Caramel French Patisserie, Salem
Standout qualities: The rainbow array of airy macarons, from delicately floral lavender to intense deep chocolate, is just the start. Precious tarts, crisp, flaky croissants, and glistening eclairs all beckon from cases in the bright shop.
What’s unique: Master chef Dimitri Vallier learned his trade under French greats like Paul Bocuse and Daniel Boulud, and comes from a line of patissiers who have been crafting delicate treats in south central France since World War II.
Insider tip: Compared to most bakeries, Caramel stays open late—satisfy a sweet tooth until 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
281 Essex St., Salem, 978-594-0244, caramelpatisserie.com
Buttermilk Baking Company, Newburyport
Standout qualities: The array of fluffy muffins, bacon-dotted scones, croissants, and super-sized cinnamon rolls (weekends only), all awash in sweet, buttery goodness.
Philosophy: Make people smile. From the tongue-in-cheek notes on their chalkboard to macarons in the shape of tiny cheeseburgers, everything is in service to adding joy to people’s days. In fact, when the bakers get positive feedback on a new product, they might just break out dancing.
Insider tip: Watch their Facebook feed for occasional after-hours pop-ups serving up secret treats from the back door; grab a “Carb Card”—10 punches scores a free sweet.
Fun fact: If you notice that downtown Newburyport is scented with bacon, it’s probably coming from Buttermilk.
9 Liberty St., Newburyport, 978-499-8278, buttermilkbaking.com
A&J King Artisan Bakers, Salem
What’s unique: A&J packs a lot of whole grains into their sweet treats, from dense Cranberry Walnut Whole Wheat Muffins to Oatmeal Maple Sandwich Cookies, sourcing nearly all from Maine Grains. So you can feel good about indulging.
48 Central St., Salem, 978-744-4881, ajkingbakery.com