Copyright 2013. Treve Johnson

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

Sweet Bar Bakery, Oakland, CA

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Mani Niall opened downtown’s first artisan bakery in a historic building that once housed MacFarlane’s Candy and Ice Cream. It’s the latest successful stint in a career that has included being Michael Jackson’s private chef and running an L.A. bakery for 20 years. His passion for natural and organic baked goods translates to gluten-free oatmeal sour cherry chocolate chip cookies and vegan chocolate truffle cupcakes with almond brittle. Mocha chip whoopie pies are a guiltier pleasure.

Must-Try Item: Banana Cake Fauxnut, a vegan, Bundt cake–like donut. sweetbarbakery.com

America's Best Bakeries

Sweet Bar Bakery, Oakland, CA

Mani Niall opened downtown’s first artisan bakery in a historic building that once housed MacFarlane’s Candy and Ice Cream. It’s the latest successful stint in a career that has included being Michael Jackson’s private chef and running an L.A. bakery for 20 years. His passion for natural and organic baked goods translates to gluten-free oatmeal sour cherry chocolate chip cookies and vegan chocolate truffle cupcakes with almond brittle. Mocha chip whoopie pies are a guiltier pleasure.

Must-Try Item: Banana Cake Fauxnut, a vegan, Bundt cake–like donut. sweetbarbakery.com

Copyright 2013. Treve Johnson

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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