The Cupcake Connection, Vol. 008 – Scrumptious New Flavours, Giving Back to the Community & More! Part I

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spring cupcakes at Short & Sweet Cupcakes in Toronto

After a good month of macaron munching in March, we’re diving straight back into cupcake mode!  It’s been months since my last Cupcake Connection post and while I’ve continued eating cupcakes (c’mon, it’s ME we’re talking about here), I couldn’t take photos of a few of them (I know, foreshame.  It was late and dark when I was eating them and one of them even got squished!  Very delicious, but so not sexy) and I have a bit of backlog going on with the ones I did take photos of so bear with me while I sort everything out over the next month.

There’s a LOT to catch up on, so much so that it feels overwhelming at times.  So many cupcakes, so little time!  Luckily for me, I have the support of many of my favourite cupcake shops giving me the goods to pass along to all of you so we’ll never be at a loss for great cupcake news.  We have quite a bit to cover (this is Part I of II!) so let’s jump right in and get started!

You’ll Need a Wheelbarrow to Carry All of These – New Flavours and Flavours of the Month

mini cupcake box from Prairie Girl Bakery in Toronto

Just when I think I’ve made a little bit of headway in trying the many cupcakes and flavours in Toronto, I get whip-lashed with a whole truckload of new and exciting flavours!  Seriously, it’s 1 step forward, 5 steps back!  But tis the spice of life and I wouldn’t want it any other way because without new fun and creative flavour combinations, the cupcake scene would get boring real fast and that’s the last thing any of us want.  Let’s start with Prairie Girl Bakery.  Talk about busting out the sweet treats!  Prairie Girl has unleashed 7, count ’em, SEVEN new Treats of the Week flavours ($2.95 for regular size, $1.75 for minis) to their rotating menu!  HOLY MOTHER OF PEARL.  These 7 flavours include:

  • Blueberries & Cream (Golden Buttermilk Cupcake with a swirl of Real Blueberry Icing and a swirl of Classic Cream Cheese Icing, topped with a Chocolate Blueberry)
  • Chocolate Coconut (Dark Cocoa Cupcake with Vanilla Bean Icing topped with Toasted Coconut)
  • Chocolate Flake (Red Velvet Cake with Vanilla Bean Icing topped with Chocolate Flakes)
  • Grasshopper Pie (Dark Cocoa Cupcake with Green Mint Icing topped with Cookie Crumble)
  • Malted Milk (Dark Cocoa Cupcake with Malted Milk Icing topped with a Maltesar)
  • Neapolitan (Dark Cocoa Cupcake with a swirl of Real Strawberry Icing and a swirl of Vanilla Bean Icing)
  • Tiramisu (Golden Buttermilk Cupcake with Tiramisu Icing, Marsala Wine Syrup topped with Chocolate Flakes)

Treats of the Week web page at Prairie Girl Bakery in Toronto

I would inhale all of these, but the ones I am most excited about are the Blueberries & Cream, Grasshopper Pie, and Malted Milk.  Prairie Girl has rolled a few of these out already this month so if you’ve missed them, don’t fret – their Treats of the Week operate on a rotating menu so they’ll always come back and you can know in advance now on their website where they list their upcoming Treats of the Week 4 weeks in advance which I ABSOLUTELY LOVE!

Next on the list?  Yummy Stuff on Queen Street West.  Their April Flavour of the Month ($2.75) is an ultra cool, psychedelic Cherry Almond Cake!  And I do mean psychedelic.  We’re talking bright turquoise vanilla frosting topped with juicy red maraschino cherries on cherry-studded almond cake.  I could float up to cupcake heaven right now.  I LOVE almond baked goods and this sounds and looks amazing (you can check out the photo Yummy Stuff posted on their blog HERE).

For the Love of Cake cupcakes in Toronto in Liberty Village

Lemon Meringue cupcakes from For the Love of Cake cupcake bakery in Liberty Village in Toronto

Taken in 2009, well before the birth of Ate by Ate! For the Love of Cake’s amazing Lemon Meringue cupcakes.

A little further south you’ll find For the Love of Cake, where they’ve brought back their classic S’mores and my beloved Lemon Meringue cupcakes ($2.65) for the month of April (and if demand is high, possibly for even longer!).  The Lemon Meringue was the very first flavour I tried at For the Love Cake back in 2009 (can you believe it’s been that long?!) and it remains, to this day, one of my favourite cupcakes.  Annnnd speaking of S’mores, my dear  Short & Sweet Cupcakes has added two mouthwatering flavours ($2.90) to their permanent menu on Fridays (Boston Cream!) and Sundays (S’mores!).  It pains me that I haven’t tried either of them yet so let’s hope that I can sink my sweet teeth into at least one of them in the coming months!

And then there’s Dessert Lady in the heart of Yorkville.  They’ve expanded their selection to include 3 NEW flavours ($3):

  • Double Chocolate Cupcake with Hazelnut Crunch Buttercream
  • Passionfruit Cupcake with Caramelized White Chocolate Buttercream
  • Sweet Corn Bacon Cupcake with Salted Caramel Popcorn Buttercream (SAY WHAT?!)

And here I am thinking maple bacon cupcakes were way out there – this 3rd flavour knocks it out of the park!  If you love wild and wacky flavours, especially sweet and savoury combinations, I think you’ve met your match and I dare you to try it and report back!

Community and Cupcake Shops – Giving Back

Second Harvest Logo

Cupcake shops are more than just lace and frills.  Many establishments are partnering with different organizations in and around the city to make a difference in their communities.  Prairie Girl Bakery and So Into Cupcakes in Scarborough have both formed relationships with charitable organizations and programs in an effort to help others and to further deepen their growing engagement within the food community.  Prairie Girl Bakery and Second Harvest are joined at the hip via ongoing donations, and are also affiliated with the following causes:

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And more recently, So Into Cupcakes has partnered with Toronto’s Fresh City Farms!  I found out about this through their Facebook page and it’s wonderful as more and more people are signing up to have fresh, local, organic produce delivered to their homes.  These memberships not only support our farmers, they provide ongoing support to local food co-ops and local food organizations.

Phew!  That was a lot to get through and we’re not even close to being finished.  Thankfully, there’s always room for Part II so stay tuned for more delicious cupcake news!

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The Cupcake Connection, Vol. 006 – The Fall Pumpkin Spice & Everything Nice Edition!

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October is truly the month of the pumpkin!  With pumpkin breads, pies, tarts (Dufflet owns this one with their famous pumpkin cream tarts!), roasted seeds, soups and the traditional Halloween carving of jack-o-lanterns, there’s no shortage of ways to use this friendly orange fall gourd and vegetable.  Cupcake bakeries across the city are very much in the thick of things, whipping up batches of pumpkin spice, pumpkin pie, and pumpkin and cream cheese frosted cupcakes to celebrate the pumpkin-loving month.
While I love the texture of pumpkin pie filling and the versatility of pumpkin in both sweet and savoury dishes, I really feel that pumpkin cupcakes are one of those love-it-or-hate-it, hit-or-miss type of confections.  It’s just hard to do well!  It’s not hard to give the impression of warmth and comfort or to mimic the flavour of pumpkin pie and pumpkin spice.  Rather, it’s difficult to get the texture of the cake just right.  Even though I haven’t come across a pumpkin cupcake I disliked or thought was incredibly awful per say, I will point out that some have been more forgettable than others.  The misses always seem to manifest themselves in the cake portion of the cupcake, either being too dry and crumbly or much too dense; I want to eat a yummy cupcake not feel like I’m holding a hockey puck!

Mmmm, yummy cinnamon frosting…

I’ve tried 4 pumpkin cupcakes from 4 different bakeries (Bunner’s Bake Shop, Flour Studio, Short & Sweet Cupcakes, and So Into Cupcakes) and my favourite so far has been the moist pumpkin spice cupcake with the soft cinnamon frosting from So Into Cupcakes.  The cake is the softest here and I love the texture of the frosting.  Anything with cinnamon in it and on it is fine by me!  In a close second would be Flour Studio’s pumpkin spice with cream cheese frosting just because I really felt like the cake captured that mild, earthy pumpkin flavour without being too spiced in flavour (you know, the type of flavour that screams, “I’m from a can!”  Even if it is, it shouldn’t be obvious!) and the cream cheese frosting was truly delicious.  I would definitely recommend taking a few bites of cupcake just on its own though to truly get the full effect as the cream cheese frosting can overwhelm the cake.

Pumpkin Spice from Flour Studio!

Decked out for Halloween: Pumpkin Spice at Short & Sweet Cupcakes!

And here I’m going to get on my soapbox: I’m never going to stop wishing for a cupcake that has pumpkin frosting!  Cake is wonderful, yes, but I also want to see (and taste!) a cupcake topped with pumpkin frosting, just to switch things up and to try something new and different since we’re pretty accustomed to pumpkin cakes with vanilla or cream cheese frosting.  Something like a pumpkin mousse frosting would be fabulous, or a thick, creamy pumpkin frosting swirled with vanilla and sprinkled with graham crumbs!  I can dream.

Regardless, there are just as many pumpkin cupcakes that do taste great and it’ll be my mission to get to as many as possible before the season is over.  There are plenty of options (including vegan ones!) to choose from to figure out which one(s) take home the crown of most delectable pumpkin cupcake.

Bunners Bake Shop’s vegan pumpkin cupcake with their famous vanilla frosting!

Seasonal pumpkin cupcake goodies from Wanda’s Pie in the Sky!

  • Bobbette & Belle, 1121 Queen Street East: Pumpkin  ($2.95) – pumpkin spice cake with cream cheese buttercream frosting.  Seasonal flavour, daily rotation; call ahead to ask (416-466-8800).
  • Bunners Bake Shop, 3054 Dundas Street West in the Junction, just west of High Park Ave.: Pumpkin ($3.25) – vegan pumpkin cupcake topped with their premium vegan vanilla frosting and a pumpkin seed.  Seasonal flavour; daily rotation; call ahead and ask (647-352-2975).
  • Desmond & Beatrice, 750 Queen Street East: Pumpkin Spice ($2.75) – pumpkin spice cake swirled with a brown sugar cream cheese frosting.  Seasonal flavour, daily rotation; call ahead to ask (647-352-2257).
  • Flour Studio, 883 Eglinton Ave. West: Pumpkin Spice ($3) – pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting, sprinkled with nutmeg.  Seasonal flavour, daily rotation; call ahead to ask (416-789-0222).
  • For the Love of Cake, 171 East Liberty St. #117: Pumpkin Pie ($3) – pumpkin spice cupcake topped with fresh whipped cream sprinkled with nutmeg.  Seasonal flavour, daily flavour; call ahead to ask (416-306-6446)
  • Short & Sweet Cupcakes,1945 Avenue Road: Pumpkin Spice ($2.90) – pumpkin spice cupcake with cream cheese frosting.  Available during the month of October as their Flavour of the Month.
  • So Into Cupcakes, 2060 Ellesmere Road: Pumpkin Spice ($2.50 for regular size, $1.50 for mini) – pumpkin cupcake topped with cinnamon cream cheese frosting.  Seasonal flavour, available during the month of October.
  • The Wedding Cake Shoppe, 859 College Street: Pumpkin Pie ($2.65) – pumpkin pie with buttercream frosting and pumpkin candy garnish.  Seasonal flavour, daily rotation; call ahead to ask (416-916-2253).
  • Wanda’s Pie in the Sky, 287 Augusta Ave. in Kensington Market: Pumpkin – pumpkin cake with frosting and a pumpkin-shaped chocolate garnish sweet treat on top.  Seasonal flavour, call ahead to ask: (416-236-7585)
  • Yummy Stuff, 1660 Queen Street West in Parkdale: Pumpkin ($2.75) – pumpkin cupcake with brown butter frosting and candied nut topping.  Seasonal flavour, available during the month of October.

The Ooey Gooey Goodness of Marshmallows & Rocky Road – Cupcakes in Scarborough at So Into Cupcakes!

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Here’s a quickie, multiple choice quiz for all of you (not to worry; it’s fun and it’s not hard!).  Take a wild guess and answer the following question: how did I find out about one of Scarborough’s newest, hottest cupcake bakeries, So Into Cupcakes by Markham Rd. and Ellesmere?  A) through a friend, B) from a bus, C) from a magazine, or D) from a local cupcake fairy.  I’ll tell you right now that I wish it could have been D.  How awesome it would be to have cupcake fairies telling me where all the newest and yummiest cake and frosting creations are!  But alas, no cute fairies.  Nope, I discovered So Into Cupcakes from the window of a bus!

I don’t even know where to start with this one!  Cupcakes!  IN SCARBOROUGH!  OH MY LORDY!  I know I wrote about Sugarbuds Bakery & Cafe on Kingston Rd. last Christmas and was over the moon about having a place in Scarborough to get cupcakes.  But this is different.  So different.  We’re not talking about cupcakes within the parameters of an all-rounder bakery.  We’re talking cupcakes and ONLY cupcakes!  Cupcakes under a glass display case.  Sitting pretty like precious artifacts in a museum.  Housed in a cupcake exclusive shop.  Foodies and cupcake lovers – WE HAVE AN HONEST-TO-GOODNESS CUPCAKERY IN SCARBOROUGH!!!  This makes me so happy!  And I don’t even live in Scarborough anymore!  It’s happening everyone – cupcakes are slowly but surely making their way into suburbia and I, for one, am bouncing off the walls with jubilance over it.

I found out about So Into Cupcakes, located at 2060 Ellesmere Rd. at the corner of Dolly Varden Blvd. just west of Markham Rd., by a sheer stroke of luck.  Long story short, I was riding the bus on Ellesmere one afternoon when I dazedily looked out the window, saw the giant shop signage and cupcake imagery from its regal position in the plaza, and almost ran off the bus while it was still moving.  My mind started sputtering and my heart start thudding, “So…Into…Cupcakes…oh my…what the…cupcakes!  New cupcake shop!  When?!  CUPCAAAAKES!”  You get the picture.  When I reached my destination, I walked off the bus in daze, with this as my only thought: “I need to get home and look this place up!”  And I did.  And found out that So Into Cupcakes, as a shop, had only been around for about half a year.  Before setting up shop in Scarborough in a growing plaza with plenty of foodie treasures, So Into Cupcakes was actually an independent home business.  All I can say is that I’m so happy the business grew enough to occupy a lovely little cupcake boutique shop and I know for a fact I’m not the only one!

Backstory: my boyfriend and one of his coworkers were having a fun discussion about the things they’d want to see in Scarborough – services, retail, anything and everything.  My boyfriend cried, “cupcake shops!” to which his coworker replied, “I don’t think there’s a market in Scarborough for cupcakes”.  My response?  “Wanna bet?”  As crazy as it sounds, apparently I was not the only one who found out about So Into Cupcakes from a bus.  While I was stuffing my face with two cupcakes in the shop (one regular-sized, one mini) and taking photos, customers trickled in and one of them mentioned how they had seen the signage from the bus and decided to drop in.  Public transportation sight-seeing works!

And on top of that, So Into Cupcakes sold 30 cupcakes during the brief time I was there.  I know I take my time taking photos and savouring my food (according to my mother, I chew 21 times before I swallow. Go figure.), but still!  30 cupcakes purchased by multiple customers without even the slightest bit of coaxing during the lull period in the afternoon is mighty impressive!  No market by tooshie!  I could go on and discuss the broader context of the socioeconomic status of residents and its relation to luxury goods, but I’ll save that for another day.

Right now we’re going to delve into the world of cupcake flavours, prices, and online connections.  Let me just say that if any of you are interested in checking them out, ditch the main website and follow them on Facebook and Twitter, if you have either account.  Their website is lovely with beautiful photos, but I’m telling you, if you want to get the full monty, you have to keep up with their Facebook page because you get such a better feel for what they have to offer.  Their cupcakes ($2.50 for regular-sized, $1.50 for minis) come in 12 different regular flavours that rotate on a daily basis: vanilla, chocolate, salted caramel, strawberry, lemon, cookies n’ cream, coconut, s’mores, rocky road, red velvet, mocha, and peanut butter.  What makes their selection extra exciting is their constant introduction of monthly flavours which they announce on their Facebook page and Twitter.  We’re talking Boston Cream, maple, spicy chocolate, chocolate cheesecake, pink lemonade, key lime, root beer, blueberry, mint chocolate, and SO MUCH MORE.

For my first foray into the So Into Cupcakes’ goodies, I picked out a strawberry mini and a rocky road regular.  So cute, so yummy, so creamy, so fun!  Remember how I said the strawberry cupcake from Flour Studio tasted just like strawberry Pocky?  I didn’t think I could find one that tasted more like it, but I did!  The strawberry cupcake is strawberry Pocky in cupcake form, bang on!  It’s so creamy and candy sweet.  The strawberry frosting sits on a vanilla cupcake with little sugar sprinkles on top.

And the rocky road?  Oh my gosh.  One of the cutest, funnest cupcakes EVER!  And FINALLY a cupcake that does marshmallow justice!  Their rocky road cupcake is literally ooey, gooey, soft marshmallow “frosting” on top of a chocolate cupcake with chocolate chunks and nuts bits sprinkled on top.  REAL MARSHMALLOW!  I’ve had cupcakes that were supposed to taste like marshmallow but sadly enough, just tasted like vanilla cream, like the kind of filling you’d find in a Hostess cupcake.  Which is fun!  For a Hostess cupcake.  NOT for a cupcake claiming to be marshmallow!  This cupcake is truly one of the funnest things I’ve ever eaten.  The chocolate chunks and nut bits complement the marshmallow topping so well, and while the chocolate cupcake is what you’d expect of any decent chocolate cupcake, I still think it’s mega special simply because it’s moist and fudgy and most importantly, not dry!

I’m so happy this new cupcake bakery is here in Scarborough and I think all the flavours that they’ve been coming out with are so fun and exciting!  And while the bus isn’t the most glamourous or ideal mode of transportation sometimes, it earns brownie points in my book just for allowing me to make this sweet discovery.

*****

So Into Cupcakes is located at 2060 Ellesmere Rd. in Scarborough, at the corner of Ellesmere Rd. and Dolly Varden Blvd. (by Ellesmere and Markham Rd.).  You can follow them on Facebook HERE and on Twitter @sointocupcakes HERE.