13 Grocery Chain Bakeries Ranked Worst To Best, According To Customers

One in six people enjoy a daily sweet treat, according to a survey conducted by OnePoll (via CBS News). If you are one of these dessert people, you have likely explored a bakery or two. While standalone bakeries are one of the true joys of our world, grocery stores that have an in-house bakery are a kind of blessing as well. Nothing speaks to the heart of a sweet-toothed shopper like going into the store for milk and coming out with the ultimate midnight snack. It's tough to tell just what you're getting with a grocery store bakery, though, and our ranking system will help take all the guesswork out for you.

From budget grocery giants to European-style marketplaces, we've considered a range of national supermarkets that produce their own lines of baked goods. Our list of ranking qualifiers include taste, ingredient quality, and price, but we've also considered any unique offers a chain brings its customers. The closer you get to that top spot ranking, the more boxes have been checked by the grocery chain and the more likely you are to fully enjoy the confection of your choice.

13. Target

Finding Target at the bottom of any list likely comes as a shock. It's warranted in this case, though, because its bakery fails to check any majority of boxes we look for in a solid source of baked goods. The majority of Targets do not have a full scale bakery, and instead set out a few over-processed, packaged cookies. Anything that seems at all fresh here, actually comes frozen, packaged, and dated once thawed. The few and far between Super Target locations, though, do have a real bakery, but it still doesn't stack up to the hype surrounding the grocery chain.

Although Super Targets do a good amount of their own baking, this actually only applies to the oven part. Everything comes into the store frozen, with bakers only needing to let dough rise overnight and slide in the oven come morning. The muffins, which YouTuber Jacob Cruikshank reports taste a tad "fishy," arrive as frozen disks that are transferred into a muffin pan. If you'd like to try Target's baked goods despite these qualms, good luck, because tracking them down is almost akin to finding a unicorn.

12. Kroger

Taste and appearance are two of the most important aspects of baked items, and Kroger's bakery falls short in both of these departments. Even by grocery store standards, the cakes and treats from Kroger's sweets department are lacking — but not when it comes to their sugar level. When we tried the worst grocery store cookies, Kroger's wide variety of cookies were overpoweringly sweet. They also lacked any other flavor, relying solely on their sugar content.

It's not just us that has an issue with the lack of flavor found in Kroger's bakery. Customers are consistently dissatisfied; Reddit user @demax182 cited many instances of disappointment, most notably a bad-tasting and -smelling cinnamon roll. On this same thread, another user denounced its pie, bluntly calling it "garbage". The large grocery chain may have a wide variety of baked goods, while not seeming to excel anywhere. Overall, Kroger needs to work on its quality and rightfully finds itself at the bottom of the bakery barrel.

11. Harris Teeter

Traditionally, Harris Teeter has a fantastic bakery. Nostalgia wins over customers as they remember the free balloons and sugar cookies they once received as children when grocery shopping. Since being bought out by Kroger, though, some of what shoppers fondly look back on is no longer offered. Free balloons are a thing of the past, but Harris Teeter has brought back its free sugar cookies for kids when shopping with their parents. Unfortunately some report that the modern day sugar cookie recipe has changed and isn't quite as good as they remember.

Harris Teeter has gained a bad rap for its bakery quality lately. One Reddit user claims the icing on the donuts were hard and stale, while user @toodle-loo-who writes, "I don't usually consider 'fresh' synonymous with 'Harris Teeter.'" It's clear that when it comes to quality and taste, this long-time grocery spot has deteriorated. For this reason, we've ranked it near the very bottom of our grocery store bakery hierarchy.

10. Sam's Club

Let's start out by saying that, despite its low ranking, Sam's Club is not a bad option when it comes to baked goods. In fact, its cakes are typically very well-received. There are a wide range of flavors and colors, and you can request your themed pastry to be a sheet cake or even a 3-tier round cake. As customizable as the cakes may be, though, Sam's Club does not stand out from other grocery store bakeries. And, with the store's annual fee, it should absolutely offer more than non-membership grocery stores.

While Sam's Club has some tasty cakes, its cupcakes surprisingly don't stack up the same. The taste and texture are both different from the cakes, even if you match up the flavors correctly. This is not only disappointing, but it can be confusing for customers. If you've had a good experience with the cakes, shouldn't you feel safe purchasing a mini version? This inconsistency in its products, along with the fee for mediocracy, puts it below most other popular grocery store bakeries.

9. Safeway

When it comes to Safeway's bakery department, well, it plays it a little too safe. Not only does it not bake the majority of its products in-house, but it also does not make its own icing. The grocery chain also keeps its cakes pretty simple, and you won't find a thick book of intricate designs to choose from. If you are okay with sticking to the basics, though, a lot of customers back up the taste of Safeway cakes.

The biggest things that Safeway's bakery has going for it are the freshly baked bread and the prices. It claims its bread is fresh-baked, but not made from scratch, between 4 and 6 p.m. everyday. This has proven not to be true with all locations, which really knocks the franchise down in our ranks. What helps, though, and puts Safeway a notch above Harris Teeter is the price. While typically priced similarly to Walmart, Safeway's Friday deals can occasionally see bakery items at prices akin to theft.

8. Walmart

In terms of affordability, Walmart is one of the best options for baked goods. The grocery giant is known for its low prices, but doesn't always stay on top of quality or creativity. If you are looking for a traditional bakery experience, purchasing from Walmart's bakery is about as far from that as you can get. Almost all of the available goods are processed and sent in frozen or prepackaged, and the taste reflects that. The sugar bombs can be too sweet for some and give off an aftertaste of artificial flavors.

Ordering a cake at Walmart can be inconsistent. Most grocery store decorators ask that you give them 24 hours notice when ordering a custom cake. However, Walmart's widespread popularity may call for more prep time. You may be able to nab a custom cake same day, but it could also take a few to get to your order.

Even with Walmart's less-than-elite status and quality hiccups, there are some that swear by its baked goods. If you're on a budget or have a rich enough sweet tooth, its bakery could be your honey cake haven. The national grocery staple earns a not-quite-middle-of-the-road spot, which isn't too shabby for a fakery.

7. Lidl

Lidl finds a home in the middle of our list because there are some truly great things about the German company's bakery, along with one not-so-savory element. The self-serve bakery section at Lidl offers some pretty fantastic items that hit your taste buds just right. Sweet items like the chocolate croissant can be found here, but also salty soft pretzels and savory flatbreads are up for grabs. Not only is the selection wide for the area being so small, but everything is very affordable. Usually you can grab three large soft pretzels for under $2, and they are fresh and fluffy.

The downside of Lidl's little bakery corner is that it is self-serve. While not having to wait around for a staff member to help you may seem like a bonus, it can actually get pretty unsanitary. Still, Lidl customers' favorite bakery treats keep bringing them back, no matter how many hands reach in to grab croissants throughout the day.

6. Trader Joe's

If you find one thing to love at Trader Joe's, it'll have you always coming back. The small grocery store carries its own products exclusively, so when it makes something really good, shoppers tend to empty shelves faster than they can be restocked. This has generally been the case with its viral Chantilly Cream Vanilla Bean mini sheet cake, which shoppers devour in the car on the way home from the store. In fact, some shoppers have started coming with their own disposable forks so they can chow down in the parking lot.

Viral cakes aside, Trader Joe's is a solid place for those who are gluten-free to satisfy their sweet tooth. Some locations have their own table of gluten free bakery items, which includes seasonal items, separated from the wall of bread and gluten-filled desserts. While we wish the store would expand and bake items in-house, Trader Joe's sits pretty in the top half of our rankings for being so inclusive and all-around awesome.

5. Whole Foods

Whole foods is one of the best grocery stores to buy cakes. This is especially true if you have dietary restrictions or just like to consume food that is made with better ingredients. Whole Foods has topped the market on food that is made with quality, whole ingredients, and this applies to its bakery department as well. The chain is one of the few that uses real butter in its baked goods, and you can tell the difference in both taste and texture.

Shoppers swear by the carrot cake, creme brûlée, and the ever-popular berry chantilly cake. If you're popping in for a small treat, Whole Foods throws its cake ends and leftover frosting in a cup for individual consumption. This cuts out waste while saving customers from having to buy a whole cake for themselves. It's these small touches combined with grand gestures of whole ingredients that earn Whole Foods a spot at number five.

4. The Fresh Market

The Fresh Market is the place to go whether you're not sure what you want in terms of baked goods, or if you know exactly what you want. The high-end chain offers a wildly diverse range of cake and pastry flavors, and they are all stunning. An abundance of fresh, vibrant fruit top some cakes while others feature a range of frosting and filling flavors.

There are less than 200 of the gourmet chains in the United States, so it may be a challenge to track one down in your area. If you do happen to come across one, though, take a stroll toward the bakery and you'll be able to grab an individual slice of some truly delicious cakes. Loyalty members who pop by on their birthday will receive a slice for free!

The desserts here are unlike any other widespread grocery store. You will feel as though you are in an actual bakery with the quality produced here. The company focuses on fresh ingredients, and the large range of high-quality products earns The Fresh Market fourth in our rankings.

3. Wegmans

Walking into a Wegmans is like entering a food paradise. By the time you've even reached the bakery, you've likely spotted dozens of things you'd like to sink your teeth into. Once you feast your eyes on the bakery's display of decadent cakes and pastries, though, you'll be glad you still have an appetite. Prices are high, but you'll find the taste of its baked goods are a step above your typical grocery store fare. Its cookies and cannoli dip, in particular, are fan favorites among the packed bakery shelves.

The secret to the bakery at Wegmans is to arrive early, as bakers work overnight. You'll nab the freshest baked goods, and be privy to the aroma of just-out-of-the-oven bread. One of the great things about the grocery store is that there are places to sit and eat your just-bought baked goods within the store itself. Wegmans offers an elevated confectionary experience, thus finding itself in the top three of our rankings.

2. Costco

As the only grocery store bakery that actually does some from scratch baking in-house, Costco jumps right up to grab one of the top rankings. While a number of the store's beloved items are simply baked from frozen, a lot of the bread and pies are made from scratch in the warehouse. This means you don't have to feel guilty about purchasing your Thanksgiving pumpkin pie from Costco this year, because it was made with love by hand — just not by yours. The Costco sheet cake is a fan favorite, and will feed quite a lot of people to boot.

The popular buy-in-bulk store seems like it would be the ideal place to get baked goods for large parties or to feed a good amount of people. How does Costco do for your everyday bakery purchase, though? The answer is pretty darn good, as everything is so tasty you could eat more than your fair share in one sitting. If you are trying to limit your confectionary intake to an average level, Costco's baked goods keep extremely well in the freezer. This means you could have one of its huge, delectable muffins every day for almost two weeks for $8.99 — a fact that is alone arguably worthy of the No. 2 spot.

1. Publix

Choosing Publix as your regular grocery store and go-to place for event cakes and baked goods comes with some major perks. Parents hauling kids to the store can rely on the bakery to have a cookie or two for their children. Not only does this give mom or dad a little reprieve, but it builds the kind of excitement in young minds that turns into a fond nostalgia for the store. New parents will also appreciate the free smash cake that Publix throws in with the purchase of a first birthday cake.

These special touches are appreciated, but what really secures the top ranked spot for Publix is its quality, customizability, and taste. When prompted to choose cake and icing flavors, Publix allows customization of icing colors for the base and two areas of trim. This helps make the cakes as unique as you want it. Preset designs are also numerous, and each is just as tasty as the next.

The fillings options are also plentiful. Anything from fresh fruit fillings to dulce de leche can be placed in between cake layers. These upgrades can easily translate into a cake classy and quality enough to show off at weddings or other traditionally expensive events — at a fraction of the cost.


There are a number of boxes a grocery store bakery must check to earn a top spot in our rankings. We looked at obvious elements like affordability, taste, and freshness when rating these grocery chains. However, we also considered whether a store had special offerings for customers or unique characteristics that really set itself apart from its competitors. Something we also kept in mind is how well a chain accommodated different diets, with offerings for gluten-free and/or vegan shoppers.

To understand which grocery chains excelled or fell short in any of these factors, we relied on a few sources. Our own experiences, of course, were in the mix, as well as other customer reviews and opinions from social media sites like Reddit, Facebook, and TikTok. We also scoured the grocery chains' sites to understand just what it offers its customers and how it stacks up against other bakeries.