We’ve been feeding our cupcake habit for some time now, enjoying the soft fluffy texture of the compact little desserts, licking off the rich buttercream icing that comes in so many colours, enjoying the sugar high that follows.
It wasn’t until recently (a few months ago) that we realized how much cupcakes have become a trendy dessert fixture in Toronto, following a viral wave of popularity from cities south of the border, including Seattle, California, and New York. Magnolia Bakery’s cupcakes have been popular for several years in New York – it didn’t hurt that Magnolia was featured on “Sex and the City” ten years ago, catapulting both the bakery and the cupcakes on to a whole new plateau of desirability.
And lately, cupcake-carrying shops and online caterers in Toronto have been proliferating faster than Gremlins on a rainy day. We made it a mission to travel the city on foot, glasses of milk in hand, tasting every cupcake available, ensuring that we’d left no cupcake tray un-tested. Some turned out to be too rich, others too dry, and some were just right.
Considered to be the first of its kind in Toronto, The Cupcake Shoppe has become the ambassador of gourmet cupcakes in our city for the last three years. Their selection varies from simple buttercream (Yonge n’ Eligible) to stick-to-your-teeth caramel (Sticky n’ Sweet). Of all the cupcake stores, this place has the most variety. When in New York you must try Magnolia. When in Toronto, this cupcake maker has earned its place as a tourist attraction.
All cupcakes are made in a nut-free environment and are baked daily.
Texture: Soft and moist. They stay that way even after a day.
Flavour: Available in vanilla and chocolate. Frosting is available in mint, vanilla, caramel, and an assortment of fruit flavours. There’s a cupcake for every mood!
Frosting: All icing is rich, buttercream-based.
Presentation: A rainbow of colours. These boutique desserts are very creatively decorated
Cost: 1 for $2.50, 6 for $13, 12 for $25.
Spotlight Says: These are chic cupcakes. The Cupcake Shoppe is great for gifts and parties. For true flavour, though, let’s look elsewhere. The icing is creamy and super sweet. We were slightly turned off by the heavy after taste once we’d sampled more than one cupcake in a single sitting. One cupcake is probably just enough, two are downright sinful. A full glass of milk is a great side companion.
The Cupcake Shoppe
2416 Yonge Street (2 blocks north of Eglinton), Toronto
Dufflets is Toronto’s favourite pastry vendor. Over the last 30 years, the company has grown from a small in-house operation to one of the most recognized brands in Canada. Pastries can now be purchased directly from one of their three retail cafés or throughout many grocery chains and coffee shops.
Dufflets sells the most authentic cupcake so far. The double vanilla actually contains real vanilla pods and tastes great. The icing is sugar based, is light and holds just the right amount of sweetness. The cake maintains soft texture even after a day of sitting outside. These cupcakes can also be found at many Second Cup locations. There is also a chocolate fudge cupcake which will hit home with all chocolate lovers.
Texture: Cupcakes are always moist, with vanilla or chocolate flavour. Freshness keeps for two days.
Flavour: Double vanilla or chocolate fudge.
Frosting: Sugar based, not sickly sweet.
Presentation: The cupcakes look home made, as intended.
Cost: We found that it varies, but on average about $2.75 per cupcake.
Spotlight Says: The best tasting cupcake, but limited variety in flavours.
1917 Queen Street East, Toronto
787 Queen Street West, Toronto
2638 Yonge Street, Toronto
Kubo baby cakes are a fairly new addition to the fusion diner in Leaside. The cupcakes are baked every Monday and Thursday and are available for purchase directly from the bar. On other days, they’re stored in the fridge and the staff guarantees their freshness. We’ve tried a few varieties. The mango icing has great flavour – we recommend this one.
Texture: The cakes are moist, delicate and fall apart in our fingers.
Flavour: The chocolate cake has great flavour. All their cupcakes smelled delicious at first, but the taste turned out to be inconsistent.
Frosting: Butter, butter, butter. Too much sugar, but we did love the red velvet chocolate variety. It was perfect.
Presentation: All cupcakes are minimally decorated with a glossy finish.
Cost: High priced at $3.50 per cupcake. 6 for $19.
Spotlight Says: Kubo’s cupcakes are hit or miss. If you catch them on a day when the cupcakes are fresh, you’re in luck. If you get served from the fridge, come back another day.
Sweet tooth is a dessert junkie’s heaven. The bakery has a mix of great pastries and cakes. The key lime tart is out of this world, and the butter tarts are good from first bite to last crumble. Sweet Tooth has been open for about a year. Cupcakes are only available Tues-Sat.
Texture: The cakes are slightly dense, fresh, not oily-tasting.
Flavour: The chocolate cupcake is not as chocolate-y as Kubo or Dufflets.
Frosting: Light and creamy. We didn’t feel guilty eating these cupcakes and our stomachs weren’t screaming afterwards.
Presentation: They’re good-looking cupcakes, with bright frosting.
Cost: Also high priced, $3.50 per cupcake, although the menu said $2.50 each.
Spotlight Says: Sweet Tooth gets a vote for great tasting cupcakes, but there aren’t too many flavours. Simple is the name of the game.
Sweet Tooth Pastry Shop
508 Danforth Ave, Toronto
We bet that the Dessert Lady (in chic Yorkville) is probably being visited by a horde of celebrities this time of the year during the annual TIFF. The cupcakes in this pastry shop are traditionally made and presented. The cakes are soft and very tasty (chocolate and vanilla). The buttercream was too heavy for our taste buds – we felt like we were biting into a cold slab of butter. The cupcakes left an oily after taste in our mouths.
Flavour: Both Vanilla and Chocolate just pass the satisfactory meter.
Frosting: Too much buttercream with an oily aftertaste.
Presentation: Nothing fancy about these cakes. They’re traditional.
Cost: A steal at $.99 per cupcake.
Spotlight Says: The rich frosting was hard to eat. We’re willing to give it another go but we’ve heard the same results from other cupcake lovers.
The Dessert Lady
20 Cumberland Street, Toronto
Sweet Bliss wins the Foodie Choice award for their delicious cinnamon rolls, brownies, and tarts, and of course, cupcakes. Don’t count on them for a Wednesday sugar fix – they’re only open on weekends.
Texture: All cupcakes have a very soft base. Fresh on 3 different occasions. On one occasion there was a mild cornbread aftertaste to the cakes that we couldn’t shake.
Flavour: The chocolate cupcake is not as chocolate-y as Kubo's or Dufflets'.
Frosting: Just right! It’s not too sweet or heavy with butter. However, the chocolate frosting tastes like it’s from a can.
Presentation: They’re good looking cupcakes, with bright coloured frosting.
Cost: $2.75 per cupcake.
Spotlight Says: The staff is surly, but Sweet Bliss is a hidden gem in Leaside that only the real foodies have tracked down. These cupcakes are good.
Sweet Bliss Baking Company
1304 Queen St. E. (at Leslie)
Custom made cakes, shortbread cookies and cupcakes, made with natural products, no shortening, no pre-cracked eggs, and a lot of love. No wonder we love this place.
Texture: Soft cakes with a fresh, homemade taste. All the cupcakes (we taste-tested quite a few) tasted very fresh.
Flavour: Vanilla cupcakes, fruit flavoured frosting.
Frosting: Buttercream but not heavy. The icing perfectly compensates for the not-so-sweet cake.
Presentation: Bright orange, green, yellow patterns swirled onto each cupcake – each one is a work of art.
Cost: Blossom Cupcakes with frosting flowers: 6 for $14. Swirled Frosting cupcakes with buttercream frosting: 6 for $20. Single cupcakes are available as well.
Spotlight Says: Fresh and light-tasting cupcakes – we could eat 4 of these in one sitting. They’re almost too beautiful to eat, until we’ve taken a first bite… And then we’re hooked.
Sugar Plum Bakery
1028 Kingston Road (near Victoria Park)
So many cupcakes, so little time to meet them all. Our elastic waistbands are stretched to max, our teeth are tingling from licking icing off our fingers, yet we’re still not satisfied that we’ve covered enough ground.
All cupcakes shot, eaten, and paid for by Spotlight Toronto. Our adventures continue in Cupcake Diaries Part II.