Illinois may seem like any another Midwest state, but there’s more to the state’s food culture than just deep dish pizza. From the rich and decadent to more subtle sweets, the region boasts some of the country’s most outrageous, over-the-top desserts.
I am from Illinois, but home state bias aside, I can promise you that you’ll wish you were here too. The food is that good. Feast with your eyes and start preparing the road trip of a lifetime.
1. 14K Chocolate Cake at RPM Steak, Chicago
You may know Bill and Giuliana Rancic, founders of RPM Steak and its sister restaurant RPM Italian. Lathered in milk and dark chocolate, this not-so-ordinary chocolate cake is also decorated with gold leaf flakes. Each bite of this decadent dessert will make you feel like royalty.
2. S’mores Pie at Hoosier Mama Pie Company, Evanston
Rather than going through the mess of making s’mores, serve this pie up at your next bonfire. But don’t let the meringue on top fool you for thinking this dessert is light and fluffy. In fact, each pie contains exactly five ounces of chocolate ganache as well as a layer of chocolate mousse.
3. Chocolate Banana Pudding at Magnolia Bakery, Chicago
A Magnolia staple, this dessert contains layers of Oreo cookies, fresh bananas, chocolate pudding and chocolate shavings. But if you’re not a chocolate person (please leave…just kidding), the classic pudding is also available.
4. Original Rainbow Cone Ice Cream at Original Rainbow Cone, Chicago
Taste the rainbow while enjoying this five-layered sweet. Chocolate, strawberry, palmer house (cherry with walnuts), pistachio and orange sherbet…it’s a mouthful, but one worth stuffing your mouth for.
5. Millefeuille at Au Cheval, Chicago
A classic French pastry, the word Millefueille means one-thousand sheets or layers. Puff pastry and cream filling may seem simple, but the textures of the dessert are amazing. Both delicate and divine, you’ll wish these layers could go on forever.
6. Whoopee Pie at Bent Fork Bakery, Highwood
With a pink exterior color, you can’t miss driving by this bakery. And why would you? From the dipped cookies to the pies and cakes, every sweet treat is worth trying. Especially, the whoopee pies which are filled with a generous center and hugged by two pillows of chocolatey-goodness.
7. Giant Birthday Cake Donut at Firecakes Donuts, Chicago
As the name suggests, this is a huge-ass cake composed of donuts. Glazed and covered in sprinkles and chocolate pearls, this dessert will make a memorable birthday. But even if it’s not your big day, it’ll give you a party in your mouth.
8. Tableside S’mores at Prime and Provisions Steakhouse, Chicago
Move over steak, because this dessert is where it’s at. The Tableside S’mores arrives as a big chocolate sphere over a bed of graham crackers and a smear of marshmallow sauce. But the best part of this dining experience is when hot chocolate sauce is poured over the sphere, melting it and releasing smoke.
9. Macadamia Turtle Ice Cream Pie at Gibson’s Bar & Steakhouse, Oak Brook
With cakes the size of your head (or larger) at Gibsons, this pie does not come up short. Ice cream, nuts and chocolate…plus a little extra. Seriously, this dessert (as in sweet feast) is a monster. But I would not hesitate to take it on.
10. Egg Waffle Plus at J Smile 51, Chicago
Waffles are dessert, especially when they’re smothered in ice cream and chocolate sauce. But what exactly is an egg waffle? It may look like bubble wrap, but it’s egg-based batter cooked on a hot griddle with small round cells. Weird but quite satisfying.
11. Strawberry & Rhubarb Cake at Mindy’s Hot Chocolate, Chicago
Don’t let the size fool you because this dessert is packed with layers of flavors. Brown butter buckwheat cake with strawberries, rhubarb and celery. Yes, I said celery. While it does seem out of place, it adds a nice crispness to the dish. And to top this cake off is a buttermilk-strawberry sorbet. Pair it up with one of Mindy’s nine signature hot chocolates and you know life is good.
12. Cheesecake Tart Miniature Pastry at Deerfields Bakery, Deerfield
Tiny graham cracker cups filled with cheesecake…and who doesn’t love tiny things? Topped with your choice of fudge or a fresh strawberry slice, this is the perfect bite-sized dessert. But be sure to get more than one, because this pastry will make you want another.
13. Sundae Funnel Cake at Churro Factory, Gurnee
Fried batter, ice cream, powdered sugar and whipped cream. It’s the dessert you wish was at every carnival (and in your household on the daily).
14. PB Puppy Chow Sundae at Julie Ann’s Frozen Custard, Crystal Lake
Choose from one of Julie Ann’s ten signature sundaes. This sundae is all about that puppy chow and peanut butter. Have you ever had puppy chow with ice cream? If not, this creamy dessert is a life-changer.
15. Superman at Snow Dragon Shavery, Evanston
Not only is the Superman an aesthetically appealing dessert, but it’s also one that stands apart from its other French competitors. Have you ever heard of ice cream on a macaron? Well, Snow Dragon Shavery is doing just that. And this particular one is cotton candy flavored.
16. Sundae at Margie’s Candies, Chicago
From the ice cream to the toppings to the waffle cones, Margie’s makes everything homemade. Choose from 14 different ice cream flavors and more than eight toppings to make your sundae truly delicious. Another extra delight is that these treats come with wafers, and who doesn’t enjoy a good wafer with ice cream?
17. Chocolate Chip Concha at Cantina 1910, Chicago
Serving authentic Mexican food, Cantina 1910 also has some killer desserts. For those who don’t know, a concha is a Mexican sweet bread that resembles the shape of a seashell. Filled with a creamy center, it’s no wonder why this dessert is so good.
18. Deep Fried Pumpkin at GT Fish & Oyster, Chicago
As one dish of GT Collective, this deep fried pumpkin is more than meets the eye. Stuffed with sweet potato and cinnamon ice cream, gingerbread cake and apple sorbet, the last finishing touch to this masterpiece is the meringue.
19. Sopapilla Cheesecake Cupcake at Smallcakes Cupcakery & Creamery, South Barrington
If that looks delicious, just wait until you find out what is in this dessert. A graham cracker cheesecake topped with cinnamon brown sugar cream cheese frosting and saving the best part for last…a cannoli! Drizzled in caramel, this cupcake just got a whole lot better as if that was even possible.
20. Amorino Rose Gelato at Amorino Chicago, Chicago
This almost looks too pretty to eat…but c’mon, who has enough self-will to not eat it. What makes this gelato place unique is that you can combine as many flavors as you want for your own rose creation. With more than 30 flavors, you could be making different combos for forever.
21. Chocolate Cake Stout Milkshake at Public House Chicago, Chicago
If the chocolate gelato milkshake wasn’t enough, a slab of double layered chocolate cake is balanced on the top. Hope you’re having chocolate fever because this dessert will quench your thirst and most likely make you thirsty.
22. Brownie Skillet at Fat Willy’s Rib Shack, Chicago
Warm brownie topped with ice cream, whipped cream and nuts makes for a great end of the night. You better enjoy your dairy because you are getting plenty of it with this dessert. But hey, every bite is worth the calories.
23. Mixed Berry Shortcake at Sweet Mandy B’s, Lincoln Park
Strawberry shortcake doesn’t compare to this mixed berry dessert from Mandy’s. A buttery and rich cake filled with whipped cream and fresh berries is the way to indulge without feeling guilty. But get it while you can because this treat is only seasonal.
24. Cakeshake at Little Raven Creamery, Peoria
Many of you know Portillo’s chocolate cake shake is a favorite, but Little Raven Creamery is taking that concept and giving it a twist. You can choose whichever cupcake and ice cream flavor for your cakeshake, whereas Portillo’s only has one option available. Trust me, you won’t find anything like this in Peoria.
25. Cookie Dough at Cookie Dough Creations, Naperville
Cookie dough is tasty on its own. But cookie dough and ice cream is even better. Serving eight different cookie dough flavors, the great thing about them is that they don’t contain eggs. Whether you want your cookie dough on top of a shake, ice cream or by itself, Cookie Dough Creations will do just that.
26. Emotion Chocolate at Vanille Patisserie, Chicago
Emotion Chocolate won the 2009 World Pastry Competition, so you know this dessert is ridiculously delicious. Containing hazelnut and an array of chocolates, this dessert will surely win you over.
27. Paletas at La Michoacana Premium, Berwyn
A paleta is a Mexican popsicle, and La Michoacana is serving up both fruit and cream paletas. With a wide range of flavors from mango con chile to cappuccino, these cool treats are perfect for summer.
28. Lemon Raspberry Angel Food Cake at Toni Patisserie & Cafe, Chicago
This is truly a beautiful dessert. Fluffy lemon cake covered in raspberry frosting creates the perfect balance of sweetness and flavors. Whether you dine-in or takeout, these French-inspired pastries will keep you coming back.
29. Lemon Meringue Tart at Cocoa Bean Fine Desserts, Geneva
Sweet. Tart. And beyond delicious. Cocoa Bean specializes in pastries and cakes, and it’s clear to see that this lemon tart is worth the drive up to Geneva, which is located in northern Illinois.
30. 1870 Tower at Graeter’s Ice Cream, Northbrook
The 1870 Tower is one of many signature sundaes at Graeter’s. Starting from the bottom up, you have a chocolate bundt cake filled with hot fudge and a scoop of raspberry chocolate chip ice cream. Next, you have more fudge along with whipped cream, pecans and the classic cherry.