online at mollyscupcakes.com.

More Cupcakes: This spot opened the day after our departure, but it intrigues us--read more here. Any reader input? Online at morecupcakes.com.

SwirlzSwirlz
Swirlz: The cupcakes here are a little spendy ($3.50 each), but they're impeccably decorated and a bit larger than the average cupcake, so consider it a wash. If we were to make one complaint, and really, it's not so much a complaint as the ramblings of starry eyed dreamer, it would be that though these are good cupcakes--the cake was moist, the frosting was buttery--it somehow felt strange eating such pretty cakes that tasted so relatively normal. Don't let that stop you from going though--all things considered, they're a good normal, and the staff was all super-friendly. Hours: Mon-Sat, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; closed Sunday. 705 W. Belden, (773) 404-CAKE; online at swirlzcupcakes.com.

Twisted Sister Bakery, Chicago
Twisted Sister: Oh, thumbprint cookie from Twisted Sister. How delicious you were. If only we had you again, we'd take you to the park, we'd whisper sweet nothings in your buttery, nutty little ear...compliment your delicate dollop of sweet jam...and then eat you! Again! ...This is to say...we love the cookies at Twisted Sister. The cakes didn't look so bad either, though we didn't get a chance to try anything else. Hours: Mon-Fri, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sat, 9 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sun, 9 a.m.-9 p.m. 1543 N. Wells St., (312) 932-1128; online at twistedsisterbakery.com.


Bombon Americano
Oh Chicago...we miss you already! (Cupcakes, Bombon Americano)



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Reader Comments (27)

Certainly looks like you left on a sugar high...and I don't blame you.
Lovely looking cakes.

September 18 | Unregistered CommenterThe Caked Crusader

Have I told you later that I love... your cake walks?! Seams Chicago is happening!

September 18 | Unregistered CommenterClumbsy Cookie

Oooh, sugar rush indeed!! And I was just IN Chicago!!! Yet I never saw this bakery :0(

September 18 | Unregistered CommenterVeggieGirl

I'll give you my MORE report next week. Heading down to visit Chaos, More and more... I may have to add a few of these to the list.

love your cakewalks. Now I am missing Chicago too!

September 18 | Unregistered Commenterveron

I've never really had a desire to go to Chicago... until now.

P.S. I love the 'landmarks' series you've got going.

September 18 | Unregistered CommenterEB

That Bonbon Americano cupcake looks de-lish!

Did you see anyone selling frosting shots in Chicago?

September 18 | Unregistered CommenterDana McCauley

Yay! I'm so glad you liked my city Mrs. Spy! Maybe next time, we'll actually get a chance to eat treats together!

September 18 | Unregistered CommenterTara (Just Desserts)

Oh I wish I could have gone with you guys! Chicago bakeries are just awesome and unique. I just went to Alliance Bakery for the first time last weekend during Renegade and their cupcakes are SO freakin' good. I have some bitter (haha) feelings toward Bittersweet, but it is a pretty nice bakery.

September 18 | Unregistered CommenterTanya

All good choices! Next time be sure to visit Swedish Bakery and Pasticceria Natlina in the north side Andersonville neighborhood. They both have divine pastries!

September 18 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Caked Crusader: oh yes, it was a good trip!

Clumbsy: Chicago sure is happening!!

Veggiegirl: Which one didn't you see? There are so many awesome vegan choices there though, so I am sure you saw plenty! Here i go to check out your site!

MKE: Oh yea! Can't wait to hear!!

Veron: Aww, Isn't it a great foodie city?

EB: It's so rad though!! You have to go!

Dana: I didn't keep an active eye out, but I am sure it is happening.

Tara: Yup! Next time you're on!

Tanya: Ooh, SO wanted to go to Alliance! Oh well, there's always next time. Ooh, Bittersweet gossip!?

Anonymous: You know it...can't wait to go back!

September 18 | Unregistered CommenterCakespy

Fantastic to see that Cakespy sniffed out the good finds in Chicago! As a resident in this wonderful city, it is truly a city dedicated to finding a food and making it better - and cupcakes are the it thing right now. Rumor has it a cupcake boutique with unique flavors such as candied basil will be coming to town early 2009.

And for your next trip may I recommend my neighborhood favorite Angel Food bakery - for their delectable hedgehogs - a goodie including coconut, chocolate and maybe almond, can't quit figure it out... and always smiling staff.

Happy sweets to you!

September 18 | Unregistered CommenterKatie

Wow, you're quick! I'll likely start posting my Chicago adventures 2 weeks from now! haha.

I want that thumbprint cookie!

September 18 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah

wowee! great pics. there's enough baking inspiration on this post to last through the pending cold fall and winter months! i love the sugar cookies with the blobs of neon-colored icing, truly kid-dreamy, in the same realm as bright blue bubblegum ice cream! xo

September 18 | Unregistered Commenterlyndsay

A sprinkle bar!!! Who needs the Sears Tower when there are such towering swirls of frosting? I visit Chicago often, but you've made me see it in a whole new light. I'm taking this post with me on the next trip.

Yet another drool-inducing cakewalk. Love it!

September 18 | Unregistered Commenterthe southern hostess

As the president of Chicago, I would like to offer you the key to the city and thank you for eating cupcakes with me.

September 18 | Unregistered CommenterNatalie

I love the feel of Bittersweet, although their quality has suffered somewhat in the last few years. My experience at Swirlz was similar to yours--a bit disappointing (my buttercream was off, meah). Great reviews, but one complaint: you didn't make it to the southside! Next time, right? ;) Bonjour Bakery is waiting for you . . .

September 19 | Unregistered Commenterchou

Hi Cakespy

Your cake walk has left me craving for these as well..

September 19 | Unregistered CommenterSwati

Thanks!

September 19 | Unregistered CommenterDana McCauley

wow nice pics. Seems you tasted quite a few yummy treats :-)

September 19 | Unregistered CommenterSnooky doodle

I got a sugar high just reading your post Jessie! YUM!! But seriously, if I did what you do, then where would all the cals go? Straight to the bottom & thighs for sure...how in the world do you manage?

It such a pleasure to see the amount of creativity that people have and devote to their craft. The work behind the scenes of these creations is pretty incredible.

September 20 | Unregistered Commentergiz

you really covered a lot of ground! bittersweet was one of my first chicago bakery discoveries .... i still have to visit most on your list, because i keep going back to southport grocery for cupcakes. (molly's and twisted sister are next up, i think)

thanks for such a fun chicago post.

September 21 | Unregistered CommenterJane

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