Best Birthday Cakes
Creative Cakes
400 East 74th Street

One baker, twelve to fifteen cakes created a week, and 21 years in the same Upper East Side location. That's Creative Cakes, one of the city's premier purveyors of custom desserts. Bill Schutz, the sole baker and proprietor of his two-room shop, makes only chocolate-fudge cake, but he can sculpt just about anything — a guitar? A box of Cheerios? — that strikes the fancy of his celebrity customers, from Cindy Crawford to Conan O'Brien, not to speak of well-heeled hoi polloi. "It's a happy business," says Schutz, who built a replica of City Hall for the mayor's inauguration. Prices start at $275 for a cake that feeds 25, and Schutz requires three weeks' notice per order.

Colette's Cakes
681 Washington Street

For flavor options beyond chocolate fudge, as well as sweets that are truly works of art, celebrity-event designer Colin Cowie recommends Colette's Cakes. Owner Colette Peters earned a master's in painting from Pratt and designed for Tiffany for eight years before turning her cake-decorating hobby into a career. "Colette will create anything you envision," says Cowie. "And her own designs are amazing." Many of her cakes are detailed portraits; an embroidered chair complete with fringed pillows was re-created for Bette Midler's birthday. Peters's client list includes Whoopi Goldberg, Al Pacino, and the crown prince of Greece, and in 1998 she was asked to create edible Christmas decorations for 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Her custom cakes start at $8.50 per person, with a minimum of $250. During holiday seasons, order a month in advance.