Pasadena’s baking scene is one of SoCal’s most diverse, drawing on global culinary traditions to produce a wide range of sweet and savory creations. House-baked bread has also become more prevalent, laying the base for stellar sandwiches and toasts. Learn about the must-visit bakeries in Pasadena, plus one homegrown flour mill.
Café 86 is a Filipino cafe from Ginger Dimapasok on Mills Alley in Old Pasadena that specializes in ube, purple yam. Options include cassava bars, pop tarts, flan cupcakes on Wednesdays and weekends, and crack pie on Tuesdays. Their signature ube leche flan cupcake teams a moist purple cupcake with no frosting topped with a rich torched custard disc. This dessert definitely works better when both parts are eaten together.
Europane Bakery is now without retired chef-founder Sumi Chang for the first time since 1995, but her long-time employees are still making the same great recipes. They sell everything from quiche to cookies, muffins, sugar-dusted lemon bars, pecan sticky buns, and puff pastry with seasonal fruits like apples and pears. Croissants are textbook and the same dough inspired creative breakfast rings studded with currants and crushed walnuts and drizzled with glaze. Chewy English muffins come toasted with butter and raspberry jam or as part of egg white omelette sandwiches with pesto and greens. House-baked breads include sourdough, multigrain, olive, and rosemary currant. Euro Pane also serves weekend-only French toast with whipped cream, blueberry sauce, and fresh fruit.
Federico’s Italian Bakery
Federico’s has been open since 1960. Fred Criscione and late wife Bea replaced Sven’s, which explains all the Danishes in the case. Federico’s Italian Bakery features an array of biscotti, cakes, and cookies. Highlights include lacy flour-less Florentine cookies with crushed walnuts and sugar bound in a disc and dipped in chocolate; Regina, a sesame studded finger; Florentini, an almond cookie with raspberry jam thumbprint; Italian fruit bar with dried fruits, jam, and shaved almonds; and Angelini, an Italian wedding cookie mare with almonds and coated with powdered sugar. They pipe cannoli shells to order with semi-sweet ricotta and chocolate chips. If you lik, they’ll dress both ends with Maraschino cherries and green coconut shavings.
Thomas Dumont-Girard and Guillaume Delcourt are “two French guys who fell in love with California” and opened Frenchfornia, a bakery around the corner from Pasadena City Hall. The space sports white walls with paintings of Golden Gate Bridge, Eiffel Tower, and a Pasadena inspired rose. Atypical éclairs are filled with combos like smoked salmon and cream and avocado and shrimp. Both pastries tout choux pastry and a filling with cream and cream cheese base. Pain Suisse is crafted with croissant dough with custard and chocolate chips. They also sell cream puffs, croissants, quiche, fruit tarts, macarons, and bread: whole wheat, five-grain, and baguettes that help to fuel sandwiches.
Grist & Toll
Grain miller Nan Kohler runs Grist & Toll in an industrial complex just north of the 110 freeway finish on Arroyo Parkway. She mills powdery, stone-ground, whole grains in a wooden Austrian mill, visible through glass in the tiny shop. Metal racks hold bagged grains like organic California cornmeal, organic emmer/farro flour, sifted durum and teff, a gluten-free Ethiopian option best known for injera. Grist & Toll provides detailed breakdowns of each grain, suggested uses, flavor profiles, baking applications, and insider baking tips. The shop also sells items like Red Bread jams starring fruit from Pasadena Farmers Market, Semolina pasta, and colorful rolling pins from a retired customer.
Lark Cake Shop
Lark Cake Shop, a popular Silver Lake bakery from John Hensley, expanded to Northeast Pasadena with an identical selection and encouraging white walls that say, “Eat cake be happy” in gold letters. Cases are reserved for cakes and cupcakes. Lark’s chocolate peanut butter cupcake is a best seller combining chocolate cake, peanut butter, piped chocolate mousse, and crushed Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. A carrot cake muffin loaded with shredded carrot comes topped with classic cream cheese frosting. Other cupcake options might include berry shortcake, lemon Key lime, and red velvet.
Little Flower Candy Co.
Chef Christine Moore and business partner Pam Perkins offer so much more than sea salt caramels on Pasadena’s western fringe. Their brick-walled café, Little Flower, contains a fully loaded counter and shelves of sweets and ingredients. Their cinnamon rolls and cookies remain classics, but the roster runs far deeper. Their carrot cake muffin with turmeric glaze is a masterpiece. A zucchini tartine with puff pastry, goat cheese, Béchamel and micro basil packs plenty of pepper. Pretzel dog stars a hot dog baked in a pretzel dough casing.
Lincoln is the more ambitious cafe and bakery from Moore and Perkins with minimal overlap. Sure, you’ll find olive oil cake and butter croissants at both places, but Lincoln produces many more savory options, including spinach artichoke croissant, savory swirl with mushrooms, herb butter, and cheese, and a bialy with bacon, béchamel, gruyere, and chives. They’ll warm any item up if you like. Toast is of course popular, and Lincoln brings a rare seasonal focus to specials like charred ciabatta bread, sauteed beet greens, burrata, pickled Chioggia beets, garlicky allada, and Maldon sea salt.
Old Sasoon Bakery, one of L.A.’s best places to find traditional Middle Eastern flatbreads and cookies, is a legacy business from Joseph Geragosian, whose father Haroutioun founded back in 1948 in Aleppo, Syria. It’s continued to be a family affair in Pasadena since 1986. They’re best known for supple flatbreads like lahmajoune, topped with ground beef, tomato, onion, garlic, and parsley; and maneish, slathered with za’atar. The version with chile, onion, and cheese (a mix of feta and mozzarella) eats like a meal. Old Sasoon Bakery also sells flatbread sandwiches and boat-shaped khachapuri, a boat-shaped Georgian flatbread with a blend of cheeses, cracked egg, and Aleppo pepper.
Seed Bakery, Joseph Abrakjian’s airy cafe in North Pasadena, houses canary yellow walls and a tantalizing two-tiered pastry counter. House-milled grains and natural fermentation yield loaves of bread like rye with cranberries, whole-wheat walnut, Kalamata olive boule, and 100% spelt. Their ham, cheddar and leek panini comes on rustic country sourdough with a sunny-side-up egg and dill. Breads also factor into standout toasts like avocado toast with stone fruit with za’atar; brioche French toast with jam, cashew cheese, seasonal fruit, and almond praline; and seasonal specials like chile relleno toast with cheese-stuffed Anaheim peppers, avocado, cilantro, and fried egg. Top pastries include maple rye Danish and coffee cake.
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