For me, visiting bakeries in December—and being enveloped by each’s inevitable buttery, spicy perfume—triggers a mental slideshow of Christmases past. Whether it’s a bite of bûche de Noël or a fragrant gingerbread cookie, baked treats have the power to conjure cherished family memories as well as connect us to the traditions of different cultures. That’s why, instead of celebrating the holidays by caroling or decorating the house, I hit the road to find the best seasonal baked goods the Front Range has to offer.
Italian Panettone, Biscotti, and Cannoli
I always pay homage to the Italian side of my family with a visit to Sicilian-born baker Franco Spatola at Dolce Sicilia Italian Bakery in Wheat Ridge. He bakes the finest panettone (a dome-shaped brioche studded with dried and candied fruits) in Colorado and produces East Coast-quality Italian cookies, from fig cuccidati to amaretti topped with pignoli nuts, as well as exceptional Italian breads.
Giovanni’s Italian Bakery & Cafe in Lakewood crafts top-notch cannoli, almond biscotti, lemon ricotta pie, and the ultimate Christmas morning pastry, sfogliatelle, a layered, ricotta-filled, fried, and sugar-dusted pleasure.
French Bûche de Noël, Palmiers, and Madeleines
Local French bakeries prepare unbeatable seasonal pastries. Englewood’s Trompeau Bakery makes gorgeous bûche de Noël, which are those elaborate frosted yule log cakes decorated with meringue details. It also bakes the best morning coffee accompaniments, ranging from sugary palmiers to madeleines to pain au chocolat. Last but not least, it offers galette des rois—an almond cake featuring a lucky “fève” (trinket) hidden inside to ring in Three Kings Day—until January 6.
Mexican Roscas de Reyes, Marranitos, and Churros
Three Kings Day (Día de Los Reyes Magos, in Spanish) is celebrated throughout Mexico with a different baked delight: roscas de reyes, an oval bread topped with fruit and filled with cream cheese (also available until January 6). Look for it, along with marranitos (pig-shaped gingerbread cookies), churros, and buñuelos (cinnamon-dusted fritters) at Mexican bakeries such as Panaderia Rosales and San Antonio Fresh Mexican Bakery and Juice Bar
Jewish Sufganiyot, Rugelach, and Challah
Rosenberg’s Kosher Bakery is busy producing thousands of raspberry-jam-filled sufganiyot (doughnuts), plus plenty of my favorite apricot rugelach and dunkable mandelbrot (almond bread) for Hanukkah (December 22–30 this year). The bustling shop also has brunch-worthy bialys (a thin roll often filled with caramelized onions and poppy seeds) and challah rolls.
Other International Treats
For a unique range of baked goods with a Slavic accent, head to Arvada’s Royal Bakery. It’s worth the wait for freshly fried paczki (raspberry jelly-filled doughnuts) and chrúsziki (fried dough bowties). If you’re fan of poppy seed cakes and rum balls, this is a must-taste place.
Nearby, the Rheinlander Bakery has the widest selection of goodies that speak to my inner Austrian-American, starting with stollen (German fruitcake) and strudel. Where else can you score pfeffernuesse (spice and black pepper cookies) and springerle (anise cookies), not to mention a welcome roster of gluten-free and sugar-free goodies?
Lakewood’s Taste of Denmark Bakery is my go-to for Swedish limpa rye bread with fennel seeds and orange peel, which makes profoundly good French toast. The Nordic kringle pastries and fruit- and cheese-topped Danish are also hard to resist.
In Longmont, nationally-acclaimed Babettes Pizza & Pane is crafting perfectly caramelized stollen this season, along with gingerbread and sable cookies.
Finally, the newest addition to my tour de treats is Tokyo Premium Bakery. The shelves at this South Pearl shop are stocked with exquisite French-inspired pastries with a Japanese twist, such as doughnuts with sweet red bean or matcha fillings. For the holidays, the bakery supplies cute chocolate- and custard-filled snowmen, croissants, fresh fruit tarts, and craveable bacon-wrapped epi bread sticks.
Tip: Order now—deadlines to get treats for Hanukkah, Christmas, and the new year are rapidly approaching.