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 😉

*****

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.

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!

*****

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.

A Picnic in the Park: High Park, Cherry Blossoms, and Bunner’s Bake Shop

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As you can tell, I had major fun chomping on and fitting my chocolate and vanilla cupcake from Bunner’s Bake Shop in my mouth yesterday! 😀  I was hell bent on seeing the cherry blossoms at High Park this year and I was so happy when I knew the weather was going to cooperate this week.  Finally we were getting beautiful sunshine and warm comfortable temperatures for more than one day at a time!  

Although food photography and scrapbooking are my main passions, I am very much in love with taking photos of flowers and gardens, as well as graffiti art around the city.  I have a huuuuge photo album stuffed full of pictures from Allan Gardens, Edwards Gardens, High Park, the summer garden outside the perimeter of the CN Tower, the old waterfall and flower gardens inside the Sheraton Centre on Queen West, the Sculpture Garden on King St. East, and a host of others.  I learned so much when I worked at a flower shop for three years during my undergrad and the beauty of plants and flowers is just remarkable.

Before yesterday, I had never been to High Park to see the cherry blossoms.  A gift from Japan to the citizens of Toronto (specifically from the Japanese ambassador to Canada in 1959*), the Japanese Sakura trees bloom once a year for only about a 2-week window.  They normally bloom around late April, but because of the cold spring we had been having, they weren’t in full bloom until this past weekend.  I was on the ball this year and promised myself I would see them in all their glory.  I know some might think, “eh, if you miss them this time, you can always see them the year after”.  Although that’s true, I am not one to take things for granted.  If I can seize an opportunity, I will.  And I wanted to see the cherry blossoms this year and I wanted to take advantage of the beautiful weather and have a sweet little picnic with my boyfriend.  And stuff my face with a cupcake and creamie cookie sandwich from Bunner’s.  Consider this post a prelude to tomorrow’s post with descriptions and LOTS of scrumptious, mouth-watering photos of Bunner’s vegan chocolate chip creamie sandwiches and cupcakes 😉  Enjoy the photos and if you’re in the city, I hope you get the chance to see the cherry blossoms while they’re still in bloom ❤

*****

Bunner’s is 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.  High Park can be accessed from Bunner’s Bake Shop via High Park Ave. by walking south to Bloor St. West.

*source: cbcnews|Canada: High Park cherry blossoms have special significance 

All photos taken by me.

The First Veggielicious Pitstop! Sweet Vegan & Gluten-Free Treats at Bunner’s Bake Shop, Part II

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Oh yes, this picture of mouthwatering chocolate cookie and cream sandwiches is real and no, you are not dreaming.  And if you’re wondering, oh yes, they taste as heavenly as they look.  I hope you all enjoyed the pictures and teaser post from yesterday!  There was no way I could fit all my photos in one post so I split it up into two…it’s not like you all mind though.  Two guaranteed days of sweet treats?  Sold 😀  Bunner’s Bake Shop on Dundas St. West in the Junction neighbourhood was my first Veggielicious pitstop and I am SO happy that I went.  I’m really happy that they’re participating in the food fest and getting more business and exposure because of it because they really deserve it.  Had it not been for this fest, I never would have known about it.  I know I explore the city a lot, but Toronto is BIG and I suppose I would have stumbled upon it at a later time, but sooner is always better than later 😉

What I love about Bunner’s is their commitment to quality and the execution of their craft.  Bunner’s is a bakery that is committed to creating and serving desserts that are fair trade, vegan and cruelty-free, and dairy-free and gluten-free with an emphasis on also catering to those who also have soy allergies.  I really appreciate this, not because I’m allergic to soy per se (I’m allergic to soy milk but no other soy products, go figure), but because I have friends who are allergic to soy and nuts and this allergy makes it very difficult for them to enjoy a lot of vegetarian and vegan food that is made with soy or nuts.  It’s a bake shop with a conscious. 

They have a clear vision of what their craft means to them and what they want to achieve through their offering of delicious desserts, namely, accessibility.  It’s not easy catering to different diets, intolerances, beliefs, and lifestyles without alienating your clientele or ending up with subpar product.  But they do this beautifully and you can tell when you look at their treats and when you eat them.  You can taste the quality, the passion, and the innovativeness through their baked goods.

The Veggielicious deal, as a mentioned yesterday, is comprised of one cupcake of your choice, a creamie (the cookie sandwich), and a supersonic gypsy cookie for $7.50.  Well worth it in my opinion because holy mother of pearl these babies are big!  The creamie is so thick and mondo huge, the cookie is like a rocky mountain, and the cupcakes are the perfect size (not small but not steroid-like) with a delightful heaping of frosting on top. 

Now, when I talk about their commitment quality, there’s a reason why.  Take the gypsy cookie, for example.  This is what they refer to as a “power” cookie, the kind of cookie that is healthy and good for you, and will get you up and raring to go in the morning or give you that kick in the ass you need to get through the middle of the day.  I think they have several different kinds with oats and dried fruits and chocolate.  Mine was generously stuffed with chocolate chips (the good cocoa chocolate, not the sickly sweet milk chocolate), raisins (Correction: I have been informed that they were in fact not raisins but apple-sweetened dried cranberries, d’oh!  My bad!), oats, and pumpkin seeds. 

Now, as I was discussing with my friend Sally yesterday, this might not be everyone’s cup of tea based on what’s in it.  Her vegetarian friend loved it, but she wasn’t too fussy about it.  My verdict?  I actually really enjoyed it.  I like raisins in my cookies (think oatmeal raisin), (Correction: I love dried cranberries!), so it works for me, and I loooove the crunch the pumpkin seeds gave to this cookie and the chocolate sweetened the whole cookie up so that it balanced out the nutty flavour of the oats and seeds and the tartness of the raisins.  For those who enjoy texture and a mixture of savoury and sweet, this is for you and it’s one of Bunner’s best sellers.

And the creamie and the cupcake?  Oh heaven.  Pure heaven.  As my friend Sally said, “I could eat a whole tub of the lemon frosting”.  I agree, so could I.  The cupcake I chose was a vanilla cake with lemon frosting.  I can honestly say that this is a cupcake unlike anything I have ever tasted.  And in a good way!  To put things in perspective, let me just remind everyone what makes a bad cupcake: too dry, too sweet, too crumbly.  As well, cupcakes that don’t support the weight of the frosting and fall apart half way through eating, and those are saturated with extract (vanilla, almond, you get the picture). 

Now, the most common complaints I hear about cupcake frosting, specifically, are that some frostings are too greasy and “butter” like in consistency to the point where they leave a film on your mouth, ones that are too sweet and grainy (the kind of sugary that makes you grimace), and ones that are artificial in taste (think mint frosting that ends up tasting like Listerine). 

Bunner’s cupcakes are NONE of these things.  Their cake, although not the moistest I’ve ever had (that award goes to the Black Velvet at Sweet Escape), was soft and subtle in flavour.  The lemony frosting?  Oh man.  So different from anything I’ve tasted.  It was thick and full-bodied in its volume, texture, and flavour.  It’s the kind of frosting that doesn’t dissipate as soon as it hits your tongue.  It envelopes your taste buds and does a little waltz around your mouth.  It has the volume of marshmallow fluff and the thickness of reeeeally good frosting.  The cupcake is so satisfying.

But you wanna know what’s even MORE satisfying?  The creamie cookie sandwich.  No, scratch that.  Satisfying is not the right word.  Gratifying is the right word.  Although I chose the double chocolate chip creamie for my boyfriend because he’s a chocolate fanatic (and because I love him, aww), I demanded a bite when he was eating it.  The phrase “oh my god” doesn’t even cut it.  Hands down, pure awesomeness.  Anyone who goes to Bunner’s (and you know you will) MUST get a creamie.  If I’m going to recommend anything to you, it’s that.  And trust that when I eat a whole one myself, I will give you the lowdown in all its glory.  But I’ll let you salivate and let your imagination run wild in the meantime.

An amazing fun Veggielicious and hopefully, more wonderful experiences and good eats to come in the next little while!  I’m going to work on getting more detailed descriptions of vegan ingredients used in the desserts as time goes on when I profile items on their own, so I’ll make sure to make those available to you all.  Veggielicious runs until April 24th, so enjoy!

*****

Bunner’s is 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.