The Final Sweet Morsels of Frosting and Cake Crumbs – Vegan Cupcakes at the Vegetarian Food Fair! Part III

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Have you ever dreamed of walking through a magical cupcake land with tubs of frosting floating around and cupcakes dancing around like heavenly visions of sugar plums?  No?  Okay, well I guess it’s just me then.  If you can believe it, those make-believe cupcake land dreams of mine came true on Saturday at the Vegetarian Food Fair at Harbourfront – sans the fairy wings and all though!  Welcome to the 3rd part of the Vegetarian Food Fair series of 2011, vegan cupcake-style!  Toronto may not be the vegetarian and vegan capital of the world, but I’m really fortunate to live around a city with options and with so many talented, enthusiastic business-owners and entrepreneurs who are constantly keeping things fresh, exciting, and innovative with their vegan creations.

I remember the first time I ate a vegan cupcake: October 2010 at the cafe that used to be in the Blue Banana gift shop in Kensington Market.  What can I say?  My memory is good when it comes to things with frosting!  The cupcakes from Blue Banana were actually ones from Dundas St. West’s very own OMG Baked Goodness and I remember how chocolatey and fudgy they were and how much I loved them.  The frosting was one of the most amazing things that had ever danced on my tastebuds and from that day on, I knew vegan sweets were in a league of their own.   

After going through all my photos from the fair Saturday night, I knew right off the bat that two posts were not going to be enough to showcase all the yumminess, and I knew that there was no chance of me squishing all my cupcake photos into my vegan desserts and sweets Part II post.  So here we are with an entire post dedicated to the vegan cupcakes at the food fest.  I cannot believe how many delicious, beautiful vegan cupcakes were here; I was going bat-apeing crazy!  The first thought that popped into my head as soon as I walked through the first aisle of booths was, “Are you kidding me?!  I can’t eat all this, my tummy’s not big enough!  This is so unfair!”  Cue foot stomping.  And the realization that I was only going to be able to eat one, at best.  Hence the ridiculous amount of photos; I needed some way of ingesting the awesomeness that lay before me.

We’re talking about rows and rows of s’mores cupcakes, mint chocolate, lavender chocolate (Sweets From the Earth), butterscotch pecan (Bloomers Bakery), pumpkin spice, red velvet, cookies and cream, chocolate coffee buttercream with mini donut (I KNOW.  Oh my god to the max), French toast (double oh my god) from Bunner’s Bake Shop, and many others, all from local businesses and bakeries.  I was wading through a cupcake dreamworld, a beautiful world I really didn’t want to leave!  Even though I knew there were great vegan bakeries in the city, I was introduced to businesses I didn’t even know existed.  I had no idea so many of them did cupcakes in that capacity, and it makes me so excited to know there are new flavours waiting for me to try out and new businesses for me to get to know.  The Vegetarian Food Fair was just phenomenal and I’m super happy I have these photos and great memories to look back on.  Because I’m going to need these to tide me over until next year 😉

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The Toronto Vegetarian Association (TVA) is located at 17 Baldwin St., 2nd floor (near the corner of Baldwin St. and McCaul St., south of Cecil St.).  To learn more about TVA’s mandate, events, news, and more, click here.  The Harbourfront Centre is located at 235 Queens Quay West.  For more info on their festivals, events, workshops, gallery shows, and more, click here.

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Feel the Sugar Rush – Amazing Vegan Desserts and Sweets at Toronto’s Vegetarian Food Fair! Part II

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I don’t think I’ve ever been surrounded by so many delicious desserts and sweets in my life!  Cookies, squares, cakes, brownies, pies, donuts, tarts, sticky buns, muffins, and gorgeous frosted cupcakes all made their sweet appearances at the Vegetarian Food Fair at the Harbourfront Centre over the weekend.  So many different vegan bakeries, cupcakeries, catering businesses, and retailers in and around Toronto and Ontario took part in one of the most anticipated food events of the year and none of them missed a beat in providing all of us with fresh, amazing, and scrumptious goodies to satisfy that sweet tooth.  Many of the businesses are committed to providing fresh baked goods and desserts that are both cruelty-free and eco-friendly in their creation process and in their consumption (bring on the tupperware!), with an emphasis on accomodating different diets, intolerances, and allergies.  Think kosher, dairy-free, soy-free, gluten-free, and nut-free products made with love 😀

One of the things that I really appreciate about vegan businesses is how they make their ingredient lists publicly available, whether it’s through their websites, their packaging labels, or on their display cases, and if they don’t have these lists written down or typed out, they’re happy in answering any questions you have about the product and what goes into it.  I didn’t grow up eating vegan sweets, so I’ve been learning about vegan alternatives and substitutes over the past few years and have learned so much about what bakers and chefs use to make their products dairy-free, gluten-free, and all the rest.  These ingredients include everything from coconut oil and cream to sunflower oil, grapeseed oil, cocoa butter, flax seed, cane juice and raw cane sugar, arrowroot flour, agave nectar, and so many others.

I had so much fun going from booth to booth, purusing (and drooling over) all the sweet confections at the fair yesterday and it pained me to only choose one or two things to enjoy because I wanted everything!  There was frosted carrot, chocolate, and gingerbread cake, a mountain of cupcakes, butterscotch donuts, nanaimo bars, cookie cream sandwiches, fruit crisps, peppermint patties, pies, marshmallows, marshmallow pie, fruit, oat, and chocolate cookies, and sticky buns! 

I met some wonderful new people and reunited with some of my favourite bakeries and businesses in the city including Ashley and Kevin’s Bunner’s Bake Shop, Sweets From the Earth, Jen’s Apiecalypse Now vegan bakery, Kind Food in Burlington, Bloomers Bakery, and LPK’s Culinary Groove.  I found out about Bunner’s Bake Shop and Kind Food just before this year’s Veggielicious, the first time I drooled over LPK’s desserts was at the Bay-Adelaide farmers’ market (I know, I haven’t blogged about this market yet, foreshame!), and I met Apiecalype Now’s Jen via Twitter and visited her for the first time at the UofT farmers’ market at the St. George campus this past summer.  I feel really lucky to have been introduced to a lot of these businesses and to the wonderful people who run them; there is so much love, sincerity, and homegrown talent here.

I noshed on cookie samples from Kind Food, took a bite of my boyfriend’s chocolate chip creamie sandwich from Bunner’s, stuffed my face with a cupcake from Bunner’s, and grabbed an orange peppermint patty from Jen’s Apiecalypse Now (or as Jen’s label said, “orange-y pattie thing”) to enjoy for later.  I KNOW.  You’d think I would have drowned myself in all these desserts, but don’t forget, I was planning on going to Short & Sweet Cupcakes‘ cupcake party afterward so I needed to pace myself!  It was a foodie dream come true though and I couldn’t have asked for more!  Tomorrow’s final Part III post is dedicated to all the amazing vegan cupcakes at the fair (yes, there were that many!).  The sugar rush ain’t over just yet 😉

*****

The Toronto Vegetarian Association (TVA) is located at 17 Baldwin St., 2nd floor (near the corner of Baldwin St. and McCaul St., south of Cecil St.).  To learn more about TVA’s mandate, events, news, and more, click here.  The Harbourfront Centre is located at 235 Queens Quay West.  For more info on their festivals, events, workshops, gallery shows, and more, click here.

It’s Pedestrian Sunday in Kensington Market Tomorrow! Head On Over to Wanda’s Pie the Sky, Part I

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Given how tomorrow marks August’s Pedestrian Sunday in Kensington Market, I thought it would be super appropriate to crank out my posts on Wanda’s Pie in the Sky and a new scrapbook layout to go with it!  I love Pedestrian Sundays and I only wish Sundays were a little more convenient for me transportation-wise because if they were, you can bet I’d make it to the market for this at the end of every month!  In a nutshell, the last Sunday of every month from May to October is Pedestrian Sunday.  The roads are completely blocked off in Kensington to motor traffic so you can skip and twirl in the middle of the streets with your delicious food and cute purchases swinging about to your heart’s content.  There’s often live music out on the streets, vendors and shop owners bring out all their wares, and there’s always some really cute activity happening in the market.  Case in point: giant, larger-than-life Scrabble on the street with square foot tiles!  Anyone who hasn’t been should skip on over, stat!  And while you’re there, check out Wanda’s Pie in the Sky.

Wanda’s Pie in the Sky is one of my favourite spots in Kensington and for the longest time, I always thought it was a dessert place exclusively selling pies, cakes, and the like.  I was so wrong.  And I don’t often say this, but I’m so happy I was wrong.  Wanda’s is, quite possibly, one of the BEST lunch spots in the city for a lunch date and I say this not only because of the sheer volume of food available, but also because Wanda’s is vegetarian and vegan-friendly, which makes it PERFECT for carnies and veggies alike. 

I was gobsmacked when I walked in and discovered just how much delicious food was inside those pastel brick walls.  Pasta salads, vegetarian sandwiches, soups, pizza flatbreads, quiche pies, vegan cupcakes, soft-serve ice cream, cookies, macarons, tarts, cakes, and yes, lots and lots of PIE!  It is incredible and because I like to tease you all, this is a teaser post to tide you over until tomorrow’s big fat Part II, complete with scrapbook layout and the prettiest, coolest, most awesomet cake you’ll ever lay your eyes – and possibly teeth – on.  Hint: look at my header image 😉  Enjoy!

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Wanda’s Pie in the Sky is located at 287 Augusta Ave. in Kensington Market.  Wanda’s Pie in the Sky is located in between Nassau and College St.  They are open every day from 8am-9pm.  For more info on placing orders, attending classes, and dessert items they serve, check out their website here.

Vegan Treats & Baked Goods, Sheep’s Milk Ice Cream, & Lots of Chocolate! The Riverdale Farmers’ Market, Part II

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This is the first time that I’ve ever had to split up a farmers’ market post into two parts because of the number of photos I have of both dessert and non-dessert foods.  I know juicy fruits are sweet and dessert-like as well, but today we’re talking about oodles and oodles of fair-trade chocolate and chocolate baked goods, vegan baked treats, cinnamon rolls bigger than your hand, platters of fresh pastries, and sheep’s milk ice cream.  If you have a sweet tooth and you’re looking for a good variety of things to try (or, you know, to stick your face in), the Riverdale farm farmers’ market in Cabbagetown is really fantastic.  I wanted to take away so much more with than just my baby orange grape tomatoes and giant loaf of poppyseed egg bread but there was simply no way I could do that without 1) dropping everything and 2) squishing everything.  I had a lot of bags on me that day (my canvas tote, mini backpack, and my market groceries!), so my take-home sweets will just have to wait for another day.

BUT, that’s not to say I didn’t grab myself a little something to eat while I was there 😉  Before I get to that though, I want to show you all a bunch of delicious photos of ChocoSol’s table first.  I totally remember seeing them at the Bay-Adelaide farmers’ market last month (blog post forthcoming) and drooling over their vegan baked treats.  The sheer volume of chocolate they have on their table would make any sweet tooth beg for mercy.  ChocoSol is a community group dedicated to creating and maintaining trans-local relationships specifically through chocolate goods.*  They had bars and bars of fair-trade chocolate, as well as many vegan baked goods: gorgeous frosted cupcakes, fresh blueberry tarts, giant cookies (seriously, these cookies were the size of a small pizza), cookie cream sandwiches, and cake loaves. 

Oh!  And they have Mexican-inspired vegan drinking chocolate!  I watched a few girls order some and ohhhh man, did they ever look good.  The drinking chocolate is made by putting two pucks of chocolate and 1 cup of hot water in a blender and serving the drink cold with ice.  There is also an option of putting raw hemp (a protein-rich seed that is unprocessed) and agave sweetener in it as well.  When I looked at the finished product, it looked so creamy and refreshing and I can only imagine how good it tasted.  That Mexican drinking chocolate is going to be mine next time.

In addition to the chocolate and vegan baked goods, there were these delicious cranberry custard cream danishes on the same table I nabbed my poppyseed egg loaf.  While the rational part of me walked away without any because I knew they’d get squished and ruined on the way home, the irrational part said, “I want four!!”  The recognition of good self-control is really no consolation here.  I wanted those danishes! 

I did get myself something sweet though: honey vanilla sheep’s milk ice cream!  They had a number of  flavours that day including blueberry, strawberry, raspberry, coffee, and vanilla chocolate chip.  I got my honey vanilla on a cone (a small for $2.50) and I ate it right in the park on a park bench under a tree.  It was lovely, and really, not small at all!  The ice cream was sweet and creamy, with a noticable difference in texture from regular ice cream.  It was little less thick and dense and it was very good.  I’m really glad I got the ice cream to try, but good grief, I am still thinking about that drinking chocolate and those danishes two days after.

*****

The Riverdale Farm farmers’ market is located at 201 Winchester St. in Riverdale Park.  My way of getting here is to either walk along Carlton St. eastbound from Yonge St., or take the College St. streetcar eastbound to Parliament St. and Carlton.  From there, keep walking eastbound on Carlton until you get to Sumach St. and you’re there!  This year, the market is held every Tuesday from 3pm-7pm from May 17th to October 25th.

*source = ChocoSol website and blog

OMG, They’re So Fudgy! Chocolate Vegan Cupcakes at OMG Baked Goodness

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I miss the café at Blue Banana in Kensington Market.  A lot.  When I found out that they packed up their adorable café with some of my favourite chocolate vegan cupcakes, I was crushed.  They had big, soft, moist, and densely chocolatey vegan cupcakes that had thick, amazing frosting in fun colours and edible pearls and sugar crystals.  Not only that, they had carrot cake cupcakes, brownies, giant cookies, and other goodies like Turkish Delight and chocolate covered pretzels.  It was cute and fun and I looked up at the food gods and silently thought, “you are so mean.” 

Thankfully, all of us who adored those cupcakes don’t need to fret because they’re not entirely gone.  Gone from Blue Banana, yes, but not gone from the city.  For those who weren’t aware, Blue Banana’s yummy vegan cupcakes were supplied by the cute and flashy OMG Baked Goodness Ltd. on Dundas Street West and they’re very much alive and kickin’ (and currently supplying to a number of cafés and retailers all over the Toronto) near the intersection of Dundas West and Dufferin St.  I have been meaning to go to OMG for ages, ever since I learned that Blue Banana’s cupcakes came from here.  A cupcake munchie like myself has to visit the mothership, right? 😀  I was so excited to continue my own little personal cupcake tour by coming here because really, the visit was long overdue!

OMG Baked Goodness is beautiful.  If you love pink and colourful brights, it’s it a feast for your eyes.  If you love fluffy cupcakes with frostings in every colour of the rainbow, it will make your cupcake-loving heart swoon.  And if you’re gaga over photo ops, well…be prepared for a few finger spasms!  They have a giant cupcake graffiti painting on their wall!  It makes my heart happy.  OMG isn’t just your resident vegan cupcakery though.  Aside from cupcakes, they bake babycakes (which resemble very large muffins with big tops), brownies (cream cheese ones and walnut ones to name a few), cookies, and savoury eats such as mini quiche pies, spinach and feta turnovers, roasted vegetable turnovers, and stuffed focaccia among many others.  Prices range from $3.25-$4.00 for savoury food items, around $2.15 for babycakes, and $2.75 for brownies. 

 

OMG is totally on the ball with having their baked goods ready to go when they open for business, and even before they actually open!  After getting off the Dundas West streetcar and walking over from College St. (construction in the city = route detours, not to fret), I saw the lights were on and the girls baking inside and got confused because I could have sworn I had arrived there earlier than 10am.  And I did, but there it was with its “Open” sign beckoning me to come in and the nice girls ready to serve me.  Sweet!

Now, I may not be able to describe or comment on any of their baked goods aside from the vegan cupcakes, but give me a month and I’m sure that can be changed 😀  What I love about their chocolate vegan cupcakes is how moist and FUDGY they are.  Oh my goodness, THIS is what chocolate is supposed to taste like.  The chocolate cupcakes taste like fudgy brownies only in cupcake form.  I snatched up two regular-sized cupcakes ($2.75 each, which places them right in the middle price-wise compared to other cupcakeries in Toronto) and two minis with a smattering of rainbow sprinkles!  The minis come in at $1.50 each and the frostings are so cute and colourful.  There was no way in hell that I was going to give up mini cupcakes with rainbow SPRINKLES all over them.  I love sprinkles the way peanut butter loves jelly. 

The minis were awesome.  You know what they tasted like?  A cross between a moist chocolate cupcake and a sprinkled donut with frosted glaze!  Obviously the frosting wasn’t just a glaze, but you get what I mean.  I shoved them in my mouth and loved them dearly.  I do wish though that the frosting on the regular-sized cupcakes was a bit thicker just because it wasn’t as thick as the frosting I remember eating from the ones at Blue Banana.

These are solid, good chocolate vegan cupcakes though and the prices are very reasonable in comparison to other cupcakeries.  At the lower end price-wise, there are a handful of places that sell them for $2.50 (Sweet Escape Patisserie, For the Love of Cake) and $2.65 (The Cupcake Shoppe).  At mid-range we have Short & Sweet Cupcakes coming in at $2.90, Prairie Girl Bakery at $2.95, and of course, OMG Baked Goodness at $2.75.  Rounding out the higher end are Bunner’s Bake Shop ($3.25) and Lollicakes ($3.00).  Granted, there are MANY cupcakeries in Toronto that I haven’t listed here, but you get the idea.  I’m not vegan and I really enjoy their chocolate cupcakes.  When I try out some of their other goodies (I saw a babycake that looked like it has marshmallow in it OMG), I’ll be sure to share some more!  I hope you all like the photos and the scrap layout and if you’re wondering about those cupcakeries that I listed but didn’t link…well, let’s just say some more cupcake blog posts are in order in the near future 😉

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OMG Baked Goodness is located at 1561 Dundas Street West, west of Dufferin St. at the corner of Sheridan and Dundas West.  They are open from 10am-7pm Monday-Saturday and from 12pm-5pm on Sunday.  You can view their products on their website here.

Scrapbooking materials used: eggplant purple, lilac, dark pink, buttercup yellow, and mint green cardstock (Recollections, Choco-Mod Patterns by DCWV); pink, green, and brown patterned alphabet stickers (Choco-Mod Patterns by DCWV); “Lollipop” alphabet stickers (Autumn Leaves, Creativity Inc.); baking stickers (Sticko, Jolee’s Boutique); cake and cupcake adhesive embellishments (Michaels); medium scallop circle paper punch (ek success).     

The Keys to My Heart – Prepare to Drool: The Famous Vegan Chocolate Chip Creamie From Bunner’s Bake Shop

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My heart is doing pirouettes as I write this.  Just look at this beautiful masterpiece that I have put before us.  I know your mouth is gaping open at the sight of it.  If it’s not, then it must be swallowing saliva because this vegan dessert is a thing of beauty.  This is the famous chocolate chip creamie sandwich from Bunner’s Bake Shop, located in Toronto’s Junction neighbourhood on Dundas St. West.  I am not exaggerating when I say that this cookie sandwich is so effing delicious it makes me want to bus, sub, and run over to the west end bake shop EVERY SINGLE DAY.  I can’t believe I’m saying this, but this is quite possibly my most favourite dessert EVER.  I know, the unthinkable has happened: my favourite sweets are on the verge of being dethroned.  It stomps over ice cream.  It squeezes past cake.  And cupcakes?  Oh, my beloved cupcakes.  It pains me to say this, but you are no longer my one and only.  You must now share the spotlight – and my heart – with the amazing creamie sandwich.

The chocolate chip creamie is not your ordinary cream-filled cookie sandwich.  And the chocolate chip cookies and vanilla frosting are not your ordinary cookies and frosting.  This creamie is mondo big and is literally pillow soft, light-as-air, melt-in-your-mouth delightfulness.  The chocolate chip cookies look, feel, and taste like a fusion of soft chocolate chip cookies with gingerbread, molasses, cookie dough, and graham cracker crumble all mixed together.

The texture of these cookies is amazing because in appearance they remind you of the delicious crystal-like grittiness of gingerbread and molasses cookies, but in taste they are smooth, soft, and rich.  Chewy isn’t even the right word, because they’re not.  They are simply SO SOFT.  They pull apart amazingly.  You can either stuff your face and chomp on this thing in its entirety, or you can revel in its texture like me and break the creamie apart in half (or in thirds or quarters, whatever floats your boat).  You can literally SEE the richness and softness of the frosting and cookies as you gently break it in half.

Like I mentioned before in my Bunner’s post during Veggielicious, their frosting is unlike anything I’ve ever tasted.  The vanilla frosting is simaltaneously airy and thick, and so full of full-bodied vanilla flavour.  So to all cream-filled cookie sandwiches in the world: my apologies, but you’ve been served.

Ashley from Bunner’s was really nice in taking the time to answer my questions about what makes the creamie vegan, specifically.  Instead of butter, the cookies are made with coconut oil and a number of vegetable fats, organic sugar, and premium vanilla are used to whip up the delicious frosting.  The creamie comes in two forms: chocolate chip (what you see here) and the double chocolate chip (what you see in the first photo here) and are $4.25 each.  Although my boyfriend has had the double chocolate chip one twice, I’ve only ever eaten the chocolate chip creamie myself.  When I get around to eating the double chocolate one I promise you there will be mouth-watering photos here too 😉  In the meantime…wipe the drool off from your chin and grab yourself one of these!

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Bunner’s Bake Shop is a vegan, gluten-free bakery that also offers a number of soy-free options.  They are committed to using fair trade, organic, and local ingredients as often as possible in their baked goods.  They are located in The Junction at 3054 Dundas Street West, 3 blocks from the intersection of Keele and Dundas West.  Bunner’s is just west of High Park Ave.  They are open from Monday to Saturday from 10am-7pm, and 12pm-5pm on Sundays.

Bake Sale Alert: The Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale is in Toronto This Weekend!

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The Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale has made its way to Toronto, and I was at Toronto Vegetarian Association headquarters this afternoon to check out and pick up some yummy goodies!  Founded in 2009, the Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale is a 1-week event (April 23rd – May 1st, 2011) that provides the public with a chance to try some delicious sweet treats, gain knowledge about vegan baking and cooking, and to support local charities,organizations, and causes.  Groups, retailers, and organizations from around the world participate in this event by baking vegan treats (many of which are also either organic, raw, gluten, nut, and soy-free, or all of the above) and using the proceeds from the sale to support and further the cause of their choice. 

I’m so happy I got the chance to partake in this event this year!  The Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale made its way to Toronto this past week at the TVA headquarters Wednesday evening, and will be making its way to Bloor and Bathurst at Panacea Eco Shop tomorrow from 1-4pm.  If you’re interested in getting involved, I encourage you to go!  There’s plenty of yummy eats to snatch up and it’s for a great cause.  Panacea’s proceeds are specifically going to the Toronto Cat Rescue and I know for a fact that MANY of you are animal-lovers and are passionate about helping out animal shelters and rescue organizations, so I think it’s a great opportunity to get involved in the local community 😀

I had a great time reading up on baking ingredients while I was there and I had a veeeerry fun time picking out baked yummies to bring back home with me!  There was plenty to choose from: maple pecan sticky blondies, oatmeal cookies, raw chocolate cake, and the items I ended up choosing.  I chose some mini blueberry buckwheat muffins (for my mom), a banana chocolate chip muffin (for my brother), some chocolate minty melty cookies, and some DELICIOUS chocolate oatmeal white chocolate sandwich cookies (quite the mouthwatering mouthful…both verbally and literally, mmm!).  It’s been so fun learning about vegan baking and ingredient substitutes for things like butter and eggs.  I’m excited to try out some vegan baking of my own sometime.  Meanwhile, I’m having just as much fun eating vegan sweet goodies!

What makes the experience rewarding for me is knowing what makes vegan baked goods VEGAN.  It’s not enough just to SAY something is vegan the same way it’s not enough to claim something is “organic”.  It’s important to educate myself when I can and conversely, I think it’s equally important to make this information accessible and available.  Here’s a list of some of the ingredients used in these desserts that make them vegan: maple syrup, ground flaxseed, grapeseed oil, lemon juice, mint extract, and olive oil.  I’m super happy I got to go to the bake sale today.  After a miserable week of chillier temperatures and rain, it was beautiful and warm and sunny today and there was no way in hell I was going to pass up this opportunity.  So here’s me reporting back with my goodies, and I hope those of you who are interested get to go to Panacea tomorrow!  Happy weekend everyone!

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The Toronto Vegetarian Association is located at 17 Baldwin St. on the 2nd floor (just west of McCaul St.), literally next to Vegetarian Haven.  Panacea Eco Shop is located at 588 Bloor St. West (on the north side), just west of Markham St.  The nearest major intersection is Bloor St. West and Bathurst St.  Click on the links in my blog post for more information on the Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale, TVA, and Panacea.