Oh, the beauty of a statuesque layer cake, always the belle on a buffet of Southern desserts. The cakes I love from these five bakeries possess professional twists—a finesse to the presentation or a unique flavor combination that would make it darn tricky to pass off as your own at an office party or family reunion.

Strawberry buttercream cake at Maxie B's
Chris M. Rogers
  • Alpine Bakery & Trattoria
    Alpharetta, GA
  • Customers line up to gawk at the hypnotizing pastry cases of this six-year-old bakery.
  • Why we're sweet on it: Bigger doesn't always mean better, but Alpine's ginormous masterpieces deliver on quality.
  • Order this: The Million Dollar Cake, king of the behemoths, stacked with flourless chocolate cake, cheesecake, and chocolate mousse. alpinebakeryandtrattoria.com
  • Honey Bee Bakery
  • Oxford, MS
  • Among muffins, cookies, petit fours, and a memorable seasonal tart flavored with wild honeysuckle, Shannon Adams' cakes reign supreme.
  • Why we're sweet on it: Shannon bakes to her own creative whims, combining flavors in fascinating ways.
  • Order this: Apricot & Almond Ambrosia, an almond-butter cake with apricot filling and almond buttercream. Mail order available; thehoneybeebakery.com
  • Maxie B's
  • Greensboro, NC
  • While running frozen yogurt franchises in the 1990s, Robin Davis began baking on the side. When enough customers started requesting cakes, she leapt into the world of pastry.
  • Why we're sweet on it: Robin blends deliciousness with style: A recent renovation (oak floors, booths in a kicky blue leopard print) makes this an unusually chic spot for dessert.
  • Order this: Strawberry buttercream cake, with fluffy layers of frosting and a generous filling of fresh strawberries. Mail order available; maxieb.com
  • Sugar Bakeshop
    Charleston, SC
  • Bill Bowick and David Bouffard run a tiny kitchen-like shop off the usual Charleston tourist route. An inviting garden encourages lingering.
  • Why we're sweet on it: In a world overrun with cupcakes, Bill and David's novel flavors give the trendy bites fresh flair.
  • Order this: Lady Baltimore cupcakes, filled with figs and raisins and crowned with meringue icing. sugarbake.com
  • Sweet Art by Lucila
  • Miami, FL
  • Lucila Jimenez, a native of Cuba, taught cake-decorating classes before opening her shop.
  • Why we're sweet on it: Lucila crafts exquisite versions of traditional Latin American cakes, which ship beautifully.
  • Order this: Torta negra, an ultra-moist, spiced Colombian cake doused with sweet wine. Mail order available; sweetartbylucila.com