When I published my 20 Must-Eat Chicago Foods post, I promised to follow it up with a dedicated post on the Best Cupcakes in Chicago – and today, I’m making good on that promise!
Best Cupcakes in Chicago
The first time I brought Ella to Chicago was in 2013. She was two and understandably – obsessed with cupcakes.
I thought it would be fun to do a bit of a self-guided Chicago cupcake tour, hitting up all of the most highly recommended cupcake spots in the city throughout our one week stay. We found so many amazing spots that we’ve returned to year after year, and we continue to add more delicious Chicago restaurants and snack spots to our favorites. (Chicago is truly one of the best foodie cities in the world.)
What I did to make our cupcake tour as easy and convenient as possible was plug all of the bakeries into a Google map for myself and then when I planned out our week’s itinerary, I looked to see which cupcake shops would be close by to where we would already be. Many of these bakeries also offer local delivery, so you can order them to your hotel or Air BnB if you don’t want to visit in person.
Our original tour included Phoebe’s Cupcakes, Crumbs Bake Shop and Twisted Baker – all of which are now closed. On our next trip we’ll be scoping out some new cupcake shops to add – so be sure to leave any recommendations you might have for us!
Self-Guided Chicago Cupcake Tour
Molly’s Cupcakes has a special place in my heart, as we visited there on a day that was truly a game changer for our family and everything from their bar swings, to the cute dinosaur sprinkles they add to their cupcakes, to the fun atmosphere create by the awesome employees gave us the perfect ending to a wonderful day.
Now located in NYC, Iowa and Cincinnati, Molly’s has several pre-made flavor combinations to choose from (like Samoa or Raspberries and Cream) including centre-filled cupcakes, but Ella’s favorite part about this bakery is that you can customize your own cupcakes! Pick a cake flavor, choose a frosting, and then get them to top it just to your liking. (And then head over to the sprinkles station to add on even more sprinkles.)
While we haven’t liked every flavor we’ve tried, it’s always a fun visit and there are always seasonal cupcakes on offer.
Swirlz is hands-down my favorite cupcake bakery in Chicago. The flavors are always amazing, the staff is super fun, and I just adore the owner, Pam, who has an absolute heart of gold. It doesn’t have a ton of seating, but you can order their cupcakes for delivery.
One of the best things about Swirlz is that they offer gluten-free and vegan cupcakes that are absolutely delicious. I am decidedly neither of those things and tend to avoid gluten-free offerings at bakeries because I expect them to be a compromise – but this is not the case at Swirlz. (Which is awesome if you have gluten-free people in your travel group.)
While they have a ton of flavors, go for the most unique offering during your visit – pictured above is Twixie, a fun take on a Twix candy bar. They really know their flavors.
Home of the flavor shot, Sugar Bliss also offers cake pops, macarons, and “breakfast cupcakes” (aka, muffins).
Chocolate Cappuccino and Vanilla Vanilla were my favorite cupcakes here.
Sweet Mandy B
Sweet Mandy B is such a fun place to take the kids to hang out and enjoy some baked goods for an hour. There’s tons of space and the vibe is cheerful and casual.
While it may seem like a boring choice, the Vanilla Cupcake is the perfect take on the childhood classic – some things just don’t need to be improved, they just need to be done well, and these vanilla cupcakes are perfection. I also loved the Snickerdoodle Cupcake and Iced Molasses cookies.
Located across the street from Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder (the inspiration for my Pizza Pot Pies recipe), Vanille Patisserie offers so many amazing French pastries, macarons, “stud muffins” (cupcakes with a macaron on top) – and even hosts afternoon teas three times a day, Thursday through Sunday.
I couldn’t resist their collection of macarons (including a scrumptious red velvet macaron) so I only sampled one cupcake. (I know, I’m ashamed of me, too.) But it was delicious and I can definitely see why so many people recommend them as some of the best in Chicago.
Although Sprinkles originated out of California, if you don’t have one close to you I definitely recommend visiting while you’re in Chicago.
Ella’s favorite flavor was their signature red velvet cupcake – but she was even more impressed by their fun Cupcake ATM! They also make cupcake ice cream sundaes, mini cupcakes, pup cakes (for your pooch) and a variety of other baked goods. I’m a fan of grabbing a three-pack of their mini cupcakes.
Again, not a native Chicago bakery (they originated in NYC – any original SATC fans remember the line up around the block to get one of their cupcakes?) but if you don’t have one locally, Magnolia is a must-try.
Their bakery offers just about any dessert you can hope for (pies, cookies, scones, muffins, ice box cakes, cheesecakes, brownies and bars) but if you’re here for the cupcakes, you need to grab their hummingbird cupcake. I also adore their banana and vanilla cupcakes, but the hummingbird is not to be missed.
You can also order Magnolia Bakery’s Cookbook to make their desserts at home – I LOVE the banana pudding recipe!
More offers what I’d describe as avant garde cupcakes. Their shop feels more like an art gallery than bakery, and their cupcakes are unlike any that you can find elsewhere.
Their signature “more cupcake” is like a gourmet hostess cupcake – Belgian dark chocolate cake, cream centre and ganache topping. Buy two, you’ll thank me later.
While we have indulged in our fair share of Chicago cupcakes, we haven’t tried them all. Here are some highly recommended spots that we still need to try out:
- Lickity Split
- Brown Sugar Bakery
- Alliance Bakery
- Southport Grocery & Cafe (apparently they have cupcake pancakes)
- A Taste of Heaven
- Skinny Piggy Bakery
- Chicago Cupcake (a cupcake food truck)
I hope your family has as much fun as we did exploring all of the yummy cupcakes Chicago has to offer – and please let me know if you have any recommendations that we need to try on our next visit!
PS – Chicago and Cupcakes just go together like peanut butter and jelly, and to proof it even further, my Chicago-based friend Natasha from Houseful of Nicholes hosts a Cupcake Hop every year! Check out this year’s cupcake hop here.