Art Imitating Food Imitating…More Food! Sweets & The Neapolitan Ice Cream Cone Sugar Cookie at Yummy Stuff

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Ice cream cupcakes, cake and pie cupcake flavours, cupcakes made to look like ice cream cones, candy sushi, and cakes made to look like sandwiches and candy bars (read Food Network magazine, you’ll totally get what I mean with those two last ones!); it’s art imitating food imitating…more food!  It is so darn cute and clever when dessert and food themes criss-cross all over the place to create culinary masterpieces and awe-inspiring works of sweet, edible art.  Now, before I unleash the 2nd installment of the Cupcake Connection featuring a very summer appropriate cupcake from Yummy Stuff among other specials, news, and updates from Toronto’s cupcake scene, let’s talk sugar cookies!  And more specifically, cute as a button decorated sugar cookies that look like food!

Everyone knows I love baking cookies.  However, when it comes to eating them, I am veeeery ambivalent towards certain varieties.  And one of them just happens to be sugar cookies.  I KNOW.  How could I possibly feel that way about one of the world’s most basic, simplest cookies?  They’re blank canvases that beg to be decorated, they don’t complicate things with a whole bunch of wacky, out-of-left-field flavours, and while everyone’s method might be a little different, ingredients are fairly similar across the board.  What’s not to love?  The answer: half the time, they’re just not executed well.

Check out the adorable hamburger!

My beloved Neapolitan ice cream cone cookie!

Pretty ribbon, a takeout box container, and creamy sandwich cookies? I’m sold.

I love the idea of enjoying a sugar cookie but I find sugar cookies to be one of the most difficult things to enjoy because there are so many things that can be wrong with them.  More often that not, they come out chalky, dry, crumbly, tasteless, and uncomfortably hard on your teeth.  And while the aesthetic is often beautiful (the artwork that many cookie decorators do is truly breathtaking), the total sum of the cookie’s yum almost never lives up to its beauty on the surface which is unfortunate because it should taste as good as it looks!

And this is where Yummy Stuff comes in!  I promised you all in my first Yummy Stuff post back in April I would report back on their sugar cookies and I got the chance to go back to their shop on Queen West in Parkdale earlier this month to grab myself one.  They always have an in-store selection ($3 to $4 each), as well as an option of having custom designed ones for special occasions like baby showers, wedding favours, birthdays, and more.  Remember how gaga I was over their cupcake and ice cream shaped and decorated cookies?!

Never a dull cookie or sweet on the Yummy Stuff shelves

This time around, they had some different designs on hand and I was absolutely in conniptions when I saw their new Neapolitan ice cream sugar cookies!  (Hint: this has a little something to do with the upcoming Cupcake Connection!).  They were so, so pretty and really, who can resist anything Neapolitan?  I don’t know about everyone else, but I’ve never separated the flavours or favoured one “section” for another (don’t innocently whistle and pretend like you don’t know what I’m talking about; we all know what I mean) and I kind of liken it to spumoni ice cream.  Anyway, I eagerly snatched a Neapolitan decorated sugar cookie ($4) and vowed to save it for a moment when I could truly savour it and enjoy it’s prettiness.  Even though I was still a tiny bit wary of it delivering on yumminess (they certainly had the appearance down pat, so that wasn’t a concern), I felt confident that Yummy Stuff wouldn’t let me down with their sugar cookies.

And they didn’t.  I will never eat another sugar cookie from another place ever again.  Okay, so maybe that’s a little bit of an exaggeration, but OH.MY.GOD.  This sugar cookie was the BEST sugar cookie I have EVER had.  It was everything a sugar cookie should be and the exact opposite of all the negative traits I listed earlier.  Their sugar cookies weren’t difficult to bite into (I actually broke mine into small pieces to eat, but regardless, my teeth and mouth didn’t hurt from trying to eat them), they melted in your mouth, the icing was delicious, and the cookie!  Oh my lordy, the cookie whipped the hair-tie off my ponytail and sent me to cookie heaven.  Pure vanilla excellence.  Keep in mind, unless there’s a note that indicates the icing is of a particular flavour, the cookie is expected to be vanilla.  Their vanilla is top-notch and the flavour made their sugar cookie taste incredible.  I was actually sad when I finished it because it was so good.

Sneak peek at the upcoming Cupcake Connection, Vol. 002!

It’s a shame cookies can’t keep forever because these are lovely little works of art that would look so fab sitting on a display case in all their foodie glory.  Considering how delicious they are though, it’s not too bad of a trade-off at all.

*****

Yummy Stuff is located at 1660 Queen Street West in the west end Parkdale neighbourhood, east of Roncesvalles Ave.  They are open Tuesday-Sunday, from 10am-7pm from Tuesday-Friday, 9am-6pm on Saturdays, and 12pm noon-5pm on Sundays.  They are closed on Mondays.  Visit their official website here.

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The Strawberry “Pinkalicious” Cupcake & The Not-Quite-So-New Cupcakery – Bakes & Goods by Yonge & Eglinton!

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I thought I was so savvy.  I thought I was one of the first people to know.  I thought I was on the cutting edge of something totally new, and I couldn’t wait to share the news with all of you!  Then my bubble kind of burst and I felt kind of silly.  So, what eaxctly has gotten me into this topsy-turvy tizzy?  Cupcakes.  I know, I know.  “Oh, Deb, only you would zero in on a cupcake sign on the sidewalk like a honing pigeon, race into the new shop squealing like a fangirl, and leave your friend behind”.  It’s true.  I couldn’t help myself.  Let me explain. 

Last Saturday, I was out and about with my dear friend Wini around the Yonge & Eglinton neighbourhood.  We walked north on Yonge Street, stopping along the way to browse at cute housewares, and to drool over the cupcakes at The Cupcake Shoppe.  And then it happened.  I saw the pink and brown sandwich board sign with its swirly cupcake image, looked up and over to see a cupcake shop I had never seen before, and lost all control.  And I mean all.  My breath caught in my throat (to save face I could tell you it was because of the heat, but we all know the truth), I let out a high-pitched, “ohmygodisthatanewcupcakeshop?!”, and left my dear Wini behind as I raced in.  Call it seeking refuge from the heat, call it cupcake insanity – my body went on autopilot, my eyes were locked in tunnel-vision, and there was no stopping me.

Bakes & Goods, located at 2523 Yonge Street, north of Eglinton Ave. between Sherwood and Keewatin Ave., is bake shop that sells nut-free cookies, cupcakes, cakes, shortbread cookies, and customized foodie gifts.  They create special order cakes for birthdays, baby showers, weddings, and seasonal occasions, as well as special giant, pull-apart cookie pies, cookie bouquets, and and cookie baskets!  They also have an adorable selection of decorated sugar and shortbread cookies available for purchase ($2.99 each, and on a stick!) on their retail shelves by the front of the store, similar to those at Yummy Stuff

Now, I’m always excited when I see cupcakes but I was extra excited because I thought for certain I was seeing and walking into a brand spankin’ new cupcake shop in town.  I thought to myself, “YES!  An honest-to-goodness discovery!”  Little did I know that Bakes & Goods was actually not a brand new cupcake shop but an already-exisiting bakery that had simply relocated. 

While I was perusing the cupcake selection, I eagerly asked them if they were new and I was told that they had just moved in from their Bathurst location.  I smiled and congratulated them on the move but on the inside, I was dying a little.  How.  Embarrassing.  And here I thought I had made some miraculously discovery!  Previously in the Bathurst and Lawrence West vicinity, Bakes & Goods moved into their new Yonge & Eglinton home (with adorable heart shaped exterior to boot) last Saturday and are fitting in quite swimmingly – the gentleman in front of me bought 2 dozen cupcakes on the spot!

Bakes & Goods has about 7 or 8 cupcake flavours to choose from on a daily basis including red velvet, cookie crumble, cafe mocha, choco ganache, and others.  While their selection isn’t particularly kooky-crazy, their flavours encompass many of the classics that cupcake lovers fall back on time and time again.  If you love the unique, the different, and the out-of-this-world, it might not be for you.  However, if you’re a diehard red velvet devotee, a committed chocoholic, or a lemon lover, the shop is definitely worth a looksee. 

To me, if you genuinely love cupcakes, there is absolutely nothing that will deter you from trying out a new shop or a shop you’ve never tried, even if the flavours are ones you’re extremely familiar with and accustomed to.  Much like sushi, everyone has a different interpretation of the classics and it’s worth it to see (and taste!) the differences and to experiment.  I am definitely going back to try their cookie crumble, lemon, mocha, and maybe their red velvet.  I’m not the biggest fan of red velvet (please don’t throw things at me), but like I said, it’s worth it to give it a whirl because you never know when you’ll be unknowingly surprised by something awesome.

At $2.75 a pop, their cupcakes rank mid-range on the cupcakery price ladder and their cupcake sizes are very decent and reasonable for the prices they charge.  Being the strawberry and pink lover that I am, I chose their very special Pinkalicious cupcake!  Their Pinkalicious cupcake is a vanilla cupcake topped with strawberry buttercream and a pretty little hot pink edible candy star. 

Knowing the topping was a buttercream, I anticipated the flavour to be very subtle but I was incredibly and pleasantly surprised at how fruity and sweet (and I don’t mean cloying or disgustingly sweet) and yummy the buttercream frosting was.  The buttercream didn’t leave that greasy film behind that so many people complain about and it definitely lives up to the strawberry flavour.  The whole cupcake from top to bottom was so light and fluffy and it was an absolute joy to eat.  This is such a great cupcake for spring and summer and definitely fit for all of us cupcake princesses out there.

*****

Bakes & Goods is located at 2523 Yonge Street in the Yonge & Eglinton neighbourhood.  The bake shop is situated on the east side of Yonge Street between Sherwood and Keewatin Ave., several blocks north of Eglinton Ave.  They have recently moved into this new home from their original Bathurst and Ranee location (around the Lawrence West area) and are open 6 days a week (Monday-Saturday) at 11am.

Cupcake Heaven in My Mouth – Sweets, Fillings, and Boston Cream & Lemon Cupcakes at Yummy Stuff, Part II!

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You know a cupcake and dessert shop has you in the palm of their hand when it makes you weak in the knees and abnormally impulsive.  A minute after I walked into Yummy Stuff, I was piecing together a scrapbook layout in my mind’s eye even before I had even taken my camera out to start snapping and immediately after I enjoyed the heavenly blissfulness of their cupcakes, I wanted to hightail it on back to the shop!  You’d think that one cupcake shop trip would suffice for the day, but I was thisclose to disrupting my afternoon errands for the purposes of going back and let me tell you, the cupcake fanatic in me was fuming when I walked the other way and ultimately decided to save the second trip for another day.  Willpower, my lovelies, WILLPOWER.

Yummy Stuff, with their iconic bright green mixing whisk logo, is located in a neighbourhood that is surprisingly accessible.  It wasn’t until I started walking around and getting my geographical barings that I realized how easy it was to connect the dots around the city.  First off, it’s on Queen Street West so you have the Queen streetcar at your service to and from the sweet shop.  Second of all, it’s a hop, skip, and step away from Roncesvalles Ave. which is an open door to exploring the revitalized foodielicious Roncesvalles neighbourhood (remember my post about Seventh Sister Bakery?), a neighbourhood that holds so much Polish history and culture among many other gems.

And given how walkable the “downtown core” streets are northbound and southbound (basically, everything south of Bloor and on) you can easily walk south to Liberty Village, and northeast to Dundas West (Brockton Village and Little Portugal), Little Italy and the west end of College Street, and Dufferin Mall and Bloordale/Bloorcourt Village.  The exploration options are endless!  Sometimes my cupcake trips are spontaneous (the hankering never really goes away), but most of the time, they’re planned and if you want in on a little secret, it’s acually how I plan my days.  That’s right.  I plan my activities and routes around what cupcake shop I want to visit on that particular day.  Crazy?  Maybe a little.  Effective?  Very.  Madly in love with cupcakes?  Totally.

Yummy Stuff is a space that is similar to that of The Wedding Cake Shoppe in that their workspace, station, and design studio is somewhat visible from behind the counter.  They are purely walk-in and take-out only though – no tables and chairs here, so be prepared to eat your treats elsewhere.  And they have MANY treats!  In addition to their custom designed cakes, cupcakes, and decorated sugar cookies, they have canisters full of giant cookies (snickerdoodles, chocolate ginger, chocolate chip, and peanut butter among others), lemon squares and tarts, brownies, peanut butter chocolate squares, and other special cookies including shortbread, lintzer cookies, and chocolate toffee butter cookies! 

Selection will vary daily and weekly, but rest assured that there will never be a shortage of options!  Prices range from $1-$4 for most treats.  I want to go back as soon as I can so I can try one of their chocolate ginger cookies, a decorated sugar cookie (they have sugar cookies decorated and in the shape of cupcakes and ice cream cones, oh my god), and of course, many more cupcakes!

Cupcakes come in two sizes: regular ($2.75 each, $15 for half a dozen) and mini ($1 each) and on the day I went, they had 8 flavours to choose from.  Like many other cupcake shops, their cupcakes operate on a rotating system which means what you see one day may not be there the next.  Classics such as vanilla, chocolate, and red velvet would be present on a daily basis but all other flavours are fair game on any given day.  Their menu (taken straight off their website) includes banana, carrot, chocolate, coconut, lemon, mango, vanilla, raspberry, red velvet, and a special flavour of the month.  This month’s decadent treat?  BOSTON CREAM!

I picked up a lemon cupcake and a Boston Cream (wouldn’t you?!) and oh my goodness, they were both heavenly, especially the lemon one!  Both cupcakes had a vanilla cake bottom and while the lemon cupcake was swirled with frosting, the Boston Cream was covered in a chocolate ganache with chocolate sprinkles.  AND they both had fillings!  Not all bakeries make their cupcakes with fillings.  Some might have a few with fillings for special occasions, but off the top of my head, For the Love of Cake in Liberty Village is the only cupcake shop who bakes every single one of their cupcakes with fillings in them. 

The Boston Cream cupcake was filled with creamy custard and had a moist, vanilla sponge-cake like texture to it.  Even though it sounds extremely rich, it’s really not and it’s actually relatively light in comparison to the donut!  It’s not heavy at all and I think it’s a great cupcake that would appeal to people who want something decadent but who don’t necessarily want to feel heavy or gluttonous afterward.

And the lemon.  OH MY GOD THE LEMON.  Off the bat, this belongs in the Top 5 (possibly even Top 3) Most Amazing Lemon Cupcakes in Toronto.  My first goes to The Cupcake Shoppe’s Lemon Drop (read: the Lemon Drop, NOT the Lov’n Lemon!), then it’s just a kerfluffle of scrumptiousness that I can’t figure out.  There’s the lemon meringue cupcake from For the Love of Cake, the lemon one from Bake Sale on the Kingsway, and this one from Yummy Stuff.  This was SO.DAMN.GOOD.  A sweet, fruity, tangy frosting (read: frosting, not whippy buttercream or mousse) swirled on top of vanilla cake with a lemon curd filling inside.  The texture of the frosting is perfect (not gritty, not thin and watery, and not thick and cracking) and the flavour and taste is bang on.  It’s not cloyingingly or artificially sweet, but it packs BIG flavour that left my friends and I taken aback in the best way possible.  It it truly one of the best tasting cupcakes EVER and I would come back to one a million times over. 

I was curious when I saw Yummy Stuff’s website had a blog so I clicked on their link and happily found out about their special cupcakes of the month!  They have monthly entries on their blog providing updates on seasonal goodies, dessert projects, and new cupcake flavours and I’m really happy they have this as it gives everyone a more personal connection to them and a heads up about new and delicious treats!  I only wish I had come during Christmas because their dessert line-up looked amazing!  Sigh.  You have to start somewhere though and at least now I know how delicious their cupcakes really are and can look forward to eleventy billion more visits to come.   

*****

Yummy Stuff is located at 1660 Queen Street West in the west end Parkdale neighbourhood, east of Roncesvalles Ave.  They are open Tuesday-Sunday, from 10am-7pm from Tuesday-Friday, 9am-6pm on Saturdays, and 12pm noon-5pm on Sundays.  They are closed on Mondays.  Visit their official website here.

A Cake and Cupcake, Sugar Cookie Wonderland! Bright and Cheerful Yummy Stuff on Queen Street West, Part I

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Walk into Yummy Stuff on Queen Street West in Parkdale and instantly your mood will go from gray to hurray!  Yummy Stuff’s bakery is a wonderland of custom designed cakes, fresh cupcakes, and cute-as-a-button decorated sugar cookies for every occasion.  I know most of Toronto’s cupcakeries are cute and colourful and whimsical, but never have I been inside one that was so happy and full of vibrant colour!  I felt like I was in one big giant Easter basket, frollicking through sprinkles and frostings with flowers and cute animals by the wayside.  I knew the second I stepped inside that this would be a bakery that I would want to come back to again and again, not just for the cupcakes and treats, but to admire the storefront displays and the beautiful pastry work that would undoubtedly change for every season and special holiday. 

Whether or not you would ever have a reason to go out and buy a custom-designed cake is irrelevant; gaining inspiration and learning about trends and new ideas is really beneficial to me because of the scrapbooking I do.  Believe it or not, I actually jot down random notes and take photos of what others would call, “nothing” just so I have something to jog my memory when it comes time to go back to it, like a beautiful colour combination or a mix of prints and patterns that I never considered.  I normally don’t have any issues formulating scrapbook layouts and colour schemes in my head after picking out the right photos, but I have to say, I was already mentally piecing together cardstock for a soon-to-be Yummy Stuff layout because the bakery makes it that easy to be inspired and excited about colour and sweets. 

Case in point: just look at the cakes in the photo up top!  I couldn’t stop looking at them because they were so pretty and unique!  I never even considered attaching decorated sugar cookies onto a frosted or fondant cake but it’s genius because you have a dessert on top of a dessert that just keeps on giving!  Everyone can have a sugar cookie and a slice of cake and have the best of both worlds.  The idea of jazzing up a cake with extras without taking away from it and making the cake and extras work together as one fluid concept is something I’ve definitely noticed in many cake shops over the last year or two.  I’ve seen a number of cakes accessorized with macarons (how luxurious!), but this was the first time I had ever since a cake decorated with themed sugar cookies and I absolutely loved the concept.       

Thanks to my friend and fellow cupcake diehard, Alex, I found out about Yummy Stuff through her blog and tucked away the sweet little nugget of information until I was ready to go (really though, when am I not ready for cupcakes?) and planned my visit around a special lunch date with some friends in the west end.  After this first visit, I was completely and utterly in love.  In love with the happy atmosphere, in love with the artistry, and of course, in love with the cupcakes!  And sugar cookies!  I have cupcake specifics and many more photos to share with you all, so bask in the sweet glow of gorgeous, mouthwatering desserts while I reminisce over my lemon cupcake and Boston Cream pie cupcake (OH YES) and we’ll hop to it with Part II tomorrow!    

*****

Yummy Stuff is located at 1660 Queen Street West in the west end Parkdale neighbourhood, east of Roncesvalles Ave.  They are open Tuesday-Sunday, from 10am-7pm from Tuesday-Friday, 9am-6pm on Saturdays, and 12pm noon-5pm on Sundays.  They are closed on Mondays.  Visit their official website here.