"Oh, you don't have to get me anything, dear. Just seeing you is enough." Yeah right, Mom. Why is it that that they always lay the passive-aggressive guilt trip down just in time for Mother's Day?
When you need to show Mom some love, but she refuses to tell you what she wants, you can't go wrong with an impressive cake. While you might be tempted to try and bake it yourself, just remember the time when you tried to make Mom cupcakes back in grade school—when you learned that salt and sugar may look alike, but boy do they taste different. Doesn't Mom deserve better? How about one of these signature cakes from Chicago's best bakeries?
Few things evoke homemade charm quite like some old-fashioned south-of-the-border desserts. If you don't happen to be a Mexican grandma yourself, finding the perfect tres leches cake can be a hassle. Lucky for you, Pilsen's BomBon offers a full menu of authentic (and tasty) tres leches cakes—from the delicate Amaretto, with light vanilla sponge cake, roasted almonds and a dash of amaretto liqueur, to the tropical rum-laced Acapulco, with a pina colada flavor and pineapple chunks. If you really want to impress Mom, go with the signature Bombon version: vanilla sponge cake soaked with condensed, evaporated and regular milks, topped with a dash of rum, sweet cream vanilla and a sprinkle of Mexican cinnamon. It's made daily in 6-inch or 9-inch versions, and larger cakes available with special order (from $30).
Sweet Mandy B's
Who says vanilla has to be dowdy? Mandy B's can be a little overwhelming; cupcakes beckon from every direction, in every conceivable flavor: carrot, banana, devil's food, red velvet. Yes, it takes some substantial willpower to make your lips say, "Vanilla, please," when so many tempting options lie in front of you, but trust us: Order the vanilla cake with plain-old vanilla frosting (from $8). The simple profile of the vanilla-vanilla cake showcases what we all already know: Sweet Mandy B's has some mean pastry chops. Moist, delicate and with just a hint of vanilla aroma, this cake is sweet without being too sugary. Who knew that simple vanilla could be such an indulgence?
Remember the thrill of making Mom her Mother's Day present? How proud you were about the awkward crayon-drawn greeting cards and the clay vessel that you intended as a vase, but accidentally squashed and presented to your non-smoking mother as an ashtray. Get back in touch with that childhood creative streak at Humboldt Park's Tipsycake, where you can build Mom a custom cake. Start with basic flavors like chocolate or yellow, or go all out with decadent takes on devil's food and flourless chocolate. To really impress her, order up a rich red velvet with choice of frosting; Italian buttercream, ganache and a myriad of gluten-free, vegan varieties are available, but we recommend you go with the classic cream cheese. Cakes start at $30.
Eli's Cheesecake World and Cafe
There once was a time when cheesecake was just about the most indulgent dessert that regular folks could get their hands on. And then the "Golden Girls," with every episode showing the four women huddled around a cheesecake in the middle of the night, came along and ruined it for everyone; after all, feeling like Bea Arthur isn't exactly cause for celebration. Fortunately for Chicagoans, Eli's hawks cheesecakes that are so delicious, there's not a chance you'll be thinking about anything else. In fact, the only thing negative that can be said about an Eli's cheesecake is that it's virtually impossible to decide on which flavor to buy. Enter the Original Flavors Sampler ($40), a nine-inch saucer split into quarters. Chocolate-chip, retro-chic strawberry, candy-bar crunch and that perfect original come together for a gift that Mom won't refuse (and probably won't share, either).
Mom can't survive on cake alone! Read our guide to Mother's Day Dining to find a brunch or lunch that'll start her special day off right. And forget the flowers; get her a gift she'll really like.