It's graduation season, which means two things: Uncomfortable polyester robes and cake.
Of course, I've never needed an excuse like graduation to order and then devour a custom cake (Congrats, it's Tuesday, here's a cake!), but if you need to justify your consumption, I'm sure you can think of something. Birthdays, anniversaries, new jobs, new babies, new houses, quitting your shitty job, divorces, days that end in "y." All of these are legitimate excuses to eat cake.
But if you're going to eat cake (it's a lot of empty calories, after all), you'd best make sure it's a good one. Fortunately for those of us who like to throw a party any time we go a week without getting a parking ticket, Houston is full of great bakers who produce not only delicious--but also beautiful--cakes.
Here are the best places in Houston to get your next cake, no matter what you're celebrating.
Honorable Mention: Jodycakes, for making gluten free, vegan and organic cakes (three terms I generally want nowhere near my baked goods) that don't taste gluten free, vegan or organic at all. In fact, the cakes are so beautiful and delicious, if they weren't labeled as such, I'd never know the difference.
10. Central Market Yes, it's a chain, but Central Market and H-E-B actually make wonderful cakes if you steer clear of the sugar sheet cake variety. For a customized cake, you need only to give the Central Market baking department about 48 hours advance notice. If you want to customize a cake already in the case, that can be done at any time. Central Market's cakes are quite lovely, too. Don't even pretend that you haven't gotten sidetracked in that bakery section while drooling over the chocolate mousse cake.
9. Three Brothers Bakery Yesterday, Three Brothers Bakery celebrated 65 years in the bakery business here in Houston, but the Jucker family can trace their baking roots back to the 1830s in Poland. After surviving Nazi concentration camps, the brothers moved to Houston, where they've been making pastries, cookies and cakes ever since. Today there are three locations to satisfy your cake needs. The bakeries create everything from 3-D cakes (you know, the kind that don't actually look like cakes) to gorgeous, multi-tiered wedding cakes. Prices vary, so go online to check out the options and get a quote.
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8. Dacapo's Pastry Cafe Some cakes get so decorated that they cease to resemble cakes any more. They might be pretty, but you wonder what had to be done to make the fondant no longer look like food. Dacapo's cakes manage to be beautiful and still look like cakes. The bakery, which has been serving the Heights for 15 years, uses fondant occasionally, but is much more likely to use rich, luxurious icing on simple but high-quality cakes. Choose from unusual flavors as well, like chocolate strawberry delight, banana split, pear and pumpkin maple cream.
7. RJ Goodies At RJ Goodies in Spring, the owners say the best part of operating a bakery is "watching the children in our community grow up through the cakes that we create each year for them." The bakery specializes in cute children's birthday cakes with fun decorations and illustrations. They encourage people to bring in photographs or simply give them a theme, and they'll take it from there, creating works of art out of butter, sugar and food coloring.
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6. Take the Cake One reason that Take the Cake is so awesome is that they never make more than eight cakes at a time. Small batches mean high quality, and Take the Cake is committed to using only the best ingredients as well. Owners Anabel and Brent Trudeau are both graduates of the Culinary Institute of America in New York. From there, they moved to Europe to perfect their pastry skills before finally settling in Texas and re-discovering a love for more simple desserts. "Fancy desserts have no place at Take the Cake," the website explains, "but great tasting cakes, cheesecakes, pies and tarts do." Amen.
5. The Chocolate Bar If you want a chocolate cake in Houston, The Chocolate Bar is your place. The towering nine-inch chocolate cakes at first seem pricey--$9.95 per slice or $75 per whole cake--until you realize just how large and rich a single slice is. The Chocolate Bar doesn't do custom cakes, but you don't really need a custom dessert when the menu options are this good. My personal favorite? Uncle Darryl's chocolate cake with four layers of moist cake with chocolate filling and bits of buttery toffee and dark, bittersweet chocolate chips between each layer. It's so decadent, you'll need to take a breather halfway through devouring your slice.
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4. Ooh La La Dessert Boutique Ooh La La in Katy makes it easy for you. On the website, baker Vanessa O'Donnell lists 18 different cake options and 13 different icing options along with fillings and prices for every size and iteration. All you need to do is choose your favorite--that's the hard part. With options like chocolate Italian creme with a filling of strawberries and Grand Marnier, it can be easy to let your sweet tooth get the best of you. Fortunately, the cupcakes are just as good as the cakes, so if you're craving something sweet but can't quite commit, there's always that option.
3. Fluff Bake Bar Full disclosure: Rebecca Masson, chef and owner of Fluff Bake Bar is a friend of mine. But we became friends because I was so obsessed with her baked goods. First, I fell hard for the Fluffernutters. Then I discovered the Cup|Cakes (think a whole slice of cake crammed into a cup for easier eating). Then, for Valentine's Day, I got a Fluff Bake Bar red velvet cake, and boy could I feel the love. Masson makes numerous custom cake orders a week (at least 48 hours notice, please), but the most popular flavor in her repertoire is the Veruca Salt: Devil's food cake with salted caramel buttercream, topped with pretzel crunch and chocolate pearls.
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2. El Bolillo The Mexican bakery makes wonderful pan dulce, but what it's really known for is tres leches. Now with three outposts, the bakery has the largest selection of tres leches cakes in town, and most of them are pre-made, just waiting for you to come in and pick one out. You can also custom order cakes (not just tres leches), and you might be surprised to discover that the folks at El Bolillo aren't just great bakers--they're great decorators as well. The beautiful custom cakes are incredibly reasonable, too. A standard eight-inch round cake that feeds 15 is only $22.
1. Rustika Cafe & Bakery Rustika makes some of the best cakes in Houston, but don't take our word for it. Molly just hired Rustika to make her wedding cake later this year. Molly is herself an avid baker, so it's not an honor bestowed lightly. With dozens (dozens!) of flavors to choose from, Rustika has something to satisfy any cake craving or preference, and each cake is made from scratch, so you know it will taste homemade, no matter the size. They don't just taste good, though. They're also really pretty. Almost too pretty to eat. Almost.
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