From Charleston to L.A., these bakeries put a creative, seasonal twist on cupcakes, pies, and cookies.

Elizabethan Desserts, San Diego

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Owner Elizabeth Harris bakes her strawberry rhubarb pie with a shortbread cookie crust and is so thorough that even the peanut butter cups used in her peanut butter pie are made from scratch. In fall 2013, she will convert the original Sunshine Nursery space into Betty’s Pie Whole Saloon (serving sweet and savory pies) while moving the full-service bakery to a new El Camino Real location. Expect a 1940s vibe—vintage cookie jars, a mint-and-white palette—and the welcome addition of air-conditioning to keep those Beeze-kneeze chocolate and buttercream cupcakes cool.

Must-Try Item: The St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake Bar, a vanilla cake filled with creamy vanilla custard and topped with fresh berries. elizabethandesserts.com

America's Best Bakeries

Elizabethan Desserts, San Diego

Owner Elizabeth Harris bakes her strawberry rhubarb pie with a shortbread cookie crust and is so thorough that even the peanut butter cups used in her peanut butter pie are made from scratch. In fall 2013, she will convert the original Sunshine Nursery space into Betty’s Pie Whole Saloon (serving sweet and savory pies) while moving the full-service bakery to a new El Camino Real location. Expect a 1940s vibe—vintage cookie jars, a mint-and-white palette—and the welcome addition of air-conditioning to keep those Beeze-kneeze chocolate and buttercream cupcakes cool.

Must-Try Item: The St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake Bar, a vanilla cake filled with creamy vanilla custard and topped with fresh berries. elizabethandesserts.com

Albert Domasin [1] [1] http://www.flickr.com/photos/72398575@N00/

America's Best Bakeries

Theresa Velazquez’s D.C. bakery business is thriving, yet she has no interest in expansion. “We own this one place, and we really make ourselves part of the neighborhood,” says the co-owner of Baked & Wired in Georgetown, where hazelnut ganache cupcakes are playfully displayed in upside-down coffee beakers.

Many of America’s best bakeries are family-run establishments that take a similar approach and pride in their community. They’re appealing, one-of-a-kind spots where travelers can break to enjoy made-from-scratch pastries that often highlight local ingredients.  

At Standard Baking Co. in Portland, ME, Alison Pray recently debuted Maine miche, an organic whole-wheat bread made with 100 percent single varietal wheat grown by a local farmer. “You couldn’t have imagined this 18 years ago when we started,” she says.

Great bakeries are not afraid to evolve or experiment, reinventing classic desserts as well as offering lesser-known European treats. So on your next trip, head to one of these bakeries for a sweet start to the day—whether an apricot puff pastry tart with almond cream or the gibassier, a French citrus-flavored bread.   

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