Yes, any cake can technically be a “birthday cake” if you put a candle in it, but we wanted the version specifically billed as a “birthday cake” on the bakery’s menu, because celebrations are no time to be wishy-washy about your intentions. Now that we’ve come back down from our sugar highs, we’re happy to inform you that these are officially the cakes that will take you back to your childhood and put the biggest smile on your face.
2. Momofuku Milk Bar
251 E. 13th St., nr. Second Ave.; 347-588-9504
If you’ve been to a birthday party in New York in the last few years, you have almost certainly seen, and possibly eaten, one of Christina Tosi’s now-iconic “naked” unfrosted birthday cakes. It’s essentially a status cake, but it also happens to taste like the pastry-chef version of childhood: Tosi’s team soaks the cake in milk and vanilla extract and bakes sprinkles, Funfetti style, right into the batter. The rainbow-cake crumble on top is an A-plus garnish, too. In fact, the cake only loses points because the vanilla frosting between layers is so aggressively sweet that it’s hard for all but the most hardcore sugar fiends to eat more than a few bites in one sitting.
3. Duane Park Patisserie
179 Duane St., nr. Greenwich St.; 212-274-8447
Through her Tribeca bakery, Madeline Lanciani makes cakes for some seriously highbrow clients, like the Met Costume Gala. What makes Lanciani’s cakes really stand out is their ornate appearance. Almost always custom orders — consisting of three layers of actual cake and two layers of a filling encased with icing — the finished cakes can be made in the likeness of a tiara, a piano, or your own photograph. Anything you want, in other words. You can choose whatever flavor combination you want, too, but by default Lanciani suggests a combination of yellow cake with chocolate icing. You should take her advice: The combination is classic for a reason and, and in contrast to many of Duane Park’s competitors, the sugar level is ratcheted down a bit to give these high-class cakes an adult-appropriate sweetness.