A Year in Review – New Classes & Studio, New Sweets, & Memories of Being an Icing Sugar Queen at Le Dolci!

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I don’t think any of us ever need a reason or a celebration to have cupcakes or cake; they are morsels of happiness in and of themselves!  But there is a special sort of anniversary I’m commemorating with these two sweet and decadent posts!  It all began with a cupcake studio, baking pans upon pans of vanilla and chocolate cupcakes, tinting mounds of yummy vanilla frosting in sweet pastels, and working with fondant for the very first time.  The trek to the old studio on King West and Portland, the smell of warm sugar, and the sounds of the oven timer chiming and the Kitchenaid mixer whirring at full speed.  I remember it like it was yesterday: my very first day as an icing sugar queen at Le Dolci! 

It has already been a year since that fateful first day of cupcake baking and frosting making with Lisa and Miya and so much has changed within that time including the introduction of new classes to the lineup and a brand spankin’ new studio across the street from Trinity Bellwoods Park!  I have so many fond memories and I took away so much from my time at the studio with Lisa and the other girls.  I learned how to make cake pops, I learned how to work with fondant, I watched Lisa grow her business from the ground up, and I celebrated Le Dolci’s first Christmas and Valentine’s Day among many other special milestones.  Can you believe that it’s already been a year?  It’s crazy!  Even though it’s been months since my days as Le Dolci icing sugar queen, it holds a special part of my sweet tooth and heart and I love being in the loop and staying up-to-date on all the yummy news.

Along with the retail cupcake space selling accessories and freshly baked cupcakes with a selection of new flavours (lemon, salted caramel, and coffee in addition to the classic Sicilian vanilla and chocoalte cocoa), Lisa and the Le Dolci team have launched a whole rotating menu of sweets available every day including Augie’s gourmet ice pops, and in-house crafted butter tarts, biscotti, eclairs, macarons, cannoli, and more!  And if that’s not enough squee, Lisa has also added a slew of new foodie classes and events to Le Dolci’s offerings!   

Le Dolci has joined forces with Rosewood Estates for wine and cupcakes, and wine, honey, and cheese tastingsLisa Kates (aka. A Food Gypsy) for drop-in soup evenings for soup, fresh bread, and sweets; traditional afternoon tea with sweets, savoury nibbles, and plenty of tea and adorable accessories; Chef Ramza for Lebanese cooking (tabbouleh, fattoush, makloubit chicken and rice and more!); Heather from Knead Bakery for bread and croissant making classes; and pie-making with the Parkdale Pie Princess!  Oh, and did I mention that Le Dolci is hosting their 2nd foodie trip in 2013, this time in San Francisco and Napa Valley, California?!  Sigh.  If only I could attend everything.

Here is Le Dolci’s October line-up of classes and yummies to look forward to!

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The Cupcake Connection, Vol. 003 – New Flavours Everywhere! Fruity Citrus & Berries, Fudge, S’Mores, & More!

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Chocolate, vanilla, and 3 *NEW!* flavours at Le Dolci!

Welcome to the 3rd edition of The Cupcake Connection where the flavours are sweet and the news is hot!  I can’t believe it’s already been a month since the last Cupcake Connection – I feel like a little hamster on a wheel with the never-ending updates and news to keep up with and catch up on!  But I have to say, writing The Cupcake Connection is one of the funnest series to write on the blog because it forces me to find out the latest and greatest and in the process, you get to know the cupcake bakeries so much better as you get more familiar with their flavours, their products, and their business.  And besides, who doesn’t want to know everything there is to know about cupcakes in their city?  This particular Cupcake Connection is solely devoted to FLAVOURS!  It’s quite possible the summer heat has spurred some insane creativity and drive among cupcake bakers because it’s almost as if the flavours available now have doubled!  No complaints from me!

First up: Le Dolci!  Since moving to their new studio on Dundas West across the street from Trinity Bellwoods Park, Lisa, Miya, and fellow icing sugar queens have doled out a slew of new cupcake flavours (and other desserts, pastries, and tea!) to serve in their adjoining retail and cafe.  In the studio’s sweet beginnings, we baked batch after batch of decadent vanilla and chocolate cupcakes (pictured above) but now, cupcake lovers have 5 flavours to choose fromIn addition to vanilla and chocolate, you can sink your teeth into lemon, coffee, and salted caramel!  Salted caramel I can take or leave (don’t throw things at me!), but lemon and coffee?!  I am ALL OVER THOSE like peanut butter and jelly.  I can’t wait to make a return visit to the studio to check these out.  Prices are $2.95 for each cupcake, $16 for half a dozen, and $32 for 1 dozen.

New flavours have joined these original cupcake family members at The Cupcake Shoppe!

Le Dolci isn’t the only cupcake emporium that’s been dishing out the new flavours though – The Cupcake Shoppe has unleashed a truckload of new, mouthwatering, foodgasm inducing flavours in celebration of a new era for the popular cupcake destination.  Not only are they celebrating the opening of their NEW shop in Vaughan by Bathurst St. and Rutherford Rd. (the shop opened on July 12th – barely 3 weeks old!), but I feel like they’re celebrating more than just an expansion; they’re celebrating growth in general and when I checked their website to do a little research and news digging for the this edition, I literally gasped and almost fell out of my chair when I saw all their new flavours! 

I’ve been making regular visits to The Cupcake Shoppe for several years now and while I love their special seasonal additions each season, I often wondered if they would make changes or additions to their menu, not because I was bored (not by a long shot!) but because I was simply curious and excited to see what they would come up with.  And my cupcake prayers have been answered!  A total of 5 new flavours have made their way onto the menu, with one of them being an EXCLUSIVE flavour to the new shop in Vaughan.  The new flavours include:

  • Triple Chocolate Fudge (chocolate frosting adorned with chocolate chips on chocolate cake)
  • S’more S’mores (chocolate frosting swirled on a marshmallow-filled, graham cracker cupcake with mini marshmallows and graham cracker wedge on top)
  • Pink Lemonade (raspberry buttercream on lemon cake)
  • Margarita, Senorita? (lime frosting on lime cake)
  • Berry White *VAUGHAN SHOP EXCLUSIVE!* (white chocolate buttercream on white chocolate-vanilla and blueberry cupcake)

The amazing Lemon Drop is now on the permanent menu!

I AM IN CONNIPTIONS OVER THIS!  I am beyond ecstatic.  I am SO excited to try these new cupcakes and after making a very quick visit to the Yonge-Eglinton location to take a peek at some of their news on deck, I can say for a fact that they look amazing and are most likely some of their best ones yet.  You all know I’ll be reporting back with oodles of photos and deliciously descriptive words for the ones I love (eh, who am I kidding, I will most likely love them all). 

In addition to these new flavours, there are some other menu changes that are worth noting.  Prices for cupcakes are now $2.85, my beloved Lemon Drop cupcake has been happily promoted to regular menu status as opposed to just seasonal, their carrot cake cupcake is now a regular (while it wasn’t on the original menu in the beginning or one of the 5 newest, it started making much more consistent appearances over the last year), and the Crummie cupcake has been given a fresh makeover.  Instead of gummy bears, a cookie wedge now takes center stage on each and every single Crummie with cookies and cream buttercream on chocolate cake.  With these changes nd exciting additions (and not to mention a new shop which I still need to pay a visi to!) The Cupcake Shoppe has effectively found a way to keep me occupied for YEARS to come!

Short & Sweet’s upcoming August Flavour of the Month!

Chugging right along, in less than a week Short & Sweet Cupcakes will be enticing everyone with their August Flavour of the Month, Banana Split (banana cake with vanilla frosting, hot chocolate fudge drizzle, and rainbow sprinkles), annnd they’ve introduced a brand new flavour to the cupcake family: Bostom Cream!  A vanilla cupcake dipped in fudgy chocolate ganache with a sweet, creamy custard filling oozing out!  You can check out their “reveal” photos on Facebook HERE.  And come Fall 2012, they will also be opening new doors in York Region with a brand spankin’ new location at Dufferin St. and Major Mackenzie Dr. West at Eagles Landing!  Cupcakes, cupcakes, everywhere! 

Finally, Old Firehall Confectionery on Main Street Unioville in Markham (in my neck of the woods) has some fabulous summer flavours to enjoy including a GRAPEFRUIT CUPCAKE!  OH.MY.GOD!  Grapefruit?!  NOBODY in the city, to my knowledge, does a grapefruit cupcake and what makes it even MORE special is its unique and Firehall signature square cupcake shape!  They have their cupcake available in two sizes with the small one being the normal size ($2.89) and the large one being the large one for $3.99.  I was shocked out of my pants when I discovered this (but sadly could not have one as I was rather full from dinner) and I am determined to get my hands on one this summer!

Phew!  That is a LOT of cupcake news!  Given how much more there is to enjoy, I foresee many happy sugar rushes and buzzes in the near future and beyond.  Enjoy, everyone, and have a happy weekend!

Beer, Beer, Beer – Bed, Bed, Bed! Tacos, Hot & Spicy Food, Pizza Nights, and BEER Events in July!

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Happy Canada Day!

Happy Canada Day, everyone!  I know not all of you are Canadian, but you read Ate by Ate so that makes you an honourary one in my book!  Today was absolute MADNESS in the city!  It was hot, scorching, and disgusting but that certainly didn’t deter any of the festivities that were going on in town: Pride parade, Euro, our Blue Jays game, Harbourfront Centre food events up the wazoo, and plenty of farmers’ marketing and patio dining all across town.  Let it be known that I typically don’t go out on Canada Day, in the sense of being out on the town.  In the past, I’ve either been working (hello, garden centre!), visiting my grandparents, or staying home to catch up on sleep and eat pizza.  But this time, things were different and boy, did I ever have a blast being out today!  I was hot, sticky, and gross and I was thisclose to coming down with a migraine because of the heat, but I’m back home squeaky clean, feeling much better, and ready to start July with a bang!  Here’s some of the great food stuff we can look forward to this month:

New markets and market events: 401 Richmond is now hosting a farmers’ market and local food market in the building’s lounge on Tuesdays from 4pm-6pm, and while you’re at it, check out their beautiful rooftop garden!  I haven’t been to the market, but I have been to the rooftop garden and it is absolutely beautiful.  There’s such peace and tranquility up there and I think it’s great spot to enjoy a quiet bite and a good book.  It’s a green space that everyone should take advantage of, so definitely check out when the rooftop garden is open with the staff. 

401 Richmond Rooftop Garden!

And speaking of local food, Constance Dykun and Rachel Silva of Monforte Dairy have finally opened their local food market shop, Crème Fraîche, at 639 Annette St. in the Junction in the west end!  Here you can find Monforte cheeses, DeFloured baked goods, bread from St. John’s Bakery, ChocoSol goodies, and more.  I can’t wait to eventually check out their shop and get in some yummy Junction eats while I’m at it!

Find Monforte Dairy and more at the new local food market shop, Crème Fraîche, in the Junction!

July is the month of BEER!  Oh my good lord is this month ever overflowing with beer!  For all of you who love your malts, stouts, and ale, this month is your month.  First off, Evergreen Brick Works is hosting a beer party in honour of Canada Day weekend from 12pm-4pm TOMORROW, appropriately named the Constitutional Draught at Brewer’s Backyard!  In addition to the event at EBW, The Stop is hosting 4, count ’em FOUR, Beer Gardens this month!  Taking place each and every Sunday from 1pm-5pm, you’ll be able to enjoy local Ontario beer with some fabulous nibbles to go along with your ice cold beverage.  The Stop’s Beer Gardens are spaces where you can taste and sample, learn about local beer purveyours and breweries, and meet people in the business.  Oh, and did I also mention that July 27th marks the 18th Annual Toronto Festival of Beer?!  Held at Exhibition Place, this highly anticipated event will feature over 200 brands on-site to sample and purchase, the World of Beer Pavilion highlighting the brews of Quebec, the Brewmaster’s Series where attendees can take advantage of workshops and seminars, and so much more!

Taco Takedown and many other food events & festivals!

July also welcomes the return of Summerlicious (July 6 – 22) and Tasty Thursdays (July 12 – August 30) and a host of food festivals including Harbourfront Centre’s Hot & Spicy Food Festival and its many cooking demos, food markets, and shows (July 20 – 22),  Albion-Islington’s Fusion of Taste Festival (July 21), and Evergreen Brick Works’ Family Pizza Nights series every Tuesday from 6pm-9pm! 

Harbourfront Centre is seriously dishing out the eats this summer and I am so, so excited for this particular event: TACO TAKEDOWN!  On July 20 from 6:30-9pm, attendees will have the chance to stuff themselves silly with sample platters of tacos from taco shops and chefs from all over the city, vote for their favourites, and crown a winner the end of the night!  This is somewhat similar to February’s Vegan Bake-Off where everyone gets to sample different things from different businesses and providers and at the end, vote on a winner.  I was extremely bummed about missing out on the Vegan Bake-Off (I couldn’t get in the door!) and I’m telling you, I’ve already penciled the Taco Takedown into my calendar.  I do not want to miss out on this!

Wine, cheese, and honey tasting at Le Dolci!

Finally, to sweeten up and cool down the heat this month, Lisa Kates (aka. Food Gyspy and Soup Queen!) is hosting a cooking class, tasting, and seminar on Cold Soup at the Culinarium on July 11 where you’ll learn everything you need to know in order to make delicious chilled soups that are perfect for summer entertaining, while the ladies at Le Dolci are hosting their very first cheese, honey, and wine tasting!  Mix sweet and savoury at this tasty soiree on July 8 at their new studio on Dundas Street West where you’ll get the chance to learn and sample wine, honey, and cheese pairings with the help of Rosewood Estates.

There is SO much more waiting in the wings and if you can believe it, I’m not finished with July’s Food Calendar – it is the largest one yet so don some shades, slather on the sunscreen, and get ready for one hefty month of summer eats!

The First Look – Cupcaking the Evening Away at Le Dolci’s *NEW* Fun, Foodie Studio on Dundas West!

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Cupcakes await you…

Le Dolci celebrated the grand opening of their BRAND NEW studio space on Dundas Street West tonight and I was there to spread the joy and join in on the festivties!  The space, which now houses a cupcake shop retail section, is absolutely GORGEOUS and I love it.  The exposed brick walls, the chandeliers, the arches, the mirrors, the mantel, the big windows…it is the best space the Le Dolci team could have snagged and I am so happy that the team will get to create many more amazing sweet treats and foodie memories in such a wonderful new home.  For those of you who’ve attended a recent class in the new studio, you already know what the space looks like, but for those of you who haven’t, here is the first look! 

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Le Dolci brand new studio is located at 1006 Dundas Street West, right at the corner of Dundas West and Montrose Ave. The studio is across the street from Trinity Bellwoods Park and are open for business 6 days a week.  Operating hours are from 10am-6pm from Tuesday to Saturday and 12pm-5pm on Sundays.  In addition to their numerous fun, foodie classes (cupcake decorating, cake pops, macarons, mini cakes, cookie decorating), corporate and event hosting and catering (business functions, weddings, birthdays, baby and bridal showers, and bachelorette parties among others), the new studio now houses a retail cupcake shop where you can come on in and indulge in juicy and fruity ice pops, courtesy of Augie’s Gourmet Ice Pops, drinks, and fresh baked, frosted cupcakes right on the premises!  Now you can have your cupcake and eat it too.  Visit my Le Dolci class page to view June classes and visit Le Dolci’s official website HERE for more information.

The Cupcake Connection! New Locations & Shops Plus Flavour Updates From Cupcakeries Around the City

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I love finding out about special cupcake flavours, new cupcake shops, and new locations of already-existing cupcakeries opening up elsewhere in the city, so The Cupcake Connection is my way of pooling together a ton of different bits and bobs and keeping all of us in the know!  There’s a lot of information ping ponging all over the place and it can be pretty cumbersome lily pad hopping from site to site, looking out for each and every single new flavour, location, and event update.  I do it because I love looking at cupcakes all day long and because I’m little crazy like that.  So enjoy my cupcake craziness!

Short & Sweet Cupcakes are serving up fresh blueberries and moving up north!  Short & Sweet’s May Flavour of the Month is Blueberry Yum Yum, a vanilla marscapone cake studded with giant blueberries bursting with juiciness, topped with a creamy blueberry cream cheese frosting.  I had this cupcake last year but didn’t make a post about it because I didn’t have nice photos  (except for the one you see here, but 1 photo does not make a good or thorough post!), so I’m really looking forward to having it again so I can report back!

FOTM: Blueberry Yum Yum at Short & Sweet Cupcakes

And for those us craving more cupcakes in York Region, Short & Sweet will be opening up their 2nd location in Vaughan (specifically in Maple) at Eagles Landing by Dufferin & Major Mackenzie THIS FALL!  I actually found out about the exciting news MONTHS before they made their official announcement (a little birdie told me), but I kept mum about it because spilling the beans would have spoiled the announcement.  But I – and everyone else – can jump for joy now!  I am so excited because I’ll have the option of getting my beloved Short & Sweet Cupcakes closer to my neck of the woods and not have to use two fares to get them.  Win-win!

Speaking of new locations opening up, The Cupcake Shoppe, Crumbs & Co., and Le Dolci are all opening up new shops and spaces later on this year!  The Cupcake Shoppe will be heading up north to Vaughan and setting up shop at Rutherford and Bathurst (which, to my knowledge, should be near the giant Longo’s supermarket), Crumbs & Co. will be heading south to Avenue Rd. and Lawrence in North York, and our beloved cupcake, macaron, icing sugar towers that is Le Dolci will be moving into a brand spankin’ new studio and retail space on Dundas Street West right across the street from Trinity Bellwoods Park!

Learn to make these posh designer cupcakes at one of Le Dolci’s classes!

Even though I’m no longer an active icing sugar queen at Le Dolci, I still enjoy keeping up with what’s going on at the studio, and this move is so incredibly exciting for Lisa, Miya, and the other girls!  The space is will offer a larger area for cupcake, cake, and macaron classes, there will be retail component to the new space, and Lisa and Miya are also working on offering new sweets and classes to the mix once the move is done.  The Le Dolci team are always updating their Facebook page, Twitter feed,and blog, so you can definitely keep up with news and updates if you follow them on any one of those.  I don’t have exact months or dates on me right now, but I promise to tell you all whenever I know and you can bet I’ll be at the new locations with camera and sweet teeth on hand!

Much like David’s Tea, I think cupcake shops are so smart when choosing new locations to expand.  For those heading into York Region, the market is wide open because for one, there aren’t as many cupcake shops (and the ones that do exist are very far away from one each other) and for another, a lot of York Region is still under development, with new neighbourhoods and districts being formed every year.  There’s Markham, Richmond Hill, Thornhill, Woodbridge, Maple, Aurora, the list goes on.

The Cupcake Shoppe will be opening up shop in Vaughan!

For those who love to try out new flavours, Yummy Stuff on Queen West in Parkdale has a new, fruity flavour for the month of May: the Hummingbird Cupcake!  This is a special pineapple, banana, and coconut cupcake with cream cheese frosting and I specifically found this out because I called them and asked about their May flavour.  I’m not full-blown insane, just dedicated.  And this week’s Treats of the Week at Prairie Girl Bakery and monthly specials at Dufflet are going fruity tutti too!  Prairie Girl is dishing out a raspberry buttercream on their dark cocoa chocolate cake and a lemon and strawberry buttercream on their golden vanilla buttermilk cake for this week, and I think these flavours would pair up amazingly with either their regular lemon cupcake or their regular toasted coconut.

And to celebrate spring and Mother’s Day, Dufflet has come out with a bevy of new cakes, tarts, and cupcakes for the occasion, all of which are available until at least May 21st.  Their newest cupcake flavour is a strawberry shortcake filled cupcake, which fits into their new line of giant cupcakes with fillings!  The cupcakes are $2.85 and are available at all 3 of their Toronto locations.  Dufflet is also hosting their 5th annual Tour de Dufflet bike ride in support of the Toronto Cyclist’s Union from May 22nd to June 30, and will be a part of the Uptown Yonge’s Sidewalk Sale on Saturday, May 12 from 10am-5pm, where they’ll have amazing promotion prices and deals on their products.  Does 2 for $5 cupcakes sound awesome or what?!  For more information, check out their April & May newsletter HERE for all the details!

Oh, the Weather Outside Was Frightful, But the Cake Pops Were Delightful… – Valentine’s Cake Pops at Le Dolci, Part II!

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“Oh the weather outside was frightful, but the cake pops were so delightful, and since we had hearts aglow, let it snow, let it snow, let is snow!”  Our city may have been blanketed in sheets of snow like a snow globe turned upside down yesterday, but with white, red, and pink chocolate wafers melting over broilers and little bowls and cups filled with Valentine’s sprinkles, baubles, and candy, the Le Dolci studio was brimming with warmth and love as we celebrated Valentine’s and all thinks pink, sparkly, sweet, and pretty – cake pop style!  I spent the blistery cold, snowy morning dipping vanilla and chocolate cake balls and hearts in melted chocolate, sprinkling them with enough sprinkles to turn them into leaning towers of cake pops, and eating melted chocolate and cake crumbs off my fingers!  My heart sped up with giddy excitement as I saw pale pink edible pearls, a mix of red, pink, and white heart sprinkles, sparkly red and pink suagr sprinkles, cinnamon hearts, and conversation hearts. 

I will take advantage of any and every opportunity to play with sprinkles.  ANY.  And that includes bundling up like a snowman and leaving the house at the crack of dawn wearing two pairs of pants, three sweaters, two scarves, two pairs of socks, boots, a knit hat, my thickest pair of mitts, a coat, and my winter sunglasses (no windburn for this girl!) in the frigid cold and blowing snow.  Only I really couldn’t tell you how cold it was because I was toasty in all my layers and ended up waddling around like the Michelin man and yanking off my second pair of fuzzy socks because I couldn’t feel my toes.  ANYTHING FOR SWEETS!

Just like the Christmas Cake Pops class, Lisa, our cake pop teacher extraordinaire, began the class by doing a cake pop construction demo.  Crumbling some fresh vanilla cake in a mixing bowl and adding two large tablespoons of buttercream frosting to it, Lisa demonstrated how to roll the cake mixture into balls, how to properly temper and melt chocolate and chocolate wafers, and how to securely attach lollipop sticks to cake balls to minimize “cake pop overboard” situations when dunking and dipping.

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Be My Valentine – Getting Sweet on Cake Pops! Fluttering Hearts & Sparkly Sprinkles at Le Dolci’s Valentine Class

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Cupid’s bow and arrow has shot through Ate by Ate!  Even though I haven’t spent every single Valentine’s in my life doing something memorably fun, I have many wonderful memories, both food-related and otherwise.  I worked at a flower shop for 3 years during my undergrad and yes, I worked each and every single Valentine’s Day!  I wrapped roses and bouquets of flowers until my back and fingers were sore, experienced 3 different cuts on my hand one year with 3 different tools, and I even had a grisly encounter with an ice boulder falling on my head when I went home for the night (long story!).  Even with all that, I can look back at these memories in amusement.  It was my creative outlet at the time and they were truly learning experiences and good ones at that. 

I remember a Valentine’s tin of Hello Kitty chocolates in high school, (the tin currently houses a collection of Hello Kitty stationery), collecting special Valentine’s M&Ms candy tins, an amazing Valentine’s dessert date 3 years ago, a saucy and romantic Cajun meal 2 years ago, and sweetheart sushi, cupcakes, and a delicious dinner of beef tenderloin, enoki mushrooms, peppers, and fried rice last year.

I only wish Valentine’s was another week or two later because there’s so much I want to do!  I could easily spend an entire month posting about Valentine’s and food – writing and photographing desserts, visiting a few places with special themed menus, and doing spotlight posts on heart-shaped goodies around the city.  I’ve been poring over adorable Valentine’s restaurant menus in Toronto and Markham, ogling Valentine’s themed cakes, cupcakes, tarts, and cookies, and getting way too excited over Valentine’s decor, decorations, and kitchen accessories.  Between scrapbooking, writing, studio fun at Le Dolci, and brainstorming for the blog (and yes, painstaking job searching), I’ve been paging through older Martha Stewart Living magazines and older Valentine’s magazines for inspiration and fun.  I have a host of lovey-dovey posts chock full of Valentine’s sweets, treats, and good eats lined up for the next several days, so let’s get this love show started!  First up: the Valentine’s Cake Pop class at Le Dolci! 

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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.