Pastry making is stereotyped as a girl’s job, but the women behind these dessert empires prove there’s more to baking than frosting and sprinkles.

dessert with sprinkles and whip cream illustration
Illustration by Louisa Bertman
| Credit: Illustration by Louisa Bertman

Junk Food Kingdom:

Milk Bar

Two-time James Beard Foundation Award winner Christina Tosi made cereal milk and naked cakes part of the modern-day dessert lexicon through her Milk Bar brand. The bakery chain, which offers grown-up treats inspired by Tosi's love of junk food, now spans North America in six cities (New York City, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Toronto, Boston, and Washington, D.C.) and has propelled Tosi into household-name status as a judge on MasterChef on Fox and a subject of Netflix's Chef's Table.

illustration of a pop-up baked good
Credit: Illustration by Louisa Bertman

Pop-Up Gone Pro:

B. Patisserie

Belinda Leong had a prime pastry post at the prestigious Manresa restaurant in Los Gatos, California, but it was her side hustle, the dessert pop-ups dubbed B. Patisserie, that thrust her into the spotlight. With exquisite French-inspired baked goods, the pop-ups turned permanent in 2012 and earned Leong four James Beard nominations and a win in 2018 for Outstanding Baker. Leong grew her brand last year with the opening of a B. Patisserie in Seoul and has plans for a mochi offshoot. 

illustration of assortment of whoopie pies
Credit: Illustration by Louisa Bertman

All-Girls Club:

Goldenrod Pastries

It's not just fudgy brownies and yummy fruit bars that set Angela Garbacz's Goldenrod Pastries apart from other bakeshops in Lincoln, Nebraska. The all-women team's love of baking coexists with their advocacy for female empowerment. In 2018 Garbacz launched Empower Through Flour, an initiative that brings together an all-star lineup of female chefs to create special treats to benefit the I Am That Girl nonprofit, which provides leadership-, social-, and personal-development programming to young girls.

illustration of assorted ice-cream bars
Credit: Illustration by Louisa Bertman

Mexican Marvel:

La Newyorkina

Mexico City native Fany Gerson is New York City's foremost authority on paletas (Mexican ice pops) and polvorones (Mexican wedding cookies). Her La Newyorkina ice creamery has a brick-and-mortar in the West Village, booths on the High Line park and at the Smorgasburg food festival, and street carts all across the city. As if that weren't enough, Gerson is also co-owner of one of the city's most popular doughnut shops, Dough. 

illustration of donut and donut holes
Credit: Illustration by Louisa Bertman

Mail-Order Bakeshop:


When self-taught pastry maker Umber Ahmad crossed paths with Tom Colicchio in 2012, he convinced her to turn her exemplary homemade treats into a business. And so Mah-Ze-Dahr was born. What started as an online wholesaler with bigwig clients like JetBlue has expanded to a New York City brick-and-mortar and is regularly touted as one of the best bakeries in the city off the strength of its brioche doughnuts, dark-chocolate brownies, and oatmeal bars. 

illustration of chocolate cupcake with sprinkles
Credit: Illustration by Louisa Bertman

Cupcake Giant:


Born in Beverly Hills in 2005, Candace Nelson's Sprinkles helped launch a tidal wave of cupcake businesses in the United States—and it's still going strong. The brand now has 23 locations across the country (including Chicago, Houston, and Las Vegas) and has gone viral many times over, thanks to inventive campaigns like cupcake ATMs and a roving cupcake truck, the Sprinklesmobile.