Cupcakes are so ubiquitous these days, it is hard to get excited about them. They're everywhere, in red velvet and chocolate and vanilla and praline and pecan fudge and butter brickle and hot tamale and Coca-Cola and root beer and hot mulled cider and coffee and mocha and latte and on and on and on...if it is sweet, it is a cupcake. But not so at Chaos Theory Cakes, the all-grown-up-and-ready-for-my-closeup brainchild of Michelle Garcia, the baker and pastry chef behind the all-organic Bleeding Heart Bakery, where if it is savory, it most definitely must be dessert.
There's more than a bit of trendiness about a concept - the savory dessert- so oft discussed in restaurant reviews, pastry chef-glorifying periodicals (about a 5 star chef, I recall reading, about 8 years ago, 'pastry chef x uses more salt than sugar in his desserts') and general discussion. But don't dismiss Chaos Theory as another follower. They're definitely doing something different - wholistically, the package is unlike any other shop I've visited in the US. It is an all-organic, fantastical, riotous carnival of colors and flavors and textures and ideas that lead to only one place: the mind of Michelle Garcia. Sure, other chefs in the US and around the world are exploring the same territory, but not with the singular vision and passion of Chaos Theory Cakes.
The entry level dessert for the less adventurous is the cupcake. The day I went I tried the curry, chocolate, and cardamom cupcake, which I adored. One of my favorite flavors of Vosges chocolate is the Naga bar, made with chocolate, coconut and curry. This cupcake was the angel-soft version, and I really enjoyed the uber-fudgy icing.
Though I didn't try it (I'm not an eater of the bacon, at least not yet), the bacon and chocolate cupcake looks equally good. Yes, that's a bacon garnish. I'm told it is even more tasty. Ah.
What I loved about my visit to Chaos Theory is the immediate and unrelenting attack on my senses the moment I pushed open the door on a hot August afternoon. Music. Color. Aroma. Flavor. After politely asking if I could take photos for the blog (how could I help myself) I started snapping everything in sight. It was just so fun.
A couple of the murals:
Cake and mural:
The marshmallows (and 2-for-1 cupcake experiments):
Tons of candy-colored, festive cakes:
And the darned nicest shopgal I've ever met, doing some cleaning before the rush hits. She was incredibly nice, incredibly helpful, and all around obliging:
The pastries are wild. The shop essentially has five categories of baked sweets: cream puffs, cakes, cupcakes, tarts, and mousse cakes. The mousse cakes seem to have the most unique flavors, like this one:
What is it exactly? Take a gander:
There's also the Avocado Cake:
There's the mango cake with jalapeno:
I didn't try any of these savory cakes, they're a little large for a solo eater and I'm currently on a financial austerity plan. Watching my wallet, as they say. But they were fascinating to me and I've heard tell that they are quite tasty. Alas, no pictures, as they were safely tucked into a refrigerated case that reflected copious light and created unsightly glare. Trust me, they were fanciful and fun. I was pretty much able to only get a decent picture of one - the Oaxaca Cake:
I wasn't able to get a picture of the tarts, but I did bring home one of the Chocolate S'mores tarts, which is made with a rich chocolately ganache, really good meringue, and a crisp graham cracker tart shell. E and I both enjoyed it and I found myself sneaking bites when he wasn't looking.
The prices here are high, reflecting two (major) things: the cost of organic commodities right now (they're high) and the amount of labor going into each dessert (not insignificant). Some will balk at paying $6 for a small tart and $3.75 for a cupcake, but as on occasional treat it is well worth the money. Good, real ingredients aren't cheap. To frame it differently, if you were in a good restaurant, you'd gladly pay $6 for a large tart, and you'd be getting off easy with a $3.75 cupcake.
Chaos Theory Cakes
2931 N Lincoln Ave
Chicago, IL 60686