Looking for the best bakery for birthday cake in NYC? We’ve got you covered. New York City has no shortage of excellent bakeries, but with the advent of Instagram it seems like even the previously unknown establishments are stepping up their game. This is most apparent when it comes to birthday cakes– one of the most whimsical aspects of bakery operation.
Doesn’t everything love a good birthday cake? (Answer: yes!) And don’t we all love to Instagram a beautiful birthday cake, especially when it’s ours? Yes, we definitely do. Happy Birthday to us!
Whether you’re shopping for a kid or just a kid at heart, these are the best places to get a birthday cake in New York City.
Milk Bar’s Iconic Confetti Birthday Cake
You guessed it. Milk Bar’s iconic confetti birthday cake is probably the most famous and recognizable cake in the city. Every New Yorker who lives here for long enough eventually either a) buys this cake for someone else on their birthday or b) has had someone else buy this cake for them on their birthday. Christina Tosti’s Milk Bar empire is no joke. They now ship nationally, but the original bakery is based in NYC. They also have several locations around the city, so the cakes are easy to get and transport. Ultimately, these cakes are so popular that Milk Bar now offers classes on how to make them yourself. Also, gluten intolerant take note: Milk Bar now offers gluten-free versions of the confetti cake, so more people can participate in the magic of the best birthday cake in NYC. (Related: Those who like baking should also check out Tosi’s new cookbook, All About Cake, which is a great gift to give alongside one of her actual cakes.)
Magnolia Bakery for Timeless Elegance
Magnolia Bakery is perhaps the most “classic”, old time-y New York City bakery. Known for their insanely delicious old fashion Banana Pudding (something on every NYC foodie’s bucket list), the bakery also makes excellent cupcakes and cakes. Here, you can finesse every detail down to the bordering and piping of their equally delicious birthday cakes. Magnolia Bakery is great for control freaks or people who want to exercise wedding-cake-level-control over the design process of their cake. Invariably served on a dioly, these cakes are always perfectly baked. There are no flashy designs here, but the resulting cakes are always smart, elegant, and classy looking. We like to call this the “Audrey Hepburn” aesthetic.
Flour Shop For Iconic “Rainbow” Cake
Flour Shop‘s famous rainbow explosion cake took the Internet by storm when it started circulating on all the food channels around 2017 and 2018. Soon, Flour Shop founder and head baker Amirah Kassem was demoing the cake on The Today Show and Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, and it has since taken off. Many would call the Rainbow Explosion Cake the best birthday cake in NYC in terms of sheer whimsy.
Keep in mind, however, that the Rainbow Explosion cake is one of the pricier birthday cakes in NYC (the smallest cake costs $150, though it also feeds ~15 people). Regardless of the steep asking price, pretty much everyone loves it. The cake consists of 6 layers of rainbow-colored vanilla cake stuffed with tiny chocolate balls and sprinkles that pour out once you cut into the center. This is a great cake to get for someone who isn’t expecting the surprise inside. Watching their faces light up when they remove the first piece is a truly magical experience. It’s like being a kid again, in that moment when the piñata breaks.
Sugar Sweet Sunshine For Custom Flavors
Sugar Sweet Sunshine makes reliably excellent custom birthday cakes, which are totally under the radar. One year, my husband worked with them to design a custom Peanut Butter and Banana Cake with fresh banana, peanut butter frosting, and vanilla butter cake. It was arguable the best birthday cake I’ve ever had (no shade to the other cakes on this list).
Later, I bought my mother a custom pistachio cake from this same baker, and it was a blast to create a flavor profile that was tailor designed for her specific taste. (She doesn’t like super sweet frosting, are flavored cakes that are artificially colored, for example. I told them this, and the bakery delivered exactly what I wanted.) They also specialize in unique offerings like mocha frosting, for example– in you want a simple chocolate cake with an elevated frosting, or something much more elaborate and unexpected. (They have great customization options for foodies.)
City Cakes For Out-of-the-Box Creativity
City Cakes makes crazy, insanely-creative fondant designs that prove anything is possible when it comes to birthday cake imagination. Go to them if you have a specific, ambitious design in mind. Even though they are without a doubt the best bakery for children’s birthday cakes in NYC, City Cakes’ designs delight kids and adults alike. See their epic Roman Colosseum Cake, above.
Obviously, this creativity comes at a price, but if you’re going to go for an outlandish design, you can trust that you will get what you pay for. The execute is reliably flawless. City Cakes also does weddings and corporate events, and their cakes are best suited for a crowd. Accordingly, we recommend ordering from them for birthday parties rather than intimate gatherings. Otherwise, you’ll have tons of cake leftover– which, admittedly, might not be such a bad thing.
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Erin McKenna’s Bakery For GF/Vegan Cakes
The bakery formerly known as Babycakes is now Erin McKenna’s Bakery NYC. This OG gluten free bakery on the Lower East Side is perfect for anyone who is gluten-free, vegan, dairy-free, kosher, avoiding wheat, or any combination of those things. This is the place to order your birthday cakes from if so; they don’t have any cross-contamination in their kitchen. And, you don’t need to sacrifice taste or design just to accommodate an allergy! Erin McKenna’s cakes are fluffy and decadent. If anything, they are richer than “regular” cakes because every single ingredient is chosen for a reason. The portions are also generous for a gluten free bakery. (Check out their galaxy cake, above.)
Cookie DŌ, For People Who Don’t Like Cake
Cookie DŌ makes “alternative” cakes for people who don’t like cake. (I know, crazy. But these people do exist.) DŌ does a great s’more’s cookie cake that I once bought for my husband’s birthday since he loves cookies and s’mores. Be advised these cakes are super rich! Each one is like a massive Otis Spunkmeyer cookie (we mean this as a compliment). They also have gluten-free and vegan options. Look for out-of-the-box creations like their “donut cake and cookie dough combo” (above), or their “Brookie” cake, which is a hybrid cake made out of brownie and cookie dough with a layer of frosting in between. This city really does have something for everyone.
Want more sweet NYC insights? Read our guide to The Weirdest, Coolest Ice Cream Shops in NYC.