Spinning J

7 Chicago spots to snag the best house-made desserts to bring to a party

By Brandy Gonsoulin

This summer will have lots of parties—parties for which you’ll inevitably ask the question, “Hey, what can I bring?” Forgo the cheap rosé or the hummus and pretzel chips, and wow your friends with house-made desserts from some of Chicago’s top restaurants and under-the-radar bakeries.

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The Bakery at Fat Rice
The nationally acclaimed Fat Rice, now home to 2018 James Beard Best Chef: Great Lakes Abe Conlon, is known for its creative menu with Asian and Portuguese influences. In 2016, it expanded its program to include a cocktail lounge and a daytime Chinese bakery—and every sweet tooth in the area is better for it. Pastry chef Elaine Townsend joined the team earlier this year, rolling out new items such as traditional Chinese moon cakes, miso fudge brownie, individually wrapped Ube Milk Bars made with purple sweet potato and coconut streusel, as well as what Chicago Magazine called the city’s best new cookie, the Ceylon snickerdoodle, which has a gooey salted egg yolk filling. (Translation: OMG good!) For intimate parties, you can likely just stop by the bakery any day from Wednesday through Sunday, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., but for larger crowds—and to not be the guy to clean house—Townsend recommends ordering in advance.
Neighborhood: Logan Square MAP

Cookies from Summer House Santa Monica

Cookies from Summer House Santa Monica
This Lincoln Park spot is popular for bringing West Coast flair to Chicago, and the market counter is perfect for grabbing some of their fresh-baked pastries and cookies, such as brown-butter chocolate chip and sea salt chocolate chip, as well as a variety of bars. Pre-game there, grab some cookies—you get the drill.
Neighborhood: Lincoln Park MAP

Pies from Spinning J
Pies can sometimes get lost in the dessert shuffle at parties, but what shouts “America!” more than a good pie? The gorgeous creations at Spinning J were born out of a husband-and-wife pie delivery business that grew into a brick-and-mortar cafe and soda fountain concept in 2015. Their signature Hibiscus Key lime and s’mores pies are usually mainstays on a chalkboard menu selection that rotates based on seasonal ingredients. Last time we checked in, a rhubarb custard with strawberry coulis was calling our names. Whole pies sell for $28-$30, or you can buy them by the slice. Creep their Instagram to see what we mean.
Neighborhood: Humboldt Park MAP

West Town Bakery

Cake balls at West Town Bakery
This local bakery has a full selection of cookies, pastries, and cupcakes, but it’s best known for the signature cake balls. You read that right: cake balls. Bite-sized balls of cake are dipped in icing and toppings, and sold a la carte. The classic sprinkles, red velvet, and French toast are some of their most popular flavors, but they have a whole case to mix and match from, with usually enough inventory for last minute grabbing. The flagship bakery is located in West Town, but you can find cake balls (stop laughing) in their Downtown or newly opened Wrigleyville location. What better way to kick off that Chicago summer revelry than strolling up to the party proclaiming “I brought the cake balls!”
Neighborhood: West Town MAP

French pastries from Floriole Cafe & Bakery
If anyone asks you where Chicago chefs get their pastries, you point them to Floriole Cafe & Bakery. What started off as a dream and a 10x10 foot tent at the Green City Market has turned into one of Chicago’s premiere bakeries, with head baker Sandra Holl (2016 Jean Banchet Pastry Chef of the Year) at the helm. Known for its French-inspired pastries, this bakery prides itself on working with local farmers and producers to make their artful imaginings a reality. Whether you need something simple like an oatmeal cherry cookie or want to pull out all the stops with creations like a coconut, lime, and hibiscus pavlova, showing up with treats from this place will likely draw a few oohs and ahhs from your crowd. Several selections are always available in the cafe for smaller crowds, and for larger orders, a 48-hour advance notice is needed.
Neighborhood: Lincoln Park MAP

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HotChocolate Bakery in Revival Hall
James Beard Award–winning chef Mindy Segal stole our hearts with Mindy’s HotChocolate, and now she’s cranking out savory and sweet delectables at HotChocolate Bakery in Revival Hall. From violet sugar donuts to brownie krinkle cookies, there are plenty of great last-minute solutions for you at this easy grab-and-go spot. They even have a special cookie happy hour, from 3 to 5 p.m.—any three classic cookies for $5—so get there beforehand if you want top pickings.
Neighborhood: Loop MAP

Cannoli from Sicilia Bakery
If making a solid Chicago impression is on your agenda, pick up some of Chicago’s most authentic cannoli from Chicago neighborhood institution Sicilia Bakery. Head baker Joe Pecoraro has been creating authentic Sicilian creations since the late ‘60s, and honed his chops at Sicily's Pasticceria La Favorita bakery. The cannoli here was awarded Chicago’s Best Cannoli in 2016 from Chicago’s Best, and is made daily, so no worrying about bringing soggy cannoli to the party.
Neighborhood: Jefferson Park MAP

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