If your holiday memories conjure tempting visions of seasonal sweets, Northern Virginia’s talented bakers and confectioners are right there with you. They offer a vast array of specialty cookies, cupcakes, gingerbread houses, Christmas and Three Kings cakes, and Hanukkah treats — some in gluten-free and vegan versions — that are often inspired by their own family favorites.
The charming Old-World elegance inside this long-running Herndon bakery is the perfect backdrop for sweet holiday memories. Cruise along a glass-front case filled with hand-decorated cookies and cupcakes. Table displays feature pre-assembled gingerbread house kits ready for at-home decoration. Cake pops “fly out the door,” says co-owner Maria Cholakis. Decadent Yule logs are a holiday “must” for local families. Cholakis highlights the Greek version of the Three Kings Cake, a round, citrus-flavored pound cake, covered with powdered sugar, with a wrapped coin buried inside. 294 Sunset Park Dr., Herndon
Chef-owner David Guas, who grew up in New Orleans, remembers going department store holiday shopping with his mother. At least one of the purchased gift boxes of heavenly hash, a mashup of chocolate, marshmallows, and pecans, “never made it home unopened,” he recalls. His Arlington bakery-café is selling an artisanal version of the treat this holiday season. Traditional pralines are tucked into handsome gift boxes decorated with a vintage streetcar scene. He’ll also offer Kringle cake, a New Orleans specialty with a buttery, sweet Danish-style yeast dough. Orders start on December 1. 1515 N. Courthouse Rd., Arlington
Pâtissier Emma Cech is gluten intolerant, but that doesn’t keep her from baking goodies that she can enjoy. The display case in her Falls Church bakery-café is filled with fancifully decorated, rich tasting, gluten-free desserts. Some are also dairy-free. For the holidays, she offers an opulent bûche de Noël with chocolate, raspberry, and cream. Stollen with marzipan is dairy-free and gluten-free, and there are decorative sugar cookies and cake pops. 410 S. Maple Ave., Unit 110, Falls Church
Since 1975, this Arlington bakery and delicatessen has fueled holiday memories with the likes of its special Stollen (German fruitcake dipped in butter and rolled in powdered sugar), Springerle (anise-flavored hard cookies imprinted with traditional designs), and cinnamon stars made with ground hazelnuts, filled with marzipan, and topped with meringue. There’s a poppy seed strudel and a New Year’s good luck specialty — adorable marzipan pigs with a penny hidden inside. 2150 N. Culpeper St., Arlington
This bustling modern Arlington bakery has long been the local go-to for holiday cookies and cupcakes decorated like works of art, mouthwatering Yule logs, Specialties like its signature take on Stollen, and an American twist on the flaky Italian sfoglie. Recently, the founder’s son and daughter-in-law, Justin and Penina Randolph, have had the bakery certified kosher and added Penina’s family-favorite Hanukkah treats to the seasonal specialties. Look for the sufganiyot, jelly doughnuts that symbolize the holiday. 4500 Lee Hwy., Arlington
The display cases at this distinguished Springfield bakery are chock-full of holiday specialties that revisit Swiss-born co-owner and baker Reto Weber’s childhood treats. Indeed, his mother frequently sends him recipes and vintage cookie molds from the hometown family bakery. The rich delicacies crafted by Weber and his staff include beautifully molded stars and Santa Claus figures. You can special-order classics like biberfladen — round, gingerbread-spiced cakes filled with rich marzipan — along with decorative cookie tins filled with regional treats. 5224 Port Royal Rd., Springfield