The term "naked cake" has grown popular in recent years to describe un-iced wedding cakes. No more wondering what's under the thick layer of fondant; you can see the multiple layers of deliciousness that await. Check out how Toni Marie Cox creates her version of the cake.
Pastry chef Leigh Omilinsky recently spent several weeks staging at Pierre Hermé in Paris. She now makes the best pâte à choux in Chicago at Café des Architectes.
Pastry chef Hetty Arts at The Refinery might not be on everyone's radar (I certainly hadn't heard of her until recently), but this Dutch dessert whiz has an impressive pedigree, with stints at Eleven Madison Park and Seasons (the former Michelin-starred restaurant at Chicago's Four Seasons Hotel). Check out how she makes The Refinery's chocolate cassava cake.
Fork's rendition of Sticky Toffee Pudding is triple-bathed in a rich, caramelly toffee sauce and also features a unique and astoundingly complementary porter ice cream.
I was recently invited out to Eli's Cheesecake World in Chicago's Dunning neighborhood by Eli's son, Marc Schulman, who has been president of the company since 1984. After spending some time with him and executive pastry chef Laurel Boger in the factory/store, I walked away truly impressed by the company's history of innovation as well as their dedication to quality ingredients.
It's hard not to immediately like a pastry chef who, after being asked if he personally likes the dish in question, answers with an enthusiastic "Yeah! Have you had it?" I have indeed had it, and written something of a love letter to it, even.
When creating a new dessert, Greg Mosko can be inspired by anything from a pear to a BLT. For the past three years, Greg has been getting inspired as the pastry chef at North Pond, where his Cranberry, Ginger dessert is currently on the menu through the end of the month.
In the world of small artisan food-makers, Katherine is a little unusual. Instead of a passion for one specific item born out of years of professional culinary experience, she has years of experience on the business side of the restaurant industry. Click through the slideshow to gain a little chocolate knowledge or reserve a spot at one of KAC's monthly Truffle Parties where you can create your own uniquely flavored truffle.
Interurban Cafe & Pastry Shop features an ever-changing menu of sweets, including scones, bread pudding, and a delightful take on the pop-tart, which McCabe makes with a pie dough recipe adapted from her grandmother.
Lindsay was kind enough to show me the process behind their S'more Pie. This is one of many rotating pies, so if you're craving this picture-perfect pie after clicking through the slideshow, be sure to call ahead for availability or better yet, give them at least 48 hours notice and place a special order.
I'll repeat what I've said in the past: in terms of sweets, Chicago is a blessed city. In no particular order—because it was hard enough to pick my favorites—here are my top ten for the year.
When Dana Cree invited me into her world of desserts at Blackbird, I was obviously excited, but I had no idea the outrageous experiences in store for me. Not only was I serendipitously around for a 15th anniversary toast before the start of service, but I also got to talk to Dana during a staff meal.
Anna Shovers has hit her stride in a seasonally-focused and ever-changing kitchen where Paul Kahan has given her free reign over desserts. One of her more recent creations is a chocolate cake with an unlikely addition: beets from local farmers' markets.
The Land of Middle Eastern Sweets is an area about as well known to me as the Gangnam Style dance, which is to say I recognize it when I see it but have no hope of personally reproducing it. But on a recent trip I discovered a fantastic sweet called knafeh.
Among Alliance Bakery's many eye-catching delights are several different entremet, or multi-layered mousse cakes, which may seem intimidating in their beauty and elegance. Brad Hillyer took some time on a bustling Saturday afternoon to show me how The Ellen is constructed.
Years of experience go into a sticky bun worth going out of your way for: Baker & Nosh's fulfills all of the usual sticky bun requirements (buttery, tacky goo and crunchy pecans), but it's also made with a fantastic brioche dough, so instead of being Cinnabon-soft, there's a little more crispy, buttery crust here than your usual bun.
As part of the Chicago Chocolate Festival taking place at Navy Pier this weekend, Chicago Chocolate Week has gathered restaurants across the city in a celebration of chocolate that started yesterday and runs through Sunday, November 18th. If you're overwhelmed with all of the options, Storefront Company is a great place to kick off your week of chocolate madness.
Just over two years ago Sharin Nathan opened Sweet Sensations Pastry, which provides high quality scones, cookies, and cupcakes to the Ravenswood community. Check out how she makes her outstanding cinnamon custard-filled pumpkin cupcake with cream cheese frosting.
Jen Templeton has built her menu on the idea of the familiar made enticingly unfamiliar. One of the few staples she tries to always have on-hand is her signature Whirlaway, a swirl of yeast dough that can be made savory or sweet. She kindly walked me through the making of a Chocolate Whirlaway, the most popular variation.