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16 Iconic Cakes in San Francisco

Let them eat cake, from old-fashioned faves to elaborate layers

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San Francisco has strong bakeries slinging sourdough and folding croissants, but it isn’t a party without cake. Whether you’re putting in an order for a special occasion or just vicariously ordering dessert on a Tuesday night, the city’s best cakes come from both bakeries and restaurants, crafted by acclaimed pastry chefs and cute neighborhood shops alike. From elaborately layered opera and princess cakes to Italian custard, Mission-style tres leches to Japanese cheesecake, there’s something to suit every sweet tooth. Plus, birthday party emergency resources, if you just need a set of cupcakes with American buttercream, like grandma always made them.

From old-fashioned faves to elaborate layers, here are the sweetest cakes in San Francisco, ordered geographically.

As of publication time, some of these restaurants offer seated indoor and outdoor dining. However, their inclusion should not be taken as endorsement for sit-down dining, as there are still safety concerns. Studies indicate that COVID-19 infection rates are lower for outside activities than dining indoors, but the level of risk involved with even outdoor dining is contingent on restaurants and their patrons following strict social distancing, face covering, and other safety guidelines.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Stella Pastry & Cafe

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Stella’s is an old standby in North Beach, serving Italian-American pastries like cannoli, tiramisu, and danishes to the neighborhood since 1942. The sacripantina cake has been on the menu for more than 40 years, and the owners say it’s perfect for weddings, baptisms, and communions. It’s vanilla sponge and zabaione shaped into a dome, and the rum sings through. 

Sacripantina cake at Stella Pastry Stella Pastry & Cafe

b. patisserie

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Award-winning pastry chef Belinda Leong has a fine dining pedigree, and her elegant tea salon serves an array of carefully constructed pastries. The seasonal cake slices feature many layers, stacking chocolate, almond, and caramel, or matcha and tiramisu, for example.

Yasukochi's Sweet Stop

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Only in Japantown can you find a bakery tucked inside a grocery store serving one of the best cakes in the city. Tom Yasukochi has been serving the coffee crunch cake since 1974. It isn’t Japanese at all, but inspired by a cake from a local soda shop. It’s a sad story, but with a sweet ending: During WWII, the Yasukochis were sent away to a Japanese internment camp, but returned after the war. Tom graduated from Lowell High School in 1955 and eventually mastered his favorite childhood treat.

Coffee crunch cake at Yasukochi’s Sweet Stop Yasukochi’s Sweet Stop

ONE65 San Francisco

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One65 is an ambitious, multi-leveled emporium all dedicated to French food. The patisserie is on the first floor, and there are many colorful macarons, cannelés, and cream puffs. Chef Yannick Dumonceau came from Quince, and he’s making a striking Imperial cake, shaped into a ring, with a crispy praline base, filled with chocolate mousse.

Imperial cake at ONE65 San Francisco ONE65 San Francisco

Schubert's Bakery

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Schubert’s has inhabited the Richmond for a century, serving old world European cakes for at least half that long. The stunner is the princess cake, and it’s SF royalty. Fluffy white layers alternate with custard, jam, and whipped cream, all regally draped in marzipan.

Princess cake at Schubert’s Caleb Pershan

Miette Patisserie

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Miette has reopened its sweet shops both in Hayes Valley and in the Ferry Building, although items may be limited, so it might be worth placing a preorder. Miette makes some of the prettiest cakes in town, perfectly smooth, in pastel colors, with a single rose or cherry nestled on top. The tomboys are the top sellers, with dark chocolate layers, and luscious Italian buttercream.

Tomboy cake at Miette Miette

20th Century Cafe

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Note: The cafe will be “winding” down over the next couple months before it closes permanently. The honey cake may make appearances at pop-ups in the future, so stay tuned.

Michelle Polzine of 20th Century Cafe was inspired by the grand cafe tradition in Vienna, Budapest, and Prague. The ladies behind the counter wear full skirts, and coffee and cake arrive on vintage china. Malty and sweet, stacked 10 to 12 layers high, the honey cake has earned a certain reputation. 

Honey cake at 20th Century Cafe 20th Century Cafe

Hahdough

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The only dedicated German bakery in San Francisco puts out a handsome array of traditional cakes. Chef and owner Ha Do is originally from Vietnam, and grew up in Germany, and missed the konditorei tradition of a coffee and not-too-sweet slice of cake in the afternoon. She stacks up Black Forest cake with chocolate and cherries, Herrentorte “gentleman’s cake” with marzipan and brandy, and Bienenstich “bee sting cake” with a thick layer of cream and a crunch of honeyed almonds.

Various slices of cakes topped with icing and fruit. Patricia Chang

Stonemill Matcha

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Stonemill Matcha pours many varieties of green tea, so it only makes sense to accompany them with an array of Japanese treats. Mikiko Yui’s soufflé cheesecake is light, airy, and never too sweet.

Soufflé cheesecake at Stonemill Matcha Stonemill Matcha

The Morris

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One of the most hyped cake trends to come out of the pandemic is Basuku Cheesecake, serving a Japanese take on a Basque cheesecake, with a deeply burnished top and ultra creamy center. It’s a small operation and those cheesecakes sell out fast, but the deal is that they’re dropping off at Nightbird, Commis, Vino Enoteca, and the Morris on various days. It’s competitive. There’s an Instagram post with ordering instructions. Good luck, and may the cheesecake odds be in your favor. 

Le Dix-Sept Pâtisserie

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Le Dix-Sept opened its first storefront in the Mission with a beautiful array of botanically inspired pastries. In addition to technical French treats like canelés and nougat, pastry chef Michelle Hernandez is a buttercream artist, crafting cakes in lavender and rose hues, with leaves and petals climbing up the sides. Whole cakes are still available for custom orders, and the petite cakes might be just the right size for smaller servings.

Cake from Le Dix-Sept Patisserie Le Dix-Sept Patisserie

Tartine Bakery

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The award-winning local bakery is known for its sourdough and croissants, but the cakes are also pastry perfection. The chocolate soufflé, filled with several layers of mousse, is a true indulgence and longtime fan favorite.

Chocolate soufflé cake at Tartine Gentl + Hyers

Butter&

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Just vaccinated? There’s a cake for that, at SF cake shop Butter&, where pithy sayings inscribed upon cakes abound. Gorgeous stacks of light brown sugar cake are stacked with your choice of flavors like brown butter and Meyer lemon, and sweet cream and berries. Options also include fully frosted cakes with designs like marble, ombre colors, and dinos. Delivery or pickup in the Dogpatch are both available.

Noe Valley Bakery

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Noe Valley’s resident bakery has been serving the small children of 24th Street for more than 20 years, doing a steady business in mini cupcakes. The custom cakes are from scratch and reasonably priced, and the red velvet has a tender buttermilk crumb and tangy cream cheese frosting.

Red velvet cake at Noe Valley Bakery Noe Valley Bakery

Dianda's Italian American Pastry

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Dianda’s is an Italian-American bakery in the heart of the Mission dating back to 1962. It’s an SF institution, the city’s last remaining unionized bakery, and an ideal place to get a sheet cake for a party. While it started out with purely Italian baked goods, after owners added tres leches to the menu, it became their bestseller. Of all the flavors, mango and strawberry are the most popular.

Chef’s holding sheet cake at Dianda’s Dianda’s Italian American Pastry

Black Jet Baking Co.

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Bernal Heights got lucky when Gillian Shaw set up shop in the neighborhood, filling her pastry case with old-fashioned treats. The double chocolate cake has dark devil’s food layers, a rich cream cheese frosting, naked sides, and liberal sprinkles.

Cakes at Black Jet Baking Co. Black Jet Baking Co.

Stella Pastry & Cafe

Sacripantina cake at Stella Pastry Stella Pastry & Cafe

Stella’s is an old standby in North Beach, serving Italian-American pastries like cannoli, tiramisu, and danishes to the neighborhood since 1942. The sacripantina cake has been on the menu for more than 40 years, and the owners say it’s perfect for weddings, baptisms, and communions. It’s vanilla sponge and zabaione shaped into a dome, and the rum sings through. 

Sacripantina cake at Stella Pastry Stella Pastry & Cafe

b. patisserie

Award-winning pastry chef Belinda Leong has a fine dining pedigree, and her elegant tea salon serves an array of carefully constructed pastries. The seasonal cake slices feature many layers, stacking chocolate, almond, and caramel, or matcha and tiramisu, for example.

Yasukochi's Sweet Stop

Coffee crunch cake at Yasukochi’s Sweet Stop Yasukochi’s Sweet Stop

Only in Japantown can you find a bakery tucked inside a grocery store serving one of the best cakes in the city. Tom Yasukochi has been serving the coffee crunch cake since 1974. It isn’t Japanese at all, but inspired by a cake from a local soda shop. It’s a sad story, but with a sweet ending: During WWII, the Yasukochis were sent away to a Japanese internment camp, but returned after the war. Tom graduated from Lowell High School in 1955 and eventually mastered his favorite childhood treat.

Coffee crunch cake at Yasukochi’s Sweet Stop Yasukochi’s Sweet Stop

ONE65 San Francisco

Imperial cake at ONE65 San Francisco ONE65 San Francisco

One65 is an ambitious, multi-leveled emporium all dedicated to French food. The patisserie is on the first floor, and there are many colorful macarons, cannelés, and cream puffs. Chef Yannick Dumonceau came from Quince, and he’s making a striking Imperial cake, shaped into a ring, with a crispy praline base, filled with chocolate mousse.

Imperial cake at ONE65 San Francisco ONE65 San Francisco

Schubert's Bakery

Princess cake at Schubert’s Caleb Pershan

Schubert’s has inhabited the Richmond for a century, serving old world European cakes for at least half that long. The stunner is the princess cake, and it’s SF royalty. Fluffy white layers alternate with custard, jam, and whipped cream, all regally draped in marzipan.

Princess cake at Schubert’s Caleb Pershan

Miette Patisserie

Tomboy cake at Miette Miette

Miette has reopened its sweet shops both in Hayes Valley and in the Ferry Building, although items may be limited, so it might be worth placing a preorder. Miette makes some of the prettiest cakes in town, perfectly smooth, in pastel colors, with a single rose or cherry nestled on top. The tomboys are the top sellers, with dark chocolate layers, and luscious Italian buttercream.

Tomboy cake at Miette Miette

20th Century Cafe

Honey cake at 20th Century Cafe 20th Century Cafe

Note: The cafe will be “winding” down over the next couple months before it closes permanently. The honey cake may make appearances at pop-ups in the future, so stay tuned.

Michelle Polzine of 20th Century Cafe was inspired by the grand cafe tradition in Vienna, Budapest, and Prague. The ladies behind the counter wear full skirts, and coffee and cake arrive on vintage china. Malty and sweet, stacked 10 to 12 layers high, the honey cake has earned a certain reputation. 

Honey cake at 20th Century Cafe 20th Century Cafe

Hahdough

Various slices of cakes topped with icing and fruit. Patricia Chang

The only dedicated German bakery in San Francisco puts out a handsome array of traditional cakes. Chef and owner Ha Do is originally from Vietnam, and grew up in Germany, and missed the konditorei tradition of a coffee and not-too-sweet slice of cake in the afternoon. She stacks up Black Forest cake with chocolate and cherries, Herrentorte “gentleman’s cake” with marzipan and brandy, and Bienenstich “bee sting cake” with a thick layer of cream and a crunch of honeyed almonds.

Various slices of cakes topped with icing and fruit. Patricia Chang

Stonemill Matcha

Soufflé cheesecake at Stonemill Matcha Stonemill Matcha

Stonemill Matcha pours many varieties of green tea, so it only makes sense to accompany them with an array of Japanese treats. Mikiko Yui’s soufflé cheesecake is light, airy, and never too sweet.

Soufflé cheesecake at Stonemill Matcha Stonemill Matcha

The Morris

One of the most hyped cake trends to come out of the pandemic is Basuku Cheesecake, serving a Japanese take on a Basque cheesecake, with a deeply burnished top and ultra creamy center. It’s a small operation and those cheesecakes sell out fast, but the deal is that they’re dropping off at Nightbird, Commis, Vino Enoteca, and the Morris on various days. It’s competitive. There’s an Instagram post with ordering instructions. Good luck, and may the cheesecake odds be in your favor. 

Le Dix-Sept Pâtisserie

Cake from Le Dix-Sept Patisserie Le Dix-Sept Patisserie

Le Dix-Sept opened its first storefront in the Mission with a beautiful array of botanically inspired pastries. In addition to technical French treats like canelés and nougat, pastry chef Michelle Hernandez is a buttercream artist, crafting cakes in lavender and rose hues, with leaves and petals climbing up the sides. Whole cakes are still available for custom orders, and the petite cakes might be just the right size for smaller servings.

Cake from Le Dix-Sept Patisserie Le Dix-Sept Patisserie

Tartine Bakery

Chocolate soufflé cake at Tartine Gentl + Hyers

The award-winning local bakery is known for its sourdough and croissants, but the cakes are also pastry perfection. The chocolate soufflé, filled with several layers of mousse, is a true indulgence and longtime fan favorite.

Chocolate soufflé cake at Tartine Gentl + Hyers

Butter&

Just vaccinated? There’s a cake for that, at SF cake shop Butter&, where pithy sayings inscribed upon cakes abound. Gorgeous stacks of light brown sugar cake are stacked with your choice of flavors like brown butter and Meyer lemon, and sweet cream and berries. Options also include fully frosted cakes with designs like marble, ombre colors, and dinos. Delivery or pickup in the Dogpatch are both available.

Noe Valley Bakery

Red velvet cake at Noe Valley Bakery Noe Valley Bakery

Noe Valley’s resident bakery has been serving the small children of 24th Street for more than 20 years, doing a steady business in mini cupcakes. The custom cakes are from scratch and reasonably priced, and the red velvet has a tender buttermilk crumb and tangy cream cheese frosting.

Red velvet cake at Noe Valley Bakery Noe Valley Bakery

Dianda's Italian American Pastry

Chef’s holding sheet cake at Dianda’s Dianda’s Italian American Pastry

Dianda’s is an Italian-American bakery in the heart of the Mission dating back to 1962. It’s an SF institution, the city’s last remaining unionized bakery, and an ideal place to get a sheet cake for a party. While it started out with purely Italian baked goods, after owners added tres leches to the menu, it became their bestseller. Of all the flavors, mango and strawberry are the most popular.

Chef’s holding sheet cake at Dianda’s Dianda’s Italian American Pastry

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