50 States of Cakes

It’s not a party without cake — and whether you like a simple buttery Bundt or an impressive multilayered confection, there’s no shortage of ways to end a celebration on a sweet note.

By: Patty Lee

Smith Island Cake at Smith Island Baking Co. – Crisfield, Maryland

In 2008, Maryland designated the Smith Island Cake as the state’s official dessert, paying homage to a treat that originated in a Chesapeake Bay fishing village more than 200 years ago. As oyster harvesters headed out to sea, families would send them off with sizable eight-layer cakes, eventually swapping out buttercream for longer-lasting chocolate fudge.

Cake and Shake at D Bar Denver – Denver, Colorado

As if a slice of chocolate cake weren’t decadent enough on its own, the one at Denver’s D Bar comes with a milkshake. The pairing is one of pastry chef Keegan Gerhard’s many nods to childhood cravings — others include milk with cookies and root beer floats. This particularly gluttonous duo features a slice of Gerhard’s three-layer cake — the layers separated by frosting made from Guittard chocolate — and a shake spun from your choice of housemade vanilla, chocolate or raspberry ice cream.

Pumpecapple Piecake at Three Brothers Bakery – Houston, Texas

Everything is bigger in Texas, include the cakes. Weighing in at 24 pounds, this hefty pastry, from Three Brothers Bakery, is actually three cakes in one (pumpkin spice, chocolate, and apple spice), each stuffed with a matching pie. As if it weren’t indulgent enough, the 11-inch stack is finished with a cream cheese frosting, caramel drizzle and crushed pecans.

Framboise at Chocolate Pi – Tampa, Florida

As a kid, Kim Yelvington celebrated birthdays with cakes from the bakery inside Tampa’s now-closed Maas Brothers department store. When the pastry chef opened Chocolate Pi in 2004, her mom issued a challenge: to re-create Maas Brothers’ signature raspberry cake. Yelvington stepped up to the plate with the Framboise, a layered yellow cake with vanilla bean buttercream, fresh raspberries and a coating of pretty-in-pink frosting.

Cookie Butter Cake at Buttercream Bakeshop – Washington, D.C.

Pastry chef Tiffany MacIsaac loves cookie butter as much as the rest of us, but she’s taken her obsession with the addictive spread to new heights. Spotted in the pastry case of her D.C. bakery: a cake laced with cinnamon and Biscoff cookie chunks and layered with both cookie butter and cookie butter frosting.

White Cake with Prickly Pear Cream Cheese Mousse at Honeymoon Sweets Bakery – Tempe, Arizona

Prickly pear cacti can be found throughout Arizona, and the bulbous fruits make for a sweet addition to everything from margaritas to ice cream. At Honeymoon Sweets, bakers Tim and Joan O’Connor add the desert staple to a cream cheese mousse that gets layered inside white cake.

German Chocolate Cake at Beethoven's # 9 – Paola, Kansas

Beethoven’s #9 has been a Paola, Kansas, institution for 20 years, serving up hearty German classics such as schnitzel and bratwurst. The restaurant is well-known for its generous portions, and that also applies to its signature dessert, a German chocolate cake that pays tribute to co-owner Jeanie Clerico’s dad. She’s been making the pecan- and coconut-enrobed cake since the 1970s, using a secret icing recipe that calls for slow, continuous stirring. When she and daughter Linzi Weilert took over Beethoven’s in 2014, there was no doubt that it needed to go on the menu.

Salted Chocolate Caramel Cake at Shyndigz – Richmond, Virginia

For Richmond’s sweets lovers, Shyndigz is a cake mecca. The dessert-only restaurant churns out so many unique flavors that it needs a calendar to show them off. While most flavors rotate through once a month, the Salted Chocolate Caramel — boasting four layers of chocolate cake with housemade sea salt caramel and chocolate buttercream in between them — remains a daily special.

Doberge Cake at Debbie Does Doberge – New Orleans, Louisiana

The name of the baker behind Debbie Does Doberge, a doberge cake company isn’t actually Debbie; it’s Charlotte McGehee, who conjured up the business name over drinks with another local chef, Amanda Toups. In a modern-day twist on the New Orleans specialty — typically made in chocolate or lemon — McGehee offers up multiple variations, each more whimsical than the last. There’s the Fun-Fête filled with rainbow sprinkles; the Red Velvet Elvis, made with, yes, peanut butter and bacon; and a seasonal King Cake doberge, which combines two of the state’s iconic cakes.

12-Layer Chocolate Cake at Moody Tongue Brewing Company – Chicago, Illinois

As any Chicagoan will attest, beer is the city’s drink of choice, so it makes sense that a standout cake can be found in a brewery, of all places. Each layer of the one crafted by Moody Tongue pastry chef Shannon Morrison is richer than the next. It starts with a pretzel, cereal and graham cracker crust, followed by espresso cheesecake, chocolate cake, a toasted caramel and pecan caramel filling and cocoa buttercream. They all repeat until there are a dozen rows, then the showstopper gets a finishing chocolate mirror glaze.

Turtle Cake at Cafe Latte – St. Paul, Minnesota

Cafe Latte has been a St. Paul fixture since 1984. While the city has changed, one thing has remained a staple: the cafeteria-style restaurant’s decadent Turtle Cake. This family recipe passed down to owners Linda and Peter Quinn consists of three layers of coffee-infused chocolate cake smothered in caramel, chocolate buttercream and toasted pecans.

Coconut-Pecan Cake at Chez FonFon – Birmingham, Alabama

While the rest of the menu boasts classic French dishes — think escargot and coq au vin — Chez Fonfon’s most-popular dessert is a local affair. Two iconic Southern ingredients — pecans and coconut — star in this beloved cake, with the latter showing up in multiple forms (shredded, creamed, liquified as milk) and in all the components (cake, filling, icing) of each towering slice.

Ultimate Coconut Cake at Peninsula Grill – Charleston, South Carolina

The coconut cake at this fine-dining destination made its debut as a Valentine’s Day special in 1997. But the 12-layer cake made such an impression that it’s been on the menu ever since. Available by the slice at the restaurant (or whole for shipping nationwide), the lofty confection — with six thin layers of cake separated by six layers of cream cheese frosting — has won the hearts of locals and celebrities alike.

Gwendolyn's Famous Earl’s Court Chocolate Cake at Cake Bake Shop – Indianapolis, Indiana

Its name may be a mouthful to say, but there’ll be no forgetting it after just one bite of this sinfully sweet chocolate cake. Pastry guru Gwendolyn Rogers of Cake Bake Shop is all about top-notch ingredients, so only the good stuff makes the cut; in this case, there’s Valrhona in the cake, Callebaut in the ganache, plus fudge and malted cream, and a sprinkling of fleur de sel from France.

Pucker Up at Muddy’s Bake Shop – Memphis, Tennessee

The aptly named Pucker Up cake is made with real lemons — "lots of them!" according to Muddy's Bake Shop owner Kat Gordon. The tart fruit goes into both the batter and the buttercream, both of which boast top-notch ingredients (real butter, cage-free eggs and organic whole milk) that help produce a tender cake packed with bright citrus flavor.

Champagne with Strawberry at Sin – Providence, Rhode Island

No need for a bottle of bubbly to celebrate an occasion — the Champagne cake at Sin already has its namesake champagne in it. The alcohol evaporates as the cake bakes, leaving a fruity flavor elevated by a fluffy strawberry buttercream filling. And to truly make it occasion-worthy, the top is finished with pretty pastel sprinkles.

Tall, Dark and Handsome at Kyra’s Bake Shop – Lake Oswego, Oregon

Going gluten-free didn’t stop Kyra Bussanich of Kyra's Bake Shop from enjoying her favorite pastries, but the Le Cordon Bleu grad did have to take matters into her own hands. Armed with a special blend of alternative flours, Bussanich has impressed cake lovers of all sorts — including the judges on Cupcake Wars — with creations like the Tall, Dark and Handsome. The 20-pound behemoth boasts multiple layers of chocolate cake, salted caramel and hazelnut crunch buttercreams and a hazelnut-dark chocolate ganache. As if that weren’t enough, each round is frosted with espresso buttercream, then topped with more candied nuts.

Bavarian Cream Cheesecake at Ludger’s Bavarian Cakery – Tulsa, Oklahoma

Ludger Schulz settled in Tulsa after stints at restaurants across Europe and North America — first in his native Germany, then Switzerland, Sweden and Ireland, then Canada and eventually Oklahoma. Once he settled in, Schulz started offering his German-style cheesecake, which features a whipped cream cheese filling in between layers of vanilla sponge cake. Schulz retired in 2009, but his daughter and son-in-law are working to spread the Ludger name (and cake) — they opened a new larger location of the bakery in 2017.

Brooklyn Blackout Cake at Little Cupcake Bakeshop – Brooklyn, New York

Cheesecake isn’t the only famous cake New York has to offer. In the 20th century, the Brooklyn Blackout Cake from Ebinger’s Bakery was a beloved staple, until the sweets shop went bankrupt in 1972. Luckily, the decadent dessert was resurrected by Little Cupcake Bakeshop when it opened in Bay Ridge in 2005. The cake gets its intensely rich flavor from a blend of Dutch process cocoa and semisweet Belgian chocolate, and its beautiful textured exterior from two types of icing.

Coffee Crunch Cake at Yasukochi's Sweet Stop – San Francisco, California

Tom Yasukochi has been selling out of coffee crunch cake since 1974, when the San Francisco native opened his namesake bakery, Yasukochi's Sweet Stop, inside the Super Mira market in San Francisco’s Japantown. Before that, Yasukochi co-owned a bakery in Lakeside with a former candymaker who worked at Blum’s, a now-closed pastry shop once known for its "koffee krunch kake." The rest is, as they say, history — Yasukochi mastered the honeycomb-like candy, adding it to airy cakes that are now as much of a classic as their original inspiration.

Baked Alyeska at Seven Glaciers at Alyeska Resort – Girdwood, Alaska

Visitors and locals alike have been dazzled by the baked Alaska at this sprawling ski-resort restaurant. Alternating between chocolate cake and chocolate and raspberry mousse, the dome is chilled, then covered in a half-inch layer of meringue. The finishing flourish? The ethereal meringue is torched to a beautiful golden brown.

Lemon Curd Layer Cake at Nichole’s Fine Pastry – Fargo, North Dakota

After attending the Culinary Institute of America in California, Nichole Hensen returned to North Dakota, honing her skills at two local businesses before opening a spot of her own, Nichole's Fine Pastry, in 2003. Using local, organic ingredients but European technique, Hensen turns out spectacular cakes like this citrusy number. There's tart lemon flavor in every layer, from the cake to the whipped cream to the bright yellow curd.

24-Layer Chocolate Cake at Strip House – Las Vegas, Nevada

In a city that revolves around over-the-top experiences, you can expect desserts to be equally excessive. The famed cake at Las Vegas’ Strip House is a gluttonous chocolate-on-chocolate creation boasting 24 alternating layers of cake and filling, plus a semisweet glaze.

Red Velvet Cake at Q's Cakes — Albuquerque, New Mexico

This New Mexico bakery specializes in rosette-swirled frosting exteriors. But the cake on the inside as as good as the packing on the outside is beautiful. Flavors include Howie Wowie, a caramel cake with a New Mexican red chile-spiced caramel apple filling. The original is the Red Velvet, with cream cheese frosting.

Caramel Cake at Rhodes Bakery – Roswell and Atlanta, Georgia

This family-run bakery still makes caramel the old-fashioned way. Using a recipe perfected by the bakery’s founder, Magdaline Rhodes, and a candy stove that’s been in place since 1954, third-generation bakers turn sugar, shortening, corn syrup and evaporated milk into a melt-in-your-mouth icing and drape it over rounds of white cake.

Boston Cream Pie at Omni Parker House – Boston, Massachusetts

Despite its name, a Boston cream pie isn’t actually a pie at all. The classic dessert was created at Omni Parker House in the 1850s, when Chef M. Sanzian had the then-revolutionary idea of topping cake with chocolate. Sanzian’s original recipe — two rounds of golden cake sandwiching pastry cream and topped, of course, with that chocolate glaze — is still being served at the historic hotel today.

Huckleberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake at Stacey Cakes – McCall, Idaho

Come August, the city of McCall is overflowing with huckleberries. The tart cousins to blueberries play a leading role in pastry chef Stacey Kucy’s cream cheese coffee cake. The bright burst of fruit shines through every mouthful of the confection, a tender sour cream cake boasting a layer of cheesecake filling, sugar crumble and plenty of fresh berries.

Almond Cake at Jacques Pastries – Pembroke, New Hampshire

The reins at Jacques Pastries have been passed from one culinary couple to another. The bakery was founded by Jacques and Paula Despres in 1973 and later taken over by son Justin and daughter-in-law Tami. The second-generation bakers continue to do their family proud, turning out Jacques classics like the almond cake with amaretto buttercream and rich truffle fudge.

Cheesecake at Suzy's Cream Cheesecakes – Oak Creek, Wisconsin

It’s no surprise that dairy country would be home to excellent cheesecakes. When baker Suzy Strothmann started making them for her husband’s Milwaukee restaurant in the 1980s, only local cream cheese was used, a tradition that continues today even as Suzy’s Cream Cheesecakes has grown from one storefront and flavor to a nationally shipping business with multiple variations on its signature cake.

Burnt Almond Torte at Prantl's Bakery – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

The residents of Pittsburgh are almost as passionate about this iconic square torte as they are about football. It’s been an integral part of the city since the 1970s, when baker Henry Prantl — inspired by a trip to almond-producing California — returned home with a vision of a cloudlike cake filled with custard, iced in buttercream and covered on all sides with crunchy slivers of sugared almonds.

Blueberry Cake at Becky’s Diner – Portland, Maine

The secret to Becky Rand’s famed blueberry cake is in — no surprise — the berries. Embedded in each Becky's Diner slice of cake are dozens of wild Maine blueberries, tiny, sweet gems that are harvested for a brief two months every summer. In a departure from most local blueberry cakes, Rand makes hers as a layered one, filling and frosting each slice with a rich cream cheese icing.

Chantilly Cake at Liliha Bakery – Honolulu, Hawaii

In Hawaii, chantilly cream has taken on its own unique form: a silky, muted yellow icing that’s made by simmering together eggs, butter and sugar. At Liliha, a 24-hour diner and bakery in Honolulu, a healthy dollop of chantilly graces the famed cream puffs and covers the signature cake, a light chocolate chiffon that’s adored by locals.

Chocolate Brownie Pound Cake at The Mighty Baker – Provo, Utah

The Mighty Baker’s Peter Tidwell knows his way around cake — he’s won Cake Wars not once but twice, the second time with a chocolate brownie pound cake lauded by the show’s judges. With its rich, fudgy texture, the cake needs little embellishment; Tidwell simply pairs the layers with a vanilla Italian buttercream.

Earl Grey Chocolate Cake at Park Avenue Bakery – Helena, Montana

Tea isn’t just for enjoying with cake; it can also add flavor to it. At Park Avenue Bakery, pastry chefs started experimenting with Earl Grey and chocolate more than a decade ago, resulting in a cake that quickly became a shop signature. The floral tea goes in both the cake and the creamy chocolate mousse, a combination that’s surprisingly "refreshing," says general manager and pastry chef Melanie Hahlbohm.

Cinnamon Pecan Coffee Cake at Billie’s Pecans – Crenshaw, Mississippi

A surplus of pecans on the family farm inspired Billie Crenshaw to incorporate the nuts into her coffee cake. The resulting dessert was a hit not only with her husband and four sons, but also at the local market. The business and Billie’s recipe — a classic sour cream, brown sugar and cinnamon-spiced confection — have since been passed down to her daughter-in-law Stacy and granddaughter Bailey, who continue to churn out cakes and other pecan treats.

Red Velvet Cheesecake at The Rabbit Hole Bakery – Lincoln, Nebraska

If its name doesn’t give away its inspiration, then the decor probably will: The quaint Rabbit Hole Bakery in Lincoln, Nebraska, is adorned with antique clocks, teapots and colorful books, a nod to baker Amanda Fuchser’s love of Alice in Wonderland. Her exquisite desserts would be a hit at any Mad Hatter tea party — especially the red velvet cheesecake, a scarlet confection that gets its distinctive tang from buttermilk, sour cream and vinegar.

Bourbon Butter Cake at The Midway Bakery – Midway, Kentucky

Kentucky bourbon isn’t the only local ingredient that goes into The Midway Bakery’s butter cake — the flour comes from nearby Weisenberger Mill and the sorghum from Country Rock. To let the cake’s rich, buttery flavor shine, the 9-inch, two-layer cake is finished with a simple vanilla buttercream frosting.

Citrus Olive Oil Cake at Erie Coffeeshop & Bakery – Rutherford, New Jersey

Owner Renee Faris brought this cake over from across the Hudson. The original recipe came from her time working in New York City with Union Square Events pastry chef Dan Keehner, but the Bundt cake has gained its own devoted following in Rutherford, at Erie Coffeeshop & Bakery. High-quality olive oil and citrus form the base of the fluffy cake, which is garnished with a simple citrus-vanilla glaze, orange peel and, in the winter months, a fresh sprig of rosemary.

Guinness Chocolate Cake at Grille 26 – Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Sioux Falls has been recognized as one of the best places to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, so it makes sense that Guinness is a key component of the chocolate cake at Grille 26, one of the city's more popular spots. The stout gets mixed in with butter and melted cocoa to make a dense and rich cake that’s finished with an Irish cream frosting. Sláinte!

Old-Fashioned Apple Cake at King Arthur Flour – Norwich, Vermont

No dessert better represents Vermont’s fairy-tale fall vistas like an apple cake. Developed by the recipe testers at King Arthur Flour’s Norwich campus, the cinnamon-spiced squares — loaded with fresh apples and topped with a brown sugar frosting — are pure autumn comfort.

Rum Torte at Iversen’s Bakery – Dearborn, Michigan

Torte making has been an Iversen family trade since the 1950s, and little has changed when it comes to technique, a point of pride for current owner Rick Lesnock. He’s still making cakes the same old-fashioned way his father did — with cooked custard, fruit, freshly whipped cream and, in the case of this holiday best-seller, a generous addition of Bacardi rum.

Hostess Cake at Sweet to Eat Bakery and Cake Shop – Ankeny, Iowa

Looking at the list of Sweet to Eat’s specialty cake flavors will likely trigger nostalgia. There’s Cookie Dough, Banana Split, S’mores and a Hostess number that’s reminiscent of its namesake treat. Owner Rachael Owens’ top-notch version includes housemade chocolate cake, buttercream and the signature glossy ganache.

Very Berry Cake at Sweet Maria’s – Waterbury, Connecticut

Sweet Maria’s most-popular cake is as fleeting as the berries that make it up. Available only from April to October, the three-layer white cake bursts with fresh seasonal blueberries, strawberries and raspberries, all smothered in baker Maria Bruscino Sanchez’s luscious housemade whipped cream.

Green Tea Tiramisu at Hiroki Desserts – Seattle, Washington

Long before matcha became an ingredient du jour, it was already making appearances in desserts at this quaint Seattle dessert shop. When Hiroki opened in 2003, the menu included tiramisu remixed with Asian components. Instead of ladyfingers, the cake is built on fluffy chiffon, and the mascarpone batter â tinged pastel green â boasts the nutty and floral notes of high-grade matcha imported from Japan.

Buttercream Cake at Spring Hill Pastry Shop – Charleston, West Virginia

There’s nothing fussy or complicated about the pastries at Spring Hill, a bakery that’s been operated by the Williams family since 1948. Special occasions call for its classic vanilla cake with buttercream, made from scratch the same way for the last 70 years. While you’re there, don’t miss the "hot dog" — an eclair-like treat filled with whipped cream that locals go crazy for.

Buckeye Bliss at Elé Cake Co. – Dayton, Ohio

Variations on the quintessential Ohio treat — peanut butter balls dipped in chocolate — are as plentiful as the nut that inspired them. At Elé Cake Co. the tribute to the state’s official tree comes in the form of a chocolate cupcake adorned with peanut butter buttercream, a chocolate drizzle and a mini buckeye.

Buttery Bundt Pound Cake at Brown Sugar Bakeshop – Little Rock, Arkansas

The secret to Brown Sugar Bakeshop's light-as-air Bundt cake is in the technique. Ingredients are mixed with a whisk instead of a flat paddle, giving the batter a fluffier texture than its Southern counterpart. Founded by sisters April and Kristi Williams and now run by Kristi's son, the bakery puts a twist on the classics, rolling out fun flavors like moscato, red velvet and glazed caramel pecan.

Chocolate Caramel Mousse Cake at Sweet Somethings – Wilmington, Delaware

An open kitchen lets customers see exactly what Sweet Somethings’ bakers are up to. They could be making any number of the cookies, pies or cakes on the menu, including owner Lee Slaninko’s recommended favorite: a moist chocolate cake with caramel mousse, chocolate ganache and sea salt.

Fromage Blanc Berry Cheesecake at CocoLove – Jackson, Wyoming

Acclaimed chocolatier Oscar Ortega uses his bonbon-decorating skills to make exquisite cakes at this Jackson Hole boutique. This cheesecake layers housemade fromage blanc — swirled with Ortega’s berry compote — on top of a buttery pate sucree crust. It’s doused in a mesmerizing red mirror glaze and finished with some chocolate tuiles.

Gooey Butter Cake at Park Avenue Coffee – St. Louis, Missouri

Gooey butter cake was created by accident in the 1940s, when St. Louis baker Johnny Hoffman used the wrong proportions to make cake batter. The irresistibly delicious mistake can now be found all over town, including at Lafayette Square's Park Avenue Coffee, where siblings Dale Schotte and Marilyn Scull serve up their mom’s recipe. More than 70 flavors are available, including seasonal twists like eggnog and pumpkin caramel, but Mom’s Traditional is a must for those trying the buttery-crusted specialty for the first time.

Moravian Sugar Cake at Winkler Bakery – Winston-Salem, North Carolina

The Winkler Bakery has been slinging this unassumingly rich cake since the early 1800s, when Swiss-born baker Christian Winkler took over the Old Salem shop. The 200-year-old wood-fired dome oven is still in use today, churning out sheets of the eggy cake studded with buttery pockets of cinnamon and sugar.