Your Guide to the Garden State’s Best Bakeries

Just the sight of a bakery can lift one’s spirits. We did the hard work of visiting and tasting so you can make a beeline for Jersey’s finest.

Tempting treats at the Artist Baker in Morristown. Photo by Natalie Chitwood

[Editor’s note, updated April 13: Some bakeries have temporarily closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, as noted below. The ones still open are taking special precautions to protect customers, but could use your support more than ever. As always, we urge readers to take all necessary precautions as advised by health experts.] 

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The Able Baker

Maplewood

(Temporarily closed)

Julie Pauly baked out of a commercial kitchen for two years, hand delivering cakes, pies and decorated cookies before she found the spot that her café/bakery has held for eight years on the “quiet end” of Maplewood’s main street. Aromas of vanilla, melting sugar and toasty caramel greet you as you walk in. Decorated with antique stoves, the welcoming, cozy café offers six types of scones daily, including a savory option, such as cheddar dill. Cupcakes are perfect: moist, tender cake and delicately sweet frosting that delivers actual flavor. The hand-decorated cookies manage to be beautiful and taste good—a rarity. Gluten-free options include lemony iced pound cake and the crowd favorite, banana bread.—MRB

187 Maplewood Avenue, 973-313-1133

the artist baker

Andrea Lekberg’s sugar-dusted olive-oil pound cake merits a sunny grin. Photos by Natalie Chitwood

The Artist Baker

Morristown

Andrea Lekberg was an artist—trained in painting at the Art Institute of Chicago—before she was a baker. Now she is both. Two of her pictures hang on the brick wall of the little dining room that adjoins the bakery. What drew her to baking was the pleasure of working with her hands. “I get to poke bread, see how it’s rising,” she says. Lekberg opened the Artist Baker in 2009. People don’t just happen by her shop, which is on a steep, narrow side street with no parking. If you’re there, you probably walked, and you know to get there early, because things sell out—scones, for example, warm from the oven in the morning. “People are bummed if they can’t get them,” Lekberg says. Same for the new chocolate-hazelnut croissants. Then there is the ultimate: the salted-cashew caramel tart, which has a top layer of dark chocolate ganache. Its thin, crisp crust happens to be gluten free, but that isn’t the point. The point is to delight. “People have funny names for it,” Lekberg says. Any examples? “Yes,” she says. “The devil.”—EL

16 Cattano Avenue, 973-267-5540

Balthazar's

Asked if, surrounded by such bounty, she has to resist temptation on a daily basis, Balthazar’s head baker Paula Oland admits, “It’s a constant struggle.” Photo by Natalie Chitwood

Balthazar

Englewood

(Temporarily closed)

 When they first moved into their 14,000-square-foot home in 2000, Balthazar bakers Paula Oland and William “B” Young “wondered how we’d ever fill it up,” says Young. “We used to play soccer in the delivery bay.” Having started with two delivery trucks, they now have 22, which make a cumulative 800 drop-offs each morning. That still leaves them far short of “what we don’t want to be: a big industrial bakery,” says Oland. “We still do all this handwork.” What distinguishes Balthazar is the exceptional quality of everything it does, starting with its breads, breakfast pastries and cookies. But equally important to maintaining that quality is everything it forgoes (cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons, to name a few). The 2018 expansion and redesign of the retail store has made it not only one of the best gawking experiences in flour power, but one that proves good down to the last morsel in the bag.—EL

214 South Dean Street, 201-503-9717 

Calandra's 

The flagship Calandra’s store in Newark. Courtesy of Calandra’s

Calandra’s

Caldwell, Fairfield, Newark

Five years after immigrating to America, Luciano Calandra Jr. opened a small bakery in Newark’s North Ward. Fifty-five years later, the small storefront on First Avenue has been joined by a bakery in Fairfield and the luxe Calandra’s Italian Village in Caldwell, where customers can buy everything from meatballs and antipasto to pastries and the justly famous four-ingredient bread that arrives freshly baked every hour. Along with whole wheat, semolina and multigrain loaves, Calandra’s offers 26 different incarnations of white bread, from sesame-encrusted braided loaves to simple yet satisfying round Italian rolls.—MRB

234 Bloomfield Avenue, Caldwell, 973-226-8889; 244 Route 46, Fairfield, 973-227-5008; 204 First Avenue, Newark, 973-484-5598

Chloe’s Crème Puffs

Pitman

Few sweets are as delightfully ephemeral as a crème puff, those diminutive clouds of choux pastry. The flavors of whipped cream dreamed up by baker Alison Lusardi—24 in all—add a kind of edible giggle. They range from egg nog to strawberry banana, mint chocolate chip, salted caramel, and pistachio, with vanilla and chocolate always available. This jewel box named for the family cat also offers tiramisu, rice pudding and cannoli. But the puffs, at $11 for a baker’s dozen, keep marching out the door. See if you can resist polishing them off in the car. Harder than you think.—JH 

7 East Holly Avenue, 856-589-2919

Chocolate Carousel

Wall

Growing up in Nutley, Lisa Porado looked forward to family celebrations capped with a black-and-white cake from Capri Bakery in Newark. Years later, as a young pastry chef, she tried to get the recipe from Capri’s owner, with no success: “He took it with him to the grave.” When she opened her own bakery in 2003, Porado decided to recreate it. After four years of trial and error, she arrived at a version she calls “as close to the original as possible.” The layered yellow cake, covered in chocolate buttercream and dusted with cake crumbs, can be found in Chocolate Carousel’s rotating case among other freshly baked splendors. Equally good are Porado’s cookies, chocolate-covered pretzels and stuffed cupcakes.—SV

2510 Belmar Boulevard, 732-280-0606

Cocoluxe

Peapack

Paula A. Canariato and her team follow French tradition. “Recipes have come down through generations,” she says. “They withstand time.” The bake case brims with croissants and other yeasted Viennoiseries. Macarons, those dainty, round meringue cookies with intensely flavored filling, are a specialty. Pistachio, pomegranate—“the flavors are infinite, whatever we think of that week.”—JH  

161 Main Street, 908-781-5554

Del Ponte’s

Bradley Beach

Expect crowds on weekends and in summer at this Shore stalwart, open since 1999. Del Ponte’s specializes in classic Italian: more than a dozen flavors of biscotti, pignoli and other cookies by the pound, and flaky sfogliatelle and cannoli in crunchy shells. The shop also produces serious breads and rolls.—SV

600 Main Street, 732-869-1111

Dom’s

Hoboken

Dom and Flo Castellito opened in 1979 around the corner from their current location, where they moved in 1988. In the back, you’ll see the furnace-like coal oven that has been baking crusty Italian breads for over 120 years. Don’t miss the meat breads—loaves stuffed with sweet Italian sausage or pepperoni. Recently, a customer stopped on his way to the airport to pick up seven loaves to carry with him to Florida. Another patron extolled the focaccia: “When I’m invited somewhere, I always take a focaccia from Dom’s…and I’m always invited back.”—MRB  

506 Grand Street, 201-653-1948

Dulce

From left: Dulce’s Josue Santiago Negrón rarely rests in pursuit of perfection; cranberry butter fills walnut oatmeal biscuits. Photos by Felicia Perretti

Dulce

Collingswood

When Josue Santiago Negrón came to the Northeast after growing up in Puerto Rico, he fell in love with the seasons. Now, he says, “baking is about how a season makes me feel.” His panna cottas, featuring fruit in summer, cycle through chocolate pomegranate later in the year. Studying with a French pastry chef in Miami set him on his course, and he later worked at Stephen Starr restaurants in Philadelphia before opening Dulce in 2016. From crackly croissants in several varieties to pecan sticky buns, dulce de leche tarts, salted peanut butter cookies and brownies made with stout, he and his small staff ace everything. Breads, too—a whole range of them, but especially the baguettes (“the first smell of my day”) and the eggy, sugar-dusted Mallorca rolls that bring him back to the Caribbean.—JH

740A Haddon Avenue, 856-942-0254

Erie

Rutherford

(Temporarily closed)

With chef/owner Renée Faris encouraging her kitchen staff to develop new flavor combinations, you never know what will be on offer—only that you’ll be happy to eat it. There are genius takes on standards, from scones (could be chocolate cherry one week, Meyer lemon with cream cheese the next) to pastry (a recent citrus brioche was filled with vanilla pastry cream). If the salted maple tart (a spin on traditional salted caramel) is there, grab it. On Saturdays, yeasted doughnuts come fresh from the fryer four at a time, while Sunday is about fresh cinnamon buns. Do not think of leaving the premises without a large, chewy chocolate chip cookie that tastes of nutty brown butter and is studded with chocolate chunks. Layer cakes, made to order, present unexpected pairings as in the Light Orange, composed of almond cake and citrus cream frosted with burnt-vanilla honey-cardamom buttercream.—MRB

10 Franklin Place, 201-460-0073

Flaky Tart

Atlantic Highlands

After opening in 2007, founder Marie Jackson quickly made Flaky Tart a magnet for lovers of fine pastries. In 2015, Matthew Rosenzweig and Laura Martelli, who had worked under Jackson since 2009, bought the business. The bakery has been nominated for a James Beard Award several times—under Jackson and her successors. The display case abounds with bright key lime tarts, crunchy pecan sticky buns, rich crumb cake (weekends only), flaky croissants and more. Then there are the peanut butter cookies, intensely peanutty and devourable.—SV 

145 First Avenue, 732-291-2555

French Dad

Montclair

Authenticity, craftsmanship and 10 years perfecting his skills in France and New York make Arben Gasi’s breads worth traveling for. There are up to 10 types daily, from classic baguettes to multigrain country loaves—and if you’re lucky, a cheese fougasse (a Provençal flatbread) we challenge you not to eat in one sitting. Ingredients are important to Gasi: He sources his stone-ground flours from an organic farm in upstate New York, his free-range eggs from a farm in western New Jersey, and his butter from France. His Viennoisserie, from croissants to pain au chocolat, could be photographed for a French baking textbook. He offers macarons in a rainbow of flavors and beautiful pastries as well, including a chocolate éclair filled with chocolate mousseline (a light pastry cream).—MRB 

10 Church Street, 973-746-0288 

Gingered Peach

Gingered Peach’s Joanne Canady-Brown presents an Oh My Ganache! cake. In the pan: cinnamon rolls. Photos by Natalie Chitwood

Gingered Peach

Lawrenceville

(Temporarily closed)

In 2018, six years after launching Gingered Peach and building it into a business with more than 20 employees and $1.5 million in annual sales, Joanne Canady-Brown was named a fellow of the James Beard Foundation’s Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership program. Self-taught, she had come a long way from the young girl whose Georgia-born grandmother, Johnnie, first turned her on to baking. At Gingered Peach, Johnnie’s teapots and vintage whisks take pride of place on a wall of family photos. Johnnie’s spirit also infuses the bake case, from red-velvet cupcakes to shimmery croissants. Canady-Brown’s family tree has African-American, Italian, Puerto Rican and Korean culinary roots. At Marmalade, a luncheonette she expects to open next year, the 38-year-old entrepreneur promises a menu that will “show where I came from.”—JH

2 Gordon Avenue, 609-896-5848

Lillipies

Princeton

Lillipies is named for its lead item: captivating little pies in flavors like whiskey walnut, chai custard and Morello cherry. Yet since opening the bakery café in 2016, Jen Carson has become entranced with sourdough breads. To Carson, the random local yeasts that turn flour and water into bubbly starter deliver a taste of place. At Lillipies, German rye sourdough adds slow-fermented zing to avocado toast, and English muffins—a serious upgrade from the packaged kind—enhance local eggs. Carson, a former kindergarten teacher and French Culinary Institute grad, teaches baking at Lillipies on Mondays.—JH 

301 North Harrison Street, 609-423-2100

Liv Breads

Millburn

Go for the bread, stay for the best chocolate rugelach in Jersey. Co-owner Elana Livneh opened the bakery in 2018 with her partners. Attention to detail shows in every product. The majority of breads are loaves that require a 12-to-18 hour rise. The result has complex flavor, chewy texture and a crisp crust. Liv’s croissant-style laminate doughs are equally good and are even used for their cinnamon roll, which yields a delicate center and a caramelized bottom. Other standouts include the chocolate chip cookie, a “pear claw” and a Nutella-filled brioche. Seasonal salads and sandwiches make it a meal.—MRB 

184 Essex Street, 973-218-6922

L&M

Delran

No wisecracks about the stuff being to die for, but on at least three occasions in recent years, families have mentioned in obituaries their loved ones’ passion for the doughnuts, the cream puffs or just plain everything at L&M. Baker Richard Kahl bought the place from founders Loschiavo and McCain in 1964. Though Kahl’s son John now runs the show, “my father-in-law still comes in every day,” says John’s wife, Carol. The butter cake, slathered in buttercream, always sells out. Cases of cupcakes, cookies, babkas and more expand the appeal, as do custom wedding cakes. On Christmas Eve morning, Carol says, a line extends down the block by 5 am.—JH

11 St. Mihiel Drive, 856-461-1660

Marcel on Walnut

Montclair

(Temporarily closed)

Chef Meny Vaknin, owner of Montclair’s MishMish and Café Marcel eateries, brings his Israeli-Mediterranean roots to a bakery (formerly known as Luisa) where savory is as important as sweet. Choose salty, buttery three-cheese bourekas—puff pastry filled with fresh ricotta, feta and mozzarella—or a chewy, garlic-and-cheese-filled roll called a Cubano. Alongside pain au chocolat are baklava croissants filled with the same honey and nuts as the traditional pastry. Desserts include frangipane (rich almond cake) tarts with fruit. Traditional American desserts, such as a lovely caramel cheesecake, are lighter and less sweet. Don’t overlook the cellophane bags filled with a variety of elegant butter cookies—especially the Nutella hamantaschen.—MRB 

110 Walnut Street, 973-707-5153 

McMillan’s

Westmont

McMillan’s cream doughnut isn’t for the faint of heart. Sugar dusted, it’s stuffed to bursting with “a special cream that my dad perfected; there is nothing you can compare it to,” says Arline Biemiller, 81, who runs the bakery with sons Douglas and Gary. Opened circa 1939 by Arline’s parents, George and Evelyn McMillan, it is old-school down to the ceiling-mounted twine dispenser. Standouts include yeasted snowflake rolls, almost as airy as their namesake, and those cream-filled doughnuts, “which fly all over the country,” Biemiller says. “They have even gone to the troops in Afghanistan.”—JH 

15 Haddon Avenue, 856-854-3094

Doughnuts at Montclair Bread Co. Photo by Natalie Chitwood

Montclair Bread Co.

Montclair

On a slow morning in 2012, when Montclair Bread was new, Rachel Wyman decided to make doughnuts. An artisanal bread specialist, she used what she knew: brioche dough, rich in milk, butter and eggs. She still uses it, with long fermentation times improving flavor and texture. Little did she suspect that doughnuts—in a creative sprawl of natural flavors and fillings—would come to account for 75 percent of sales. Which is not to slight her crusty breads, like the ancient grain, a marvel of focused complexity.—EL

13 Label Street, 973-509-2525

Natale's

From left, at Natale’s: The birthday buttercream cake, with its jaunty edible flower; colorful cookies. Photos by Natalie Chitwood

Natale’s

Summit

(Temporarily closed)

Since Natale’s opened in 1938, generations of locals have celebrated every life event with trays of cookies, sheet cakes festooned with icing roses and, of course, its justly famous Philly Fluff, a dense, moist pound cake. Daily customers grab a coffee and a buttered, freshly baked torpedo roll wrapped in wax paper. Get there early to join the line for doughnuts, Danish, crumb cake and nubbly crullers. Choose between plain, glazed or cinnamon sugar. If you’re lucky, there will also be apple-cider crullers, with nutmeg-flecked interior and crispy glaze.—MRB

185 Broad Street, 908-277-2074 

Palazzone 1960

From left, at Palazzone 1960: Giancarlo Palazzone hefts a tray of chiacchiere (bow ties); assorted pastries. Photos by Natalie Chitwood

Palazzone 1960

Wayne

The pastries here taste like they’re from Italy for a reason. Many ingredients, from flour to Sicilian pistachios and Piedmontese hazelnut extract, are imported by owner/manager Giancarlo Palazzone, who named the business for the year his parents came to America. (Perishable ingredients are sourced locally.) The family also owns a bakery in Abruzzo, which Palazzone visits yearly. The staff’s passion shows in the variety of impeccable desserts, from tiramisu to baba au rhum. Cannoli cream is made daily. There are sugared bombolone and a lobster tail that puts all others to shame, its crisp shell bulging with just-sweet-enough filling. Worth the splurge: the pistachio and other mousse cakes in the illuminated cases.—MRB

190 Route 23 North, 973-256-2734

Pierre et Michel

Elmwood Park & Ridgewood

Step inside, inhale the unmistakable aroma of browning butter that is croissants baking, and for all you know, the Eiffel Tower could be next door. Save for a lone stack of brownies on the counter, everything here is French to the core. Individual cakes are as exquisite to look at as they are to eat, with brightly colored glazes, swirls of white and dark chocolates, and flecks of gold-leaf decoration. You’ll be drawn to the Metisse, with its layers of dark chocolate mousse, crème brûlée, hazelnut praline and chocolate cake, or the Passion, with its striations of passion fruit and milk chocolate cakes and mousse.—MRB  

95 Broadway, Elmwood Park, 201-300-6580; 38 East Ridgewood Avenue, Ridgewood, 201-448-8111

Pisker’s

Westville

When Pisker’s opened in 1925, some customers arrived on horseback. Nearly a century later, horsepower is under the hood, but Dave Critch, 41, owner since 1998, keeps turning out several of the original recipes. One of the most popular is the chocolate dips, little pound cakes dipped in chocolate fudge. Other classics, like jelly- and cream-filled doughnuts and old-fashioned cheese pies, sell well alongside French pastries and special-occasion cakes.—TW

323 Delsea Drive, 856-456-1208

Ponzio’s Diner

Desserts beckon at Ponzio’s Diner. Photo by Felicia Perretti

Ponzio’s Diner

Cherry Hill

(Temporarily closed)

The bakery at this landmark turns 1,500 pounds of flour a week into regiments of rugelach, battalions of bread, companies of cupcakes and much more. Cinnamon-scented cheese rolls alone sell nearly 10,000 a week. “The recipe,” says head chef and co-owner John Fifis, “has been passed down for 55 years,” dating to the diner’s founding. The rolls account for only a small portion of the 35,000 pounds of cream cheese used a year. (There are eight cheesecakes, plus pumpkin at Thanksgiving.) Most bakers on the team of six started as dishwashers. “My father,” Fifis explains, “was an immigrant from Greece. He always wanted to give someone an opportunity.” Kids have plenty of opportunity to ogle goodies on the lower shelves. Indeed, such is their fascination with the Elmo cupcakes that it is necessary to send someone out to clean their fingerprints off the glass.—JH 

7 West Route 70, 856-428-4808

Sook

Ridgewood

The café at Sook is usually crowded and boisterous, as it should be with its formidable selection of French pastries. Keum-Seuk Park, the co-owner, trained with French pastry greats, including François Payard. Along with croissants and related Viennoiseries, there are elegant homemade chocolates and seven flavors of delicate little macarons. There are many choices for chocolate lovers, such as the Glen, which offers layers of chocolate cake, dark chocolate mousse and cassis mousse.—MRB 

24 South Broad Street, 201-493 2500

Sweet Melissa

Sweet Melissa’s Melissa Murphy Rafano and husband Chris with their book—and a carousel of macarons. Photo by Natalie Chitwood

Sweet Melissa

Lebanon

Melissa Murphy Rafano and her husband, Chris, opened the first Sweet Melissa in Brooklyn in 1998. Eighteen years of success later, they moved to Jersey for more affordable space to grow her business and family. (A son! Horses!) Doughnuts don’t get much better than the bakery’s Boston cream, filled with lightened crème pâtissier and dipped in chocolate ganache. There are beautifully decorated layer cakes and fruit pies, including a banana-cream tart made with caramelized pastry cream. Take home a fallen chocolate souffle cake, its center light yet rich with chocolate, or a savory brioche with Gruyére and mushrooms.—MRB

56 Payne Road, 908-323-2460

Sweetsboro

Swedesboro

Set amid patches of farmland not far from Turnpike exit 2, tiny Swedesboro (settled in the mid-1600s) has a sweet downtown with one especially sweet corner. That’s where you’ll find Jack Frombach expanding on the skills he learned from his parents at their Philadelphia bakery. “Keeping that tradition alive” with his son, Jacob, Frombach deftly satisfies customer demands for “bigger and better” custom cakes. Recent commissions have included cakes in the shape of a Coach handbag, a beehive and the human brain. Regular offerings range from orange Creamsicle to red velvet to chocolate-strawberry-banana mousse cake. “There is always,” Frombach says, “a reason to eat cake.”—JH

1302 Kings Highway, 856-241-7722

Taskin

Paterson

Kadir and Naciye Taskin opened this superb Turkish bakery in 1997 and now run it with three of their daughters. For years, they made nothing but pide—the classic, soft, focaccia-like bread. Now the counters are filled with up to 85 different breads and pastries, made fresh daily by the nearly all-female baking staff. Coiled cheese-filled bourekas with flaky phyllo crust sit beside pogaca, a soft, savory roll filled with potato and cheese or meat. Gozleme is a marvel of flaky layers of dough folded around cheese and spinach and griddled. Delicate baklava and other phyllo-based sweets come filled with every manner of nuts, even a chocolate-hazelnut version. Don’t miss the fountain of frothy yogurt which, with a sprinkle of salt, becomes a refreshing drink. Open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.—MRB

103 Hazel Street, 973-278-9555

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