In the spirit of resolutions in the new year, I have set my sights on a list of bakeries that I wish to visit in 2024. Think of it as a reverse resolution to…eat more? This past year has been one of research and full immersion in all things baking-related, for me. I am coming up on one year since reestablishing this website, and throughout 2023, I poured myself in to learning and cultivating skills related to the art of baking at a very steady pace. My appetite has been voracious, and can only be attributed to pure passion.
I am what you might refer to as a “Bake-a-Saurus Rex.” Ok, maybe that is only how I refer to myself. My fella will enter the kitchen in the morning to find every inch of the countertops covered in baking ingredients and parchment lined baking pans as far as the eye can see. I am somewhere lurching in the distance in my apron, dusted in flour and furiously thumbing through the pages of one cookbook or another. He will pause and cautiously say…”Hmmm. What are we making today?!” God love him and his patience for my predilection towards all things baking.
I can’t tell you what has driven it, but I have grown to simply LOVE the act of baking. I wake up thinking about what I want to make each day, and I fall asleep scanning recipes online. I read cookbooks, I scour Instagram, I watch tutorial videos galore, and I have been experimenting in the kitchen more than ever. I am a woman possessed. And with all of the inevitable trials and errors that come from learning to bake (believe me there is a LOT to learn) I find myself having an incredibly healthy appreciation for the pros that do this day in and day out, churning out ungodly amounts of pastries for the masses.
As I am in the kitchen, toiling over one batch of cookies, or one loaf of bread that takes hours, I often stop and think…how on EARTH do they DO it?! I know that commercial bakeries are equipped with all of the best tools and ovens galore, but still. Respect! If you are a professional baker, I tip my hat to you gracefully. It is not for the faint of heart, or the night owls, for that matter. It is an up at dawn, backbreaking effort of passion.
Naturally, I have been following a good amount of bakeries and bakers online, and they have collectively educated me immensely. I am so grateful for all of the tips and tricks that they so graciously share, but it has also been a tremendous inspiration to watch true bakers in action, artfully practicing their craft. It makes me want to try harder, be better, and take more chances.
So, I set out to decide which of these bakeries here in the southern region have inspired me greatly this year. There were so many. I thought it was appropriate to select a baker’s dozen of locations, but it was really difficult for me to choose just 13, out of all the inspiring spots I have been following. I realized that I also probably need to make a separate list of brunch spots that offer stellar pastry options, because there were so many in that genre as well. I think that will be my next list to tackle. I can tell you right away that Miller’s All Day in Charleston, SC tops that list for me, as a start. They are located close by to some of the bakeries listed below, so I may have to pay them a visit in my journeys. Their brunch menu is pure perfection.
So, without further ado, here is the list of bake shops I narrowed down to visit this year, and a bit about what drew me to each. They are all masters in their field and specialist of many baked goods, so I hope that you will have a chance to check these out too if you plan to head south in the coming year.
I will add that I have no affiliation to any of these bakeries, just pure admiration for their craft. What drew me most to the shops on this list is a humble approach, a love for what they do, and their ability to create a successful corner shop that connects with the local community.
Some are new, and some have been around for decades, earning clout and attracting devoted fans amongst tourists and locals alike. Some specialize in pastries, others in delicious, crusty breads. But they all have skill, artistry and good old-fashioned baking chops in common. I am sure this will be a running and growing list, as new players enter the scene.
My criteria was simple. I wanted to select small, hometown bakeries that I have never visited, located out of my own town of Bluffton, in an effort to inspire a sense of delicious adventure in the year ahead. Will travel for pastries!
1. Welton’s Tiny Bakeshop – Charleston, SC
Welton’s tops the list of bakeries I have in my sights this year. There is something about the whole aesthetic of this bakery that speaks to me. The family atmosphere, the cozy little 956 square foot space, the organic, locally sourced ingredients, and a staff that sits down for family meals before the start of a shift.
The idea for Welton’s was born from a married couple, who met as kitchen alumns of the world famous Husk restaurant in Charleston. The owners appear to have a shared love of old world baking styles and the sense of community that they bring to the table, both of which are apparent in everything they do. Combine this with their absolutely evident love of baking, their admirable techniques and their outrageously creative flavor profiles, and I am drawn to see it in action, in person…as well as taste about one of everything in the case.
They use such a unique array of flavors and textures to create the most inventive pastries week after week, both savory and sweet, never compromising in the quality of their ingredients. Their menu relies heavily on what is perfectly in season at the moment and available locally from South Carolina farms and dairy operations, which is admirable in and of itself. It is no wonder they seem to have a cult following.
Welton’s has a vibe of good, old friends telling you to stop by to grab a bite. From the impromptu pizza parties and apple cider donut pop-ups in the back alley, to perfectly puffed pastries and artisan boxed lunches, they seem to have all of the staples, mixed in with a feeling of a welcoming home kitchen that I can’t wait to visit.
682 King Street
Charleston, SC 29403
2. Back in the Day Bakery – Savannah, SC
I have mentioned before that a friend gifted me with a cookbook by the owners of Back in the Day Bakery for Christmas and it is already a treasured keepsake on my bookshelf. This establishment sits in my own backyard right here in the Starland District of Savannah, which is a stone’s throw from my town of Bluffton, just over the border in SC. Not only has this rustic and welcoming bakery been a mainstay in Savannah for decades, but the owners, Cheryl and Griff Day, are lauded for their involvement in the baking world. The inside cover of their cookbook is filled with a veritable “who’s who” of famous chefs and bakers singing their praises.
Cheryl Day is not only a wonderful baker, but a celebrated humanitarian. She is the cofounder of The Lee Initiative: Southern Restaurants for Racial Justice, as well as a founding member of the leadership committee for the James Beard Foundation Investment Fund for Black and Indigenous Americans. This honorable legacy is undoubtedly as important to her Mrs. Day as her accomplishments in baking.
The bakery has the feel of an old time country shop mixed with your Grandma’s kitchen, where everything is made with love. Sadly, yesterday, the bakery announced that they will be shuttering their hallowed doors after 22 years in business. This undoubtedly means great things ahead for the Days, as I am sure they will never be done with their baking journey and Cheryl has already moved into the online teaching space to share her baking knowhow.
Back in the Day Bakery has announced its last official day open will appropriately be February 14, 2024, which is symbolic of the labor of love the bakery has been for the couple and their employees, as well as the love the community holds in their hearts for them. That said, if you are looking to walk through the doors of this establishment before it becomes a memory, now is the time!
2403 Bull Street
Savannah, GA 31401
3. Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery – Greenville, SC
I am admittedly obsessed with the Swamp Rabbit Cafe Instagram page, not only as a vehicle to witness their endless delicious offerings, but because they have such a cheeky, entertaining spirit. They are indelibly intertwined with the community and they carry a cult following, for good reason. They have the freshest local ingredients and a bumping bakery team that is capable of making just about any and every baked good on the planet. And not only can they bake, but it is evident that the employees have a true sense of enjoyment and that they are having 100% fun doing what they do best. This energy shines through and brightens my day every time I see it. It makes me want to post up at one of their outdoor picnic tables for a day to indulge in endless soup, pastries, rotisserie chickens, smores…and of course the famous Swamp Rabbit Cafe Stecca bread. IYKYK. This cleverly-named, specialty grocery store is perched along the locally renowned Swamp Rabbit Bike Trail, which gets a nod through their humble motto, “Eat Local – Ride Bikes,” encouraging locals to do both regularly.
205 Cedar Lane Road
Greenville, SC 29611
4. Wild Flour Pastry – Charleston, SC
Wild Flour has it all, and they do it beautifully. I stumbled across this bakery in my feed. I think that Instagram has identified my love of pastries and has begun to feed me an endless diet of the prettiest photos of baked goods nearby. This is how I discovered Wild Flour. I am amazed at how many varieties of desserts they produce, from pies to cakes, on to cookies…and my favorite…the turnover. They hit on all of the southern classics and seem to take them to the next level. All I can say is…Sweet Potato Apple Coffee Cake & Pecan Streusel. If that doesn’t entice you, I’m not sure what will.
1750 Savannah Highway
Charleston, SC 29407
5. Sugar Bakeshop – Charleston, SC
I am such a sucker for a well sprinkled dessert, and Sugar Bakeshop has them in spades. What is not to love about sweet desserts and sprinkles? Their layer cakes are little slices of artistic perfection (that rainbow layer cake tho!). And let’s discuss the cookies. You can actually SEE the buttery, crunchy edges and chewy centers on their cookies in the photo. When you can feel a texture just by looking at a photo, it is something special. I started flipping through their photos and fell down a rabbit hole of cookie inspiration. When I see baked goods that look that good, it just makes me want to tie on my apron and get to work. This bakery is also located a stone’s throw from my home, and I see it as well worth the trip to nab an assorted box of those dreamy cookies. Just the thought makes me feel warm and fuzzy.
59 1/2 Cannon Street
Charleston, SC 29403
6. The Harbinger Cafe – Charleston, SC
Just down the road from Welton’s is the cozy, eclectic, and colorful Harbinger Cafe. It has the feel of an old-fashioned, hometown corner coffee shop with a modernized appeal. They have a veggie heavy menu and pride themselves on locally sourced, farm fresh ingredients as well. While they have a full breakfast menu, my heart lies in the pastries and cakes. The crumb and heft that you can see simply through their photos, and that perfectly buttery butter cream draws me like a fly to the zapper. I think that I may need to order myself a smash cake ahead of arrival. Normally reserved for small children on their first birthday for smashing to oblivion, I think it would be just dandy for a single serving indulgence as well. But first, one or two of those MASSIVE topped cookies and perhaps a Rice Krispie treat are in order.
1107 King Street
Charleston, SC 29403
7. Strossner’s Bakery, Cafe & Deli – Greenville, SC
First, I will say that I am a total sucker for a good, soft cinnamon bun that pulls apart and melts in your mouth, covered with ungodly amounts of cream cheese icing. Strossner’s has this in spades. They also have traditional strudel, which believe it or not, is hard to find in it’s native form these days. I look in just about every bakery I visit and it’s just never quite right. Strossner’s strudel looks to be legit, and I can’t wait to try it for myself. They make the most beautiful ornate cakes as well as chocolate covered turtles as a specialty. Salty peanuts covered in chewy caramel and chocolate? Sign me up. I love that they make their own homemade version of a good old-fashioned oatmeal pie. It is truly one of my all time favorites, and made fresh takes it to the next level. Just look at how pretty they are!
This family bakery was founded in 1947, making it the oldest in Greenville. That is saying something, and that something is that they are getting baked goods just right. I love a good family-owned business steeped in history and delicious pastries. You will see me there soon!
21 Roper Mountain Road
Greenville, SC 29607
8. Spalding’s Bakery – Lexington, KY
Now, this one is a bit out of the way, but I have always been drawn to taking a trip to Kentucky. There is actually quite a foodie scene going on there and many a lauded chef. My guy also loves bourbon, so it would be a win-win trip to travel out that way. Spalding’s may seem like a bit of an odd ball choice, but don’t let it’s humble appearance fool you. One of the things that I love the most is that this locally renowned donut bakery sells misshapen donuts.
Spalding’s Bakery has been hand forming their yeast donuts since 1929. This makes them each a little different, none perfect. I love that factoid about this bakery. It is a rustic, beautiful, no frills approach. That said, these donuts are popular, and if you don’t get there early, locals will tell you that they sell out every time. Donuts are my ultimate dessert kryptonite, and you can bet that when I eventually get there, I will be the first online with a full list to try.
760 Winchester Road
Lexington, KY 40505
9. Auspicious Baking Company – Savannah, GA
Once you visit the Instagram page for this bakery, you won’t have any question why I have added it to my list. I have a hard time nailing down just one type of treat that I would like to try here, so it should be a full on disaster when I arrive. I will be like Veruca Salt in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, twirling and pointing…demanding MORE of each. Ok, I will try my best to show some restraint.
As far as my visual favorites go, I have to say that I am incredibly drawn to their creative pop tart options. I have dabbled in making these myself, so I have a healthy appreciation for the process. Theirs are so neat, pretty and uniquely flavored. Not only are their pastries pretty, but much like the draw of Welton’s, they have such interesting seasonal flavor combinations and profiles. Their flaky pastries are works of art, and that cinnamon sugar coated, flaky bun is top on my list.
7360 Skidaway Road
Savannah, GA 31406
10. Bracken Mountain Bakery – Brevard, NC
I admittedly came across the Bracken Mountain Bakery while cruising through Southern Living’s “The South’s Best Bakeries List 2022.” Southern Living is an age old bible of all things truly southern and delicious, so to be named as one of the top is truly an honor. I grew up part of the time in North Carolina and have done a lot of living there. We tend to pass through the state on many of our longer road trips, and I plan to make this bakery a stop on our winding tour through the state.
Located in the mountains, on the outskirts of Asheville, Brevard is known as the cycling capital of the south, and if there is one thing uber athletes know how to do right (aside from their sport, of course) is down the most delicious, high-calorie treats. This bakery is the most charming, down to Earth, Mom & Pop shop with an impressive mix of baked goods. Looking at the shop from the street brings a feeling of stepping back in time, which is a quality I really love. The look of the black and white checkered tiles lining the bottom of the pastry lined glass window, sitting beneath a hand painted wood “Bakery” sign makes my heart pitter patter. It has that old fashioned feel that I adore and I feel drawn to experience for myself, not just in photos. But the baked goods. OH the baked goods! Those Danishes and cinnamon rolls…the phenomenal array of breads in all textures and flavors. I am in absolute awe of the baking prowess wrapped up in this one tiny operation. It is a must see (and taste) in person for me.
42 S Broad Street
Brevard, NC 28712
11. Hershberger’s Bakery – Fair Play, SC
Now, I know I have mentioned about a 1,000 times how much I love a good cinnamon roll. Hershberger’s is one of those old school bakeries. Not much fanfare around it, none of the fancy bells and whistles…just good old delicious pastries and donuts. These are pastries of the giant kind, many fried and iced. They are most well known around town for their fried cinnamon rolls. Located in a laid back rural town near Lake Hartwell, in the small town of Fair Play, SC, locals will tell you that these cinnamon rolls alone are enough to get you out of bed and out the door to pick up a box, even early in the morning. I will be spending a bit of time up in that part of the state this year, so I plan to see what the fuss is all about for myself!
1101 Highway 59
Fair Play, SC 29643
12. Bake Room – Greenville, SC
Specializing in naturally leavened breads and laminated pastries, the Bake Room is a tiny operation with a German Deck oven at the heart of its operation. Essentially, this sort of oven gives you maximum output capacity in a minimal baking space, so that tells me that this shop is churning out the goods. And what beautiful goods they are, if I do say so myself. I am a lover of baking technique and have recently been obsessed with reading about laminating and watching videos on the process. It enthralls me and intimidates me all at once.
The short version of laminating is a series of folded layering of dough and cold butter with a high fat content. It is a highly delicate and labor intensive process. I have a healthy respect for any baking outfit that can create such beautiful laminated offerings, and perfect loaves of golden, crusty bread. Both of these call for skills of the highest level of finesse and slight of hand. I am genuinely looking forward to sinking my teeth into their pastries. It will be the tastiest kind of research.
147 Welborn Street
Greenville, SC 29601
13. Sheila’s Baking Company – North Augusta, SC
Sheila’s just warms my heart every time I browse their social feeds. I have to tell you that Shelia’s was one of the first bakeries that I stumbled across when I started stalking baked goods across the great state of SC. Not to be confused with Augusta, GA, this shop is located in North Augusta, which sits on the South Carolina side, just over the border from the famous golfing mecca.
There is something special about this bakery that I find endearing. They are beloved by the community, frequently selling out at their brick and mortar store and their food truck locations. Having opened in the full swing of the pandemic, I find myself rooting them on for their gumption. They are a true small business making it happen. It is admirable, and on top of all the the hard work, the staff seems to have a ball, even when they are in full swing of the heaviest of baking months of the holiday season.
And let me say, I am not sure who photographs the goods for their Instagram page, but they instantly won me over with their donut and cupcake photo artistry. Their pastries are impeccably decorated, and frequently finished with a signature chocolate “S” which I always find to be such a dignified touch for a method of branding. This is the cutest little family operation. I can’t wait to pay them a visit and get my grubby little hands on a dozen of their best donuts!
434 Georgia Avenue
North Augusta, SC 29841