Not Just a Pipe Dream – Vanilla Buttercream Frosting and Chocolate Ganache Piping Fun at Le Dolci! Part I

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The Fall Harvest series is far from over, but after a full solid week of apple muffin recipes, fall farmers’ markets, and yummy fall sweets and breakfast comfort foods, I’m ready to take a small break before diving straight back in.  It’s time to get some frosting and cupcake fun back in the mix, Le Dolci style!  I’m so happy you were all so supportive and excited about my internship here at the studio when I posted about my first day and since then, I’ve been bouncing off the walls and soaking up every minute of it. 

I’ve learned so much and I’m really lucky I have Lisa and Miya to help guide me along.  It feels awesome knowing I’m helping Lisa and her business and being given all sorts of responsibilities and things to do.  Every time there’s something different, whether it’s mixing and baking a gazillion batches of vanilla cupcakes (minis and regulars) for orders, making fondant decorations, baking cake for cake pops, writing blog posts for the website, doing some photographh for the website and soon-to-be online store, and frosting and piping the afternoon away!

The fun and creativity that goes on during Le Dolci classes!

When I said I was learning a lot, I wasn’t kidding.  Let it be known that not only were my fondant olives my first foray into the sugary, squishy world of fondant, but that piping frosting was also completely unchartered territory.  But, wait, I bake cookies and cupcakes of my own!  How can I not have piped frosting before??  My family (or rather, my parents) don’t prefer frosting.  I know.  If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought I was adopted.  I lick frosting off the spoon.  THE FROSTING IS THE BEST PART.  And yet, all this time, I’ve been denied when it comes to my own homemade cupcakes.  Do I have fancy piping nozzles and tips?  Yup.  Have I used them?  Nope.  Those babies are being saved for when I eventually move out and won’t have to see my parents wrinkle their nose at the sight of icing sugar and butter.  I’m being dramatic – it really isn’t that bad!  You can understand why piping frosting would provoke such jubiliance on my part then, when for others it’s just part of the every day grind.

My first frosting piping project at Le Dolci was for a set of minis!  Cute little vanilla cupcake minis with pink vanilla buttercream frosting in the shaped of frosting “flowers”.  I’ll be honest, my first piping job was awkward.  As I was doing it, I was confused as to why it didn’t feel natural.  I know, it was my first time, so of course it wasn’t going to look perfect.  But this awkwardness was more than just my perfectionist personality screaming for mercy; this just felt…somewhat wrong.  

It wasn’t until I was on the streetcar after I left that I finally figured out what was wrong: I had used the wrong hand to pipe!  I’m right-handed and for whatever reason, I had started piping with my left!  I don’t know about you guys, but I do not have two fully-functioning hands.  I mean, my left hand isn’t impaired (I’m typing, aren’t I?), but aside from holding things, lifting it up to wave hello, and lifting things, my left hand is, well, kind of useless.  Hence why the first piping gig was less than stellar.

Enter frosting fun day #2.  After realizing my mistake, I was raring to go and this time, the results were MUCH better 😀  I piped bright, gorgeous yellow vanilla frosting “flowers” onto mini cupcakes again and dusted them with some edible sparkly glitter.  OOOO, FAIRY DUST!!  I had the mini cupcakes out on a cooling rack, I flipped the piping bag inside out to attach the tip and kept the top of the bag flipped down to fill the bag with frosting using a spatula.  Flipping the top of the piping bag back up, I twisted it tight, kept it taut with my left hand, and gently applied pressure with my right hand to pipe.  After frosting the minis, I dipped a paintbrush into the sparkly glitter and, doing what Lisa showed me, tapped the handle of the brush to gently glitter and dust the cupcakes.  Operation frosting was a success!

Did I help myself to one?  Pft, do cows go moo?  Of course I did!  Only I didn’t bother piping the frosting.  I just grabbed a mini and slapped some creamy frosting on it with a knife.  With cupcakes, there’s never any regrets or inhibitions 😉

*****

Le Dolci is a private studio located at 75 Portland St., just east of Bathurst near King St. West.  The studio hosts cupcake decorating classes and handles catering for both corporate and personal events.  For more information on classes, schedules, rates, and more, visit their official website here and their Facebook page here.

Even Better Than a Donut – The Rainbow Bright Sprinkler Cupcake from Short & Sweet Cupcakes!

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“Donuts, is there anything they can’t do?” asks Homer at the end of Marge vs. the Monorail.  I love this Simpsons episode to pieces (who doesn’t?!) and although I enjoy donuts and have quite a few favourites and weaknesses, I have to counter that question and respond with a “yes”.  Because a donut can’t be a cupcake and it certainly can’t be the Sprinkler from Short & Sweet Cupcakes!  You all know that Short & Sweet is my holy grail for cupcakes in Toronto and you all know I have made many a visit since my first one in the spring.  However, there are still cupcakes that I haven’t actually seen in person and this is because their cupcake selection operates on a routine rotating basis.  Wait, routine and rotating in the same sentence?  How does that make sense?  Let me explain.

Short & Sweet has a slightly different selection of cupcakes every day during the week and they go ALL OUT on the weekends, nearly doubling their selection compared to, say, Tuesday.  What you see on Tuesday is what you will see EVERY Tuesday.  And what you see on Thursday, for example, is what you can expect to see the next Thursday.  Followng me so far?  There are certain cupcakes that are available every day and certain ones that only make their appearance once a week or during the weekend. 

Depending on which day(s) you frequent the shop then, there could be cupcakes that you’d miss completely and this has certainly been the case for me.  I’m accumstomed to visiting the shop during the week, most of time in the middle of the week on Tuesday or Wednesday (they’re closed on Mondays).  This is why, on this particular Thursday back in July, I finally saw the Sprinkler up close and in person and there was no way I was going to leave the shop without this pretty little thing.  A cupcake that looks exactly like a rainbow sprinkled, technicolour donut?!  YES PLEASE.

Everyone feels differently about sprinkles though.  My dad, for instance, hates sprinkles with a passion because he has bad teeth.  He’s had issues with his teeth for years now and because of their current condition, things like sprinkles get stuck between them and I think they’re even susceptible to cracking given how crunchy sprinkles are!  Some find them messy and others are kind of indifferent about them.  I, on the other hand, LOVE sprinkles and I always have.  Tubular ones, tiny round balls, crystal sprinkles, cute shapes, I adore them all and I think that they add so much character and fun to desserts.  I get rainbow sprinkles and chocolate sprinkles on my ice cream and soft serve, I adore sprinkles in my shortbread cookies, and I get giddy at the thought of dunking a frosted cupcake into a bowl of sprinkles and having the sprinkles stick all nice and pretty to it.

If you love sprinkles and you’re a fan of sprinkled donuts, this was made for you.  This is like a sprinkled donut only, in my opinion, 10x better!  The vanilla cupcake is soft, moist, and sweet and the frosting with the sprinkles is just out of this world.  You know how sprinkled donuts have that layer of sweet frosted glaze that helps the sprinkles stay on?  Imagine that sweetness but in the form of a thick, super creamy, lickably good frosting.  The kind of frosting that makes you want to dip your finger in it and go to town.  The Sprinkler is like a donut, birthday cake, and whipped frosting straight from the mixing bowl all wrapped in one.  I made an absolute mess of myself with the frosting drooping down my cupcake and some of the sprinkles bouncing away after the first bite, but it was so worth it.  It’s fun, colourful, and so perfect for the kid in all of us.

I know I haven’t posted pictures of the new shop since Short & Sweet moved and I’m sorry for that!  I have new photos, but I just need to formulate a cohesive post dedicated specifically to the new location.  The photos I have of the Sprinkler (and its coordinating scrapbook layout which, by the way, was a blast to make) are the last batch from the days of their old shop, so I am ready and raring to go with new location material!  I’m really excited because this Saturday on the 10th, Short & Sweet will be holding their grand re-opening party to celebrate their successful move to their new location 3 blocks north.  From 1pm-4pm, they’ll be holding a cupcake party with drinks, giveaways, and of course, plenty of their amazing cupcakes!  You can bet I’ll be there 😉

*****

Short & Sweet Cupcakes is now located at 1945 Avenue Rd., south of Wilson Ave.  If you take public transit like me, the easiest way to get here is to get off at Wilson subway station and take the 96 bus to Avenue Rd. and walk south.  You can also get here by getting off at York Mills subway station and taking the 165 Weston Rd. North bus to Wilson Ave. and Avenue Rd. and walking south, or getting off Yorks Mills subway station and walking west to Avenue Rd. from Yonge.

Scrapbooking materials used: to be added.

One Lemon Raspberry and One Ballerina Tutu Strawberry! Cupcakes at The Sweet & Pretty Lilac Flour Studio, Part II

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It’s a day to celebrate with cupcakes!  Honestly though, I’m in the mood for cupcakes almost every day, not just my birthday 😀  Thank you so much for the sweet messages and birthday wishes, everyone, I feel so blessed and happy and all sorts of lucky.  I’ve been celebrating all week, getting together with friends, spending time with my boyfriend, with my family, getting a little retail therapy in, and of course, eating lots of great food!  Even though today is my cake and candles day (as my friend Jen loves to say), I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I’ve eaten 3 cupcakes over the past week.  Forget having a cupcake-filled DAY, I’ve had myself an awesome cupcake-filled WEEK!  And to cap it all off, here’s part II of my two-part post on Flour Studio, the beautiful cupcakery located at 883 Eglinton Ave. West.  I hope you all enjoyed the teaser photos I posted yesterday in Part I because there’s plenty more where those came from!

Flour Studio is, in a word, pretty.  If you like purple (like me!), Flour Studio will make your heart flutter with its pale lilac, scalloped edge storefront awning, purple cupcake labels, and pale purple painted walls.  It appeals to the giddy fairy princess in me with its chandeliers, bright pastel coloured cake stands, and cupcake accessories and trinkets.  They have shelves of cards, stationery, and baking accessories along one of the walls, and a shelf of glassware on another.  Flour Studio is a cupcakery that functions as part gift shop and part dessert cafe, offering a selection of cookies, tarts, and other desserts alongside their famous perfectly-frosted cupcakes.  I just want to stare at their cupcakes all day long.  I have never seen cupcakes so perfectly frosted in this particular style.  They remind me of adorable little frosting domes with its wide swirls, and the texture of it looks like a cross between airy cotton candy and marshmallow fluff! 

Since this was my first time visiting Flour Studio, I can’t report back with their entire menu of flavours just yet but on that day they had lemon raspberry, peanut butter chocolate (nut allergists beware, Flour Studio does use nut products in some of their sweets, so use your discretion and judgment when eating here and ask questions!), vanilla on vanilla, vanilla on chocolate, double chocolate, dark chocolate fudge, Oreo cookies n’ cream, mint chocolate, and strawberry. 

Their prices are very average in the context of cupcakeries in Toronto, ranging from $2.50 for classics (such as vanilla and chocolate varieties, for example) and $3 for other flavours.  I’ll definitely get back to you all with another post outlining which flavours fall in particular price points, but for the time being, just know that their pricing operates the same way Dessert Lady in Yorkville does, on tiered system.

A lemon raspberry cupcake along with a strawberry vanilla cupcake were lovingly packed away for me in a box with a pretty purple Flour Studio sticker and placed in an equally pretty Flour Studio paper shopping bag.  I enjoyed my two cupcakes so much but for entirely different reasons.  I love lemon cupcakes and desserts like nobody’s business (as I’ve reiterated ad nauseam, ha!) and the lemon raspberry cupcake had a sweet, creamy frosting with a light and fresh lemon flavour.  Not an in-your-face sour lemon flavour, and not so much a sweet lemon sugar flavour, but more so an “airy” lemon flavour.

Surprisingly enough though, it was the raspberry part of the cupcake that I thoroughly enjoyed!  The cupcake was adorned with a fresh raspberry atop the frosting and the vanilla cake was studded with raspberries.  Thus far, I’ve never had a raspberry cake at any cupcakery (raspberry frosting, yes, but raspberry cake?  Nope!)and this cupcake turned out to be a tangy and fruity morsel of yummy cake.

Onto my strawberry vanilla cupcake.  It’s really weird, but I’ve noticed that I rarely eat strawberry cupcakes.  Given how I like strawberries, this black hole in my cupcake nom-noming is a head-scratcher.  I kept this in mind as I chose my 2nd cupcake and I am so happy I did.  It made me want to prance around in a ballerina tutu in a happy daze!  Just look at it.  It’s a thing of beauty.  I mean, yes, Flour Studio’s cupcakes are gorgeous, but this strawberry one is so darn cute and girly and pretty and it was SO delicious.  I look at it now and I want to hug and squish it because of its cuteness.  It’s like the embodiment of Pokemon’s Jigglypuff but in cupcake form.  For this cupcake, the frosting does the talking.  The strawberry frosting is so creamy and so fluffy and it has that perfect sugary taste that makes me think of cotton candy melting in your mouth.  Oh, and imagine strawberry Pocky.  That’s what this strawberry cupcake tastes like, only better!

After visiting a number of cupcake shops in Toronto and realizing just how many there are in and around the city, I liken my cupcake shop touring in Toronto (and beyond) to my sushi eating, in the sense that cupcake bake shops boil down to 3 things: identity and branding, creativity, and interpretation.  It’s one of the reasons why I still get excited about trying vanilla cupcakes at different shops.  Sure, flavours like vanilla seem ho-hum in the grand scheme of things, but it’s because each one will interpret the design of the cupcake and execution of flavour differently that makes things interesting and so much fun.  Flour Studio is a beautiful shop with very sweet people and great cupcakes I’d come back for in a heartbeat.

*****

Flour Studio is located at 883 Eglinton Ave. West, west of Bathurst St.  They are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays (appointments are exceptional), and are open from 10am-6pm Wednesday-Saturday and from 1oam-3pm on Sundays.

Scrapbook materials used: lavender, grape, and eggplant purple cardstock (Recollections); bubblegum pink, buttercup yellow, and pale yellow cardstock (Recollections); sweets and desserts patterned cardstock (The Sweet Stack by DCWV); alphabet stickers (Make It Special Crafts); baking embellishments (Jolee’s Boutique and Recollections); magenta felt; purple adhesive gems; medium scallop circle paper punch (ek success); black felt tip Sharpie marker.