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.

The South's Best Bakeries: Cakes
Strawberry buttercream cake at Maxie B's
| Credit: 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