Black Star Pastry
This dinky little hobbit hole off Newtown's main drag is crawling with hipsters who cluster along a church pew and modernist tables to enjoy a coffee and a treat. Chef Christopher The´ (ex-Claude's and Quay) has a cult following with his signature strawberry-and-watermelon cake, vegan popcorn cake and ginger ninjas. The´, who took macarons off the menu because ''they're too mainstream'', says his customers are rediscovering the joys of ''simple, delicious CWA-style grandma cakes''. Black Star's most popular cake is a soft-as-velvet chiffon cake coated in toasted coconut and lemon myrtle powder, which ''gives it a modern twist'', The´ says.
277 Australia Street, Newtown, 9557 8656, blackstarpastry.com.au.
Flour and Stone
The name of this bakery reflects the simplicity of the homey cakes and desserts created by owner Nadine Ingram, whose made-from-scratch approach extends to everything from hand-iced gingerbread to lovely little lemon-curd tarts. Ingram, who has worked as a pastry chef at places such as The Ivy in London and Sydney's MG Garage and Bourke Street Bakery, admits she has always favoured old-fashioned cakes. ''My cakes are about nostalgia; they remind you of nanna,'' Ingram says. Recapture your childhood with a wedge of Ingram's most popular creation, lemon drizzle cake.
53 Riley Street, Woolloomooloo, 8068 8818, flourandstone.com.au.
La Torre Cake Shop
Roberto Lagrange and his wife, Graciela, flung open the doors of their Fairfield bakery more than two decades ago to cater to the area's burgeoning South American community. Roberto's father, Antonio, and grandfather, Juan, were celebrated pastry chefs in Argentina and he says he still refers to recipes that have been passed down through three generations. ''I am the caramel king! Being South American, the caramel I use is dulce de leche [milk jelly] and my most popular cake is a salted caramel cake,'' Roberto says.
Shop 1/9 Nelson Street, Fairfield, 9724 4565, latorre.com.au.
Adriano Zumbo Patissier
Adriano Zumbo helped fuel a national craze when he challenged contestants in the 2010 series of MasterChef to build a tower made of macarons. Zumbo says there is still a huge demand for his ''Zumbarons'' with kooky flavours, such as salted-butter popcorn and finger bun. While Zumbo is an alchemist when it comes to inventing whimsical cakes, such as the complex V8 vanilla, some of his most popular cakes are traditional: think passionfruit tart and tiramisu. ''In Europe, there's been a return to textbook cakes and that trend is now feeding into Australia,'' he says. But he is not immune from fads either. Zumbo has also released a range of ''zonuts'', inspired by the controversially trademarked ''cronuts'' created by Dominique Ansel Bakery in New York. Two new flavours are sold at Zumbo's Rozelle and Star stores each week and include passionfruit cheesecake or Milo. That they are outrageously bad for you is part of their addictiveness.
Zumbo has patisseries dotted around Sydney. For more information, see adrianozumbo.com.
Expect poetry from Lorraine Godsmark's kitchen at Palings Kitchen and Bar when you order a slice of her signature date tart or New York-style lemon cheesecake. The luxurious calamansi cake is also a triumph: it comprises chocolate mousse, a dacquoise, and rice crispy layers with calamansi mousse. Godsmark says rather than following trends, she has developed her own market niche. ''Much of my work is of the classic mould, but the contemporary offerings also excite me,'' she says. ''I have my own style and it makes me so happy that my customers are full of praise for that style.''
Lorraine's Patisserie, shop 5, Palings Lane, 320 George Street, 9254 8009, merivale.com.au/lorraines-patisserie.
Haberfield keeps its Italian roots alive at Pasticceria Papa, which is regarded as a rendezvous point for local families. It is also the shop Italians go to when they want a cake for a special occasion. Prepare to panic when you have to decide which sugary creations to splurge on. Or go with head pastry chef Sam Papa's recommendation of ''a triangle of baked ricotta cheesecake … the most popular cake since the pasticceria opened 22 years ago''. The pasticceria is also a popular pit stop for cannoli cake and continental sponge cake, layered with vanilla-and-chocolate custard.
145 Ramsay Street, Haberfield, 9799 9531, ppapa.com.au.
Sweetness the Patisserie
Gena Karpf is the Wilhelmina Wonka of Sydney's confectionary scene. The US-born confectioner creates imaginative sweets that she says rely on the integrity of ingredients and her handmade production methods. ''Sugar is the most exquisite ingredient to work with,'' she says. ''It's something you can make fluffy or crunchy or concentrate with fruit flavours and you can make 'hokey-pokey' [honeycomb] fudge and caramel, too.'' Of all of the artisan sweets Karpf and her team of 13 produce, she says she is most proud of her little cubes of pastel-coloured marshmallows. Choose from a rainbow of ''mallows'', such as blackcurrant and vanilla swirl, strawberries and cream, and lychee rose.
38 Oxford Street, Epping, 9869 3800, sweetness.com.au.
The signature indulgence at Kurtosh is the cylindrical Hungarian sweet pastry known as kurtoskalacs, which is crisp on the outside and soft in the centre. Since the original Kurtosh opened in Randwick in 2011, two more stores have sprouted in Surry Hills and Crows Nest. Patissier Jean-Marc Masset and Israel-born brothers Ben and Tom Haikin are the passionate trio behind Kurtosh, which pays tribute to the sweet bread they say has been around for 150 years and is sold as a street snack throughout Hungary. ''There is a time and place for high-end cakes but nowadays people are looking for something that is not over done and is well-priced,'' says Ben, who manages the Randwick store.
For Kurtosh stores, see kurtosh.com.au.
Indulge your craving for rock candy at this smart store, which is full of fluoro-colour treats. It's part lolly shop, part live show as chief ''lollyologist'' Richard Godfrey pushes and pulls the candy after it has cooked and cooled, and then cuts it by hand on a heated table. Among the gleaming jars of cracking sweets are multi-coloured lollipops, humbugs and bullseyes and even flamingo-pink musk sticks. ''Rock candy is old-fashioned,'' Godfrey says. ''It's all the same recipe, it's just the flavour and colour that changes, so it's the sculptural side of rock candy that adds the wow factor.''
12-24 Playfair Street, The Rocks, 9252 3337, sticky.com.au.
Zokoko is a ''bean-to-bar'' artisan chocolate maker. It works directly with growers throughout the world to source the finest-quality cacao beans and uses vintage, artisan equipment to roast, grind, refine and temper chocolate in small batches. ''Our customers love our chocolate crackles and our chocolate cake and all the sweet treats we make that are reminiscent of their childhood,'' chocolate maker and owner Michelle Morgan says. Although the range at Zokoko is chocolate-centric, there are also fruit tarts, baked cheesecake and gluten-free treats. The honey ganache-filled chocolate bears are also worth scoffing.
Unit 3, 84-90 Old Bathurst Road, Emu Heights, 1300 965 656, zokoko.com.