Variations on a Theme: The Great Restaurant Bake-off

Want a cake a cut above the rest? Skip the bakery lines and order up a custom confection from one of your favorite restaurants in town.

Photo by Toan Trinh

From left:

Before he became Executive Pastry Chef at Harvest, Joshua Livsey got his start in cake-making at a small sweets shop in Rhode Island, and even ran his own baking business. So while cakes aren’t the only focus of Harvest’s dessert program, they’re something Livsey is particularly passionate about. The chef, who competed on Food Network’s Holiday Baking Championship last year, keeps his showpieces—such as this extra-tall chocolate-blackberry number—au courant by incorporating creative elements like chocolate shards, macarons, and gold leaf.
44 Brattle St., Cambrudge, 617-868-2255,


Call her the Cake Queen. Executive Pastry Chef Kate Holowchik has crafted birthday treats for everyone from author Roald Dahl’s grandson to ArtScience bar star Tenzin Samdo; she even made a sushi cake for O Ya’s 10th-anniversary bash. Now the rest of us can order one of her whimsical desserts, like this colorful Funfetti confection, through Capo’s new personalized cakes menu. Filling, frosting, and flavor options are endless, and Holowchik delights in adorning her work with all kinds of textural toppings, including ganache drip, candy bars, popcorn, and tile.
443 W. Broadway, Boston, 617-993-8080,


Note: In the weeks since this issue went to press, Townsman closed.

Pastry chef Alyssa Piazza has been whipping up cakes at Townsman for a while—but they’ve been off-menu, made for colleagues for special occasions. That is, until now. “One day it just struck me: That’s a beautiful cake,” says chef-owner Matt Jennings, who encouraged Piazza to take her sweet masterpieces out of the kitchen and into the dining room. Townsman’s new custom cakes program will feature vanilla chiffon with Madagascar buttercream (2) and layered chocolate with Valrhona buttercream, but Piazza is always up for the challenge of developing flavors on the fly.
120 Kingston St., Boston, 617-993-0750,


Because celebrations are “so momentous for people,” pastry chef Meghan Thompson has made a point to offer cakes in nearly every restaurant kitchen she’s worked in. Reach out to her at least a week in advance, and she’ll work with you to develop your ideal dessert—anything from rustic-chic vanilla layered with rhubarb-ginger jam and strawberry-pink peppercorn butter cream to basic chocolate, in sizes that serve between two and 25 people. “It’s really personalized,” she says. “I rarely make the same cake twice.”
569 Columbus Ave, Boston, 617-536-9500,