It’s the time of year when we go into full creative overdrive.

That dormant compulsion to bake like we’re preparing for a visit from the High Priestess of Cake – Mary Berry, obviously – rears its head again every tail-end of November, funnily enough just as enticing creations begin to grace the covers of magazines left, right and centre.

But if you don’t have the hours to spend whisking and beating in the kitchen – or, indeed, the inclination – there are ways and means to ensure you still get your sweet fix this Christmas – even if it’s just a feast for the eyes. We love following these dreamy bakeries on Instagram for a shot of inspiration that hits the sweet spot every time.

Flint Owl Bakery
Lewes, East Sussex


Each Christmas, the Flint Owl Bakery gets a festive makeover, courtesy of a gorgeous seasonal and snowy scene etched onto its windows. Situated on one of Lewes’ many steep hills, it is a picturesque proposition at any time of year, with the South Downs looming in the distance, and the enticing artisan bread and cakes inside. Everything is made fresh in the neighbouring village of Glynde (of Glyndebourne fame) each morning and the bread is so legendary that every decent foodie establishment in the county serves it up as a matter of course. Sigh at the beautiful window display, and then lose hours salivating over the pictures of absurdly delicious cakes on offer (they do sandwiches and salads too, but we long since gave up any pretence that we’re here for anything other than the bread and the sweet stuff).

Primrose Bakery
London


One of the originals and still one of the best. We have a theory: we owe the sudden proliferation of postcard-perfect bakeries that sprung up in the early 2000s to one particular episode of Sex And The City. You know, the one where Carrie and Miranda buy cupcakes by the box from the Magnolia Bakery in Manhattan’s West Village. It was that moment that spawned the cupcake craze that, far from dying down, has moved into mainstream staple here-to-stay territory. Primrose Bakery was one of the first to get the memo when, in 2004, founders Martha Swift and then business partner Lisa Thomas decided to take their successful children’s party cake service and open a bricks-and-mortar shop in Primrose Hill. Now it has five bestselling books under its, by now rather tight, belt (all that cake). Its Instagram account never fails to make us smile and salivate at once.

Aran Bakery
Scotland


Excuse us while we have a little swoon. Aran Bakery, founded by former Great British Bake Off contestant and next week’s GWG Guest Editor, Flora Shedden, is the stuff of dreams. You don’t even have to like cake – although you’d be mad – to adore this Instagram account. Its simple, white-wash interiors prove that not everything has to be painted in dark, Farrow and Ball tones to be inviting; the beautiful white old walls of this bakery are left simple so that Flora’s baking (and indeed cooking) can shine. This image of the business in the snow is so atmospheric, we’d like to move in, permanently, and warm ourselves with a never-ending cup of cocoa and a croissant. Being in northern Scotland, it’s perhaps not quite practical, so we will have to make do with Aran Bakery’s jaw-droppingly beautiful Insta stories – and Flora’s new cookery book – for the time being.

Pump Street Bakery
Suffolk


There’s nothing quite like Pump Street Bakery bread. This beautiful and characterful bakery, housed in a 15th-century building on Orford’s Market Square, was founded in 2010 by dad-and-daughter duo, Chris and Joanna Brennan. The former post office had been unoccupied for some 20 years when the dauntless pair did it up, in the process creating a stylish yet welcoming place for bread and cake lovers alike. We’re particular fans of the naturally-leavened former and adore this account for its images of beautiful loaves. There’s rarely a time of day we couldn’t be persuaded to devour a slice of the stuff. If you’re more of the sweet-toothed persuasion, the Brennans also make chocolate from beans imported from single estates – and so sought after is it that the chocolate even has its own Instagram feed.

Cutter & Squidge
London


Cutter & Squidge is oh-so-pretty. Slap-bang in the middle of Soho, it is a little breath of fresh air for anyone who wants to pause for a moment of quiet and a mouthful of something sweet. But – and here’s the USP – not too sweet. The sisters who founded this bakery did so with one very specific criterion: to open the capital’s first all-natural cake shop, whose goodies are just sweet enough and not overloaded with fat or sugar. The shop itself is lovely, but its Instagram focuses on the main event here: the cakes. They are the stars of the show, and they look and taste every bit as indulgent as less healthy options, making you wonder why more places don’t follow its lead. Guilt-free cake is something we can get on board with every day of the week.

Peggy Porschen
London


This Belgravia bakery, beloved of Kate Moss and a myriad of other celebrities, must be not only the most Instagrammed purveyor of sweet treats, but one of the most snapped places in the whole of London. It’s not hard to see why. It’s unapologetic penchant for pink is transportative to an idealised memories of childhood. This is a total dreamlike world; if Disney did cakes, they would look like this. It’s saccharine, yes, but in all the best ways. Check out its little squares to escape to a world where nothing bad could ever happen – or go in person, to either site in Belgravia or Chelsea.

Violet Cakes London
London


East London’s Violet Bakery, owned by baker, food writer and food stylist Claire Ptak, is a diminutive delight. It started as a stall on the ever-hip Broadway Market before opening its first permanent premises in 2010. Everything is organic and ‘low intervention’, which we like the sound of. We’re especially impressed by this replica of a Will Cotton sculpture in cake. A proper feat.

Crumbs and Doilies
London


Oh my, this is a sweet dream. Crumbs and Doilies’ Soho shop is headed up by the ‘Cake Boss’, otherwise known as ‘Cupcake Jemma’ and it’s all pastel and soft and gorgeous. All of which makes its little squares just the place to head when you’re longing for a little escapism. At this time of year, we’re particularly fond of the Christmas Unicorn Cake, which features four layers of ‘funfetti’ sponge, triple colour vanilla buttercream and sprinkles. And where would any of us be without sprinkles at Christmas time?

The Almond Thief
Devon


This place of carby dreams was created by Dan Mifsud, an evolutionary biologist who discovered the joys of slow-fermented sourdough when looking after his newborn son. Inspired, he began his trajectory as a pop- up baker at Riverford, and so successful was he that it wasn’t long before he opened his own establishment near Totnes. If we could eat these almond croissants and drink coffee like this every morning, we’d be happy for life.

Brød
Cardiff


We’re suckers for a gingerbread house at this time of year. Brød, otherwise affectionately known as The Danish Bakery by locals, does an excellent line in them. It’s run by Betina Skovbro, the granddaughter of a Copenhagen-based baker, and has been voted one of the cosiest cafes in the land. We liked that it transports Scandinavian methods to British soil to create Danish breads, rye and spelt loaves, all of which are handmade. Hygge at its very best.

Pollen Bakery
Manchester


Chris Kelly and Hannah Calvert were bankers before turning their hands to a spot of kneading as an at-home hobby. It wasn’t long before they caught the bug in earnest. Pollen, based in an arch under Manchester’s Piccadilly Station, specialises in cruffins (the croissant and muffin hybrid) and everything is locally sourced (they use stoneground flour from Yorkshire mills and exclusively organic). Stylish, industrially contemporary and totally inviting. Dangerously good.

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By Nancy Alsop
December 2019