Here in the Mill City (and its surroundings), sourdough starters aren't just a pandemic hobby and cakes aren't only for birthdays. This is a metropolis deeply rooted in the dough arts, and we have many, many bakeries to prove it.
Favorite bakeries will always be personal. It might be a neighborhood bakery, its cases of warm doughnuts dripping with glaze and nostalgia or pies bursting with fruit. Or the French pâtisserie, with glistening tarts and crackling croissants that have layers for days. We ate our way through as many of them as possible and selected a list of fresh-baked icons — from the sweet treat that put a great baker on the map to the loaf of bread that told us something more about where we live with every bite.
Warning: Some of your favorites might not be on this list. That's because we've already recognized their iconic status: the baguette from Trung Nam French Bakery, the Chocolat from Pâtisserie 46 and the bittersweet chocolate cookie from Rustica, to name a few. (Take a look at our past selections here.)
So, hot from the oven, here are 30 iconic Twin Cities bakeries — and what to order when you're next in line.
Angel Food Bakery Dough-Naparts
Angel Food Bakery descended on the Minneapolis dining scene in 2012 like a shower of sprinkles and glitter. Whimsy and fun are part of every menu item from chef Katy Gerdes. Once an offshoot of Hell's Kitchen restaurant, its home is now a light-filled storefront in St. Louis Park, where there's even more room to pull up a chair and enjoy the twisted-up sweetness of the Dough-Napart. Legend has it that local TV personality Andrew Zimmern helped name the pastry, with its knots of croissant dough that are dipped, fried and glazed into one heavenly snack.
$5.20; 8100 Minnetonka Blvd., St. Louis Park; MSP Terminal 1, Gate E5, Mpls., angelfoodmn.com
Cardigan Donuts Old fashioned glazed
Even with downtown Minneapolis corridors quiet early in the pandemic, there was an appetite for doughnuts. Cardigan delivered, even opening a second skyway location last year. There's an always-changing menu, but if there's one doughnut that shines brightest, it's the simplest. Cardigan's take on the old fashioned — the kind of cake doughnut that has the crackly top and broken edges, or what owner Justin Bedford calls "deep ridges and petals." The profoundly moist doughnut is almost as creamy as cheesecake, thanks to copious amounts of sour cream worked into ice-cold batter that cracks when it hits the fryer. Those petals "catch" vanilla bean-infused glaze for an amalgamation of sweet and gooey goodness. "We get asked all the time, why is Cardigan's old fashioned so good?" Bedford said. "It's a story that's equal parts formula and technique."
$2.65; City Center, 40 S. 7th St., Mpls.; IDS Center, 80 S. 8th St., Mpls., cardigandonuts.com
A Baker's Wife Cake doughnut
Even on a weekday, the lines are still present at this little neighborhood corner bakery, a Minneapolis fixture since 1996. While the ownership has changed hands (it's now a part of Wuollet's), many traditions hold. The State Fair-flavored cake doughnuts, best ordered early and devoured while still toasty, are coated in sugar that crunches against the teeth like a warm day's answer to fresh snow.
$1.15, 4200 28th Av. S., Mpls., bakers-wife.com
Donut Star Apple fritter
A 50-year-old bakery got some new energy last year when Twin Cities restaurateur Peter Sebastian (Mario's, Estelle) took over the Burnsville strip-mall staple. Since then, he's given it a refresh, adding vibrant colors and modern seating, and brought on pastry chef Emily Poole to revamp the menu with scratch-made doughs. But the classics are still there, including a ginormous apple fritter that employs real chunks of apple, a light touch of cinnamon, and just enough sweet vanilla glaze.
$3.50; 2901 Cliff Road E., Burnsville, donutstarmn.com
Glam Doll Donuts The Femme Fatale
Until Glam Doll graced Minneapolis with its presence, the local doughnut community was notably devoid of rock 'n' roll. The bakery burst onto the scene with a feminist, rockabilly sense of style and a flavor lineup ready to knock our taste buds out. Much has changed since 2013, but not the Formica tables and glittery chandeliers inside this bakery. The Femme Fatale is one of the few flavors regularly available, and the doughnut is stuffed with raspberry curd until it threatens to overflow. The adorable red heart perched atop the frosted vanilla exterior might make it look like a neat little snack, but things are going to get messy. (Vegan version also available.)
$3.50-$3.95; 2605 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls., glamdolldonuts.com
Funner Brothers Donut Co. Giant Donut Holes
Valley Pastries in Golden Valley hadn't changed much since its 1987 founding — even when new owners came aboard nine years ago. But this year it got a new name and a fresh coat of paint, touches to make things a little "funner," said co-owner Alex Loosbrock. In the case, you'll still find the legendary golden fried hand-cut doughnuts, and the signature item: giant, fluffy doughnut holes that fly out by the dozens on weekends. "The guilt factor is eliminated," Loosbrock said, explaining their popularity. "It's just a couple of bites, so you don't feel as bad. What they fail to realize is that they're going to be doubling back three or four more times because they're so good."
$1.50 each, $12 a dozen; 2570 Hillsboro Av. N., Golden Valley, funnerbrothers.com
Mel-O-Glaze Bakery Raised Glazed Donut
Mention of this Nokomis-area bakery conjures images of the neon Mel-O-Glaze sign that shines like a promise that delivers on every visit. Its hallmark? The yeasty, pillowy raised glazed doughnuts coated in a crackling shell that carries a faint citrus flavor. The rest of the bakery, which has been a mainstay for more than 70 years, is decorated with joy: little cutout signs with jokes, chalk on the sidewalk, and a staff that always seems genuinely happy to see you.
$2.50; 4800 28th Av. S., Mpls., meloglazebakery.com
Sift Gluten-free doughnuts
Those who can't consume gluten can thank Molly Miller, who answered the call for inclusion in the bakery space. The result is Sift, a bright little bakery that churns out all the usual confections but makes them safe for those who need to avoid all flour, yet delicious for anyone who appreciate well-made sweets. The proliferation of coffee shops that carry their baked doughnuts, frosted and bejeweled with sprinkles, means that even more Twin Cities fans get to enjoy the gluten-free goods.
$3.50; 4557 Bloomington Av., Mpls., siftglutenfree.com
Butter Bakery Cafe Cinnamon roll biscuit
One of the cafe's biggest sellers started out as the solution to a problem: a kitchen that wasn't quite right for proofing yeast-based doughs had to turn out a cinnamon roll — a lifelong favorite of owner Dan Swenson-Klatt. So instead of an ultra-fluffy bun, Butter's first baker, Amy Kovacs, developed a cinnamon roll made from biscuit dough. Soft on the inside and crunchy on the outside, the biscuit is swirled with cinnamon, cardamom and clove. It's smaller than your average Cinnabon-inspired roll, and far more sophisticated. "Once we had explained to customers that the biscuits weren't under-proofed yeast rolls, we found we had landed on an item that would join the case daily and often be the first to sell out," Swenson-Klatt told the Star Tribune in 2021.
$4.50; 3700 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls., butterbakerycafe.com
Cafe Cerés Tahini chocolate chip cookie
Shawn McKenzie, the James Beard-nominated pastry chef, would probably be the first to admit she's a perfectionist. The Cafe Cerés proprietor spent a decade perfecting her chocolate chip cookie recipe, a quest that started as "an obsession" back when she was around 10. "I always wanted the chocolate to stay somewhat creamy, the way it does when it first comes out of the oven, as well as the cookie to be that perfect texture when you bite into it. Crispy on the edges, soft on the outer layer and a little doughy in the middle," McKenzie said. Well, she got it. And brown sugar was one of the keys. "Use more than the recipe calls for," she said. Then, her own special touch: tahini, which adds a nutty backbone and a taste of the Middle East that comes through in all of McKenzie's sublime pastries.
$3; 3509 W. 44th St., Mpls.; 5401 Penn Av. S., Mpls.; 100 Washington Av. S., Mpls.; cafeceresmpls.com
The term fika means taking a moment — to sit with company, sip a coffee and snack on a Swedish treat. At Fika, the American Swedish Institute's bakery and cafe, that break comes with a cinnamon/cardamom perfume and a soundtrack of quiet chatter as neighbors and friends catch up before a walk through the museum. The bakery case is filled with coffee-pairing confections, but the always-present kardemummabullar, or cardamom bun, is impossible to resist. Unlike American-style cinnamon rolls, these bready twists — rolled up like a top knot on a ballerina, topped with a sprinkle of sugar — are filled with cardamom, a Scandinavian pantry staple.
$4.75; 2600 Park Av., Mpls., asimn.org
The Finnish Bistro Almond kringler
Every neighborhood should be so lucky to have the charm of a bakery and cafe like the Finnish Bistro. The dining room possesses the same cozy feel as a stretched-out woolen sweater and a dog-eared novel that slides into a pocket. Opened in 2004, it boasts an expansive menu of soups, sandwiches, baked goods and an entire selection of Finnish dishes. Even with savory intentions, the stocked bakery case beckons, especially the tray stacked with kringler. Finger-sized slices of the almond-filled, icing-crowned pastry are an excellent pairing with a cup of coffee and a leisurely visit with a friend or a good book.
$3.15 per slice; 2264 Como Av., St. Paul, finnishbistro.com
Honey & Rye Morning bun
Anne Andrus first tried a morning bun when she was studying pastry in San Francisco. She knew right then that the laminated treat, rolled up like a snail shell and filled with cinnamon and sugar, would be on the menu at her future bakery, Honey & Rye. Ten years later, it's still on the menu. Andrus uses a Danish dough, which is enriched with eggs and high-fat Hope Butter to get those soft yet flaky layers. Each one is rolled by hand, meaning no two look exactly the same — and customers love to select the one that's perfect for them. "For our size of bakery, we've just really embraced rustic and artisan," Andrus said.
$4.50; 4501 Excelsior Blvd,. St. Louis Park, honey-and-rye.com
Hot Hands Pie & Biscuit Biscuits
An unassuming strip mall sets the stage for this rock star of local biscuitdom. Inside the millennial pink breakfast destination, chef/owner Tara Coleman brings together two baked good icons: pie and, you guessed it, biscuits. Coleman's craggy-edged biscuits are the best kind of attainable joy, whether pried open and topped with a dollop of butter or as the building block of one of the Twin Cities' best breakfast sandwiches. Coleman is also sharing the biscuit love, offering frozen bake-at-home biscuits and a mix, too.
$3.95 each; 272 Snelling Av. S., St. Paul, hothandspie.com
Marc Heu Pâtisserie Paris Passion fruit tart
Marc Heu made a name for himself in French pastry. Literally — his name is written in large block letters on the front of his expanded bakery and cafe in St. Paul. But the journey to get to that point (medical school, working the family farm, culinary school and trendy New York bakeries) was a long one. His impeccable pastries never compromise on French technique, but he adds a twist of his own by celebrating the tropical fruits he grew up with in South America. There's no better example than his signature and bestselling passion fruit tart, which highlights the sweet-and-sour seedy fruit in a smooth filling for his ultra-buttery pastry shell.
$10 for an individual tart; 156 N. Dale St., St. Paul, marcheuparis.com
Marissa's Bakery Churros
Since the early '90s, Eat Street has been beguiled by the aromas emanating out of Marissa's Bakery — especially the cinnamon-sugar promise of fresh churros. Owner Isidro Perez, a third-generation baker born in Mexico, named the bakery for his daughter. Over the years, as the neighborhood around it changed and restaurants came and went, Perez's recipes for fresh conchas, marranitos and bolillos have remained true to the bakery's origins. And the churros — those long-lined wands of dough, fried crisp and dusted with the good stuff — continue to be one of the most affordable and beloved indulgences in the city.
$1; 2750 Nicollet Av., Mpls., @marissasbakerymn
Sarah Jane's Bakery Pie
Since 1979, this darling shop has been a quintessential neighborhood bakery, carrying all the usual favorites, from fresh-baked bread to rows of cookies and some of the best sugared cake doughnuts around. But to miss the pie would be tragic. The family-owned shop, which changed hands in 2016, carries a whole lineup of pies that are just sweet enough to satisfy those with a sweet tooth, but so balanced in their creation that all the ingredients sing. Follow the seasons for rhubarb, triple berry or apple — each one is special and clearly crafted with love and a justly amount of butter.
$14.25-$19.25; 2853 NE. Johnson St., Mpls., sarahjanesbakery.com
The Buttered Tin Lowertown Twinkeys
Pastry chef and owner Alicia Hinze delights in taking a dose of nostalgia and turning it into a modern baked treasure. That fun is found in her cupcakes, specialty cakes, fabulous cinnamon rolls and the Twinkey. The oblong bit of cake looks unassuming on the outside, a bit like a similarly named treat by a corporate bakery. But the taste is everything simple and wondrous from the kitchen. These single-serve cakes are piped full of cream, and they disappear with startlingly few bites. Order one with breakfast, and another to squirrel away for later.
$3.60; 237 E. 7th St., St. Paul; 2445 NE. Marshall St., Mpls.; thebutteredtin.com
Dorothy Ann Bakery & Cafe Angel food cake
For 70 years, Dorothy Ann Bakery & Cafe has been the place that makes Woodbury feel like a community with a warm, friendly center. Step inside and you'll find folks meeting up for coffee, paging through books to select a special-occasion cake or being mesmerized by the case stocked with all one could ever hope a bakery to carry. Start with a bite of the angel food cake. Tall and spongy, the interior tastes like warm wishes while the exterior is wrapped in a whipped topping and adorned with glazed strawberry slices.
$3.50; 710 Commerce Dr., Woodbury, dorothyannbakery.com
May Day Cafe Daily muffin
The cafe is everything wonderful about the Powderhorn neighborhood it serves. Brightly colored and filled with local art, it's a gathering spot for families and activists, and they're all enjoying the impressive selection of fresh-baked goods. Selections change often, but there's a superstition that it's impossible to have a bad day if their blueberry muffin makes an appearance. Tall and positively stuffed with bursting purple berries, the batter is just sweet enough to imbue the day with optimism.
$3; 3440 Bloomington Av., Mpls., facebook.com/may.day.cafe.mpls
Muddy Paws New York cheesecake
One name comes to mind when talking about great cheesecake, and it's the bakery built by Tami Cabrera. Muddy Paws is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, and though it has put down roots in several spots during that time, it has been consistent when it comes to cheesecake creativity. Now based in St. Louis Park, there's an always-rotating list of 25 flavors available by the slice for walk-ins, and more than 200 flavors available to order. While we love the banoffee (banana and toffee) or pink lemonade, the classic New York showcases these cheesecakes' light airiness, tangy middle and butter-laced crust.
$5 a slice, whole cheesecakes start at $45; 3359 Gorham Av., St. Louis Park, muddypawscheesecake.com
Nadia Cakes April Fools' cupcakes
How about a big, crunchy salad or a fully loaded baked potato? Ope, it's cake. A bucket of buttered popcorn or a melting ice cream cone? Both cake. These two suburban cupcake shops do not hold back come April 1, with lineups of silly prank cupcakes that turn frosting into realistic designs of something else entirely. The one that started it all, however, is the Unicorn Poop, with a hand-rolled candy rainbow swirl on top. The shops' whimsy is the handiwork of founder Abby Jimenez, who's also a bestselling romance novelist and Food Network competitor. Don't wait until April, though; the cakes are delicious all year long.
Prices vary; 11650 Fountains Dr., #207, Maple Grove; 429 Commerce Dr., Woodbury; nadiacakes.com
Pastelería Gama Tres leches cake
This 12-year-old E. Lake Street bakery trades in the art of cake, with its tiered celebration cakes enrobed in fondant for a baby shower, wedding or quinceañera — and its signature, scratch-made tres leches, slices of which can turn any day into a celebration. The airy vanilla sponge cake sandwiches a layer of strawberry filling, chunky with fresh fruit. It's soaked in a pool of three milks, and topped with a marshmallow fluff-like frosting. The cake is moist, sugared bliss that straddles but never crosses the line into cloying. Everything about it says "party."
$7; 1703 E. Lake St., Mpls., pasteleria-gama.com
Thirsty Whale Birthday cakes
It pays to plan ahead for a custom cake from Thirsty Whale Bakery. Baker/co-owner Megan Baker is often booked six weeks out for her 3-D cake creations, which were popular long before she made a splash on Food Network's "Halloween Baking Championship" in 2021. That's because she has a keen ability to bring almost any idea to life with the aid of a little fondant. Even the most out-of-the-box dream cakes become works of art. There are life-size Legos, an Air Jordan shiny as black leather, a rainbow made out of gummy bears and a bowl of ramen with chopsticks suspended in air. But even procrastinators won't be disappointed with a stop in to north Minneapolis' essential neighborhood bakery — last-minute cakes are always available, along with a killer selection of doughnuts.
Prices vary; 4149 Fremont Av. N., Mpls., thirstywhalebakery.com
Aki's BreadHaus Pretzels
Here you'll find all manner of slicing breads, boules, broetchen and rustic sourdough loaves that Aki Berndt grew up eating in Germany. Berndt opened Aki's BreadHaus in 2010 to re-create those fresh-baked memories on Minnesota soil. But no German bread is quite as evocative as the soft pretzel, which you can get in a classic twist, stick or bun form, either at the northeast Minneapolis shop or at select farmers markets. The toasty pretzels with shattering shards of salt are the way to go, but Aki's also sells them unsalted as well as parbaked, so you can make your own pretzel magic at home.
From $2.50; 2506 Central Av. NE., Mpls., akisbreadhaus.com
Black Walnut Bakery Croissant bread
On a summer morning, behind a fold-up table at a farmers market, baker Sarah Botcher's kouign amann launched her reign as Minneapolis' master of the laminated arts, long before she opened her Parisian-esque bakery on Hennepin Avenue. Now, with countertops brimming with savory danishes and floral-topped cakes, she has introduced to the Twin Cities the next level of lamination appreciation: croissant bread. A masterful meeting of delicate pâtisserie and sandwich construction, the loaves' buttery crust swirls around a plush interior that is as ethereal lightly toasted with a swipe of fresh jam as it is a hearty foundation for the cafe's swoon-worthy breakfast sandwich.
$7 for a half loaf; 3157 Hennepin Av., Mpls., blackwalnutbakery.com
Savory Bake House Brioche sandwich
The menu changes often at this three-day-a-week bakery window in south Minneapolis, and long lines mean that even those limited items might be out of reach by the time you make it to the front. Luckily, one menu item comes back week after week: the brioche sandwich. "We have been making them every day since we opened almost eight years ago now," said owners Sandy Sherva and Max Okray. The fillings inside that sturdy, seasoned strip of bread change with the seasons and whatever other inspiration pastry chef Sherva comes across. But there'll always be two versions: meat and veggie. Line up early.
$7; 3008 36th Av. S., Mpls., savorybakehouse.com
Solomon's Bakery European and Caribbean breads
Entering the Mill City Farmers Market, there will undoubtedly be a line to your right, in the shadow of the Guthrie Theater. It's for Solomon's Bakery, the venerable market vendor and wholesaler supplying a multicultural array of breads to grocery stores across the Twin Cities. Owner and bread maker Veronica Anczarski is behind the family operation, which celebrates rustic, European-style whole-grain loaves, including her substantial sourdough miche. But that's not all: The market setup is bountiful with seasonal fruit tarts and laminated pastries. At the bakery's New Brighton wholesale home base, pick up other goodies — including Solomon's signature Afro-Caribbean, citrus-touched loaf of white bread. It makes incredible French toast.
Prices vary; Saturdays at Mill City Farmers Market, 750 S. 2nd St., Mpls., millcityfarmersmarket.org; Sundays at Linden Hills Farmers Market, 2813 W. 43rd St., Mpls., lindenhillsfarmersmarket.org; 833 SW. 3rd St., New Brighton, solomonsbread.com
Sun Street Breads Kingfield sourdough
Solveig Tofte started her bread-baking career at Turtle Bread and competed in the world-famous Coupe du Monde before hanging her shingle in this south Minneapolis neighborhood in 2009. Just about every menu item found inside Sun Street Breads has a legion of devotees, but we think this extraordinary loaf of sourdough is the gold standard of great bread. Dragging a serrated knife through its dimpled crust sends a shower of crumbs over the kitchen like confetti, and with that subtle twang, it's everything a good hunk of crusty bread ought to be.
$6.50; 4600 Nicollet Av., Mpls., sunstreetbreads.com
The Turtle Bread Co. Slicing loaf
There's comfort in the simplicity of perfectly baked white bread: a crust that gives off just a little bit of crackle, and a white interior that's a canvas waiting for sandwich artistry. The original Turtle Bread opened in 1994 before expanding into other Minneapolis neighborhoods. It is home to the kind of foods in which one can seek solace: rich soups, baskets of fresh-baked treats, and a singular loaf of squishy, kid-approved bread.
$6; 3421 W. 44th St., Mpls.; 4205 E. 34th St., Mpls.; 4762 Chicago Av. S., Mpls.; turtlebread.com