With its rich history of immigrant settlement, traditional baked goods are in Philadelphia’s blood. This is the home of Butter Cake, after all. Locals have favorite neighborhood bakeries where things haven’t changed in 25, 50, or 100 years, but a swath of hip new bakeries that combine favorite flavors to create sublime desserts are keeping things. Old or new, savory or sweet, this town knows and loves its baked goods—and these are our six favorites.
Brown Betty Dessert Boutique
The charming “mile high” cakes and cupcakes at Brown Betty Dessert Boutique seduce the eyes first. Then, they win hearts with flavors like sweet potato pound cake with spiced vanilla buttercream, and ganache with chocolate fudge cake and chocolate icing. Each cake is named after one of owners Linda and Norrdina’s relatives, and their best traits or favorite hobbies.
Imagine it: a pumpkin pie baked inside a chocolate cake, topped with apple pie baked inside vanilla cake, which is filled and frosted with vanilla buttercream. “Pumpple Cake” is a real thing at Flying Monkey in the Reading Terminal Market, if you order 72 hours in advance. The spot is also known for its whoopie pies in dozens of flavors and fillings, as well as mini bundt cakes in flavors like hot buttered rum and pink lemonade.
Kermit’s Bake Shoppe
“Imagine if a pizzeria and a bakery had a baby,” says Kermit Bake Shoppe’s website. Here, hazelnut tea cakes, pumpkin rosemary anglaise tarts, and oreo mousse cakes live peacefully next to creative pizzas topped with pesto, maitake mushrooms, and applewood-smoked ham. A French-trained pastry chef leads this happy union of savory and sweet under one roof.
Metropolitan Bakery’s six locations in some of Philadelphia’s best neighborhoods sell more than 30 varieties of homemade breads made with locally sourced and sustainable products from area farmers and small producers. Try the organic Miche with a sourdough flavor and a chewy, hearty texture, inspired by the famous bread of the Poilâne bakery in Paris, and pumpernickel made with dark rye flour, onions, sunflower seeds, brewed coffee, cocoa powder, and honey molasses.
Philadelphians talk about Termini Brothers with a reverence not often seen in this no-nonsense town. In business since 1921, the bakery now sells its signature, handmade cannoli at four locations, two in its original home of South Philly, and two in Center City. Among the many sweet treats on offer are authentic Italian specialties like sfogliatelle (crispy puff pastries filled with ricotta and orange peel), torrone (nougats dotted with pistachio), and regina biscotti (crunchy lemon cookies rolled in sesame seeds).
Philly’s first and only “allergen-free” bakery, Sweet Freedom is completely gluten-free and vegan, and avoids refined sugar, corn, wheat, peanuts, and soy. Treats—including cupcakes, cookies, loaves, donuts, muffins, and bread—utilize unique ingredients like garbanzo bean flour, coconut milk, and arrowroot to satisfy those with and without food allergies.
Sarah Maiellano is on the Philadelphia beat for Travel + Leisure. You can follow her on Twitter at @SarahMaiellano.