There's no moment in life that wouldn’t be made better by sinking your teeth into cakes, pastries and the finest loaves that the capital has to offer
Californian Claire Ptak, owner of Violet Cakes, has changed the east London baking scene by giving cupcakes a good name again. She knows how to make cakes look even more enticing with generous portions and a good amount of icing, too.
If you haven’t heard of this place, then you clearly haven’t been to Broadway Market in London where people queue at her stall every Saturday. The bakery is always bustling and if you’re in the market for a cinnamon bun (and you really should be) you’ll need to get there promptly. If you miss out, visit her little cafe that's just round the corner.
Where: London Fields
When: Tues to Fri, 8am–6pm; Sat, 9.30am–6pm; Sun, 9.30am–5pm
Buy: cinnamon buns, dark ginger molasses cake, banana buttermilk loaf and sponge cakes iced with seasonal fruit. Basically, everything
Tucked underneath the arches by London Fields station, this small bakery serves up some of the best bread in London: apparently, even Michel Roux Jr visits the E5 Bakehouse for the Hackney wild sourdough.
The array of cakes, tarts and patisserie change daily (we’re talking eccles cakes and crème brûlée tarts) but if you happen to arrive on the day it's serving its pecan pie, take advantage and eat as much as you can because it's good. Very good.
Where: London Fields
When: everyday, 7am–7pm
Buy: Hackney wild classic sourdough
OK, we admit it. This Maltby Street stall isn’t a sit-in-style bakery and it only sells brownies but it's still a destination, and rightly so. We’re not talking about your average brownies here, but triple chocolate, salted caramel, peanut butter, raspberry and pistachio, and ginger crunch brownies.
Note: don’t kid yourself into thinking you can just choose one flavour. Instead, commit to a tasting box. Trust us, it's worth it.
This Nordic bakery (it has 11 bakeries in Stockholm) makes excellent sourdough loaves, freshly baked in a stone oven, as well as huge walnut bread boules and batons of rye. The real stars here are the knotted cinnamon buns; they’re the kind of pastry that you won’t stop thinking about until you get your next fix.
There are only a handful of tables, so if you want to eat in, get there early.
When: Mon to Fri, 8am–6pm; Sat and Sun, 10am–6pm
Buy: a cinnamon bun – they’re laced with crushed cardamom, too
Even if you haven’t been to Fergus Henderson’s St John Bakery, you’ll probably have tried the bread at one of the capital’s trendy restaurants. Ingredients are sourced from independent suppliers (the bakery's dairy comes from Neal’s Yard) but it’s the doughnuts (custard and seasonal jam, or both if you’re really lucky), sourdough bread and eccles cakes that we’re really interested in.
Where: Druid Street, Maltby Street Market
When: Mon to Fri, 9am–5pm
Buy: a custard doughnut, eccles cakes and a loaf of sourdough
This place was serving up organic sourdough loaves long before they became trendy (the Old Post Office Bakery started making them in 1982). A south London gem, the bread here is impressive: the bakery makes everything from Brixton rye to classic tin loaves.
Don’t be fooled into thinking this real community spot is all about the bread, though. The Chelsea buns, pastries and sausage rolls are worth a look – and are good to take-away as a snack while you amble along Clapham Common.
When: Mon to Fri, 7am–6pm; Sat, 7am–5.30pm; Sun, 7am–2pm
Buy: a sourdough loaf (well, it would be rude not to) and a warm pain au chocolat
OK, so this isn’t technically a bakery, but once you’ve tried Ottolenghi’s cakes and desserts, you won’t quibble. Indulge in enormous meringues, raspberry and rhubarb financiers, and baked caramel and chocolate tarts, or treat yourself to any of the cakes which change daily.
Where: Islington, Spitalfields, Notting Hill, Belgravia
When: Mon to Sat, 8am–10.30pm; Sun, 9am–7pm
Stepping into Balthazar’s pint-sized bakery is like being transported to Paris by way of New York. The croissants are flaky, the pastries are beautifully sticky and there’s a good selection of bread: brioche, baguette, focaccia, country levain and spelt.
It might not be cheap, but it's one of the best bakeries in central London – but you’ll have to fight the locals for a morning croissant and a loaf of bread.
Where: Covent Garden
When: Mon to Fri, 8.30am–7.30pm; Sat, 9am–7.30pm; Sun, 10am–6pm
Buy: sticky fruit ‘n’ nuts levain and croissants
The creator of the St John’s doughnut, Justin Gellatly, has set up shop in Borough Market. And you must go there. You can’t go wrong with his pillowy, soft doughnuts filled with caramel custard, classic raspberry jam or rhubarb and custard, but it would be an error to not fill your bag with some sourdough, Italian breads, ginger cake or cheese and olive sticks, too.
Where: Borough Market
When: Mon to Thurs, 8am–5pm; Fri, 8am–6pm; Sat, 8am–5pm
Buy: a doughnut. If there was a battle of the doughnuts, Gellatly would win. No question
We’re just going to say it: Gail’s does the best hot cross buns. That doesn't mean this place is just for Easter, though. Standing proud on multi-tiered displays are cakes, cookies, brioche-based goodies and bread, including a wonderful potato and rosemary sourdough and a sour cherry and currant loaf that was made to be toasted.
Where: 18 bakeries across London
When: Mon to Sat, 7am–7pm; Sun, 8am–7pm
Buy: mashed potato, rosemary and nigella seed rounds and a pecan brownie
This is London’s oldest French patisserie and it's a real Soho institution: it’s like an old, good friend.
The service at this tiny spot can be a bit on the chaotic side, but the charm – and the apricot and almond tarts – more than make up for it. Plus, it’s like a little corner of sweet-treat history.
When: Mon to Sat, 9am–10.30pm; Sun, 9am–8pm
Buy: cheesecake or a chocolate eclair