For so many Chicago families, it wouldn't be a celebration without a colorful, three-layer buttercream cake from Roeser's Bakery on North Avenue in Humboldt Park. In 1911, John Roeser Sr. opened the doors of his American dream: a bakery filled with sugary delights! Over 100 years later, the city's oldest family-owned retail bakery is still one Chicago's favorite places for a sweet treat.
A Family Recipe for Success
John Roeser arrived in Chicago from Germany in 1905 and began earning a living selling his homemade bread from his horse and cart, saving up his money to one day buy a brick and mortar bakery of his own. In 1911, he opened a bakery of his own at 3216 West North Avenue. A photo of John Roeser I standing proudly with his delivery horse and wagon at the corner of Chicago Avenue and Wells Street in the early 1900's hangs in the bakery today.
John Roeser Jr. began working at the bakery in 1936; John Roeser III began helping out in 1974; Today the bakery is run by John Roeser IV. "I have a tremendous amount of pride in the work that I do, day in and day out, at our family bakery," explains John Roeser IV. "I started working here at age 10, washing dishes, cleaning the floors...I feel as if there is a weight on my shoulders to keep this bakery going...there is a strong loyalty...to my customers...to my family....but it's in my blood.".
Take a look at the historic photos of the bakery, located on the western wall of the interior. The 1951 snapshot of the bakery's facade demonstrates that little has changed over the years. The neon signs still glow, the bakery is still packed with customers vying for a donut, drooling over the colorful cookie selection or picking up a cake order. Many of the sweet treats have been on the menu since the bakery opened, too. "We have a loyal customer base," explains John Roeser IV. "People come in to order the same cakes that their grandparents had at their weddings. I work hard to make sure that my customers arrive to find the same quality, service, and products they love."
Have the Cake & Eat It Too!
In an age when so many people are looking to save a dollar, Roeser's reminds customers that a quality, house-made product from a family run business is worth every penny. The bakery still uses the hot milk sponge cake method, which is labor intensive but creates cakes that are moist, light and fluffy. The buttercream frosting is as light as air, so much so that it's often mistaken for whipped cream. For weddings, most brides and grooms over the years have delighted in the Yellow Hot Milk Sponge Cake, filled with layers of strawberries and frosted with unbeatably smooth whipped cream.
Roeser's is best known for its torte cakes; The stars are the almost sinful German-inspired cakes. The Black Forest Cake, made of two layers of Roeser's light as air Hot Milk Sponge Cake, filled with one layer of rich chocolate loaded with cherries and one layer of Kircshwasser Brandy Buttercream, and topped with toasted almond flakes. The traditional German chocolate cake is composed of three layers of devil's food chocolate sponge cake layered with a decadant chocolate buttercream mixed with pecans and angel flake and macaroon coconut. The Turtle Torte is another favorite, with its two chocolate layers baked with caramel, pecans, and milk chocolate chips, filled with chocolate cream and a layer of buttery caramel and pecans; the cake is coated in pecans and chocolate swirls and drizzled with caramel.
If you arrive in the morning, take freshly made donut for the ride; the Sugar Twists, Chocolate Long Johns, Caramel Custard Bismarks, and Sour Cream Donuts are the perfect accompaniment to a warm cup of coffee, while the plain donuts are perfect for dunking. Roesner's bread — available in Rye and Buttercrust White — will make your next sandwich shine.
3216 W North Ave
(773) 489 - 6900
- Tuesday - Saturday: 6 a.m. - 8 p.m.
- Sunday: 6 a.m. - 6 p.m.
For more adventures in Chicago's west side, Explore The 60! The 2.7 miles of elevated park and trailways connects the neighborhoods of Wicker Park / Bucktown, Logan Square and Humboldt Park.