Cakes, candies, and pies — oh my!
America loves sweets, but which cities will give you the biggest sugar rush?
To find out, Lawn Love ranked 2022’s Best Cities for Sweet Tooths.
We compared the 200 biggest cities based on 18 metrics. We looked for cities with plenty of candy, cookie, chocolate, and dessert shops. We also considered the number of baking classes and local winners of national pastry, pie, chocolate, and baking awards.
Treat yourself on National Dessert Day this Oct. 14 with the help of our rankings below.
In this article
See how each city fared in our ranking:
Miami takes the cake at No. 1 overall, with the most dessert, ice cream, and gelato shops per square mile in our ranking. The Magic City has plenty of other magical treats to try, with a top-three ranking in half of all the Access factors and a second-place rank for recent National Pie Championships.
Other Sunshine State cities landed in the top 20, including Fort Lauderdale (No. 16), Hollywood (No. 18), Hialeah (No. 19), and Pembroke Pines (No. 20). Abundant ice cream and gelato shops help keep folks in Hollywood and Fort Lauderdale cool. Meanwhile, cakes and cupcakes are more popular fare in Hialeah and Pembroke Pines.
- Miami: Cool down with some Cuban ice cream from Azucar, or head over to Miami Beach for a slice of famous Key lime pie from Joe’s Stone Crab.
- Fort Lauderdale: Make your own decadent sundae, or get a hand-spun milkshake from Yo Mama’s Ice Cream. Try macarons at locally loved French bakery Nanou, with three locations to stop by in Fort Lauderdale.
- Hollywood: Morelia Gourmet Paletas might have multiple locations, but they manufacture their paletas (Mexican popsicles) in their Hollywood store. Here, you can customize your paletas with dips and toppings like chocolate, pistachios, and sprinkles and even combine them to make a paleta shake.
California sugar rush
California has the golden ticket to your sweet-toothed dreams. Four Cali cities rose into the top 10, starting with Garden Grove at No. 2. You don’t have to travel far for sweets in Garden Grove, which has the most cupcake, cake, and candy shops per square mile.
If you’re after high quality, our bronze medalist (and home to Ghirardelli), San Francisco, is the place to be. San Fran brings home first place in Quality, with multiple nationally recognized chocolatiers, bakers, and pastry chefs working in the city. The Golden City also ranked high in Access, thanks to plentiful dessert shops, bakeries, and ice cream shops.
Los Angeles (No. 15) also impresses in Quality (No. 8) and Community (No. 6). This city has the best access to baking classes, and several local bakers and pastry chefs were recognized by recent James Beard Foundation Awards. LA suburbs Pasadena (No. 8) and Fullerton (No. 9) delight dessert lovers with plenty of doughnut shops, cake shops, and pâtisseries.
- Garden Grove: If you’re missing the Choco Taco (RIP) go to Sweet Rolled Tacos, which has unique signature flavors like matcha oreo, ube, and honey avocado. For delicious vegan, allergy-free ice cream, try Hug Life.
- San Francisco: Grab some lunch and candy to-go at San Fran’s oldest diner and one of the oldest soda fountain-style restaurants in the nation, St. Francis Fountain.
- Los Angeles: Pie for breakfast — why not? Pair your coffee with a sweet or savory pie at The Pie Hole. If you’re looking for unique treats, check out B Sweet, which has a variety of desserts, including bread pudding, halo halo, and cheesecake.
Big cities often yield substantial competition for the hearts, minds, and stomachs of both locals and tourists. New York (No. 5), Chicago (No. 22), and Seattle (No. 7) follow just behind San Francisco in Quality.
New York is the best city for chocolate lovers and has plenty of cafes and bakeries to grab a sweet drink or treat. Several NYC bakers and pastry chefs were recognized for their talents by recent James Beard Foundation Awards. Furthermore, there are many classes in the city to flex your baking skills.
Chicago and Seattle are both great places to be if you love chocolate and baked goods. These cities have James Beard Foundation winners of their own. Additionally, both cities have Master or Superior Chocolatiers recognized by The International Chocolate Salon.
- New York: Taste a classic New York cheesecake from Veniero’s, or get a pie from internationally acclaimed Four & Twenty Blackbirds. Signature pie flavors include spiked creamsicle, peaconut, and matcha custard.
- Seattle: Try delicious, gluten-free mochi doughnuts from Dahlia Bakery, or grab a unique tres leches cake from award-winning Tres Lecheria (they also won an episode on Netflix’s Sugar Rush). Distinctive slices include flavors like horchata, sweet corn and honey, and matcha.
- Chicago: Roeser’s Bakery is the oldest family-owned bakery in Chi-Town. They specialize in custom and whipped cream cakes and make seasonal treats, bread, doughnuts, fry cakes, and other goodies.
The South is known for touting a taste of home through salted, buttered, barbecued, or fried comfort foods, but where should you go for a down-home dessert?
Spread-out Southern cities like Atlanta (No. 29), Dallas (No. 37), and Austin (No. 40) deserve a shout-out. With these cities’ sprawl, you might need to drive across town for dessert — but it’s probably worth it. The James Beard Foundation recently awarded several dessert makers in these cities, and The International Chocolate Salon recognized chocolatiers in Austin and Dallas.
Unfortunately, some Southern cities crumbled in our ranking, with Georgia cities Macon and Columbus dropping to the very bottom. These smaller cities have little access to and demand for delicious desserts, shown by low Google search interest for sweets-related terms.
- Atlanta: Soda lovers can sip away while learning about their favorite soft beverage at the World of Coca-Cola. You can even get a Coca-Cola cupcake from West Egg Cafe, but you can’t leave ATL without trying a classic pecan pie from Southern Baked Pie Company.
- Dallas: Indulge in macarons, gâteaux (cake), and other French goodies at Bisous Bisous Pâtisserie. Keep an eye out for the opening of Sweet Tooth Hotel, an immersive art venue where visitors can snap sweet pics and grab tasty cocktails.
- Austin: Tiny Pies is ready to satisfy your sweet and savory sides. They offer seasonally inspired flavors from locally sourced ingredients, including pear cranberry, salted maple, strawberry lemonade, beef taco, and pulled pork mac & cheese.
Sweet treats by the numbers
Behind the ranking
For each of the 200 biggest U.S. cities, we gathered publicly available data on the factors listed in the table below.
We then grouped those factors into three categories: Access, Quality, and Community.
Next, we calculated weighted scores for each city in each category.
Finally, we averaged the scores for each city across all categories.
The city that earned the highest average score was ranked “Best” (No. 1), while the city with the lowest was ranked “Worst” (No. 200). (Note: The “Worst” among individual factors may not be 200 due to ties among cities.)
American Pie Council, Cozymeal, Dessert Wars, Google Ads, James Beard Foundation, Other Lawn Love Studies, The International Chocolate Salon, TripAdvisor, and Yelp
Final thoughts: Sweet escapes
Dessert is pretty sweet, but we can’t sugarcoat the truth. It’s important to take care to consume sugar in moderation to avoid potential harmful health consequences, like heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Added sugar is difficult to avoid in a country run on processed foods. Thankfully, new nutrition labels will be rolling out in the future to help prevent you from overloading on added sugar. That way, you can save the best for the last course of the day.
It’s OK to indulge every once in a while, though, so doughnut miss some more of the sweetest destinations in the U.S.:
Since 1870, five generations have been churning out indulgent handmade ice cream at Graeter’s. Crafted through a French Pot process, unique flavors include black raspberry chocolate chip, cotton candy, and dragonfruit sorbet.
New Orleans, Louisiana
Score a bag of beignets at iconic French coffee stand, Café du Monde. Operating since 1862, this cash-only cafe is open 24/7. Plan accordingly to avoid those long lines of tourists during the morning rush.
In the early 1900s, Abe Doumar invented the waffle cone at the St. Louis World’s Fair. He later founded a favorite establishment, Doumar’s Cones and BBQ, along the East Coast.
Show your brotherly love by sharing some candy from Shane Confectionery, one of the oldest candy stores in the U.S. They sell rye whiskey caramels, saltwater taffy, bean-to-bar chocolate, and other nostalgic treats. Philly is also home to Bassetts Ice Cream, a long-time establishment founded in 1861.
Two Fat Cats Bakery is a rustic American bakery specializing in scratch-made pies, cakes, and other sweet treats featuring seasonal and local flavors, such as wild Maine blueberries.
Four generations of candy makers keep one of the country’s oldest candy companies going: Ye Olde Pepper Candy Companie. They specialize in old-fashioned candy, like Gibralters, truffles, spice drops, and chocolates.
Nothing’s sweeter than getting someone to check off your to-do list for you. Hire a local Lawn Love pro to handle all your lawn care and landscaping needs while you treat yourself at your local dessert shop.
Main photo credit: iStock