Like many people, Kenneth Geary had a childhood nickname. “Skinnie Piggy.” The moniker was bestowed upon him by his grandmother due to his large appetite and high metabolism. The name has stuck, as Kenneth and co-owner, Monica Rodriguez, have not only dubbed their sweets shop "Skinnie Piggy" but have also incorporated its meaning into the concept of the store. Executive chef Elizabeth McCabe handcrafts a daily menu of freshly-baked pies, poundcakes, and cupcakes, most of which come in Hog (huge), Skinnie (regular), and Piglet (mini) sizes, an innovation that gained praise from ABC7, Chicago Magazine, and Pop Sugar. Amid pink polka dotted walls decorated with local artwork, customers can dispense gourmet treats such as Jelly Belly’s from clear containers, and peruse more than 25 types of nostalgic candies, from Fun Dip to Zotz Fizz. The sweets boutique also caters special occasion parties and business meetings with confectionary bouquets and candy boxes.
Described by bon appétit as "in a word, lovely," the sweet creations at Lovely Bake Shop are the brainchild of husband and wife team Bob and Gina Hartwig. The two French Pastry School Graduates swung open the doors to their cozy Milwaukee avenue space in 2007. Flanked by turquoise walls and decorated with rustic farmhouse furniture, the "airy, warm café" is dotted with vintage floral prints and communal seating, where guests dig into slices of banana nut pound cake, savory quiche, and their signature 4-inch pies. Most recently, the couple has embarked upon Bakin’ & Eggs—a breakfast and brunch spot in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood, and Lovely, too, a second bakery in Edgewater.
The windows on Sweet Mandy B’s lilac and buttercup storefront showcase a spread of old-fashioned desserts. Helmed by home-baker Cindy, this nostalgic Lincoln Park sweet shop dazzles the young, the old, and the media—from Travel + Leisure to The Food Network—with display cases filled with fresh-baked cinnamon rolls, lemon bars, and chocolate cookies sandwiched around vanilla frosting. Passersby can stop in for an a la carte dessert or cup of coffee enjoyed amid the shop’s playful blue and purple color scheme, while planners can order customized cakes and cupcakes in over a dozen flavors, such as snickerdoodle and banana chocolate chip.
Swirlz Cupcakes opened more than 6 years ago, placing them near the forefront of the cupcake craze that would spawn thousands of boutique bakeries and force regular-sized cakes to fire their PR team. They may have some new competition, but the bakers hang their fluffy white hats on the integrity of these decadent treats, which remain as fresh as ever. Each day, they turn out small batches of moist, fluffy cakes—painting the edible canvases with tantalizing swirls of pumpkin cream cheese and red velvet frostings. On top of every creamy spiral, the cupcake artists leave a small delicacy such as a chocolate-covered sunflower or espresso bean. Their rotating line-up of flavors include gluten-free or vegan options such as double chocolate, taffy apple, and banana Nutella.
Phoebe Walters and Kate McNamara have been through a lot together. Best friends since high school, the two stayed close all the way through culinary school, and even worked at some of the same jobs together. In the spring of 2009, they teamed up to open their dream store: a cupcake bakery. It’s here at Phoebe’s Cupcakes, where 15 rotating flavors from a selection of more than 200 fill the pastry cases, that their dream has come true, and not the weird one about their old shop teacher singing "76 Trombones" backwards. Classic cakes such as red velvet line up next to more unusual concoctions, such as malt ball, candy corn, and peaches and cream cupcakes. Walters and McNamara also craft custom cakes as well as bakery items ranging from shortbread cookies to chocolate-covered cake truffles.
Dinkel’s Bakery is indeed a family affair. Joseph K. Dinkel, an emigrant master baker from Bavaria Germany, opened the bakery in 1922—and since then—it’s seen four generations of Dinkels walk through its doors. Though now owned by Joseph’s grandson, Norman, the original recipes still inform the custom pastries, breads, and cakes that made this place a neighborhood favorite. The staff ensures freshness by using locally sourced ingredients, including eggs, honey, dairy, and wheat from Wisconsin, and fills up cups with Chicago’s own Metropolis Coffee. When it comes to chocolate, the owner draws from his German roots and bakes with Lubeca milk chocolate.
Since 1994, Andersonville’s A Taste of Heaven has beatified tastebuds with freshly baked pastries, sandwiches, and decadent desserts. The resident bakers whip up everything from scratch, bringing malted milk ball cupcakes to life, and layering slices of oven-warm bread with roast beef, peppered turkey, fontina cheese, and red pepper mayo for the Goodman sandwich. During weekend brunch, the cozy shop runs the sweet-and-savory gamut with brioche french toast covered in real Vermont maple syrup, and a breakfast burrito that tests the structural integrity of tortilla with loads of cheddar, guacamole, and scrambled eggs.