Cupcake explosion rocks the city, icing spreads everywhere!! Or maybe it’s just all over us. In our efforts to be thorough investigators, we’ve become cupcake and frosting junkies.
After taste-testing a gazillion cupcakes, we’ve got part 2 of the Cupcake Diaries ready for you, soon to be followed by part 3. At the start of our cupcake hunt, we resolved to track down every cupcake maker in Toronto. That was Cupcake Diaries, Part 1. After the first five, we figured we were nearly done. Not so. To date, we’ve discovered no less than fifteen cupcake makers, and have expanded our search outside just Toronto – we’ve driven out as far as Milton to check out these indelible desserts for you, our readers. Most recently, we checked out the opening of The Cupcakery, which opened on Saturday of this past weekend.
So many stores, what sets one apart from the next? Is this even a sustainable business venture? So far so good… no one we know has ever turned down a cupcake. They’re classier than donuts, prettier than banana bread, and so much more mature than Rice Krispies squares.
And as competition emerges, life in the cupcake jungle just gets prettier and prettier. You’ll find some stores selling mini-cupcakes: too cute to refuse, easier to justify gorging on. Some are going the gourmet route and stuffing their cupcakes with crème filling, real fruit, jam, and even cookie pieces. Some savvy entrepreneurs are recognizing the appeal for diversity in cupcakes – where better to test this than in Toronto? Straying from traditional frosting and sprinkles, some are trying out Italian buttercream and even Indian spices, such as saffron and anise. Take that, NYC and L.A.
Thanks to their size, portability and visual appeal, cupcakes are also ideal for corporate events, weddings, school functions, showers, and on and on. More and more cupcake ‘tree stands’ are available in stores, and slowly, are creeping into the dessert section of formal events as well. Many cupcakes are being made peanut free; this is another appealing factor for schools.
We learned about Yummy stuff a few years ago when a friend ordered one of Morag’s lovely cakes for her birthday. The cake was an instant hit, not just because of taste but because of sheer beauty. Her creations blur the line between edible art and event centerpiece. Since then, Yummystuff has been virally passed around as a dessert idea for special occasions. Recently we found out that this pastry queen also makes cupcakes. So we ordered some.
Red Velvet is a popular cupcake flavour these days. It is generally a cake heavy in cocoa and butter (sometimes even buttermilk) with some red food coloring that gives the cake its appealing colour. They are the most popular at Yummystuff. We tried a few with vanilla and chocolate frosting. We also tried a pair of chocolate cupcakes with frosting.
Flavour: Most popular flavours are Red Velvet and Chocolate. Second-tier faves are lemon, vanilla, raspberry, and carrot.
Frosting: Light, but packed with flavour. Not overly sweet.
Presentation: Simple designs but brightly frosted cakes. All orders are custom made so you can expect something different every time. Take a look at the website for examples of how creative these pieces can be.
Cost: $2.75 each, $33 for a dozen. Mini cupcakes are $1.00 each
Spotlight Says: “Yummy Stuff dispels the myth that online cupcake houses may take shortcuts that you can’t see and may not as taste as good as those from real bakeries that you can certify by visiting. These cupcakes are made the same day and delivered fresh to you, nothing is pre-frozen. Flavours are very well balanced between cake and icing, nothing overpowers.”
There is no minimum order, and delivery is available
1660 Queen Street west, Toronto
The Cupcakery is the newest kid in town, located on St Clair west in a neighborhood that knows a thing or two about pastries and brunch. Interested to see how they planned to set themselves apart from the hundred and one other cupcake shops in town, we walked in on opening day to plenty of welcoming smiles. On the counter were 6 different varieties of cupcakes that were slowly disappearing as waves of curious customers flowed in and out of the store. The Cupcakery also sells random trinkets (a line of bath and body products, wedding planners, greeting cards) besides the array of desserts. Not as diversely stocked as Sugarplum bakery, which is more like two stores in one, but still enough to attract passersby with an attractive window display.
After buying one of each, we took them home to try out the six big flavours that had made the cut for the opening day. We tried a chocolate with peanut butter frosting, cookies and cream cupcake with oreo frosting, a vanilla with chocolate fudge topping (we think), a vanilla with pink frosting, a chocolate with white frosting, and a chocolate with chocolate frosting.
The highlights of these were one very addictive peanut butter cupcake that tasted like smooth Reese’s Pieces frosting smothered over fluffy chocolate cake and La Dolce Vita (a cupcake is not listed online) that blended chocolate frosting with a cocoa flavored cupcake.
Ironically, some of the most innovative and interesting flavours listed on the website weren’t available on Saturday. Where was the banana cupcake, the lemon poppy seed cake? We expected much more on the opening day… what were they waiting for?
Flavour: The chocolate cupcakes were more flavourful than the vanilla ones.
Frosting: Of the frostings, the chocolate fudge was forgettable as was the Cookies and Cream. The peanut butter wins our vote for best cupcake/frosting combination. Some cupcakes were topped with a frosting that didn’t use solely buttercream. These actually tasted better.
Presentation: These cupcakes are fairly basic in presentation. Most cakes are small with different coloured frosting.
Cost: $2.50 each, $13 for 6, $25 for 12
Spotlight Says: “The Cupcakery makes good cupcakes, and we’re really looking forward to trying some of the flavours that were missed from the menu. Some cupcakes are clearly better than others. We suggest you stick to the chocolate varieties for flavor depth and call in advance if a particular flavor piques your interest.”
Hours of Operation;
1034 St Clair West, Toronto
Tucked away in the east Beaches is a charming little shop that produces delicate cupcakes along with fair-trade coffee and tea. We looked at the menu and fell in love with every flavour, so ordered one of each. 12 different tastes, all good in their own way. Chocolate cakes are rich in flavor, while the frosting stays cool without being sickly sweet. The Earl Grey cupcake with mandarin icing was fabulous. We also loved lemon and the coconut flavours.
Texture: All cakes were soft but solid, and didn't fall apart. If there was any filling it wasn’t overwhelming.
Frosting: Grainy. Chocolate is thick and almost fudge-like. In all cases they weren’t too sweet and had good flavour.
Presentation: Cupcakes were colourful, some had sprinkles but nothing spectacular
Cost: $2.25 each, $12 for 6, $22 for 12. Mini cupcakes are $1.25 each, $6.50 for 6 and $12 for 12.
Spotlight Says: “For its charm and consistency in cake, these are some of the best cupcakes we’ve had yet.”
Hours of Operation;
Monday – Closed
Life is Sweet cupcake house
2328 Queen Street East (at Victoria Park), Toronto
For these cupcakes, we drove all the way to Milton. Nestled near a office like complex was a chic cupcake lounge that seduced us with such concoctions as the carrot cupcake with orange buttercream. We can still taste the cream cheese frosting.
Among other delicious treats such as custom made cakes, tarts and cookies, Flourgirls is best known for soft cupcakes and creamy frosting.
Lemon zinger – light fluffy cupcake, good taste but the cake fell apart easily.
Chocolate buttercream – dense, chocolaty, a very tasty cake.
Flavour: Some plain ones and then you have great mixes like the carrot cake and orange cream. The raspberry frosting was delicious with the chocolate cupcake.
Frosting: Light buttercream that doesn’t leave too much of an aftertaste in your mouth like the Cupcake Shoppe variety.
Presentation: Adorable works of art. A rainbow of colours with sprinkles and shavings.
Cost: $2.50 each, some cupcakes are $3.00
Spotlight Says: “These are the kind of cupcakes you eat with your eyes first. The cakes are consistent, some have a slight oily taste.”
Hours of Operation;
Monday – Closed
Flour Girls (image collage from site)
174 Mill Stret, Unit 103
Small town charm aside we really loved Swirls for its old school charm and delicious cupcakes. Even the cookies tasted great. A few customers came in to order a few paninis. Chuck, the owner, says they’re very popular along with the various flavours of gelato. Some couples even come in to sample and discuss wedding cakes. Chuck originally hails from New York, the east coast chapter of the cupcake craze.
There are times in taste testing where we’ve felt the need to scrape the roofs of our mouths to get rid of the oily buttercream aftertaste, but not with Swirls. Buttercream can taste good, and at Swirls it comes in various forms of light. Some even taste like whipped cream.
Some quick notes about the various cakes we tried;
Red velvet – fantastic. Soft, dense cake. Whipped cream frosting was much tastier than regular buttercream.
Chocolate cake with chocolate icing – soft, like drinking the bottom of a hot chocolate glass, very rich, like melted chocolate. Light cream.
Caramel – cake is tough, not moist, icing tastes like frosting from a can
Mango with vanilla cake – real mango icing, cake is good too.
Raspberry – amazing icing flavour, good cupcake, dense and moist like a regular cake.
Flavour: We loved the Red Velvet, Caramel and Mango cakes. What we noticed was that all fruit flavours used real fruit ingredients.
Frosting: Light buttercream frosting on most cupcakes, a few have frosting or chocolate ganache.
Presentation: Bright cakes with that quickly attract your attention.
Cost: $1.75 each, $9.95 for 6, $19 for 12
Spotlight Says: “Cupcake gastronomy aside, I think we found our most popular flavour is the mango cupcake because of its natural taste. Swirls takes real ingredients and makes delicious cupcakes that are the most three dimensional in taste yet. You taste sugar, followed by cocoa and any fruit that has been added into the mix."
241 Queen Street, Unit 1
All Cupcakes Shot, Eaten, and Paid for by Spotlight Toronto
Our adventures continue in Cupcake Diaries Part III.