In the quest for bakeries, Philadelphia has something delicious for every kind of sweet tooth. For starters, this city does classic Italian pastries like no other. The decadent, ricotta-filled cannoli at a handful of South Philly bakeries, for instance, will have your Sicilian nona doing back flips. But your options don’t stop at the Italian varieties. Fresh—and creatively flavored—doughnuts are being trayed up daily in kitchens from West Philly to popular Philadelphia attractions like the Reading Terminal Market. Those with dietary restrictions are covered, too, thanks to a new wave of pastry chefs whipping up mouthwatering treats like vegan cookie sandwiches and gluten-free carrot cake. Then there’s the baklava, brownies, rugelach… the choices could go on and on. This list will lead you in the right direction—and offer tips on how to find some of these treats—like Dottie’s Donuts—in some of the best local coffee shops. Philadelphia dessert hounds, consider yourself sated—and properly plumped.
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Best bakeries in Philadelphia
Tarts, chocolate-covered strawberries, towering cakes and ricotta cannoli define the Isgro experience. This expansive Italian Market bakery plates up an overwhelming number of delectables to choose from—and you can smell the sweetness from blocks away. Pay particular attention to the bakery during holidays, when a fleet of Easter Bunny chocolates fill the display cases and, at Christmas, an actually appetizing fruit cake appears to the delight of grannies everywhere. Order on weekdays, as Italian Market crowds pile up on weekends.
Named after the mother of one of the owners, Ramona Susan’s is at once classic—mastering the art of the perfect brownie and chocolate chip cookie—and irresistibly odd. Case in point: There's a unicorn head greeting customers at the door and RuPaul-themed confections come out of the oven weekly. Keep up with the shop's Instagram account for the day’s specific delights, and plan on getting your goods to-go; the shop’s footprint is cupcake-sized.
This 30-year-old Italian-American bakery with South Philly roots is one of the most reliable spots in town to order cannoli. But that’s not all they do well. Amaretto Italian cookies, long johns and butter cookies are just a handful of other enticing reasons to endure the long lines that can often form here on weekends.
One of the city’s most charming bakeries, located in the center of the bustling Reading Terminal Market, Flying Monkey thrives with its almost mind-boggling number of menu options—all packed into a relatively tiny concessions space. You can’t go wrong with their classics, like any one of the Pennsylvania whoopie pies, but turn to Flying Monkey’s breakfast sweets menu for pastries made with the kind of love and care you won’t find at many coffee shops. We’re talking pecan breakfast bread, almond crumb cake and a mini apple pie that’ll put you off McDonald’s apple pie for good.
With an irresistible sfogliattele (a Naples-originated, flaky puff pastry), Termini Bros—now in its third generation of family operation—works hard to stand out among the other Italian bakeries in town, offering the usual trays of Italian cookies and cannoli packages while throwing in curveballs such fig bars, blueberry coffee cake and a pineapple ring cake. Most reassuring, though, is the shop’s consistent freshness with every pastry.
One of a handful of staples operating out of Reading Terminal Market, Beiler’s is run by a family of Amish bakers that travels to the market Monday through Saturday with baked goods from their Lancaster County kitchens. Whoopie pies (cake-y Oreo-like confections that originate from Amish culture) are standouts on the menu. But most people are lined up here for the doughnuts, which include every kind of flavor—from classic glaze to fastnachts and apple fritters to a powdered sugar creation oozing with jelly.
Aside from boasting a bright and warm café environment to lounge in, Manakeesh Cafe Bakery is the bake shop that’s full of surprises, offering high-quality Lebanese treats like baklava, date cookies and basboona—a sweet cake with almonds. Breads, too, are baked in-house, making for an excellent babba kadush or hummus experience. Vegans, meanwhile, should go for the halwa, a dense sweet confection. Gratefully, this café splits its bakery and café operations, meaning you can drop in to order a single pastry and feel totally free to snag a table.
Yiddish for “to eat,” Essen Bakery is an easy go-to for Jewish breads and delights, featuring babka, rugelachs, challah and a rotating assortment of cakes—all made with largely local or seasonal ingredients that range from honey to apples. Recommended: Try the bite-sized chocolate rugelach after brunch on Passyunk Avenue. You’ll also find Elixr coffee here, a well-kept secret and refreshing change on an avenue of cafés otherwise filled to the brim with coffee drinks from La Colombe.
On a seriously strict diet? Consider Sweet Freedom Bakery your safe space: The menu is packed to the gills with pastries that are free of refined sugars, soy, dairy, corn and eggs. While they offer a mostly standard selection of cakes and cookies, turn your attention to the carrot cake—made with fascinating switchups like coconut milk, ground ginger and tapioca flour—and the orange cranberry loaf, made extra moist with its use of applesauce. The cherry on top? Sweet Freedom delivers.
Coveted for their banana pudding, the Sweet Life Bakeshop is a new kid on the block that excels with basics—like a variety of loaves and cookies—while also offering up some creative cake decorations at a fair price. Go for any of the puddings, sweet potato confections and any cake or cupcake donning buttercream. This place is perfect for impromptu pop-ins to treat kids during an outing to nearby attractions like Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens.
Quite simply, financier-turned-cupcake-baker Jeffrey Jimenez has mastered the delicate balance of making a sweet and rich cupcake. His cutely decorated creations, which vary by the week and season, are dense inside—all the true heft of a cake in the portable size of a cup. The only downside: Tracking the cupcake truck down can be a task all its own.
Nam Son Bakery is best known for making a mean banh mi, with a home-baked French baguette that crunches upon bite but smooths once you get to the center’s buttery bliss. Nam Son’s also an easy pick if you’re craving a lightly sweet Vietnamese donut, bun or tart. Pair any of these affordable options with a smoothie or iced coffee.
Originally a cult-favorite brand found only in Philly coffee shops, Dottie’s vegan doughnuts have only recently gained prominence on the city’s larger baking scene. Boasting options like a peach-brown-sugar-stuffed donut with mango glaze, it’s hard not to see the appeal—vegan or otherwise. And while you’ll be able to nab the classics elsewhere in the city—like the cinnamon brown sugar or pistachio at either Ultimo location—you’ll want to make the trip to Dottie’s West Philadelphia headquarters if you want to try the bakery's zanier creations, like, for instance, strawberry basil or rasberry cacao.