Take the Cake (or Pie or Cookie) at Orlando's Best Bakeries



Carbs get such a bad name these days. Count them, the diets will tell you. Remember there are good ones and bad ones. Or, worst of all, they instruct you to avoid them altogether. If the gourmet cupcake trend has been indicative of anything, it's a hard backlash against a philosophy that tells us all the sweet, doughy things we love most are nutritionally sinful. Let's face it: foodies don't want to be preached at (unless the sermon comes with artisan-smoked, hand-cut, maple-sugared bacon). Orlando residents enjoy warm weather much of the year and as such, may be a little more diet conscious than most, but that doesn't mean they don't appreciate a nice piece of cake. Or pie. Or bread. Where do they go to get it? All over! For crusty-perfect breads and rolls, East End Market's Olde Hearth Bread Co. For classic, butter-laden French, it's Croissant Gourmet in Winter Park. Fortuna Bakery & Cafe keeps locals and tourists covered. And for those aforementioned trendy cupcakes? Try Blue Bird Bake Shop in the Audubon Park Garden District or switch it up with a new kid on the Corrine Drive block, P is for Pie, where you can enjoy the granny-centric goodness in multiple forms, from pop to whoopie to mason jar and more. 



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Behold the bridge-building power of food. Whether you're well schooled in the delights of the South American bakery or a total novice, the helpful staffers at Fortuna will serve you cheerfully and efficiently, regardless of whether you speak the same language. Clean glass cases filled to exploding with all manner of Colombian and Venezuelan delights keep this place busy all week long via a devoted local following and a steady stream of tourists who find it via recommendation or by happy accident. The sweets, from the bunuelos to the pastels de manzana to the tres leches, are divine, but there are plenty of savories to enjoy, as well. Flaky empanadas stuffed with meats and cheeses, traditional Colombian pandebono and creamy, crumbly arepas are among the favorites.


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Along with its incredibly tempting selection of sweets, cakes and pastries â€" Danish to éclair, pound cake to scone (even sweet Nutella empanadas on occasion) â€" this unassuming little Oviedo bakery is a coffee lovers' haven, serving up delightful, frothy and/or cream-topped cups of artisan, micro-roasted batch brews. And yes, there's hot chocolate, too. The menu here changes daily, which is the wonderful nature of local bakeries, but you can stop in for breakfast and lunch, as well. All sandwiches are served on breads baked in house and you never know what will be on-hand to take home for dessert. If you can resist eating it on the premises, that is.


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Okay so Valhalla Bakery is vegan creates a preponderance of confections as does any bakery: doughnuts, cakes, cookies, brownies, muffins, pies, cupcakes, tarts, buns, pretzels.... The list goes on. Their wares are oft rich and heavy, sugary-delicious, and taste like what they are: lovingly hand-crafted. I tell you this last bit only because I have to, only because vegans need to know that Valhalla is an all-vegan bakery and that such a thing exists in Orlando. This outweighs my desire to NOT tell you, because non-vegans can so often dismiss vegan products without giving them their due. And Valhalla, with its decadent, seemingly two-pound doughnuts, definitely deserves its due.


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Brothers Francois and Phillipe Cahagne opened Croissant Gourmet in 2008 and in the time since it has become a local favorite in the walkable window shopper's paradise of Winter Park. While lunch time brings in all manner of diners clamoring for specialties like quiche Lorraine and croque monsieur, Croissant Gourmet's bakery is a universal draw, whether you're sitting down to enjoy one of their massive buttery namesakes with a cup of coffee or stopping in for a box of baked goodies to go. Favorites here include rich vanilla- or chocolate-filled eclairs, all manner of tarts (from apple Normandy to apricot), coconut and vanilla flans, classic Napoleons, an array of delicious and photogenic macarons and of course, the stars of the show: croissants. Stay away if you're on a diet.


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Guten tag! This little gem of a bakery-slash-deli enjoys a prime location across the street from a lovely lakeside park, which means you can grab a midday meal and enjoy it steps from where at least part of it was freshly baked. Of course, that doesn't mean you need to stop in for some or other wurst on some perfectly crusty bread. You can grab yourself a loaf, and maybe some pretzels, perhaps a German chocolate cake or light, airy peanut butter mousse. How about some rolls? Fruit tarts? This list may be getting ponderous, but it merely illustrates the variety available â€" and says nothing of the sandwiches and salads you'll want to try, as well.


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Nestled in the burgeoning foodie haven of Audubon Park, Blue Bird Bake Shop offers up delightful cupcakes â€" scratch-baked from small batches. Does this mean your favorite might run out by afternoon? Yes. Yes, it does. All the more reason to try another of the popular varieties offered up every day (they have roughly 50 in their overall playbook) including chocolate Guinness, apricot ginger, red velvet and coffee toffee. There are plenty of more traditional flavors, as well, along with seasonal and holiday goodies like maple walnut, lime in'd coconut, strawberry lemonade and candy cane. Let's be honest: you'll find something you like. If cupcakes aren't quite your thing, brownies, scones, whoopie pies, muffins and cookies round out the menu, and any will pair delightfully with a cup of organically grown Top Hat Coffee. Be on the lookout for Cupcake Happy Hours when cupcakes go for just $2 apiece!


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This quaint working Milk District bakery is open for breakfast and lunch with a manageable, fresh-made menu that changes near daily and makes choosing easy. Okay, that's arguable, since how one chooses between creative, handcrafted moon pies and fresh, local fruit-infused cobblers. is subjective. Easiest method? Bring a friend and share everything! Cakes, cookies, cupcakes, pies â€" the smells emanating from the Se7en Bites kitchen are wrong in all the best ways possible. Be thoroughly prepared for a sweet-related impulse buy to take home. Eggs and biscuits, scones and soups, Southern comfort classics and lots of surprising modern twists.


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Sister Honey's sells many wonderful products, one of which is called a Magic Bar. While said magic has not been verified by the folks over at Hogwarts, the texture and flavor â€" a chewy-delicious chocolate-butterscotch-coconut amalgam that may or may not cue angels to play harps â€" is pretty convincing. This inspiring little shop doesn't often sell whole cakes and pies (order in advance and they're more than happy to accommodate) but you can sample their wares in wonderfully fresh single servings that may have you making a list of orders for your next event or party. Cakes, cookies, pastries, cupcakes and pies (their peanut butter satin pie just took Best in Show at the 2015 National Pie Championships) are no joke. Pop in for a taste.


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Addicted to your handheld device? Well, snap the picture and set your phone down, because you'll want both your hands â€" pie pop in one, mini-pie in the other? â€" to sample the wares of this friendly, from-scratch bake shop in Audubon Park. You may want to bring friends with hands, too. They havecake, "cutie pies,' hand pies, cookies and mason-jar pies, as well. Find a few varieties you love (you will, promise) and you can place an order for a full-size, 9-inch version. And sweets aren't all they do here. Savory versions include chicken pot, Buffalo chicken and quiches, as well. Seasonal ingredients mean fresh fare. Pop in to sample with a cup of joe or just come in to grab a box and go. You'll be back soon enough.


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Oh, the crusty, crusty goodness.... The most difficult thing about stepping up to the great wall of bread at Olde Hearth's East End Market outpost is not buying more than you came for. Whatever your carb-coma drug of choice is, odds are really good they have it. And since Old Hearth uses only the highest quality ingredients, you'll feel less guilty about tearing off chunks in the car on the way home. Which you almost certainly will. Potato rolls to pumpernickel, black olive bread to blueberry muffins, ciabatta to lavash, this bakery's menu goes from sweet to savory and back again with hand-crafted aplomb. From pastries to pizza shells, they've got you covered â€" and you'll also find them at Winter Park and Maitland farmers' markets.


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Meet A.D. Thompson

Amy Drew has spent nearly three decades as a professional writer and roughly half her life as a Floridian. The words, she has found, come easier with bare feet and rum.

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