31 Bakeries That Hit the Spot
Madison’s packed with places where the bread’s fresh, the cupcakes look like works of art and the doughnuts explode with flavor
The local currant cheddar almond cream pie (!) from Humble is as tasty as it is beautiful.
PHOTO BY NICOLE PEASLEE
You could argue that the bakery is the only type of food shop that doesn’t even need signage to peddle its wares—the olfactory overture of sweet, delicious, fresh-baked goods is more than enough to lure you off the street and into the store. Our fair city’s packed with places where the bread’s fresh, the cupcakes look like works of art and the doughnuts explode with flavor. Gear up your nostrils and let’s go.
4 & 20 Bakery & Cafe
305 N. Fourth St., 819-8893
No blackbirds fluttering in the pies at this cozy east-side bakery, but there’s plenty of pedigree in 4 & 20’s artisanal bakery options, most of which look (and taste) like they’ve just jumped off the cover of a food magazine. Visitors drawn in by the signature biscuits and sausage gravy also flip for everything that comes out of baker Mandy Puntney’s kitchen, from the massive morning buns to the homespun pop-tarts and Oreo-like cookies that put actual Oreos to chocolate-soaked shame.
1402 Williamson St., 257-1652
The delicious breads, baguettes and demi-baguettes you’ll find here every day—well, except for Monday, when the Bakehouse is closed—are incredible, but you’re going to want to move fast, because the best stuff typically disappears by mid-morning. (Unless you call ahead, in which case they’ll kindly hold your selections at the counter.) Same goes for the other sweet and savory selections at Batch—from vanilla-swirl croissants to cheddar-bacon biscuits and lemon blueberry muffins.
Bloom Bake Shop
1834 Parmenter St., Middleton, 831-5797
It’s all about the state of being at Bloom, where the list of delicious cupcakes, cookies and cakes are all centered around the word “be”—as in “Be Cool,” a smooth chocolate cupcake with mint frosting and chocolate chips, and “Be a Pig,” a maple-sugar cinnamon number with locally sourced bacon crumbles on the frosting. We’d like
to suggest another: “Be Coming Back Tomorrow.”
Bluephies Restaurant and Vodkatorium
2701 Monroe St., 231-3663
What’s a restaurant/vodkatorium doing on a list of Madison bakeries? Obviously you haven’t pressed your nose to the glass of Bluephies’ dessert case, there to be tantalized by homemade choices like Snickers pie, peach-blueberry crisp and Bluephies’ signature six-layer carrot cake, rife with cream cheese, toasted pecans and coconut.
110 Market St., Sun Prairie, 825-3377
Tucked inside the Market Street Diner in Sun Prairie, Carl’s is the go-to place when you’re looking for a knock-your-socks-off wedding or special occasion cake—seriously, you need to see the wonders they can work with multiple layers and frosting—but there’s no reason you can’t just drop in on any old average day and taste the same kind of magic, worked into eye-popping cupcakes and cookies. We’re betting you head home with a white raspberry cake anyway.
PHOTO BY NICOLE PEASLEE
Clasen's European Bakery
Clasen’s European Bakery
7610 Donna Dr., Middleton, 831-2032
The history’s at least as long as the options at this Middleton bakery, home to the most authentic Old World–style German hearth bread you’ll find in the area. We’re partial to the sourdough and the sweet and rich Black Bavarian, baked, like all the breads here, in a stone-lined oven. For those who tilt toward the dessert end of the bakery spectrum, there’s no torte reform required here: Dig into the black forest or lemon variety and sample heaven.
6642 Mineral Point Rd., 836-3400
Okay, so you think you know cupcakes. Not until you’ve hit Cupcakes A-Go-Go, where the chairs and tables rock a funky-retro vibe and the premium cupcakes come in flavors that’ll make your head spin and your tastebuds quiver. Like the silky red velvet pomegranate and the Peanut Butter Overdrive, a ditty that comes with a Reese’s Peanut Butter cup baked inside. Prefer your cupcakes supersized? With advance notice and a slightly higher fee, they’ll make you a gigantic version that serves thirty, and you can even score a pupcake for the special canine in your life. How wooftacular is that?
Daisy Café and Cupcakery
2827 Atwood Ave., 241-2200
Take a bite of any of Daisy’s daily gourmet cupcake offerings, and you may begin to believe they need to reverse the order of the café’s name. The secret weapon’s in
the buttercream frosting, punched up with natural flavors like blueberry, mocha, raspberry, peanut butter and vanilla bean. The Daisy claims to have made seven hundred different flavor combos and is inching toward 400,000 cupcakes moved since opening five years ago. We don’t doubt it for a second.
4544 Monona Dr., 819-6560
The rack near the front door’s where you’ll find the freshest selection of baked goods at El Bolillo, where the name refers to the Mexican version of the baguette. Folks often come in for American specialties, only to have their eyes opened to the joys of Mexican bakery staples like vanilla- and cinnamon-flavored conchas and cuvilletes, a cheesecake delicacy with a sugar-cookie base. Craving Continental? The huge morning buns are made using the recipe from La Brioche, and the mocha bundt, a chocolate cake with frosting that looks like lava exploding from a volcano, is another don’t-miss winner.
1305 Regent St., 257-1151
Yes, it still shares its name with the historic neighborhood in which it’s located, but these days, the Greenbush Bakery is far less about history and far more about enjoying its status as the go-to spot for those looking to score major points by bringing baked goods to the office. One bite of the crullers, apple fritters and traditional-style doughnuts—we’re partial to the blueberry-flavored variety ourselves—is more than enough to understand why.
PHOTO COURTESY OF HERITAGE BAKERY
Heritage Bakery & Café
Heritage Bakery & Café
4674 Cottage Grove Rd., 222-0136
Tradition and top-notch training synergize into something special at Heritage, where husband-and-wife team Dave and Denien Sramek use their Culinary Institute of America–honed chops to serve up some of the tastiest and most attractively presented pastries, muffins and dessert bars in town. But you’d better plan ahead if you’re looking to enjoy a loaf of one of their specially baked breads—we’d opt for the durium and rosemary, honey wheat or pesto ourselves—since all bread orders require a twenty-four-hour advance notice.
Hubbard Avenue Diner & Bakery
7445 Hubbard Ave., Middleton, 831-6800
Hubbard earned a strong rep for serving up great comfort food, but its more delectable calling card is, of course, the pies—those gorgeous concoctions that seem almost as thick and wide as the rounded stool seats at the counter. Sure, you can grab tasty cookies and muffins here, too, but you know what you really want is another slice of the sinfully delicious French silk pie. Don’t let us stand in your way.
10 S. Allen St., 630-9130
There’s something of a tasty little contradiction here. Sisters Shelly Cross and Jill Long have cleverly named their pie-centric place Humble, but the size and the taste of its butter-crusted wares are bold to the extreme. Traditional and petite pies and tarts, both savory and sweet, are on the menu, but you can also invest in seasonally flavored, free-form “slabs”—a full one serves eighteen to twenty! With a late summer flavor docket that includes options like Drunken Granny Smith and Memphis Fudge, you might not want to share with quite so many people.
7424 Mineral Point Rd., 827-6775
As you’d expect from the elegant français in the name, it’s all about France’s most popular bakery exports here, from flaky croissants to, of course, fresh-baked baguettes in a variety of types. The adorable bistro is a little slice of Paris right on the west side.
La Brioche True Food
2862 University Ave., 233-3388
What was once a modest shop on Midvale Boulevard has settled in nicely to its University Station locale. The trellis-bedecked outdoor patio row is a great spot to nibble on a morning bun, bear claw or slice of tres leches cake, all baked in the classic Swiss style. And if you’re in the market to turn your wedding cake into an eye-popping work of art, La Brioche is the place to make the magic happen.
3054 Fish Hatchery Rd., Fitchburg, 276-9263
It’s easy to be confused and/or overwhelmed by the vibe at this über-authentic Mexican bakery—there’s no signage and no pricing, just cases and cases of beautiful bread loaves, muffins, cookies and ginormous and colorful fruit-filled treats. So go ahead, grab a platter and tongs and serve yourself some delicious pan azucar, maybe a hojaldra or colorful concha. You’ll be pleasantly surprised, both by the rich taste and how far your dollar will take you.
Lakeview Deli & Bakery
524 E. Wilson St., 250-2380
Lakeview’s part and parcel of the Essen Haus Spass Platz, so there’s a definite Germanic/Old World feel to its environs. The taste runs a wider gamut, with lots of sizable fruit- and chocolate-packed breakfast pastries enticing the government-worker crowd into scoring a scone, muffin or cinnamon roll to start the day. Gute idee, people. Gute idee.
2304 S. Park St., 251-0532
It’s Madison’s Too Good to Die Bakery, a place that has endured multiple relocations in its sixty-year history, including a recent shift from its popular Park Street location south to its current digs in the Villager Mall. Lane’s immortality speaks to the enduring quality of its signature kringles, that irresistible mix of fruit jelly and glazed Danish pastry dough that’s the staple of every office break room. Lane’s kringles are amazing, true, but so are the bear claws and cookies.
Lazy Jane’s Café and Bakery
1358 Williamson St., 257-5263
You may know this Willy Street staple for its awesome breakfast and brunch fare, but Lazy Jane’s rocks the to-go baked goods pretty hard, too. And with impressive size: The lemon, walnut pecan and almond mascarpone scones might give your arms a workout walking them home, while the croissants, muffins and biscuits will fill any breakfast plate.
916 Williamson St., 442-8009
An indispensable bakery staple of every Madison’s farmers’ market, Madison Sourdough’s mothership location features everything you know and love, including breads and baguettes in a dizzying variety of flavors (check out the Dodgeville Harvest and cracked rye) and pastries ranging from jaw-droppingly good pain au chocolate to raspberry hazelnut scones and fruit bars. And, of course, that indispensable sourdough baguette.
511 State St., 630-9030
State Street regulars are drawn like summertime ants to the baked goods at Madison Sweets, and it’s totally understandable. Custom cupcakes in off-the-wall flavors like pistachio, sweet potato and avocado—and we’re talking about the cake, not the frosting, which adds even more dimension—are an obvious choice. But so are the cookies (white chocolate cherry!) and the huge array of fruit- and chocolate-flavored macaroons. Sweet, indeed.
Manna Café and Bakery
611 N. Sherman Ave., 663-5500
There’s no shortage of delicious standard bakery items at the modest Manna Café. But the traditional Jewish specialties are the real draw. The corn tzitzle rye bread is a savory blend of sourdough, caraway seeds and cornmeal, and if you’re not making a weekend run to score a batch of chewy, onion-laden bialy rolls, you need to adjust your plans.
Nature’s Bakery Cooperative
1019 Williamson St., 257-3649
This Willy Street bakery is the perfect fit for its environs, and not just because its signature item is a wide array of granola. At the co-op, it’s not just about the standard wheat bread loaves (although they’re certainly excellent). If you’re hunting for fresh-baked pita, wheat-free flat or even flour-free Essene bread, this is your hookup. The maple almond cookie’s a great draw, too.
2810 E. Washington Ave., 245-0404
People’s Bakery stands on the site that used to house a joint called Go Nuts for Donuts. Doughnuts and other traditional pastry items are still baked here, but modern co-owners Nabil Elghadban and Mary Nikoyan have steered the bakery menu toward Mediterranean treats like walnut baklava, an Armenian sweetbread called gata and basboosa, a sweet-semolina treat soaked in rosewater. Basboosa means “just one kiss,” but we’re thinking one won’t likely be enough.
Prairie Café and Bakery
6720 Frank Lloyd Avenue Dr. #100, Middleton, 827-2437
The concept of New Urbanism centers on walkability, and in that sense, Prairie Café has always been a natural fit for nearby Middleton Hills residents, who’ve never minded stretching their legs to score a made-from-scratch cranberry-lemon scone or a streusel-topped muffin to complement their morning chai tea latte. And if you want to drive over to pick up a coconut-pecan sprinkled Cowboy cookie, we won’t tell anyone.
PHOTO BY JULIA LEVINE
Rolling Pin Bake Shop
The Rolling Pin Bake Shop
2935 S. Fish Hatchery Rd., Fitchburg, 270-9611
There’s a little bit of everything at the Rolling Pin, tastily anchored in the Yarmouth Crossing Mall, and all of it’s delicious. The owners now operate it from afar—they’re stationed in New York—but a comfortable vibe and a collection of from-scratch cinnamon rolls, colorful pastries and cupcakes keep the businessfolk trekking from Fitchburg to Madison and back stopping in. Score a strawberry buttercream cupcake on your next commute.
Rosie’s Bakery & Coffee Bar
4604 Monona Dr., 441-7673
Owner Coz Skaife leverages her twenty years of Madison baking experience—she’s a vet of both Ovens of Brittany and Hubbard Avenue Diner—into the town’s newest and most interesting bakery. With five cake decorators on staff and a certified barista in the house, Skaife’s got a lot of tasty elements to deploy, and the results are mouthwatering items like piña colada doughnuts and a doughnut called the Big Easy, rife with whiskey glaze, pecans and shots of espresso. Make sure you nab a Badger bear claw, punched up with bits of cherry.
Scott’s Pastry Shoppe
6637 University Ave., Middleton, 836-7333
There’s very little you won’t find at Scott’s popular Middleton location—a delish variety of cookies, bread, bars and pies dot the bakery menu. But it’s the cakes that serve as Scott’s signature. With more than a dozen cake flavors and fillings from which to choose (including unusual options like raspberry cake and pineapple filling), the combinations spin the mind. Did we mention you can have your cake—yes, and eat it, too—in almost any type of custom shape?
Silly Yak Bakery
7866 Mineral Point Rd., 833-5965
As gluten avoidance has become increasingly common in diets, this gluten-free bakery revolution has done nothing but continue to pick up steam. Silly Yak was there on the ground floor, offering Madison’s first entirely gluten-free menu of bakery staples. Name it, and you can find a gluten-free version here that tastes as rich and flavorful as anything you’ve ever had. Cranberry-orange toasting bread? Pineapple-coconut scones? Who says gluten-free has to be bland? Not us, that’s for sure.
Sophia’s Bakery and Café
831 E. Johnson St., 259-1506
Don’t be dissuaded by the tiny location, the fact that it’s open only on weekends or the copious masses stretching out the door. Wait your turn and be rewarded with some of the east side’s most amazing baked pastries. Whether you’re craving Sophia’s cinnamon rolls or chocolate croissants, you may find yourself wanting to stand in line twice.
2908 Syene Rd., 663-2690
Three words pretty much say it all about Stella’s, that beloved staple of Madison farmers’ markets: Spicy. Cheese. Bread. The soft texture, the gooey cheese, the sprinkle of red pepper flakes make for one of Madison’s quintessential bakery items. Stella’s wholesale location doesn’t have the all-star French baguettes and full array of artisan breads you’re used to finding at the farmers’ market, but it does have plenty of cheese bread (naturally) and the sticky-cinnamon-y goodness that is Monkey Bread. That alone makes it worth the trip.