Best Birthday Cake (From Chinatown, Jake) - 2011
L.A.'s a relatively young town, but we have our traditions. And they reflect our diversity: El Cholo for a family reunion. Zankou Chicken take-home for a new roommate. After-hours karaoke in Koreatown to celebrate a big account with the boss. Few Angeleno traditions are older than a birthday cake from Phoenix Bakery, founded in 1938 and the longest-surviving such business in Chinatown. The owners call their specialty a "not-so-Chinese cake," which is true. (Though, curiously, it is now copiously copied at other Chinese bakeries.) The fluffy white confection is part strawberry shortcake, part Twinkie — with your name custom-written in red frosting on top. Phoenix claims the Dodgers, the Lakers and the mayor as past clients. But if you look next to you at the pickup counter you'll just see L.A., from the Mexican abuela picking up her cake for a quinceañera to the City Hall suit getting one to bring back for an office party. It's not quite angel food cake, but it is food for the angels. 969 N. Broadway, Chinatown. (213) 628-4642, phoenixbakeryinc.com.