I can’t help it, I love an occasion to pick up a special dessert. Birthdays, holidays, you name it, any occasion becomes a little more special when you take a step beyond cookies or cupcakes and order a whole delicious dessert for a group to share. Over the years, I’ve collected a group of go-tos in Richmond. Some of these need to be ordered a few days ahead, some can be ordered 24 hours in advance, and some can be scored on a walk-in basis on the right day.
The Best Special Occasion Cakes in Richmond, Virginia
Candy Bar Cake from Whisk
For a cake that both looks and tastes like the stuff of fantasies, go to a former Lemaire pastry chef. Every cake on the menu at Whisk looks amazingly delicious. The Candy Bar Cake features dark chocolate cake layered with peanut butter buttercream, chocolate ganache, dulce de leche caramel and chopped salted peanuts. The key to this cake is the quality of each ingredient. The actual chocolate cake really is dark, rich and chocolaty. The peanut butter buttercream is decadent and flavorful without being sickeningly sweet. And the finished product is beautifully stacked high for a dessert that looks just as impressive as it tastes. Give anyone who says they aren’t excited about cake a slice of this baby and see how they respond. You can also order via email, which is nice and simple.
Custom Cheesecakes from WPA Bakery
The first time I ordered a custom cheesecake from WPA, I went safe with blueberry, and my expectations were still surpassed. Creamy classic cheesecake with a crumbly gingerbread crust was slathered with a generous blueberry topping that was packed with flavorful blueberries, not the sad sugary slurry that I think is a total waste of berries and calories. For a blueberry lover, it was a complete game changer.
That first success inspired me to get more adventurous with a sticky bun cheesecake this past Christmas. To be completely honest, I placed the order and had no idea what the end product would be remotely like. Well, that same classic cheesecake was studded with freshly baked bits of sticky bun, then topped with gooey and fresh pecans for a distinctive combination that blew every guest away over the holidays. Paired with Jeni’s Brown Butter Almond Brittle ice cream, the combination of cinnamon, sugar, crunchy nuts and caramel was perfect for the season.
For good measure, I also grabbed an apple pie and also have to give it a shout-out as the thinly sliced, layered apples were done with such precision this might have been one of the nicest pies I’ve ever seen or tasted. Again, the pie was packed with fresh fruit and balanced by a bright lemon flavor, leaving all of my family members fighting over slices to take home. WPA’s cakes and pies are also available via email and phone order with 48 hours advance notice.
Cream Puff Cake from Jean Jacques
Of course Jean Jacques Bakery has always been a dependable source for cakes and other pastries, but my latest discovery is a game-changer. I recently stopped in to choose something for a friend’s birthday, and saw a new cream puff cake. A layer of rich, decadent custard is topped with pastry and chocolate, then all that is topped with homemade cream puffs for a confection that just as eye-catching as it is delicious. When served, it received oohs and aahs around the room. As a bonus, I scored it on a walk-in basis as Jean Jacques always has some cakes ready to buy. If you want to ensure you get this one, though, I’d suggest you call a day ahead to claim your cake.
Ice Cream Cakes from Gelati Celesti
I’m not above proclaiming myself an ice cream cake expert. For years I’ve chosen an ice cream cake over a regular cake for my own birthday. The reason Gelati Celesti’s ice cream cakes reign supreme in my mind is that you can create your own cake by choosing up to three flavors for the shop to layer with only 24 hours notice. A few months ago I created a cake for my manager’s birthday with Butter Pecan, Coffee and Cream and Chocolate Peanut Butter. No coworker could resist a slice of the incredibly enticing end result. The hardest part was deciding which three flavors to choose!
Pearl’s Cupcake Shoppe Full Cake
Pearl’s doesn’t just offer wildly inventive cupcakes and beautiful wedding cakes—with a call ahead and a few days notice, you can also order birthday cakes and the like. If your honoree likes classic chocolate cake, this is where you should go. You know how some chocolate cakes taste like the confectionery equivalent of a bad designer knockoff purse, rendering them a total waste of calories? You’ll find none of that here. The cake itself is dark and rich with fudgy chocolate frosting that makes it hard not to down the entire amazing slice. The traditional vanilla cake is delicious as well. If you missed the order ahead deadline, don’t forget you can also stop by Pearl’s for a mouthwatering selection of cupcakes with flavors that change daily.
Shyndigz Fresh Fruit Cake
With five pie flavors and over ten special order cake flavors to choose from, Shyndigz is Richmond’s dessert specialist. In terms of cakes, you can also choose from two sizes, one that serves 6-10 and one that serves 10-16. I really haven’t tried anything I didn’t like here, but my favorite has to be the Fresh Fruit Cake, which features layers of vanilla cake, rich cream cheese icing and bright, fresh seasonal fruit. Others that top my list include the Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake with layers of chocolate cake, peanut butter chocolate buttercream and peanut butter mousse; the peanut butter pie, which is piled insanely high; and the key lime pie, which is a lovely blend of sweet and tart made with fresh limes. Shyndigz accepts orders online with 48 hours advance notice. And, if you forget, you can always stop by Shyndigz 2 Go and see what goodies are for sale each day.
Giant Donut from Sugar Shack
Know someone who just isn’t into cakes at all? Forget the cake and get them a giant donut. With just 24 hours notice, Sugar Shack will create one in any flavor you choose. In the past, I’ve gotten adventurous with maple bacon and gone more classic with vanilla sprinkles or M&M. All have been well received.