Who currently has the emotional bandwidth to standby while the oven finishes preheating?
It’s time to get started on holiday baking—or you could just let these professionals take care of it for you. Some of the country’s top bakers are delivering their signature holiday treats, from panettone to macarons, right to your doorstep.
It’s been a wild year for Chicago’s Stephanie Izard, but the Top Chef champion and James Beard Award-winning chef launched a new sweet shop, Sugargoat, in November with pastry chef Faith Taheny. There’s a small storefront inside Little Goat Diner in Chicago’s West Loop but they’re also shipping cakes, pies, and cookies nationally. Taheny and Izard have been doing a lot of at-home baking during quarantine, and Sugargoat features whimsical childhood favorite flavor combinations like French fries dipped in a milkshake or pancakes covered in maple syrup. There’s even an avocado toast cake with tomato caramel and avocado buttercream. The Cheez-It Cake is another Izard classic, with cheddar caramel and peanut butter Cheez-It crunch, and even classics like oatmeal raisin cookies get a funky twist when the raisins are pickled.
Starting with a boutique on the Upper East Side of New York, Lady M now has boutiques in California, Boston, and Chicago, as well. They’re best known for their delicate mille crêpes cakes, layering more than 20 paper-thin crêpes with pastry cream so light it’s like eating a cloud. Melding French technique with Asian sensibilities, these cakes are never too sweet, always subtle and sophisticated. Tiramisu is a holiday favorite—it’s the first Lady M cake to combine sponge cake with crêpes, then topped with luscious petals of whipped mascarpone cheese and heavily dusted with cocoa powder. Earl Grey is another limited-edition flavor, available only through December, with whole tea leaves infused into fresh pastry cream.
Gallery Pastry Shop
After opening a snazzy second location in downtown Indianapolis this summer, Gallery Pastry Shop is shipping their precious macarons nationally. Their fanciful croissants, entremets, and bread are all top-notch, but it’s the macarons that remain their bestseller. During the holidays they’ll make 6,000 of these delicate French treats each week. Limited edition holiday flavors include caramel speculoos, white chocolate vanilla bean, mocha praline, white chocolate peppermint, and eggnog.
Cheesecake is pastry chef Simone Dickson’s specialty at Art Delectables, and she makes all of her organic cakes with a fraction of the sugar and with non-GMO cream cheese. Choose from maple walnut, German chocolate, or vanilla bean pumpkin swirl from her couture collection, or build your own cheesecake with the cheesecake bar. Start with an original cheesecake base or warm spice base, subtly flavored with cinnamon and nutmeg, and then select one of eight housemade sauces for the topping, which range from caramel rum to matcha anglaise.
Mochi is a classic Japanese dessert, made from a pounded paste of steamed glutinous rice. They can be served in many forms, both savory and sweet, but mochi ice cream is our favorite. Mochidoki makes the best ice cream mochi out there, with classic Asian flavors like matcha, red bean, black sesame, and ube. They’ve just started shipping to select regions nationwide this year and for the holidays—limited-edition flavors include pumpkin & cookies and apple miso caramel. In New York, you can even visit their interactive flagship store in SoHo for elaborate mochi creations.
La Monarca Bakery
La Monarca Bakery was founded by two Stanford Business School graduates who grew up in Monterrey, Mexico, and they now have 15 locations throughout Los Angeles. They’re known for traditional Mexican sweets like caramel flan, Mexican mocha cake, and dulce de leche cake, along with pan dulce and cinnamon rolls made with Mexican cinnamon. Recently, they’ve begun shipping their scratch-made Mexican cookies nationally, including butter pecan wedding cookies dusted in powdered sugar, orejitas (butter palmiers), polvorones (sugar cookies), and cinnamon cookies.
Angel Food Bakery
Pastry chef Katy Gerdes is famous for her oversized donuts and creative donut creations at Angel Food Bakery in Minneapolis. Each jumbo donut cake layers three massive, yeast-raised donuts held together with buttercream and icing. Flavors range from the standard chocolate and vanilla to maple bacon. You can order colorful custom message donuts to spell out your thoughts in sugar and there are even croissant donuts and bourbon caramel donut bread pudding.
Three Brothers Bakery
The Jucker brothers opened Three Brothers Bakery in Houston after their family survived Nazi concentration camps, and the fifth-generation Polish bakery is a great representation of Houston’s thriving immigrant community. The over-the-top pumpecapple piecake is their most famous holiday offering, with three layers of different cakes covered in cream cheese icing, caramel drizzle, and pecans. The stollen is a more traditional dessert—a hearty German-style fruit cake made with a centuries-old recipe that’s often enjoyed Christmas morning. And, last but certainly not least, their award-winning, available-year-round pecan pie is incomparable.
The Kern family has closely guarded the secret recipe for their Derby-Pie since 1954, a decadent nutty chocolate pie made with chocolate chips and walnuts. They started out baking the pies three at a time and cooling them on the back porch; they received a federal trademark for their pie in 1969. It’s a favorite not only during the Kentucky Derby but also around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays—last year, they baked 120,000 pies! More recently, they started offering golden pecan pie as well, with crunchy flash-baked pecans atop a silky vanilla custard.
For a traditional Southern layer cake, the family team at Caroline’s Cakes in Spartanburg, South Carolina, are old pros. Their seven-layer caramel cake is a bestseller and other holiday favorites include hot cocoa cake, traditional red velvet, and coconut cloud cake–light as air cake with fresh coconut icing. Many flavors come in gluten-free versions too.