Whether it’s good old-fashioned angel food or trendy Southern red velvet, birthday cake is still the highlight of any party for kids. These days, however, the definition of “birthday cake” is expanding to also include cupcakes (amazing what one little episode of Sex and the City can do). Cupcakes are a good party choice because they can be cheaper, easier to serve, and more customizable than regular party cakes—the perfect answer when half your guests want chocolate and the other half crave vanilla. Whichever way you go, consider the following places. They’ll make any birthday party a sweet celebration.
248 Broome Street
New York, NY 10002
Delivery: available to all five boroughs
Babycakes occupies an interesting niche in the cupcake scene, catering especially to those suffering from food allergies (to gluten, wheat, soy, casein, eggs, and dairy). To sweeten their cakes, they stay away from unhealthy sugars and artificial sweeteners, instead using unrefined, evaporated cane juice and agave nectar, which is safe enough to be consumed by some diabetics. (Check with a doctor first, though.) And though Babycakes is a healthy bakery, their cupcakes (which come in vanilla, carrot, chocolate, and red velvet) certainly don’t taste healthy. Prices range from $42.75 to $53.75 for a dozen cupcakes, depending on what kind you want. All cupcakes can be made as full-sized cakes, but they ask that you call them first to get a specific quote.
Little Cupcake Bakeshop
9102 Third Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11209
Delivery: available to all five boroughs
Ok, I admit to being a little biased: I have eaten a lot of cupcakes in my day, and these are my absolute favorite. The cupcakes are never stale; never too rich; and never so sweet that your teeth ache. Great ingredients like Vermont butter, Jersey eggs and European chocolate give Little Cupcake’s cupcakes their unique taste. Flavor-wise, you have your choice of vanilla, strawberry, devil’s food, red velvet, carrot, peanut butter, and cookie dough, just to name a few. (I typically get strawberry.) Some flavors can even be made without sugar. Cupcakes start at $2.50 each; writing, flowers, and themes are slightly extra.
Martha’s Country Bakery
70-30 Austin Street
Forest Hills, NY 11375
36-21 Ditmars Blvd.
Astoria, NY 11105
41-06 Bell Blvd.
Bayside, NY 11316
Founded in 1972, Martha’s Country Bakery is a small Queens chain serving a wide variety of cakes, cookies, and tarts. (More exotic sweets include cannolis and gelato.) Here you’re presented with many birthday cake choices, including seven-layer, strawberry shortcake, chocolate mousse, black-and-white, and black forest. Prices for a half-sheet are $75; a full sheet is $140. Cupcakes are $2.50 a piece, with the usual favorites of vanilla, carrot and red velvet being represented. The critics seem to be united on this one: The Downtown Star calls Martha’s red velvet “rich and scrumptious;” Time Out New York says it gives Magnolia and the now-closed Crumbs “a run for their cupcakes;” and Queens blogger “Foodista” deems it one of her favorite bakeries in all of Astoria. And though they don’t deliver, the Astoria and Bayside locations are open extra late on Friday and Saturday (till 1am) for your convenience.
2135 Nostrand Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11210
Lords (not a typo; there is no apostrophe) is a family-owned Brooklyn staple that’s been around for over 40 years. Located near Brooklyn College, they specialize in photocakes, which allow you to put your child’s favorite photo or cartoon character on the cake’s icing. (You may have seen one of these on a recent Good Morning America.) Lords carries many different types of cakes, including coconut, nut, carrot, pound, and red velvet. As with Martha’s, this place is pricey, but you won’t be disappointed. One tip: Give yourself plenty of time before the party to pick up the cake; lines can sometimes get long.
A few readers offered their favorites in the comments, including sugar Sweet sunshine and Billy's Bakery and for kids with allergies, Schicks Bakery in Brooklyn was recommended.
Find more NYC birthday party ideas in our Party Guide.