Back to Cupcake Basics With Sweet Chocolate & Vanilla – Scones, Cupcakes, & Desserts at Hammersmith’s, Part II

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Happy 1st Birthday, Hammersmith’s!

What’s better than a brunch cafe with delicious sandwiches, salads, and breakfast fare?  A brunch cafe with all of those things plus desserts for sweet endings!  I love it when I can plan a meal from beginning to end with either an appetizer and a main or a main and a side, and a dessert to neatly book end the happy experience.  I especially feel this way when I go out for sushi – if there isn’t dessert on the menu, I am one very sad cookie!  While I don’t order appetizers, extra sides, or dessert every time I’m out (I’d say this happens maybe 2 times out of 10 – foreshame!), it’s just nice knowing I can enjoy a variety of sweet and savoury items in one go because it also means an endless amount of mix-and-matching possibilities during future visits.  

Hammersmith’s delivers on all fronts.  Not only does Hammersmith’s do a mean sandwich and salad brunch plate (I could eat their arugula salad with olive oil and razor-thin radish slices endlessly), they also bake homemade baked goods and desserts on site including fresh scones, giant monster chocolate chunk cookies, and fluffy, mouthwatering cupcakes!  Much like their savoury brunch menu, their selection of sweets will change on a regular basis to reflect the season or pure inspiration.  They will always have scones though.  Their scones are available for purchase individually for $1.25 a piece, or as a scone plate for brunch with jam and cream for $5.  You could totally transform this into a lovely morning tea type of meal with a pot of hot loose leaf tea!

Brunch and afternoon tea scones

The frosted cupcake crown jewels

The showcase of desserts!

I truly believe I was blessed with good fortune on this day.  On Canada Day, Hammersmith’s celebrated their 1st anniversary and birthday!  How exciting it was to be a part of their special day!  And can you take a wild guess as to what made the birthday/anniversary festivities even mor jubiliant?  CUPCAKES!  Every patron was given a free cupcake in honour of this occasion and I was absolutely taken aback and shocked – in a good way!  Can you believe it?!  It’s almost as if the foodie gods wanted me to inhale a fresh cupcake over the weekend! 

They had cake stands full of plump cupcakes in different vanilla and chocolate combinations with the sweetest of decorations (rainbow sprinkles!  Chocolate sprinkles!  Pink sugar sparkles!  Crushed chocolate bits!) and they were all so pretty and so inviting.  Choosing my free cupcake (normally priced at $2.85) was like choosing a crown jewel – giddy but really hard to do!  Part of me was dying to snatch up the vanilla with sweet rainbow sprinkle dots and another part of me was yelling to grab the marble cake with marble frosting.  The “all-things-pink-and-pretty” part of me won over though and I chose the sweet chocolate cupcake with vanilla frosting and pink sugar sparkles.

If you love that fresh cocoa taste combined with moist-out-of-the-oven softness and soft, creamy, whipped buttercream, these are right up your alley.  It’s crazy because even though they’re light, airy, and fluffy in both cake and frosting, their cupcakes are surprisingly filling!  They’re decorated and piped beautifully and they truly have that comfort food, straight from home oven feeling to them and they taste delightful.  They make you feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside because they really exude that “I was baked with love” glow.  It’s good old fashioned cupcake basics at its finest. 

The chocolate cake was fudgy with all sorts of warm cocoa goodness lurking throughout and the frosting was so soft.  The cake wasn’t so soft that the cupcake toppled over, but it wasn’t stiff and dense either and you could enjoy it the way it was meant to be enjoyed – in one piece in your hand (or in my case, with a dainty fork!) as you take bite after bite of fluffy goodness.  What was fantastic about it was how they compared to other buttercreams.  It didn’t leave a greasy film, it didn’t taste like a mouthtful of butetr, it wasn’t too sweet or bland, and the ratio between cake and frosting was perfect.      

Fluffy and soft like marshmallow cream

Happy 1st birthday to Hammersmith’s and happy cupcaking, cookie noshing, and scone nibbling for all the sweet tooths!  Next up tomorrow: Hammersmith and drinks!

*****

Hammersmith’s is located at 807 Gerrard St. East in Riverdale, at the corner of Gerrard and Logan Ave.  They are a brunch and lunch cafe open from Wednesday to Sunday (10am-3:30pm on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, and 9:30am-4pm on Saturdays and Sundays), with a price fixe dinner currently available on Thursdays and Fridays for $35.  Currently, for the summer, they are also now open on Mondays from 10am-3pm!  They accept cash and debit only.

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Polka Dot Rainbow Sprinkles & Fantastical, Fresh, Creamy Vanilla Cupcakes at Desmond & Beatrice, Part II

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I love Desmond & Beatrice.  I know there are many cupcake shops that I hold dear to my heart, but Desmond & Beatrice is truly something special.  I didn’t even have to take a bite from my first cupcake to know that this bake shop would shoot straight into my Top 5 favourite cupcakeries.  There is such a pure, genuine, unpretentious quality about D&B that really resonates with me and I know exactly why it does: because of the shop’s aesthetic and the message it sends about sweets and life in general.

Desmond & Beatrice is a beautiful, sweet bake shop bursting with freshness and brightness with its modern, streamlined aesthetic, clean, crisp bright whites (I love the white lacquered finished on the exposed brick), vibrant pops of colour and prints (the scrapbooker and aspiring interior decorator in me hyperventilates), and an immaculate array of picture-perfect frosted cupcakes, jumbo cookies, and sweet-as-pie sqaures and whoopie pies.  Vases of fresh, bright coloured flowers (orange ranunculus!) sit atop the shiny, round tables and soft, squishy cushions in orange, pink, and blue prints dot the sunny window seat at the front of the shop.

And speaking of this cushy window seat, I think D&B is so smart for putting their seating area here.  I know what you’re thinking.  It sounds like it’s common sense, right?  Not necessarily.  A cupcake shop could easily use the window area as a storefront display area or simply not offer seating at all.  The reason why I say this particular facet is smart and savvy is because any and all foot traffic can see people sitting down with their treats.  People had a clear view of me chomping on my cupcake and as such, this makes people curious, and it makes people want to come into the shop even more when they see you enjoying your heavenly dessert.  And people did.  Two families came straight in as soon as I sat down.

The bake shops feels simaltaneously contemporary and homey, paying homage to earlier decades of homemaking and baking with their many framed prints hanging on the walls around the shop.  Even with its clean and crisp, modern feel, it emotes happiness in such an innocent, carefree, kid-friendly way.  There are cute banners, cupcake and baking aprons, pastel colours, party supplies and goodies, stickers, and sweet trinkets in the shop waiting to be purchases and enjoyed by fellow sweets lovers.  And the beautiful cupcakes!  With sprinkles!  It’s like one big, happy kid birthday party.  And this is where I get to the part about why D&B has tugged at my heart strings the way that is has.

Growing up, I never really attended classmates’ and friends’ birthday parties and I never held one of my own.  I had a great childhood with some of the best memories I could hope for, but the birthday parties and the sleepovers and such never made it to my memory books and it’s always been something I’ve felt wistful about.  As such, just being inside the bake shop makes me feel like I’m at a special party, even if it’s just a cupcake party for one.  Desmond & Beatrice is a celebration of all things sweet and good in life and their shops makes you want to indulge a little bit, to remember how much fun it is getting excited over simple things like sprinkles and frosting and baking straight from the heart.

D&B has a rotating selection of cupcakes each and every day, featuring 6 flavours out of the eleventy billion they have.  Okay, so I’m exaggerating a little bit.  They don’t have eleventy billion flavours, but they do, in fact, have over 20 and they are mighty fine, mouthwatering flavours that make my mouth gape open like a foolish gawker.  Flavours such as mint cookies and cream, cookie dough, mint patty, earl grey, vanilla latte, and SO.MUCH.MORE.  On the day I went, they had vanilla on vanilla with sprinkles, chocolate on chocolate, red velvet with cream cheese frosting, coconut with cream cheese frosting, mint patty, and chocolate chocolate chip.

Cupcakes are $2.75 each, $16 for half a dozen, and $29 for one dozen and they are worth every penny.  My love for sprinkles won out and I decided to go simple this time around with the classic vanilla on vanilla.  And it was one of the most magical, wondrous cupcakes I had ever had.  Not just the most fantastical vanilla – but one of the BEST cupcakes EVER.

The vanilla on vanilla at D&B is one of the richest, purest vanillas and it is bang on what a vanilla cupcake should be.  I know some people equate vanilla with blandness and the flavour that doesn’t make waves, but I’m telling you, this cupcake will knock the knickers right off you and make you beg for more.  The cupcake is rich and creamy with soft cake and a river of adorable rainbow polka dot sprinkles trickling down the thick spirals of marshmallow-like frosting.  There is so much to love.

The ratio between cake and frosting is PERFECT (no need to scrape off excessive frosting or moan and groan about peewee dots of frosting on a mountain of bland cake), the vanilla flavour is consistent between frosting and cake (they match each other bite for bite), and it is gorgeous to look at.  The vanilla isn’t too weak, too overwhleming, or artificial and I think the level of sweetness is something that would satisfy everyone and the consistency, thickness, and texture of the frosting is definitely something I think everyone would enjoy.  Desmond & Beatrice have a cute framed print on their wall which reads, “You Are My Cup of Tea” – D&B is my cup of tea and the shop has reeled me as a life-long fan.

*****

Desmond & Beatrice Bake Shop and Cupcakery is located at 750 Queen Street East, just one block east of Broadview Ave. in the Riverside District.  They are open from Tuesday-Sunday (closed Mondays), from 12pm-6pm on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 11am-7pm on Thursdays and Fridays, 10am-5pm on Saturdays, and 11am-5pm on Sundays.

Swirled Cotton Candy and Fluffy Rainbow Clouds – Floating Around in Cupcake Heaven at Le Dolci

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Okay, so I’m a day late with the Vanilla Cupcake Day love, but I promise that this post is worth the extra 24 hour wait!  I don’t know if anyone keeps up with all the special and specific “food days” that come and go every year, but I was gobsmacked when I found out that all 365 days of the year celebrate a different kind of dish and confection!  It was the quite the head scratcher when I started seeing tweets on my Twitter feed about Donut Day, S’mores Day, and a host of other random food days.  I wondered, “how in the world do people know these things?!  And is every day a food day of some sort?” 

Enter my lovely, longtime friend Katrina @ The Demure Muse.  During the summer, she gave me this amazing, super fun book that’s dedicated to – you guessed it – 365 days of food!  Equipped with recipes for every day of the year, the book also includes a “calendar” that’s split up my month and tells you what each and every day is celebrating.  She knows I love food, she knows I love books, she knows I love to bake and putter in the kitchen – she knows me well. 

Yesterday, November 10th, was Vanilla Cupcake Day.  Oh, the humble vanilla cupcake.  So simple yet so delicious and deliciously complex!  Even though I love fudgy chocolate desserts like chocolate frosted cake, brownies, and Black Forest cake, I have to say that between vanilla cupcakes and chocolate cupcakes, vanilla edges out and takes the cake for me.  I love the flavour of vanilla frosting on top of a rich, fluffy golden vanilla cupcake.  I love my vanilla cupcakes fluffy as opposed to dense and cake crumbly, and I especially love vanilla frosted cupcakes adorned with tons of sprinkles!  My weakness is rainbow sprinkles, but I love chocolate sprinkles, crystal/coarse sugar, and anything bright, punchy, and colourful.  

If I had choose what type of vanilla combinations I enjoyed the most, I’d say vanilla cake with vanilla frosting, vanilla cake with lemon frosting, and vanilla cake with thick chocolate frosting.  I know it might sound weird, but I don’t enjoy the combination the other way around with vanilla frosting on chocolate cake quite as much.  It has to be the chocolate on top with the vanilla on the bottom if we’re talking about simple vanilla combos.  When you’re a cupcake lover, you can be very particular!

Vanilla cupcakes and lickably delicious vanilla buttercream frosting in a rainbow of colours are our specialities at Le Dolci and I’m so happy I get to post these photos because they were all done by yours truly!  We had an order of 2 dozen frosted cupcakes to do and my only limitation was to make the cupcakes pretty and fun.  Oh hell, no problem.  I got to choose the colours, the colour scheme, and the overall look.  Oh, this was going to be FUN! 

I was dying to use the gorgeous shade of lemon yellow frosting I had mixed up and I wanted the colour scheme to be airy, fluffy, and cute.  Yellow and blue go quite nice together, but I wanted more than two colours and thought, “Ooo, I’ll do some pink!  Pink, yellow, and aqua sky blue will make quasi rainbows!”  So there I was with my head up in the cupcake clouds of cupcake la-la land when I thought, “hmm, if I want this to look reeeally cute and fluffy, I’ll swirl the pink and blue together to make them look like cotton candy!”  I was so excited about the colour scheme I had to write it down before doing it for fear I would mess it up.  And after frosting them, I got to add some sparkle and glam by dusting edible glitter all over them!

These are the first regular-sized cupcakes I’ve ever frosted and decorated in my life (I’ve done minis before, remember these guys?) and it was SO.MUCH.FUN.  I used the star decorating tip to frost these and used three separate piping bags so I wouldn’t muddy or mix up the colours.  I used one piping bag to do the blue and the blue-and-pink cotton candy swirl, one piping bag to do the pink, and the third piping bag to do the yellow.  I’m right-handed, so I twist and keep the bag taut with my left hand while I squeeze and guide the piping with my right hand in a clockwise direction. 

With cupcake frosting, it’s actually not the piping that’s difficult.  The pain in the butt is actually filling the piping bag!  Whether you’re doing it for minis or regular-sized cupcakes, the filling of the piping bag is a tad on the messy and clumsy side, what with having to roll down the top, keeping the bag open, getting all the frosting in there without smearing it all over the place, and trying to get the frosting as close to the bottom of the bag as possible to prevent wasted frosting smeared up at the top.    After that though, it’s smooth sailing!

        

I’m so excited to experiment with other piping tips and other styles of piping frosting.  And with the holidays coming up, I’m positive there will be many more chances to have more decorating and piping fun with lots of fab colours.  I call these my happy, sunshiney, cotton candy, up in the clouds, My Little Pony-esque vanilla frosted cupcakes with sparkly fairy pixie dust! 😀

*****

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.

Hallowe’en Headquarters – A Spooky & Sweet Cupcake Lover’s Paradise! Lollicakes on Mount Pleasant Road

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Happy Hallowe’en everyone!  I hope everyone’s had a freakishly fun weekend and Hallowe’en day so far!  My Hallowe’en was spent snapping a gazillion photos for the blog today and looking at some of the cutest Hallowe’en treats and paraphernalia!  I may hop around the city on a regular basis, but I don’t think I’ve jumped on and off the subway and streetcar as much as I did today.  I was all over town hitting up some of my favourite places to capture the once-a-year occasion in all its orange-and-black glory.  I promised you all treats for tonight, so I’m here to deliver a nice helping of Hallowe’en posts, just in case you didn’t already fill up on sweet treats!  Kind of like the giddy emptying of a trick-or-treat bag 😀  Let’s get started!

Up first: Hallowe’en at Lollicakes!  Lollicakes is a cupcake bakery and merchandise retail shop located in uptown Toronto on Mount Pleasant Rd. just north of Davisville Ave.  If you’re the type of person who squeals over cupcakeries and the design and retail concept of “the cupcakery”, you will go bananas over Lollicakes because this shop is EVERYTHING CUPCAKE and more!  Do you like to collect cupcake related things?  Is your house or apartment adorned with cute cupcake kitchen tools, accessories, candles, photos, and recipe books?  Does the thought of outfitting your kitchen or room in true cupcake fashion make your heart flutter?  If you said yes to even one of those, you need to come here.  It is a cupcake haven.  Or heaven.  Or both.

Not only does Lollicakes sell fresh baked cupcakes on a daily basis, but they also sell all of the following: cupcake recipe books, wrappers, toppers, stands, trinket boxes, backpacks, makeup bags, picture frames, aprons, oven mitts, wallets, luggage tags, notepads, clipboards, paper stationery, cards, and cupcake and cookie baking tools and equipment.  You can pick your jaw up from off the floor now – it’s a cupcake dream come true.

Hallowe’en is awesome here at Lollicakes.  They have so many cute Hallowe’en related baking accessories and of course, Hallowe’en themed cupcakes and trinkets.  They have pumpkin trinket boxes, Hallowe’en cookie cutters, treat bags, and lots of sweet eats.  By the cash and counter today they had buckets and baskets of frosted cookies decorated like ghosts and jack-o-lanterns, chocolate covered R.I.P. treats on a stick, and plenty of frosted regular and mini cupcakes with Hallowe’en chocolate toppers and sprinkles!  Regular cupcakes are priced at $3 and mini ones come in at $2.  Granted, prices are higher if they come with the giant chocolate toppers, but if we’re talking about base price, those are the prices we’re working with.  This puts Lollicakes in the mid-to-higher range among other cupcakeries in the city.  The low-end (price-wise, not quality!) is around $2.50 and the high-end is about $3.25-$3.50.

Lollicakes is also the type of cupcakery that focus more on the asthetics than on flavour menus.  Every cupcake lover has their preferences.  Some love having 20 different flavours of cake and frosting to choose from while others find that type of system way too fussy and prefer having simple vanilla and chocolate cupcakes that are prettily decorated.  For the record though, Lollicakes does vanilla and chocolate cake and frosting, period.  Their vanilla buttercream frosting comes in a rainbow of colours and their cupcakes are often decorated with different kinds of sprinkles and sometimes fancy chocolate toppers.  For Hallowe’en, they had vanilla and chocolate cupcakes with orange, purple, and bright monster lime green frosting with colour coordinate sprinkles, as well as a cute silver tray of cupcakes with the Hallowe’en chocolate toppers already on them.  Eyeballs, skulls, skeleton hands, spiders and cobwebs, witches’ fingers, the whole shebang!  

My parents (and probably some friends) would be over the moon about Lollicakes because their cupcake confections are not too sweet.  If you’re the type of person who enjoys the idea of cupcakes but shudders at the thought of sickly sweet frosting and/or cake, you would most definitely breathe a sigh of relief when eating these because the sweetness level is a little lower.  With Lollicakes’ cupcakes, think fluffy.  Don’t think dense.  The frosting is thick but with a fluffy texture to it.  The vanilla flavour is subtly sweet and you don’t get any of the “butter” taste which is a good thing in my opinion.  The cake is incredibly soft.  If you prefer a denser cake, these probably aren’t for you but if you “mmm” at the thought of pillow-soft, airy fluffiness, these fit the bill.  I think a lot of cupcake devotees will either love them or hate them.  If you enjoy sugary sweetness with thickness and density and heavy vanilla flavour, you won’t enjoy these.  However, if you’re like my parents and can’t stand that type of texture and strength in sweetness, these are more your speed.

One of the things I really adore about Lollicakes shop is how it isn’t age-specific.  Even though they have cute, kid-friendly items, it’s the type of shop that doesn’t alienate its older cilentele.  There’s something for every type of cupcake lover here: the collector, the interior decorator, the beginner, everyone.  You can find cupcake items in other stores, but to have an entire shop dedicated to cupcake things alone in this capacity with this type of selection is rare.  They have items here I’ve never seen at other places and I think it functions as a fabulous gift shop for birthdays and holidays.  Part of me whimpers every time I leave the shop though because everything is so darn cute and in my opinion, perfect for my own house.  One of these days I’m going to end up living in a house just like Hansel and Gretel and then I’ll really be in trouble.

 

*****

Lollicakes is located at 559 Mount Pleasant Rd. just north of Davisville Ave.