The South's Best Cupcakes
Whether piled high or tiny and tasty, these treats take the cake.
There’s a popular quote that you’ve probably seen on Instagram or Pinterest, about how cupcakes are muffins that believed in miracles. We like to think so. Don’t get us wrong, muffins are magical too, but there’s something so special, so sparkly, and so wonderful about a chocolate cupcake. Or vanilla. Or strawberry. Or lemon. Or sweet potato-pecan cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. Like Momma says, it takes all kinds of kinds.
We decided to take a look around the South and see who’s serving up the best of these mini sweet treats. Some are bite-sized and some you’ll need to eat with a fork, a knife, and maybe even a bib. Some are rich, and some are delicate and airy. Some are salty, though most are sweet. But they’re all drool-worthy, and coming out of some of our favorite Southern kitchens.
From big-name shops like Gigi’s which you can find all over the South now, to smaller operations like Dreamcakes tucked away in a quaint neighborhood right here in our hometown of Birmingham, there’s always a place to grab a baked-from-scratch cupcake around the South. These places serve up red velvet cupcakes and birthday cupcakes, but also inventive flavors, like the dirty chai at Baked and Wired in Washington, DC, or Almond Apricot at Magpies in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Back in the Day Bakery
This Savannah staple serves up everything from breakfast pastries to lunchtime sandwiches but we’re here for the vanilla old-fashioned cupcake. backinthedaybakery.com
Baked and Wired
Georgetown, Washington, DC
Georgetown, in case you can’t tell, has quite the sweet tooth. Just a few blocks down from Georgetown Cupcakes is Baked and Wired, the new cool kid on the scene. So while Georgetown Cupcakes sees a daily line of tourists, Baked and Wired sees a daily (sometimes lengthy) line of locals, all looking to get one of their tasty and often-irreverent “cake cups.” (We see what they did there.) bakedandwired.com
This quaint neighborhood bakery is everything you’d imagine a place called “Dreamcakes” to be. You can’t walk by without being pulled in by the dreamy scent of one of their 100 flavors. (We’d know!) If that wasn’t temptation enough, they also have a truck that cruises town during the week, bringing their delectable creations to all of Birmingham. dreamcakes-bakery.com
Georgetown, Washington, DC (Also, Atlanta now!)
This sticky-sweet tourist trap is always swarming for good reason. The line may be out the door (and generally down the street), but this Georgetown spot serves up sweets in step with the neighborhood’s vibe—the perfect mix of classic, simple, and colorful. georgetowncupcake.com
Based in Nashville, but now everywhere!
We would be remiss if we didn’t give a shout-out to this Southern powerhouse of a bakery. Started in 2008 in Music City, this super-sweet shop—known for its cupcakes piled inches high with frosting—has grown to what is soon to be more than 100 locations. gigiscupcakesusa.com
With a slogan like “All Butter All the Time,” and offering classic, deluxe, and super deluxe cupcakes, you know this place is the real deal. We’re dreaming of the chocolate raspberry and vanilla mocha. magpiescakes.com
Named after one of the owners’ grandmother, this local favorite (voted so countless times) offers a menu of nostalgia-inducing treats. Try The Pearl, made with “grandma’s ‘one two three’ cake” and topped with seven minute frosting and coconut. Also in Charlottesville, VA now. pearlsbakeshoppe.com
This Holy City sweet spot offers a slate of year-round staples like chocolate, double chocolate, vanilla blueberry, and lime curd at its dreamy downtown location. But they also offer a seasonal selection of flavors like grapefruit (December through August) or honey (April through November). sugarbake.com
While we think their cupcakes are just plain tasty, these are some you can also feel good about. Aside from their no-shortcuts approach to baking, Sugar Mama’s also sources fair-trade cocoa, coffee, and sprinkles, and is working towards creating a zero-waste environment by composting and recycling. Doing good tastes so good. sugarmamasbakeshop.com
St. Louis, MO
This St. Louis establishment takes its title of “A Sustainable Bakeshop” seriously: farm-fresh cupcakes are baked in used appliances and served up in a shop built around repurposed materials. The menu notes that Salty Caramel is the number one choice of cupcake, but with an ever-rotating selection of inventive seasonal flavors, we’ll be trying them all. whiskstl.com