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Wednesday, February 1

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Review Tue Feb 10 2009

Bliss Is Not More

morecupcakeThis is not a picture of a cupcake from Sugar Bliss, the recently opened Loop designer cupcake joint in the shadow of the Wabash 'L'. I tried to photograph one of their cakes, but when I set the top-heavy thing down, it promptly rolled over, its sickly sweet frosting gluing it with curious strength to the unfortunate top of my Ikea knock-off tulip table.

The above, instead, is a picture of a cupcake from More Cupcakes, the upscale Gold Coast bakery currently suing a former staffer for allegedly ignoring a non-compete agreement and going to work for Sugar Bliss. I have two words for More: Don't worry.

Being a downtown resident, I was excited at the opening of Sugar Bliss--finally a hip bakery I could walk to from my Marina City high-rise home. I was even more jazzed to learn one of their main bakers was an alum of More.

Last year, we collectively reviewed the latter cupcake palace on Drive-Thru. We enjoyed surprisingly well-crafted (if slightly pricey) creations like red velvet, salted caramel, and pink grapefruit with consistently moist cake below delicate, none-too-towering frosting, above. We were even more astonished at the total success of unlikely savory flavors like maple-bacon, Madras curry, and BLT.

If you're wondering, that photo above is a More maple-bacon cupcake. The cupcake that rolled over and went into the garbage with its brethren was a simple vanilla-frosted vanilla cupcake from Sugar Bliss. Even after the unfortunate cake carnage, I did my best to like the now-smushed vanilla-vanilla, along with the spice and lemon-drop cupcakes I had bought along with.

I quickly learned names don't matter at Sugar Bliss. Everything tasted the same--and none of it all that good. All three cupcakes were overdone to the point of being crunchy and tough on the outside, leaving them dry and arid within. Each was topped with a "signature sugar bloom" of frosting, which turned out to be a woefully over-coiffed, flower-shaped dollop of what to the tongue feels like a strangely heavy mixture of pure sugar and bathroom caulk, in equal measure.

Altogether, Sugar Bliss was about as nasty a bakery experience as I've had in my six years in the Windy City, or anywhere else for that matter. I can't believe I'm writing these words. Then again, you wouldn't believe how long it took to get that off-putting, glue-inspired frosting out of my faux chilewich placemats.

If you find yourself anywhere near Sugar Bliss and in need of some sugar stimulation, my advice is to head directly next Mrs. Field's. (There's some unwise store placement, for you). Otherwise, stick with me and head up to the Gold Coast's More Cupcakes.

That is, if you don't want your cupcake to end up sticking to you.

[Update: This post generated a lot of mixed comments about Sugar Bliss--apparently, you either love it or you don't. For more commentary about the alleged inconsistency of the place, see their Yelp listing.]

115 North Wabash Avenue, Chicago, IL

One East Delaware Place (at State Street), Chicago, IL

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Sara / February 10, 2009 5:20 PM

Obviously you know someone at More or work at More to write a review like this...
Also that the More baker was a "major" baker...then why are they selling out everyday without their major baker>?

J / February 10, 2009 9:40 PM

Whoa, this review is out of left field and completely crazy. I work in a company where we often bring our clients cupcakes and have tried the my fair share of cupcake places in the city. I noticed Sugar Bliss on my way home from work one night and had to check it out. They were closing up for the night, so not many cupcakes were left. I tried the mini carrot cupcake and it was still delicious with carrot slivers where they're supposed to be, light, slightly sweet, addicting cream cheese frosting. The worker (not sure if it was the owner) was so friendly and excited about the cupcakes it made me want to go back and I will. I've also tried most of More cupcakes, including the bacon and ranch - meh.

Di / February 10, 2009 10:09 PM

I could not disagree more; actually, I had quite the opposite experience. I have been to both More and Sugar Bliss. As much as I wanted to love More, my experience there was highly disappointing. I had anxiously awaited my moment alone with their Salted Caramel Cupcake, only to slice the thing in half and have my knife get stuck in the "gooey caramel". No thanks.

Sugar Bliss, on the other hand, where I purchased five different miniatures, was moist cake and, IMHO, a very nice ration of cake to icing.

Readers, do a side by side and see for yourself...More's got nothing on the Sugar Bliss.

Alissa / February 11, 2009 12:10 AM

I have never had a cupcake from More, but I did have the experience of eating Sugar Bliss mini cupcakes at my boyfriend's work function a few weeks ago. I politely said to the host that they were pretty good, but everyone else seemed to take a bite and leave the rest, mentioning that they were either too dry or too sweet (due to the mountain of frosting piled on the teeny tiny cupcake). I can promise you I'm not an insider or even a foodie. I just love sweets and was thoroughly unimpressed.

Pattie / February 11, 2009 12:35 AM

I have not yet tried the cupcakes at More, but I've had my share of Chicago's finest cupcakes from across the city. The Lemon Drop cupcake from Sugar Bliss was the saddest excuse for a lemon cupcake I've ever had the displeasure of tasting. It was merely yellow cake topped with lemon flavored frosting. I could have made a better cupcake at home with the help of Duncan Hines. If I order a lemon cupcake I expect the cake to be equally lemony as the frosting. I have never felt any dessert had too much frosting, in my opinion cupcakes are merely a vehicle for frosting. Sugar Bliss had acceptable lemon frosting but the cake part, was meh.
I urge you to venture into Wicker Park and try the delights of Sweet Cakes on Damen. The Key Lime cupcake had cake that actually tasted like key lime, the frosting, was OK, could have been sweeter for me, but my companions enjoyed their treats. I also tried the mint chocolate chip cupcake. very very good.

Sara / February 11, 2009 12:09 PM

I have tried their lemon drop and can taste the lemon and see the actual "lemon zest". Don't forget that Duncan Hines uses artificial flavors and coloring...but if that is your preferance than probably stick to Jewel Osco cupcakes

JG / February 11, 2009 2:18 PM

I've only had SB's Chocolate Cappuchino, but it was nothing like Mr. Doyle's experience. Actually, it may have been the best cupcake I've ever had: moist, rich chocolate cake with just the right amount of not-too-sweet (& not at all "sticky") frosting.

Terry B / February 11, 2009 5:19 PM

I'm still bummed that the lovely little shop cupcakes in Lakeview has closed. They offered a small but uniformly delicious and changing menu.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
Read this feature »

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