Cupcakes may have hit full-blown mania a few years ago, but the little treats are still super popular at the best bakeries in Chicago. Whether you want a snack from a food truck, one of the best desserts in town or a double dose of sugar (after eating cupcake pancakes at Southport Grocery, one of the top spots for brunch in Chicago), here's where to find the best cupcakes—Chicago has no shortage.
Best cupcakes in Chicago
This sweet-as-can-be little bakeshop is tops when it comes to cakes, whether it's a full birthday cake or a tiny cupcake. The cupcakes are available in regular, delicious cake flavors like lemon, red velvet and confetti, and they can come topped with a variety of buttercream frostings. But it's Mandy's carrot cake with cream cheese icing that we really can't stop talking about.
Southport Grocery has a lovely savory menu, but it's the cupcake we order every single time. It’s moist, it’s substantial but not heavy, and the thick, sugary icing hides deep flavors of chocolate and vanilla. If you want a double dose of cupcakes, order the cupcake pancakes, made with cupcake batter and served with vanilla butter and maple syrup.
The cutest cupcake shop of all, Molly's has swings at its counter. Plus there's a sprinkle bar so you can add a variety of brightly colored shapes to your cupcake. There are plenty of fancy cupcakes, like a cookies and cream version, but it's the simplest ones that you build yourself—vanilla cake with chocolate frosting, brown butter icing atop banana cake—that have us returning again and again.
It's easy to see how Magnolia Bakery launched the worldwide cupcake craze. The dense cakes are capped with thick, sweet frosting, they're manageable in size and they evoke nostalgia for childhood birthday parties. The vanilla is a classic, but we'd grab any cake out of the cooler.
The cupcakes at this LA export are moist with just enough frosting to get the job done. They're also manageable in size, which may convince you to eat more than one. Some advice: Chocolate flavors are better than non-chocolate (the peanut butter chocolate is insane; the vanilla is just insanely sweet); fruit flavors (strawberry, lemon) taste slightly artificial; and if you can't bear to wait in line, no worries—there's a cupcake dispenser outside.
With locations in Lincoln Park, the French Market and Lakeview, you have at least two places to find Vanille's excellent cupcakes. With a tender crumb and a good balance of frosting, these cupcakes may be large but aren't overwhelming. As a bonus, they come with one of Vanille's heavenly macarons jauntily affixed to the top.
Sugar Bliss has one big distinguishing factor: $1 frosting shots, in flavors like dark chocolate, strawberry cream cheese and lemon coconut, all topped with a flower design. For more than just a sugar high, Sugar Bliss sells fresh fruit–studded muffins (which means you can eat cupcakes for breakfast) and cupcakes that range from classics like red velvet to unconventional flavors like the seasonal piña colada cake with pineapple buttercream.
With a menu of only cupcakes (flavors change daily but include the insanely popular red velvet), cakes and beverages, this takeout spot is similar to others in Chicago. But it sets itself apart by offering things the others don't, namely, gluten-free, sugar-reduced and sugar-free options, “pupcakes” for dogs and custom cupcake carry-out boxes that keep the icing perfectly in place.
Showcased in a glass display, the rotating selection of cupcakes, which includes classics like coconut and chocolate, looks like art because it is. The signature cupcake is a take on a Hostess cake, but we also appreciate how these cakes aren't too sweet, and the red velvet in particular is a well-balanced treat. More also has a truck, the More Mobile, so you have even more chances to snag one of the cupcakes.