This post first appeared on Hipmunks tailwind blog on January 24, 2016
We Americans love eating almost as much as we love excuses to celebrate. Luckily, some very smart men, women, and the odd industrial association or two granted our collective wishes over the years by instituting a number of “official” holidays dedicated to our favorite foods. Fan of soft pretzels? The whole month of April is dedicated to them. Chocolate lover? There are no fewer than 30 days celebrating different permutations of the stuff, with at least one occurring every month. With National Chocolate Cake Day right around the corner on January 27th, we at Hipmunk decided to share the chocolatey love and guide you to the best cocoa-laden slices in the country. These destination cities have a lot to offer, and their excellent homegrown bakeries are just icing on the (chocolate) cake.
Chocolatier Autumn Martin hit on a goldmine of a concept when catering a charity dinner in 2008 — individually sized molten chocolate cakes in a mason jar that can be popped in the oven and devoured in the comfort of one’s own home. These no-fuss, hands-down delicious “Take-n-Bake Molten Chocolate Cakes” proved so popular that she quit her job to pursue the business full time. Nowadays, dessert fiends flock to her two brick and mortar Cakery locations in Seattle to try her warm, gooey creations fully prepared. Be sure to try a spiked milkshake or other confection while there as well; shops stay open late and feature weekday happy hours.
The Alexis Hotel by Kimpton is centrally located in downtown Seattle, a few blocks from the famous waterfront and, more importantly, an easy cab or bus ride to Hot Cakes’ Capitol Hill location. The hotel offers a luxury boutique experience in the heart of the action, and gains extra points for its daily hosted wine hour.
It may be snowy in the Twin Cities, but Minneapolis’ pastry chefs are turning up the heat. Michelle Gayer’s Salty Tart bakery is lauded for its breads, pastries, and cakes of all types, but her “Surly Cake” has garnered particular attention. Three layers of chocolate cake are accented by Furious IPA from the local Surly brewery, which makes the flavors pop. Add whipped crème fraiche filling, fudge icing and an artfully rough-hewn decoration of broken meringue pieces, and you’ve got yourself a winner. Challenging Gayer’s claim to fame just a few miles south, John Kraus serves up his award-winning version at neighborhood spot Patisserie 46. His simply titled “Chocolate” cake confection won his team the bronze at the prestigious Coupe du Monde de la Patisserie competition in 2015, and features layers of sponge, mousse, ganache, and pecan crumble. Grab a slice, or custom order a whole cake for yourself.
W Minneapolis – The Foshay offers the luxurious amenities expected from the chain in a central, downtown location. When not chugging down chocolate cakes, head to the nearby orchestra, Walker Art Center, or Minnesota Sculpture Garden for a dose of culture.
Photo courtesy of Prohibition Bakery
New York, NY: Various
New York is a bona fide culinary mecca and is home to a number of the country’s best chocolate cakes, which are as memorable and unique as the different neighborhoods where you’ll find them. The heavy and intense “Brooklyn Blackout” at Little Cupcake Bakeshop is a take on the neighborhood favorite that originated at the now-defunct Ebinger’s Bakery chain in the mid-1900s. On the other end of the spectrum, Lady M crafts their supremely light “Chocolate Mille Crêpes” out of no less than twenty thin, lace-edged crêpes layered with chocolate pastry cream. The Upper East Side’s upscale Austrian eatery Café Sabarsky serves a sleek “Sachertorte” whose chocolate layers are filled with apricot jam and doused with rum syrup. Meanwhile, Strip House’s Downtown and Midtown locations are known as much for their tall slices of 24-layer chocolate cake as for their steaks — the monolithic hunks of chocolate goodness are held together by thick, custardy filling and topped with a shiny layer of semi-sweet ganache. For an adult take on the classic chocolate cake, head to Prohibition Bakery in the Lower East Side. This cupcake shop specializes in boozy cupcakes, like the Car Bomb made with a Guinness chocolate cake, a whiskey-ganache filling, and an Irish Creme frosting. Just remember to please eat responsibly!
Stay at the Bryant Park Hotel for a centrally located boutique hotel experience in a stunning 1920s building overlooking the park and the NY Public Library. Best of all, Lady M’s Midtown location is literally one door down.
Horseradish Grill’s classic “Chocolate Chocolate Layer Cake” is so well loved and respected that its basic recipe has been integrated into the Institute of Culinary Education’s pastry curriculum. At the restaurant itself, the cake is filled and topped with rich ganache, and strong black coffee is used to enhance the intense chocolate flavor throughout. It’s a classic item on a menu filled with similarly refined versions of old Southern standbys, which makes sense considering Horseradish Grill’s long history: originally founded as a country store by a nearby plantation owner, the establishment is Atlanta’s oldest continuously operating restaurant.
Midtown’s boutique Twelve Atlantic Station lies fifteen minutes south of Horseradish by car, and offers “urban suites” to all of its guests. Those include full kitchens, which may come in handy for storing your leftovers.
Harvard grad Joanne Chang ditched a consulting career in the ‘90s to become a pastry chef, and Boston residents have been thanking her ever since. Now with four locations throughout Boston and Cambridge, her Flour Bakery + Café pleases with its savory bites and sticky buns as much as with its fancier desserts. The chocolate confection that puts it on our list is the “Midnight Chocolate Cake,” a devil’s food and milk chocolate buttercream construction enrobed in glossy ganache and prettily decorated with fresh berries and dainty swirls of white icing. If for some reason that particular offering doesn’t do it for you, they have several other chocolate cakes on the list including a flourless “Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake” and even a vegan chocolate bundt.
The Ames Boston Hotel features sleek modern furnishings and sits across from the Old State House smack in the center of the city. Many major attractions including Faneuil Hall, the New England Aquarium, and the Boston Common Frog Pond are within walking distance, and for everything else, nearby T stops abound.
San Francisco, CA: Various
Like New York, San Francisco is home to a number of strong cake makers. The James Beard Award winning husband-and-wife team of Chad Robertson and Elizabeth Prueitt keep mouths watering and wallets emptying for their insanely good treats at the Mission District’s Tartine Bakery. Choose from the “Chocolate Soufflé Cake” made of three elegant layers of cake, mousse, and ganache, or the dark and decadent “Devil’s Food Cake,” layered with caramel and of course more ganache. Or head to one of Miette’s four Bay Area locations to pick up a preordered “Old-fashioned,” a simple, single-layer round cake that’s naked but for a very generous dollop of marshmallow-like boiled frosting topped with a maraschino cherry for a charming all-American look. And it’s worth a trip across the Bay to Berkeley for a slice of Crixa Cakes’ rendition of a classic Black Forest, featuring chocolate sponge laden with kirsch, cherries, and whipped cream.
Recover from your food coma at the Argonaut Hotel at Fisherman’s Wharf, a luxury hotel that makes the most of its setting in the historic Haslett Warehouse building with bold and eye catching design choices. But who are we kidding — that food coma won’t be going away anytime soon if the hotel’s Blue Mermaid Chowder House & Bar have anything to do with it.