There are world-class bakeries to be found in virtually every neighborhood in Los Angeles. Don't let the city's reputation as a place of ultimate fitness and healthy living fool you, for it is also a place where everyone loves their desserts – and will travel in order to find them. We've picked out the 10 Best Bakeries, places to find specialty breads as well as cakes, pies, cookies and pastries in places sometimes separated by an hour's drive. After all, it's L.A., where going the distance for the perfect sweet treat isn't a big deal. So heading to the San Fernando Valley to a classic like Porto's Bakery is worth fighting the 405 freeway; or trying out a newer place like Claudine Artisan Kitchen and Bakery in Encino draws fans from all over town. Downtown L.A. is full of spectacular baked goods, with Homeboy Bakery, Pitchoun! and BierBeisel Imbiss leading the way; and the Westside boasts luscious winners like the Huckleberry Cafe and Angel Maid Bakery. Wherever you are in L.A., there's always something sweet to eat; these 10 favorites are just the tip of the croissant in a city filled with wonderful baked goods.
La Brea Bakery Cafe
La Brea Bakery Cafe is the home of one of L.A.'s best bakeries. The La Brea Bakery was founded by Chef Nancy Silverton in 1989; she's since sold out and gone on to win huge accolades with her work at Osteria Mozza. But her legacy of baking top-notch artisanal breads lives on. The latest from the La Brea Bakery Cafe are the single-origin heirloom wheat breads made from whole grains grown in Montana; those textured, dense loaves are a chewy delight. While there, indulge in a tasty homemade tart or pastry and a cup of delicious gourmet coffee. Of course, a slice of the bakery's chocolate almond cake, chocolate whiskey cake, or old-fashioned apple pie is equally acceptable, but don't miss the banana bread pudding if it is on offer the day you go, for it is a dense, crunchy, slightly sweet mouthful of wonderful. (323-939-6813)
Homeboy Industries Bakery
There's one bakery in Los Angeles that not only makes completely yummy cakes, sweet breads and cookies, but also gives back in a big way to the community. Homeboy Industries Bakery is part of the larger Homeboy organization that is dedicated to helping former gang members and recently incarcerated men and women to find a new focus, offering training and then jobs in the culinary industry. The bakery turns out a wide assortment of tasty treats, including favorites ranging from their signature (and incredibly luscious) Kugelhopf bundt cake to chewy chocolate-chip cookies, rugelach and even an assortment of vegan items, like tollhouse bars and walnut brownies. This IS L.A., after all. (213-617-0365)
Le Pain Quotidien
French for "Daily Bread," this café and bakery features warm, inviting European ambience and is a favorite haunt of models and celebrities. Even so, this Belgian bakery and cafe is not out to set trends or attract a fashionable crowd; rather, its main goal is to provide scrumptious, hot-from-the-oven fresh breads and baked goods. Or forget the bread and simply give yourself over to the cafe's delicious cakes and pastries, pairing them with the organic beverages on offer, including real Belgian hot chocolate, mint lemonade and a fabulous selection of teas and coffee. Choose to sit at the communal table or take an individual perch. You can also have a healthy lunch at this popular place, with choices like open-face sandwiches built with items like smoked salmon, duck pâté and other quintessentially French offerings. (310-859-1100)
Claudine Artisan Kitchen and Bakeshop
Claudine Artisan Kitchen and Bakeshop wants you to return to your childhood – if you dare. Start with the basics, the Claudine Monogram Sugar Cookie, a classic that melts in your mouth and reminds you (if you are lucky) of the ones Mom used to make. Then dive into the Browned Butter Rice Crispy Treat, a ramped-up, luscious version of those squares you probably made yourself from the recipe on the box. S'mores Bites should take you back to the campfire, except with much better chocolate and a sublime cookie base. Then its on to the ultimate childhood treat, Claudine's Nutella Poptart. This flaky, crumbly version of the cardboard one that came out of a box is similar in name only, for the Claudine version will make you drool as you gobble it up. They also make a Raspberry Poptart, as well as an assortment of other utterly delicious baked goods (try the Browned Butter Pecan Blondie, for example). (818-616-3838)
Angel Maid Bakery
Angel Maid Bakery is such a legendary place on the Westside of Los Angeles that they don't even bother to have a website. You want to get a taste of their astonishingly light and fluffy Tres Leches Cake? Then you'll have to come on over to Centinela Avenue at Culver Blvd for a visit. Look closely for the place, it's tucked back from the curb and parking can be a trial to find, but that doesn't stop crowds from forming every day to gobble up the bakery's famous Nutella muffin, fruit tarts and French macarons. Other legendary treats from Angel Maid include the guava chiffon cake, chocolate dobash cake and strawberry shortcake. They are happy to make special cakes for birthdays and other occasions, but you're going to have to visit to place your order (310-915-2078)
BierBeisl Imbiss, which opened in July 2015, marks the return of Austrian Chef Bernhard Mairinger, who wowed Los Angeles in 2012 with his original spot in Beverly Hills. Now he's downtown in the heart of the city, with a casual "Imbiss" (snack bar) that serves some of the best fruit strudel you've ever eaten. That, along with all the other house-made delights, including the wonderful breads, sausages, schnitzels and more, means BierBeisl Imbiss is already winning converts to its location, down the hall in the Spring Arcade building. Back to dessert; if strudel isn't enough, try the sachertorte to experience some of the densest dark chocolate cake on the planet. (213-935-8035)
Huckleberry Bakery & Cafe
Everything Huckleberry Bakery & Cafe serves is made on site, using top-quality ingredients, including organic flour, Vahlrona chocolate and farmers' market produce. As the menu explains, their offerings are "almost exclusively" organic and GMO free, sourced from local growers every day. There are plenty of sweet delights here, changing seasonally. Expect Blueberry Cornmeal Cake, eclairs, assorted cookies, doughnuts, fruit tarts and more, paired with specialty coffees from Caffe Luxxe Coffee Roasters or loose-leaf teas from the Art of Tea. Before indulging, have a full meal for lunch or an early dinner (they close by 8 p.m.) and top it off with one of the delectable desserts that have put this place on the map since 2009. (310-451-2311)
Porto's Bakery & Cafe
Rosa Porto emigrated to Los Angeles from Cuba in 1960 and brought with her the recipes that have sustained her famous bakery ever since. She's now retired, but her kids and her extended family still bake up her world-class delicacies at three locations (Burbank, Glendale and Downey) and fans still line up to get a taste. Be sure to try the Cheese Rolls (a cream-cheese filled flaky pastry) for only 75 cents each, along with the classic Refugiados (a guava and cream-cheese strudel), which will cost you 80 cents. Porto's Tres Leches Cake is a yellow sponge cake soaked in a three-milk sauce and topped with meringue icing, a steal for $15.50. Don't miss the savory delights found here, too, from the infamous Potato Ball (a mashed-potato ball filled with seasoned ground beef and fried up) for $1 to the empanadas and chorizo pies that melt in your mouth. (818-956-5996)
Sweet Lady Jane
It was over 25 years ago that Jane Lockhart brought her passion for cakes to Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood; nowadays Sweet Lady Jane has three more locations, in Santa Monica, Encino and Newport Beach. Her custom cakes are constantly sought after by everyone from Jennifer Lopez to Stevie Wonder; and the ones for sale every day match the quality of those special creations. The triple berry cake is legendary, or try the lemon tart, chocolate fudge blackout cake or one of the many delectable cheesecakes, cookies, brownies or pastries. Visitors can settle in for dessert and coffee or tea, or have a full lunch and stay for the cake afterward. (323-653-7145)
Pitchoun! French Bakery Cafe
At Pitchoun! French Bakery Cafe, Frederic and Fabienne Soulies prepare everything from scratch using their family's traditional recipes. The couple migrated from France to Downtown Los Angeles in order to bring those unique French boulangerie tastes to Southern California. So you'll find crusty baguettes, of course, along with brioches and other baked goods. Their croissants are dreamy – perfectly flaky and buttery. But it's the desserts that will make you swoon, all made with eggs from free-range and pasture-raised chickens, and the highest quality pressed extra virgin olive oil or canola oils (no hydrogenated oils). Think Macarons, Madeleines, Tart Tatin, Creme Brulee and more. All are so good you'll be hard pressed to choose just one. Pitchoun! also offers cold and hot sandwiches, tartines, salads and soups in the cafe, so you can have a full meal here, topped off with a lovely dessert and a cappuccino. (213-689-3240)
About Jenny Peters
Jenny Peters – aka Jet Set Jen – is a Los Angeles-based freelance journalist, editor and party columnist specializing in travel, entertainment, film, food, wine, fashion and the other good things in life. She is a founding/voting member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association, who present the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards every January. Her favorite places to be are on the beach in Southern California playing volleyball, scuba diving with the sharks in warm tropical waters or strolling the streets and soaking in the atmosphere of one of the world's great cities (New Orleans and Florence are her favorites).
Read more about Jenny Peters here.
Connect with Jenny via: Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Google+ | Pinterest