Cake Crusade: Fabiana's Bakery and Vanille Patisserie
Author: Rylen Sigman
Photographer: Yejie Lee
There is nothing particularly out of the ordinary about me eating four pieces of cake on a given afternoon, but this sugary foray was special: it marked the beginning of my epic journey into Chicago’s best cakeries and sweets shops. For the first installment of my series, I stuck close to home, comparing cakes from 53rd Street’s Fabiana’s Bakery and Vanille Pâtisserie to determine how I could best invest my designated cake money. Welcome to my Cake Crusade.
A UChicago favorite, Fabiana’s serves homemade cakes and baked goods in a constantly updating menu. Trying to capture both ends of the vanilla-chocolate spectrum, I decided to try a slice of the red velvet cake and the berry cake.
Red Velvet Cake
The texture of this cake was close to perfection-- moist and dense without being too heavy. However,it was a little too sweet for my liking. Personally, I’m a fan of the tastes-like-chocolate-cake-but-it’s-red genre of red velvet cake, and this tasted more like pure sugar. Although still enjoyable, this cake came across too cloying without the darkness of chocolate to offset the sweetness.
The cream cheese frosting was quite heavy in a satisfying way. The density matched well with the texture of the cake, and the cream cheese flavor came across in just the right amount. My only qualm was that the frosting was also incredibly sweet, like the cake, which made it difficult to eat a lot of this.
Tasty to eat, but the red velvet itself could have been more present.
This cake was very similar to that of the red velvet; smooth, dense, moist. It was also very sweet, although the flavor seemed to work better in this cake, as it was meant to be paired with lighter and fruitier taste of berries.
The frosting was a bit more complex than the red velvet, including a chocolate flavored middle layer, pink berry flavor on the top, a sweet berry purée drizzle, and actual strawberries and blueberries. While the chocolate provided a pleasant, dark offset to the sweetness of the cake, I was a little disappointed that the berry frosting and purée were just as sugary as the cake. As with the red velvet, the overall sweetness was a bit too rich for me. In this case, I would have like a bit of tartness in the purée to offer a contrast. Still, the frosting had a nice density.
A bit too sweet for my liking.
This elegant French pastry shop is a recent addition to Hyde Park, although it has a few older locations downtown. In an effort to match these cakes to what I tasted at Fabiana’s, I decided to try a red velvet cupcake and a mascarpone berry cheesecake.
Red Velvet Cupcake
The texture of this cake was not quite as moist as the red velvet I had at Fabiana’s, but still dense nonetheless. I was more impressed by the flavor here, which was much darker and closer to the chocolate taste I like.
The presentation of this cupcake involved vanilla buttercream frosting, cream cheese filling, white chocolate shavings, and a red velvet macaron. I found the frosting a bit light for my liking, with a whipped cream texture that felt unmatched to the heaviness of the cake. I much preferred the density of the Fabiana’s frosting. I also did not notice much of a difference between the cream cheese filling and the frosting; both tasted like vanilla to me. I did enjoy the white chocolate shavings and macaron garnish, as they gave the whole cupcake an elegant look.
I liked the cake itself a lot more than the frosting.
I absolutely loved the smooth, gel-like texture of this cheesecake, which paired very nicely with the creamy cheese flavor. The overall cohesiveness of the texture was really satisfying. Although this cheesecake isn’t completely comparable to the Fabiana’s berry cake, I did like that it wasn’t quite as sweet as the berry cake. My only qualm with the cake was that the base-layer crust felt a bit too thin; I would have preferred a thicker, hard crust or just no crust at all.
The berry puree and glazed blueberries and strawberries on top of this cheesecake were very similar to those on the Fabiana’s berry cake, if not slightly less sweet. I liked how the jelly texture of the purée felt identical to that of the cheesecake itself. I do think that the purée and glazed berries could have also used a note of tartness to offset the sweetness of the cake, but the sweetness was definitely not as overwhelming here as it was on the berry cake.
I really enjoyed this cake!
I would call this a fair tie between these cake shops! While I preferred the frosting at Fabiana’s, the cake and intricate presentation at Vanille Patisserie were better than those at Fabiana’s.
Stay tuned for the next installment of my Cake Crusade!