The Holiday Cupcake Blitz Begins! Fudgy Candy Cane Lane & Sweet Vanilla Confetti from The Cupcake Shoppe!

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I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy running across the street from The Cupcake Shoppe with a box of 2 cupcakes to take photos of them in all 3 years of blogging and Cupcake Shoppe cupcake eating.  There I was by the cement seating block in front of the Canada Post building across the street from The Cupcake Shoppe clicking away with my camera with my bare hands in the cold, all the while making sure my cupcake box didn’t blow away from the wind and grinning from ear to ear.  Was it cold?  Yes.  Was my mum waiting for me inside the David’s Tea across the street while I was snapping away?  Yes.  Am I a crazy nut?  Just a little.  But I don’t care.  Because you’d feel the same way if you were in my shoes. This moment was 3 years in the making.  3 YEARS!  The moment me and The Cupcake Shoppe’s seasonal holiday cupcake, Candy Cane Lane, exchanged pleasantries and shared cupcake hugs had finally arrived.  I was so full of jubilance I almost starting squealing mid-snap.

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It was a scrapbook moment.

I’ve been eating cupcakes from The Cupcake Shoppe for over 3 years now.  And each and every single year I missed out on their beloved fudgy Candy Cane Lane during the holiday season.  And every time I did I wanted to shake my fists over my ridiculously poor planning and timing.  I just couldn’t get to it.  I either wasn’t in the Yonge & Eglinton neighbourhood (before and after the holiday blitz, yes, during, no.  I don’t know why!) or I was visiting another cupcake shop or bakery.  Or I was just preoccupied with family, school or work.  I know, it sounds like the dumbest thing in the world.  If I want a cupcake, I should just go out and get it.  All I can say is that every holiday season passes by in a dizzying whirlwind of activity and at times it feels over before it even begins and I’ve missed my window of opportunity on a number of things.  That and my stomach could only hold so many different cupcakes and sweets and hot chocolate on any given day so something had to give.  And that something was Candy Cane Lane for the last 3 years.

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NOT ANYMORE, WEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!

The chocolate cake was as fudgy as chocolate fudge could be and the buttercream, adorned with a cute little candy cane piece, was white as snow with flecks of candy cane peppermint strewn throughout it.  The buttercream was soft and whippy with both vanilla and candy cane peppermint flavours mixed together.  The flavour is subtle as opposed to in-your-face (or in this case, in-your-mouth) so it’s great for those who enjoy a little pepperminty freshness without the abrasiveness of full on peppermint (i.e. mouthwash.  Because that’s so not sexy).  I kind of liken it to a peppermint hot chocolate in cupcake form!  The peppermint doesn’t overpower the chocolate and I think they actually complement each other pretty well.  And if I could make a cutesy suggestion, take the candy cane piece and roll it in the fudgy chocolate crumbs on the cupcake wrapper.  It will taste SO yummy!

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Seeing that I couldn’t possibly leave The Cupcake Shoppe with only one cupcake, I had to choose a 2nd to enjoy for the next day so I jumped on the super pretty, super fun and super cute-as-a-button Confetti!  It’s one of their newer ones and it has quickly become a favourite of mine from The Cupcake Shoppe.  It’s simple but truly delicious.  It’s one of their sweeter ones and it’s everything you love about birthday cake in a cupcake.  The vanilla cake and blue vanilla frosting are sweet and rich and deliciously yummy, the cake is studded with specks of rainbow sprinkles and the frosting is topped with a smattering of rainbow funfetti.

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While it might not scream Christmas, it does scream celebration and fun and that’s what the holidays should be all about so I think it’s a fabulous one to have alongside the Candy Cane Lane.  And if you’re looking for tea and cupcake pairings, try the Candy Cane Lane with David’s Tea White Chocolate Frost (one of their new Winter 2013 teas) or Read My Lips and definitely try the Confetti cupcake with David’s Tea Birthday Cake tea!  You’ll be glad you did.

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*****

The Cupcake Shoppe is located in the Yonge and Eglinton neighbourhood at 2417 Yonge St., north of Eglinton on the east side of Yonge St.  Their second location in Vaughan is located by Bathurst St. and Rutherford Road at 9340 Bathurst.  Hurray for more cupcake options in York Region!

They have a rotating menu of cupcake flavours each day and each cupcake is priced at $2.85.  For more Cupcake Shoppe goodness on Ate by Ate, click HERE!  There are write-ups, scrapbook layouts, and tons of photos on The Cupcake Shoppe’s following flavours: Cookie Dough, Eh? (maple), Lemon Drop & Lov’n Lemon (the first one is one of the most amazing lemon cupcakes you will ever eat and the latter, not so much), Red Velvet, Naughty n’ Spice (fall seasonal), After Ate (mint chocolate), Pretty in Pink (raspberry cupcake with raspberry buttercream), Triple Chocolate Fudge (chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and chocolate chips), Sleepless in Toronto (coffee), and the delicious summer seasonal Lime n’ Licious.

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Eggnog, Gingerbread Candy Cane and More – Magical Christmas & Holiday Macarons at Petit Thuet!

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What’s better than sweet and delicious Christmas and holiday themed cupcakes?  Christmas and holiday themed cupcakes AND macarons!  For years cupcakes were my be all and end all.  Nothing could come between us.  Not pie, not candy, not donuts, sometimes not even ice cream!  It was rare, but it happened.  For the past year and a half though I’ve been loving macarons more and more and I’ve been enjoying them just as much as cupcakes, especially over the last few months.  I started hitting up a ton of patisseries and bakeries I had never been to before to try their macarons – Butter Avenue, Cake Opera, Nadege Patisserie and even Yorkville Espresso Bar for their strawberry marshmallow ones among a few other spots.  Some I loved to itty bitty pieces, some were so-so, and some were, well, awful.  Which ones were awful?  I can’t say.  I promised myself and all of you that I’d never bash anything here unless I had something else positive to redeem the situation.  If you’re really curious I’d tell you straight up but only privately, so all you’ll see here are the ones I loved and the ones I liked.

Every spot has their standouts and the ones you can live without, so out of those 4 recent visits and sweet spots, here are the ones I loved the most: Yorkville Espresso Bar’s strawberry marshmallow, Nadege Patisserie’s pumpkin, Cake Opera’s vanilla-orange blossom (even though their retail section is no longer around, definitely keep them in mind for catering orders and sweet tables!), and Butter Avenue’s walnut matcha green tea and cafe au lait.  Now it’s time to add some sweet and lickably delicious Christmas and holiday macarons from Petit Thuet to the mix!

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Now, you all know how deeply in love I am with Petit Thuet’s cookies n’ cream macaron.  And if you don’t, you do now!  I didn’t think any other flavour of theirs could compare.

I was wrong.

There are 3 others.  And two of them are Christmas ones!  *cue excited squeals*  During my most recent visit to Petit Thuet on King and Yonge Street, I picked up a box of half a dozen macarons and was absolutely beside myself when I found out they had holiday flavours!  I was truly happy with all 5 flavours I chose (I duplicated one of them so my boyfriend could try): eggnog (bright yellow shells with eggnog cream), gingerbread candy cane (OH.MY.GOD – gingerbread brown shells with candy cane cream), white chocolate wasabi (crazy, I know!  White shells with wasabi powder sprinkled on top and white chocolate cream mixed with a hint of wasabi mixed in), my beloved cookies n’ cream (cookie shells with Oreo cream), and the luscious mint chocolate with its bright green shells and rich chocolate ganache.

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Honestly, out of all the times I’ve bought a selection of macarons, this was the first time I truly loved all the flavours I chose.  While there are flavours I’d jump on more quickly, I can truly say I’d go back for any and all of them.  However, I know everyone likes to know which ones are the shining stars out of the ones I hadn’t tried yet so I’m going to say that you need to stuff your face with the eggnog, gingerbread candy cane, and the mint chocolate ones.  I know.  That doesn’t really help.  But it’s only because they’re so delicious!  The eggnog is so creamy, the gingerbread candy cane is an insanely adorable, fun mix of gingerbread spice and crunchy, pepperminty candy cane bits and cream (that’s right, it’s not just candy cane cream in the middle, you get the crunch from actual crushed candy cane!), and the mint chocolate is decadent, rich, thick, and deliciously chocolatey smorsgabord of your favourite peppermint patty, After Ate chocolate thin mints, and Girl Scout cookies.

So if you can get to Petit Thuet sometime, take advantage of the holiday and Christmas flavours!

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*****

Petite Thuet serves 3 locations in downtown/midtown Toronto:

  1. 1162 Yonge St. (between Summerhill and Rosedale subway stations, on the west side of Yonge St.)
  2. 1 King St. West (at the corner of Yonge and King St.)
  3. 244 King St. East (between Sherbourne and Princess St.)

Deck the Hall with Boughs of Mini Cupcakes! Chocolate, Peppermint Frosting & More at Prairie Girl Bakery, Part II!

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Not the most flattering photo of me, but it’s with cupcakes so it’s all good!

Even the bitter cold won’t keep me away from cupcakes!  I’m no winter warrior (after living in my homeland of Canada for 27 years, I’ve come to the conclusion that each year does not get easier and that I am, in fact, a wuss during both summer and winter seasons), but if I’m armed with a hat and super thick mitts and a scarf, there’s not much that will drive me away from the cake and frosting.  I even poo-pooed the weather forecast back in February during one of the worst storms of the season and frolicked (well, more like stomped and sloshed) around town in the snow and slush making cake pops at Le Dolci, having lunch at Mela Cafe, and stuffing my face with a strawberry Valentine’s cupcake at Short & Sweet on the way home.  Us cupcake fans know: when you love cupcakes you LOVE cupcakes, icky weather and all.

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I know I say this every year, but I am truly so excited for Christmas and the month of December!  I have plans with friends and family and my boyfriend, I have my Christmas presents ready to go, I’ve been taking advantage of some ridiculously fabulous sales (I’m nothing if not a fantastic shopper!), some desperately-needed scrapbook downtime is just a few weeks away, and for the first time in months, I feel calm, cool, collected and very content with the blog content I have planned for the rest of the month.  Last year I was really disappointed in myself for not taking advantage of more holiday shenanigans and while, in hindsight, the circumstances I faced that prevented me from doing what I wanted to do for the blog were uncontrollable and unavoidable, I still feel like I could have done more to make Christmas and the holidays on Ate by Ate really great.  And the way to make anything extra great is with cupcakes!

Introducing the marvelous minis from Prairie Girl Bakery!  I’ve only ever posted about their full-size ones so this is special.  Prairie Girl’s mini cupcakes ($1.75 each, $9.95 for half a dozen, and $18.95 for one dozen) come in all their permanent menu flavours and the bakery’s two Treats of the Week flavours.  Honestly though, even though they’re mini in comparison to the full-size ones, they are by no means teeny-tiny.  When I think of mini cupcakes, I think of a 4:1 ratio, bite-size morsels, and morsels you could easily pop in your mouth in one swift motion.  Let me tell you, Prairie Girl’s minis will give you MULTIPLE heavenly bites and I’d say they’re comparable to half a cupcake.  Two will truly hit the spot.  Hell, I think even one could given how rich and creamy and thick the frosting is!

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What I am loving about Prairie Girl’s flavours these days (aside from the thick, creamy, scrumptious frosting) is how they’re wonderfully subtle in holiday spirit.  Aside from the dark cocoa chocolate cake with creamy vanilla peppermint frosting and crushed peppermint candies (pictured), the holiday flavours they’ve been doling out have come from their Treats of the Week line-up.  What you see here are mini golden buttermilk cupcakes with sweet, creamy cinnamon frosting topped with a hot cinnamon jelly bean!  Last week’s Treat of the Week?  Pumpkin on vanilla.  And this week?  Almond on chocolate and vanilla cranberry on golden buttermilk.

OH.MY.GOD.  I want everything!  And I only wish these flavours were around permanently and not only for a week!  What I love is that even though these flavours don’t necessarily scream “holiday” or “Christmas” necessarily, they touch on all the things we love about the festive season: the sights and smells of spices, nuts, and winter fruits.  I mean really, when was the last time you came across a CRANBERRY frosted cupcake?!  In my book?  NEVER.  Even though nothing beats lemon and coconut (and lemon and coconut meshed together!) in my heart, I love cranberry like you wouldn’t believe and I’ve always wished for a cranberry cupcake.  I really don’t think I’ll be able to get my sweet teeth on any before the week is over and while that makes me so sad, I’m so happy knowing this is a flavour on their rotating Treats of the Week menu.  If I’m patient enough, I’ll get to it the next time around!

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Prairie Girl Bakery also offers a number of adorable decorative cupcake toppers that you can purchase up by the cash and they have almost type of cupcake box known to foodies!  All of their fab boxes have inserts in them, keeping all your cupcakes neat and tidy and smush-free!  What’s great is that they have so many different combinations.  If you want a regular-sized cupcake plus two minis, there’s a box for that.  If you want 4 minis (pictured), 4 inserts are waiting for those little cakes to be plunked down.  And if you want 2 little ones, you’ll get the cutest cupcake purse box ever!  My boyfriend is currently gaga over Prairie Girl’s chocolate cream cheese icing on golden buttermilk (which I still haven’t tried – foreshame!) and I am loving the chocolate peppermint.  It’s like a chocolate peppermint patty with frosting!

I had myself a jolly good time taking these photos (hello mini cupcake models!) and I’m hoping this is just the beginning of the wonderful and delicious Christmas cupcake season!

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The Prairie Girl cupcake car!

*****

Prairie Girl Bakery is located at Suite 106, 18 King St. East off King St. E and Victoria St.  The cupcake shop itself actually faces Victoria St., so it’s just a smidge north of King on Victoria St.  They are open 6 days a week from 10am-6pm from Monday-Saturday.  They are closed on Sundays and statutory holidays.  Their new 2nd location is located in the underground PATH in First Canadian Place in the Marketplace food concourse.  The FCP location is open from 8am-6pm, Monday-Friday.

Christmas Cookie Baking Fun! Crackled Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies

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I know it’s a little overdue, but my holiday baking and Christmas cookies are finally here!  I’ve been looking forward to posting Christmas cookies and recipes for so long and I’m so excited to finally have homemade holiday baked goods to share with you all.  There were so many recipes I wanted to try, I was bookmarking and dog-earing pages like crazy, and I was also enjoying everyone else’s Christmas cookie fun via the interwebs on my friend Katrina’s blog, In Katrina’s Kitchen, where she hosted an “I’ll Bring the Cookies” cookie party all month long!  In an ideal world, I would love to bake 5 kinds of cookies and cookie desserts EVERY DAY and you’d all be able to come to my house for a cookie party!  Realistically though, I just share them with my family, boyfriend, grandparents, hair stylist, and whichever friends I happen to see during the times I bake cookies.

I had so much fun making and baking these Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies (how’s that for some fancy alliteration?) because I actually got to improvise and experiment a little!  See, I didn’t actually use an entire printed recipe from a magazine or book to make these.  After realizing what an amazing, holy grail cookie batter base I had going on here, I used the basic framework of the cookie recipe, modified it just a little bit, and made the rest up on my own.  And it worked!  Sort of.  The recipe and ingredients worked out beautifully, but I was a little overzealous and put a few too many cookie dough balls on the first cookie sheet and they ended up overcrowding one another, but I learned my lesson and the rest turned out PERFECT!

I wanted to make something fun and special for my friend Lindsay for Christmas since she loves mint chocolate so much, so I figured, why not experiment with a chocolate peppermint candy cane cookie?  I wasn’t sure if I, personally, would enjoy them since I’m still warming up to peppermint things and mint chocolate, but I have to tell you, I love these cookies so much, and even my mum, who isn’t a fan of peppermint or mint chocolate, loved them too!  Not to mention I loved the way they turned out appearance-wise with the crackling and the candy cane mosaic.  Let’s share and spread the Christmas cookie love!

Recipe for Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies (yields 4 dozen medium-sized cookies or 3 dozen large cookies)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup quick-cooking or old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2½ sticks unsalted butter (10 ounces), at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 oz. semisweet chocolate chips, melted and slightly cooled
  • 1½ cups white chocolate chips
  • 1 cup crushed candy canes

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 325°F.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  (*Deb’s Note: Depending on how big you make your cookie dough balls, you’ll need to line your cookie sheets a few times to bake the 3 or 4 dozen.  My oven runs hot, so I actually don’t bother putting anything on the bottom rack and only use the top rack, placing 2 baking sheets vertically side by side).
  • In a medium bowl, mix the flour with the oats, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  (*Deb’s Note: I didn’t use the mixer for this step, I just used a large spoon to mix everything together).
  • Beat the butter and both sugars at medium speed until creamy.  Add the egg followed by egg yolk and vanilla, beating well between additions and scraping down the side of the bowl as necessary.
  • Melt the semisweet chocolate chips and add to wet mixture, mixing until thoroughly incorporated (*Deb’s Note: I know some people prefer to use the steam method, melting the chocolate over a pot of boiling water, but I actually do it in the microwave.  I blast it at 20 second intervals, stirring after each interval until the chocolate is smooth.  You don’t have to do this, but I added a small splash of milk to my melted chocolate).
  • Slowly beat in the dry ingredient mixture, then fold the white chocolate chips into the batter.
  • Using clean hands, roll mounds of cookie dough into balls about 1 inch in diameter.  Roll the cookie dough balls in the crushed candy canes, coating the entire ball.  Place coated cookie dough balls onto the baking sheets, 12 balls to a sheet (*Deb’s Note: Here is where I was a little overzealous with the first batch.  Instead of 12, I placed 15 and the cookies were overcrowded.  Make sure you don’t make the balls bigger than an inch in diameter because the dough spreads.  If you want the cookies larger, I’d say only put 8 cookie balls to a sheet). 
  • Bake 12-15 minutes, until crackling forms.  Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets, then transfer them to a rack to cool completely (*Deb’s Note: Mine took 14 minutes in the oven).

Here’s a cute gift idea: to mimic the texture and “crackled” appearance of the crushed candy canes, take the cookies and break them into smaller pieces to create cookie bark!  Place in some clear cellophane and tie the bundle up with some pretty ribbon.  Ta-da!

*****

Recipe inspired by Food & Wine magazine.  Sampson, Sally.  “How Baking Can Change the World.” Food & Wine November 2011: 130.

It’s a Marshmallow World in the Winter – Peppermint Candy Cane Marshmallows by I Love Puffy Love at The Depannuer!

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We may not end up with a white Christmas this year (even with the ice and frost outside, chances are looking slim), but there’s some sweet, puffy goodness in town that’s sure to satisfy the gaping hole where the falling white fluffy stuff should be: soft, pillowy, snowy white homemade marshmallows sprinkled with crunchy peppermint candy cane snow!  These homemade, hand-cut, preservative-free, gourmet marshmallows are lovingly made by marshmallow sweets queen Mai Ha of I ❤ (Love) Puffy Love!  I Love Puffy Love is a Toronto-based business specializing in homemade, gourmet marshmallow desserts.  Goodbye rock hard mini marshmallows in the plastic baggies; say hello to fresh, toasted coconut marshmallow cubes and vanilla raspberry mallow pops! 

One of the most rewarding things about being a food writer and blogger (and scrapbooker!) is learning about new businesses and blossoming entrepreneurs with all the passion, creativity, and love to give to their craft and their brand.  I love getting to know people’s stories – how they started their business, what they love most about their work, what drives them to get up at the crack of dawn and finally calling it a night in the wee hours.  Whether it’s talking to and getting to know the ambitious men and women behind the business in person, or reading about their journey and experience through their Twitter accounts and blogs, it’s how I make these blog posts more real, more personal.

It’s how I fell in love with the farmers’ markets (and all markets for that matter), Earth & City, Jen’s APieCalypse Now! vegan bakery, and so many others.  I love the aspect of storytelling and concept building and it gives me an immense amount of joy lending my support to those who are truly passionate about their work.  I can see the love and joy in these marshmallows; everything from the packaging, to the logo, to the bright and happy pink and red sticker, to the sweets waiting to be devoured inside. 

I’m going to backtrack a little and give my marshmallow discovery a little context though.  I landed on a goldmine several weeks ago when I stumbled upon The Depannuer on College St. just east of Dufferin.  The Depannuer is everything I love about food rolled into one space.  Even though I’m saving my huge Depanneur write-up and photos for tomorrow and the day after and focusing specifically on Mai’s I Love Puffy Love’s marshmallows today, there’s no way I can discuss the story behind my finding these marshmallows without first mentioning my discovery of The Depannuer first.  The Depannuer was selling Mai’s line of I Love Puffy Love marshmallow products and I just happened to be at the right place at the right time.  It was fate.

I saw packages of adorable and delicious-looking soft and squishy marshmallows and marshmallow pops sitting on one of The Depannuer’s counters by the front window and I instantly fell in love.  I picked up a package and thought, “it’s pink and red and white and oh my god, do I see sprinkles and toasted coconut?!”  I needed them in my life.  I have never felt more strongly about marshmallows in my entire existence.  I have wanted fun, flavoured marshmallows for the longest time but the gourmet versions always left me feeling dejected and wistful because of the price.  But these!  These I could manage!  Small bags for $3 and large ones for $6.  Sure as hell beats the $8-$10 I normally saw!  And they were so beautiful and colourful and fun!  These were the answer to my long sought marshmallow dreams. 

They were delicious.  I snatched up a large package of peppermint candy cane marshmallows during my second visit to The Depannuer (you know you want something very badly when you pass on it the first time and can’t stop thinking about it afterward) and scarfed down a pillow-soft marshmallow with its coating of crushed peppermint candy cane.  The marshmallows are cut into large cubes and lightly rolled in confectioners sugar and sold in baggies with cellophane windows on the front.

The candy cane was sweet and minty refreshing, the marshmallow didn’t have that awful chalky texture and taste, the inside had that wonderful lightness and airiness to it that gives you that subtle yummy “I have creamy marshmallow bubbles in mouth” feeling, and the crushed candy cane just adds that extra dimension of texture.  I can’t even imagine how amazing these would be in s’mores!  Just think, candy cane marshmallow s’mores with chocolate and graham cracker!  Now there’s an idea 😀

In addition to straight up marshmallows in tasty flavours and mallow pops, Mai also sells fruit and nut bars made with marshmallows!  Her products are sold at The Depannuer on a regular basis and you can also find her line of I Love Puffy Love products at different markets around the city.  Be sure to check her Facebook page to see where else she’s selling her yummy treats!  I need to scope out other locations myself to get the full monty.  Come the new year, I’ll be swimming in a sea of soft and yummy marshmallows made with love.

*****

Mai Ha’s I Love Puffy Love marshmallow treats are sold at The Depannuer among other spots around the city.  The Depannuer is located at 1033 College Street between Dovercourt Rd. and Dufferin Street.  You can view The Depannuer’s Facebook page here and I Love Puffy Love’s Facebook page here.

Red, White, and Pepperminty Green – The Candy Cane Lane Series!

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Remember the days when you had enough miniature candy canes (or maybe even full size ones!) to last you well into the new year?  The days when you would trade flavoured candy canes with friends during the Christmas holidays and lick them till your tongue changed colour?  I even remember the times when I was little when I would sneak an extra candy cane upstairs to my room and hide it under my pillow so I could munch on it when everyone thought I was asleep.  The sweet and simple candy cane has probably been a part of many of our lives since childhood and the nostalgia of candy cane fun has led me to start yet another Christmas holiday inspired series: The Candy Cane Lane Series! 

Named after the Christmas seasonal cupcake from The Cupcake Shoppe, the Candy Cane Lane Series celebrates everything red, white, and pepperminty green!  Even though my taste for peppermint has ebbed and flowed over the years, I can’t resist that nostalgic crunch of candy cane and the inspiration it fuels for things like scrapbooking and kitchen accessory goodies, cupcakes, stationery, and every other dessert imaginable.  I’m kicking the series off with a happy, squishy, peppermint candy cane MARSHMALLOW post tomorrow (I’m so excited I’m bouncing in my seat!) followed by a very special post from its source, The Depannuer.  I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season (Happy Hanukkah/Chanukah to those who are celebrating!) and relishing the joys and spirit of love and giving.