There's a birthday party scene in the 1998 Ally Sheedy movie High Art where the crowd gathers ’round to sing and blow out the candles on a cake. And then they all walk away, without cutting into the cake. That would never happen in L.A. Here are six of the most excellent birthday cake option in town, ranging from the classic to the extremely silly. But always delectable.
This bakery has made a name for itself re-creating the classic cakes of Los Angeles — of which there are many, it turns out. There's the grapefruit cake, originally served at the Brown Derby; the coffee crunch from department store Blum's; and the banana shortcake from Chasen's. There's also the three-layer Champagne cake, where the tipple is mixed into the milk chocolate ganache; then it's all covered in bittersweet chocolate, and then they throw some gold on top. This cake is perfect for stuntin'.
Multiple locations; valerieconfections.com.
The desserts at King's Hawaiian are absolute treasures. The cakes are all light, fluffy chiffon, and usually dyed beautiful pastel colors. You can get a coconut pudding (haupia) cake, or a pineapple tres leches, or chocolate-butterscotch. But the one you need to get first (and perhaps forever) is the Hawaiian Paradise. That's a layer each of guava, passionfruit and lime cake, with whipped cream and glaze. It tastes like fruit-flavored clouds.
2808 Sepulveda Blvd., Torrance; (310) 530-0050, khbakery.com.
A mille crepe cake sounds so elegant, but despite its French name, it's not so much fancy as it is a labor of love. To create it, the baker makes a ton of crepes, the thin pancakes typically served one at a time as snacks, and layers them with pastry cream, whipped cream, chocolate, Nutella ... you name it. The name technically means "one thousand crepes," but that would be a bit much. Lady M is the current L.A. master of the mille crepe, with flavors ranging from coconut to hazelnut; the classic is caramelized along the top for extra sweetness.
8718 W. Third St., Beverly Grove; (323) 825-8888, ladym.com.
This Northern California company has recently expanded down to SoCal, where the populace is known to eat a ton of ice cream. Dessert options include ice cream, cookies ... and ice cream sandwiches so giant they have to be served on a cake platter. This is great if you want to go for something unexpected. You have your choice of humongous cookie varieties, and the ice cream filling is up to you, too — though you may well opt for birthday cake-flavor ice cream.
Multiple locations; creamnation.com.
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Danielle Keene is a local pastry chef who has worked at a number of notable bakeries and was a contestant on Top Chef: Desserts. Her current project is a mysterious dessert emporium: There is no brick-and-mortar location to visit but she's nonetheless managing to churn out the most beautiful works of cake art. Get a unicorn cake, a stars-and-moon cake, or something customized like the adorable Totoro vignette above. She does elegant tiered cakes with just fresh flowers as decoration, too, and while you're at it, pick up some cookies: Keene's icing work is worth framing, were that possible.
See website for ordering details; sheilamae.com.
Sweet Lady Jane
Triple berry. If you didn't know, now you do. This cake is both the most fashionable dessert in L.A., for at least 10 years running, and genuinely delicious. It's a three-layer yellow cake with whipped cream and raspberries, blackberries and strawberries between each layer. The frosting is whipped cream; the green vines are buttercream; it's finished with more berries. It sounds so simple, and yet each slice is perfect.
Multiple locations; sweetladyjane.com.