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!

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The Fall Harvest Series – Sweet Apple Cinnamon Cupcakes and Chai Lattes on Main Street Unionville

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Hands cupped around a warm mug.  The smell of baked goods and comfort food wafting through the air, with the tastes enveloping your tastebuds in happy delight.  The sight of reds, oranges, yellows, and golds just bursting before your eyes.  The feeling of coolness and crispness in the air as you listen to the crunch of fallen leaves under your feet.  When I think of fall, I envision sights, smells, and tastes that tickle my inspiration; fall is a beautiful season that ignites the senses.  It makes me think of my first trip to the apple orchard as a kid, all the times I skipped through leaves at the park, the family trips I went on to see the changing colours, the pumpkins I carved with my aunt and uncle, and of course, the food!  I’ll never forget the amazing Thanksgiving feast my aunt put out when I was 10, the apple cider and warm drinks I had in the company of friends, and my memories of eating pumpkin pie for the first time.  In a nutshell, fall for me is comfort and nostalgia at its finest. 

One of my favourite neighbourhoods to enjoy the fall season in is Main Street Unionville in Markham, where I live.  Having lived in Markham for 13 years, I have memories of doing fun things here from every season and I will never grow tired of strolling through the old-town, Victorianesque streets, visiting the library, and ambling through the parks and pond.  When I think about taking photos of colourful leaves in the area, it gets me all excited because it’s just that beautiful.  I am so lucky to have such a scenic neighbourhood nearby to enjoy both the green (or rather red, orange, and yellow this time of year!) space and the yummies!  Photographing pretty trees, curling up with a hot drink, and having a sweet treat – now that’s the kind of fall day I love!

After going bananas during my first visit to Old Firehall Confectionery back in August, I was dying to see whether or not there were seasonal treats.  I know, I know, it’s a mecca of sugar and spice and everything nice so of course they would have seasonal desserts!  But I had to be sure.  So I went.  And internally squealed.  Fall desserts!  Pumpkin pie tarts, maple pecan tarts, maple cupcakes, and apple cinnamon cupcakes!  YES!  Where you find new flavours of cupcakes, you will find Deb.  That’s just how it works.  The devil on my shoulder wanted one of everything, but the angel on the other shoulder rolled her eyes and said no because dinner was coming in another two and a half hours.  I picked out one apple cinnamon cupcake ($2.89).  So the angel won.  This time.  The cupcake needed a friend though, so I paired it up with a nice warm drink from Timothy’s World Coffee down the street.  I plan these things out.  I’m nothing if not resourceful.

Even though I consider myself a wuss in the presence of a hot drink (I’m the one who sits there and gingerly pokes at the mug or cup to see if my fingertip gets hot before taking a tiny cautious sip), there’s nothing like the feeling of holding a warm drink in your hands with the sun shining at you through a window.  A drink that smells so good it makes you forget how afraid you are of hot liquids.  Enter the apple chai latte!  Timothy’s has two new fall drinks on their fall seasonal menu, including the apple chai latte and the chocolate pumpkin spice lattebene (I KNOW, holy schmoly.  You can bet I’ll be coming back for that one).  Back in August, I made it a mission to try as many fall-related drink out there once all the seasonal stuff hit, so there I was happily sprinkling ground cinnamon and nutmeg into my mug and taking careful sips (or maybe slurps) as I admired my apple cinnamon cupcake. 

Delicious drink with an even more delicious cupcake!  After all these years, I’ve never actually taken advantage of seasonal drinks much, so I was really happy that this one was so yummy.  The chai flavour came out crystal clear with a zing and it smelled divine with the addition of cinnamon and nutmeg.  If you’re looking for a flavour comparision between apple cider and the apple chai latte, the chai latte is a lot less tart and the apple flavour is more blended and nuanced in it.  It’s wonderful.

And the cupcake!  The lemon cupcake I had during my first visit was yummy, but jeebus, the apple cinnamon one blew that experience out of the water.  This cupcake was SO creamy and moist and I almost shoved the whole thing in my mouth.  I like to savour my food and make my food last by taking small bites, but all resolve was lost on this sweet morsel of goodness.  The frosting was amazing.  It was thick (not thick as in paste-like, but thick as in not whippd cream-like), rich, and creamy with the perfect amount of cinnamon spice and apple flavour.  The cinnamon flavour wasn’t overkill and there were some apple crisp and nut crumbles on the frosting that give the cupcake a scrumptious bite of crunch. 

It’s a season that I relish in, not just for its natural beauty, but also for the happy nostalgia it brings.  Looking back makes me that much more excited to look forward to even more awesome things to come.

*****

Old Firehall Confectionery is located at 170 Main Street in the historic Main Street Unionville neighbourhood between Carlton Rd. and Hwy 7.  The dessert haven is located between Carlton Rd. and Fred Varley Drive.  Main Street is located just east of Kennedy Rd.  Timothy’s World Coffee is located just a few shops down the street from Old Firehall Confectionery.

If Pudding & Custard Had a Love Child – The Lemon Square Cupcake & Its Friends at Old Firehall Confectionery, Part III

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It’s the last long weekend of summer, it’s scorching out, and I’m happily spending my weekend indoors scrapbooking, reading my apple cookbook, organizing photos and my lip gloss collection, and planning my fall activities.  If the weather didn’t threaten to melt me I’d probably be out and about, but I’m hiding and having indoor fun instead 😀  It’s been fun writing up these dessert posts the past few days and I hope you’ve all liked them.  Today marks the 3rd and last post in the 3-part series showcasing all the sweet goodies at the popular Main Street Unionville hangout, Old Firehall Confectionery.   

Ahh, Old Firehall, home of macarons, truffles, bricks of fudge, different flavours of soft-serve ice cream, and their signature square cupcakes.  Wait…what?  SQUARE cupcakes?!  Yes, cute square cupcakes with beautiful, thick creamy frosting, fillings, and toppings!  These cupcakes are beautiful with their domes of perfectly swirled frosting ribbons and because of their shape, quite unique!  I don’t know if there are other cupcakeries around the city that make square cupcakes, but it’s the first time I’ve seen square ones and I’m very delighted. 

The cupcakes here come in two sizes: small ($2.89) and large ($3.99).  If you plan on having this as a dessert after a meal or an afternoon snack, stick with the small ones because the small sizes are actually the size of a regular at other cupcakeries.  A large is not for the faint of heart.  When I looked at the large ones, I thought, “good lord, that thing eats like a meal!  But it would be good for sharing…hmm”.  There are, however, differences between the small and large and it has to do with the special surprise inside the cupcake.  The large cupcakes have creamy ganache fillings inside whereas the small ones don’t.  I’m uncertain about seasonal flavours, but Old Firehall has 8 flavours of cupcakes on their everyday menu.  These include Choko Chocolate, Lemonicious, Heavenly Vanilla, Peanut Butter, Red Velvet, Cookies & Cream, Sweet Strawberry, and Pina Colada.  Broken down, this is what you can expect from each cupcake:

  • The Choko Chocolate is a chocolate cupcake with chocolate buttercream and a white and dark chocolate striped topper with chocolate filling in the large. 
  • The Heavenly Vanilla is a vanilla cupcake with vanilla buttercream, a chocolate topper, and rainbow sprinkles with vanilla cream filling in the large
  • The Peanut Butter one is a chocolate cupcake with peanut butter cream and peanut butter chips with peanut butter filling in the large 
  • The Red Velvet cupcake has red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting, a red heart chocolate topper, red velvet cake crumbles, and a cream cheese filling in the large
  • The Cookies & Cream cupcake is a chocolate cupcake with vanilla buttercream, crushed Oreo cookie pieces, and a vanilla filling in the large
  • The Sweet Strawberry one is a vanilla cupcake with strawberry buttercream, a white chocolate topper, and a strawberry filling in the large
  • The Pina Colada cupcake has vanilla cake with pineapple buttercream, toasted coconut flakes, and a coconut cream filling in the large

Now, did you notice a flavour missing in that list?  Lemonicious!  The lovely sweet citrus dessert is a vanilla cupcake with lemon buttercream and a sweet and sour lemon gummy candy topper.  I chose a small one to go along with the peanut butter and jelly macaron I picked out and you can bet I had a hard time choosing which one I wanted.  I am looking forward to all future visits to Old Firehall, but I am telling you, my indecisive mind is going to be stymied and absolutely fried after all those dessert runs.  It was hard enough deciding on a macaron and a cupcake.  I then had to go through the excruciating task of choosing which macaron and cupcake I wanted.  The sprinkles from the vanilla cupcake was giving me looks and the pina colada was right beside it, silently calling out.  Maybe next time I’ll get them both and call it a day.  Woe is me.

My lemon cupcake was wonderful.  Was it the best of the best of every lemon cupcake I’ve ever eaten?  Well, no, but I enjoyed it very much nevertheless.  The vanilla cake is very standard; soft enough that it isn’t crumbly, but not so soft that it could hold a contest with some of the other pillow soft ones I’ve tried elsewhere.  In a nutshell, tasty with a great vanilla flavour, but not something to write home about because it tastes like what it should taste like and nothing more. 

However, the buttercream on the cupcakes here is really different and for me, this is what makes this cupcake.  It’s incredible how many different styles of frosting and buttercream I’ve come across, and the lemon cupcake I nom nomed on had a buttercream that was noticeably different from the first bite.  It’s light, whippy, creamy, and soft and if custard and pudding had a love child, this would be it.  I have never had a buttercream or frosting that tasted like this.  The texture is just different and it’s like amazing lemon pudding but creamier and thicker.  The lemon flavour is bang on and it has that juicy, zesty lemon flavour that’s indicative of citrusy summer goodness.  Oh, and the lemon candy.  PERFECT touch.  The buttercream and gummy candy complement one another and the candy goes so far as even enhancing the juicy lemon flavour in the buttercream.  Lemon yum-yumness 😀 

When my best friend told me that I would love Old Firehall, she wasn’t lying.  I still feel a bit put off that I didn’t know about this shop earlier, but my feelings have been soothed since.  You know, by the sweet treats.  Really though, I can’t believe what a powerhouse they are when it comes to offering desserts in almost every form you can think of.  It’s just perfect for so many different occasions.  Candies for goody bags, truffles and chocolates for a bit of luxury and indulgence (and also for fancy gifts!), and ice cream for dates, romantic or otherwise.  There’s truly something for everyone here, and in my case, multiple somethings.

*****

Old Firehall Confectionery is located at 170 Main Street in the historic Main Street Unionville neighbourhood between Carlton Rd. and Hwy 7.  The dessert haven is located between Carlton Rd. and Fred Varley Drive.  Main Street is located just east of Kennedy Rd.

Dainty, Colourful, and All Sorts of Yummy – The Macarons at Old Firehall Confectionery, Part II

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I feel so blessed having access to so many delicious eats.  I spend a lot of time in the city, but really, I’ve spent most of my life growing up in the suburbs and bouncing back and forth has sometimes made me temporarily forget about the treasures that surround me closest to home.  As you explore you learn that, yes, Toronto has some amazing stuff that you can’t get in the suburbs (case in point: in Markham, the AYCE sushi greatly outnumbers the simple sushi lunch sit-down spots with the regular menu.  AYCE is great for families and gatherings, but not so much for a single person who want to have a quick and inexpensive lunch), but you also learn that there are gems right under your nose that are simply irreplaceable.  For instance, Markham has waaaay more HK style diners and nobody holds a candle to my turkey sandwiches at the Raymerville Deli & Bakery.  Which is way I feel incredibly lucky.  I was born in the east end of Toronto, spent most of my childhood in Scarborough, and have grown up into adulthood in Markham, all the while spending as much of my free time as I could -and can- in the city. 

The Old Firehall Confectionery is located in a neighbourhood very near and dear to my heart: Main Street Unionville.  I love the feeling I get when I spend time here, especially during the fall.  When there’s that awesome nip in the air, everything is just more beautiful, more peaceful.  It’s a beautiful neighbourhood and I don’t think I spend enough time here.  I have SO many wonderful memories of being around this area.  I rememeber doing science projects at Toogood Pond with friends in the 10th grade, spending countless hours at Unionville Library (I wore out their Nancy collection), having lunch at Jake’s Pub & Grille (their halibut melt is amazing), enjoying a little retail therapy at Blossom (quite possibly my most favourite place to blow treat money in Markham), taking pictures of the beautiful fountain behind the library, and strolling through Toogood Pond and park.  And this summer, I found one more reason to love Main Street Unionville even more: the dessert utopia known as Old Firehall Confectionery.

Today’s sweet treat focus: macarons!!  My eyes just lit up when I saw these delicate morsels of yumminess.  So colourful and perfect and gorgeous.  And not over the top expensive either.  At $1.99 a piece, the prices are pretty average and expected in comparison to other patisseries.  Old Firehall has a bounty of different flavours that they rotate through on daily basis.  Their menu is split into two categories: classic and specialty flavours.  Their classic menu includes chocolate, raspberry, green tea, lavender, cassis (black currant), praline, orange, and chocolate mint.  Their specialty flavours are super special, with flavour combos I’ve never seen at other places.  These include strawberry balsamic, lemon thyme, pina colada, mango passion, white sesame, salted caramel, and peanut butter and jelly. 

I tip my hat to all bakers who make macarons because it couldn’t have been easy with the level of humidity we’ve had this summer.  Macarons are supposed to have light, airy, and crispy meringue shells and with the summer we’ve been having, I’m sure there were many a batch that either turned out soggy or just plain collapsed with the dense humidity.

Knowing how indecisive I am, you can imagine how difficult it was to choose just one.  And you can also imagine how excruciating it was to choose which desserts I wanted to eat at Old Firehall.  I mean, holy mother of pearl, there was ice cream, truffles, fudge, cupcakes, cookies drizzled with fudge, and oodles of other things.  I convinced myself to only try two things and then I further convinced myself that those two things would be one macaron and one cupcake.  I exercised a lot of self-restrain; be proud.  I lovingly chose a peanut butter and jelly macaron.  Peanut butter and jelly makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.  At the age of 3, 4, and 5, I loved coming home from kindergarten to a little peanut butter and jelly sandwich cut into quarters and the combo still earns happy fists from me till this day.

For this macaron, the top and bottom shell mimicked a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a pale cocoa brown top and a fuschia purple-y pink bottom and the filling…oh the filling.  The meringue shells were great, but the filling totally made this macaron with its two layers of sweetness.  One layer was a thick, creamy caramel peanut butter and the other was a sweet, fruity strawberry jam that was absolutely delightful.  The combination of sweet fruitiness with that subtle salty, savouriness from the peanut butter hits you when you bite into and the let flavours hang out on your tastebuds.  I know some people have a tendency to eat fast and gulp stuff down, but with this one, you have to let it melt in your mouth and zing around your tongue to get the full effect and trust me, it is so worth it because it’s SO good.  I was so happy eating this because it tasted EXACTLY like a PBJ sandwich, only much more decadent.

It was so cute getting my little desserts to take away.  My little macaron was put into a little cello baggy and closed with an Old Firehall Confectionery sticker and I was a given a special Old Firehall paper shopping bag for both my cupcake and macaron.  In case you’re wondering, I kept the bag, ha.  I’m so looking forward to trying more flavours (especially the orange, chocolate mint, and a host of the specialty flavours like lemon thyme, pina colada, and mango passion!) and you can look forward to another sweet post tomorrow to end off this 3-part series: cupcakes!

******

Old Firehall Confectionery is located at 170 Main Street in the historic Main Street Unionville neighbourhood between Carlton Rd. and Hwy 7.  The dessert haven is located between Carlton Rd. and Fred Varley Drive.  Main Street is located just east of Kennedy Rd.

Happy September! Starting the Month Off on a Sweet Note: Old Firehall Confectionery in Unionville, Part I

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Happy first day of September everyone!  I know summer is far from over, but I have to say, I am SO excited for the upcoming fall and harvest season!  I am in conniptions at the thought of fall tea and drinks, baking apple desserts (because of my allergies, I can’t eat apples raw anyway so it’s win-win here), scoping out the best places to buy canned pumpkin, and indulging in those awesome traditional foods and dishes I love so much for Thanksgiving.  You know, the turkey, the gravy, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, the whole North American bit.  I’m a total sucker for all of it, but I also know it’s not exactly the easiest foodie occasion for vegetarians and vegans to get around so I’m determined to find some delicious veggie Thanksgiving stuff for myself and my friends to enjoy in and around the city.  I actually started a bit of research on that last fall and I’m excited to see what options there are this time around. 

Oh!  And the farmers’ markets.  My camera is raring to go and I am so looking forward to snapping photos of squash and pumpkins and apples (thankfully it’s not lethal to touch or look!) and maybe if I’m lucky, I’ll be able to visit an apple orchard, just for fun.  September also marks a month filled with foodie events and festivals around the city and you can bet the whole city will be out for the Vegetarian Food Festival and Canada’s Baking and Sweets Show, among many others, later on this month.  I have so much planned for the blog for the upcoming fall season and I hope you all like what I have in store.

I want to start the month off on a sweet note, so let me ask you a question: if you could create your very own sweet tooth world, what would your ideal dessert haven consist of?  Would you have candies and chocolates?  Enough fudge to put you in a blissful sugar coma?  How about ice cream with a gazillion different types of cones and flavours and styles of regular ice cream and soft serve?  Or maybe your dessert universe would be filled with frosted cupcakes?  Oh, and of course we can’t forget the luxurious sweet nibbles such as macarons and truffles. 

Now that I have you daydreaming and drooling (and possibly wanting to run out the door to the nearest dessert-whatever), you can stop.  Because your dreams have come true.  What if I told you that this sugary utopia existed right under your nose (or at the very least in the GTA) and that EVERYTHING I just dangled in front of you exists under one roof?  Oh yes.  It’s a candy store, chocolatier, ice cream parlour, and cupcakery, and patisserie all in one amazing world of happiness.  Located in one of my favourite neighbourhoods and especially a favourite for me during the fall, I paid my first visit this summer and if I could, I would live here.  Assume your mouth in the position of jaw-dropping awe.  I present to you, Old Firehall Confectionery on Main Street Unionville in Markham:

Where are the macarons and cupcakes, you ask?  Oh, they’re there.  That’s what Part II and Part III are for 😉  Enjoy!

*****

Old Firehall Confectionery is located at 170 Main Street in the historic Main Street Unionville neighbourhood between Carlton Rd. and Hwy 7.  The dessert haven is located between Carlton Rd. and Fred Varley Drive.  Main Street is located just east of Kennedy Rd.