Will We Ever Meet Again? My Box of “Goodbye” Macarons From Cake Royalty Boutique, Cake Opera Co. on Eglinton West

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My beautiful box of macaron treaures

I have some bad news.

I know, how could anything concerning macarons be bad news?!  No, I didn’t drop a box and smash them.  Or come across any that I disliked.  Or lose my photos.  Nothing like that.  It’s worse.  Trust me, I was debating on making this post at all but figured it couldn’t hurt because no matter what, someone will most likely enjoy it or find it useful in some way.  If anything, I posted photos for everyone to admire and drool over!  It’s one of the reasons why I made the photo spotlight post on Cake Opera earlier in the week.  Okay, so back to the bad news.  It’s bad news when you find some of the yummiest macarons ever and find out that it will most likely be the only time you’ll ever get to eat them because the day you bought them is the last day they’ll ever be sold in their beautiful display cases.

It’s hard to say goodbye…

I don’t know what it is with my timing and luck lately!   Cake Opera has been on my mind and in my sights for months upon months and each time I passed by the boutique, I’d say, “I’ll come back” or “next time, really!”.  I finally made the commitment to visit the majestic cake and confections shop on Eglinton West last week, only to find a giant sign hanging in their front display window saying that October 13 would be their last day selling retail sweets and treats.  That October 13 would be the last day to enjoy their shortbread cookies, their petit gateaux, their cupcakes, and their macarons outside of catering events and custom orders.  That, in essence, Cake Opera was no longer going to operate as a retail bakery but instead, solely as a cake boutique specializing in custom orders, event catering, and wedding consultations.  Which means no spontaneous drop-ins for a cupcake or a box of macarons.

I cannot believe my rotten luck.

1st column on the left, top to bottom: pistachio, roasted hazelnut, vanilla orange blossom. 2nd column on the right, top to bottom: coffee, vanilla orange blossom, raspberry rose.

I mean, I know it would have been inevitable.  My going to Cake Opera earlier on in the year for their petit gateaux and macarons wouldn’t have prevented this from happening.  But I do feel awful because at least if I had visited the shop earlier, all of you would have known about it sooner and maybe would have had the chance to try them yourself.  But it’s too late now.  Sigh.

So, what’s the silver lining in all of this?  Well, this certainly promotes Cake Opera as a viable wedding and catering resource!  And just look at how absolutely gorgeous and stunning the boutique is!  It’s like walking into a space inspired by and dripping with royalty, luxury, and Marie Antoinette.  And just think, Cake Opera does custom macaron and cake table designs for special events so if you’re looking for a look that’s very artistic, classy, beautiful, and/or avant garde, their style and designs would be perfect.  I know many people who really dig the macaron trees and having them incorporated into centerpieces, sweets and buffet tables, and displays.

The macarons at Cake Opera, priced at only $2 each, are bathed in shades of red, peach, ballet slipper pink, and crisp white with luscious, creamy fillings.  Their macaron menu consists of 8 flavours: dark chocolate, dulce de leche & cinnamon, pistachio, salted caramel, vanilla orange blossom, raspberry rose, roasted hazelnut, and coffee.  On that last day of retail bliss, Cake Opera’s pastry Jessica had 5 of the 8 flavours whipped up and I helped myself to one of each with a duplicate to create my pretty box of six: pistachio, vanilla orange blossom (x2), raspberry rose, roasted hazelnut, and coffee.

Cake Opera’s macarons are so incredibly delicate and crisp on the outside and so creamy and generous in filling on the inside!  I don’t think I’ve ever had macarons with such so much amazing filling.  Every bite was truly like a bite of heaven and out of the 5 flavours that I had, hands down, the vanilla orange blossom was my be-all, end-all favourite.  You will never come across another flavour like it.  It was bright, fresh, citrusy, sweet, and creamy with vanilla.  Comparing it to a creamsicle doesn’t even do it justice.  And right behind the vanilla orange blossom would be the coffee and roasted hazelnut flavours followed by the raspberry rose which tasted like sweet and fruity floral rosewater.  These are truly exceptional macarons and while I know we can’t go into the shop to grab little boxes of them anymore, hopefully some of you will have the opportunity to try them some time in the future if you decide to consult them for an event.  Enjoy the photos!

*****

Cake Opera Co. is a cake boutique that brings macarons, cakes, and French pastries to life through art and design.  They are located at 1136 Eglinton Ave. West., just several blocks east of Eglinton West subway station on the north side of Eglinton Ave.

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Here Comes the Cupcake Bride! Scrapbooking The Wedding Cake Shoppe

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The new spring season means fresh new scrapbook layouts and a spring cleaning mentality!  I was so excited to do a layout completely devoted to bright pastels and best of all, I got to break out my sweet treat cardstock and matching stickers and embellishments by my favourite scrapbooking brand, DCWV (Die Cuts With a View)!  It was like stumbling on treasure when I found the sticker, embellishment, and rub-on set of cupcakes, candies, and sweet in a rainbow of colours during a random trip to Winners last year, and I’ve been holding on them for the perfect layout.  I haven’t purchased any new scrapbook materials in months and I’ve been doing a pretty decent job of using up my very large stash of scrapbooking goodies!  It’s always so tempting buying new things for future layouts, but it feels even greater using up things I already have and being forced to be creative with only those materials.

Cupcakes are always so much fun to scrapbook but this layout I did of The Wedding Cake Shoppe was special in a different way.  The Wedding Cake Shoppe is a visual representation of memories, the passing of time, and the documentation of milestones – in this case, weddings!  At this point in my life, there’s wedding fun and happiness (and yes, stress!) all around me as friends get engaged, plan and have weddings, and attend as wedding party guests.  Each person has their own unique way of memoralizing this new chapter in their lives whether its through photos, wedding favours, videos, cards, or memory boxes. 

The Wedding Cake Shoppe captures the essence of this through visual cues throughout their space.  In the shop, there are wedding magazines on magazine racks, dainty framed photos of wedding magazine covers and pages, past and present, in crisp white lacquered frames, and beautifully decorated wedding cakes in styles that span the decades.

What really warmed my heart though during that first visit was an entire bottom wall by the front window display solely devoted to, and covered in, wedding thank you cards from happy brides, newlyweds, and Wedding Cake Shoppe customers.  Each and every one of these special points of reference inside the wedding cake and cupcake shop tells a story, a story about the role weddings have played in our society at different points in time and the cultural significance in using food to celebrate and symbolically represent this occasion.  Finally, it demonstrates the joy we have in capturing and preserving special moments in our lives through photographs, scrapbooking, and decor, and sharing this joy with those around us.  

*****

Scrapbooking materials used: teal cardstock (Best Occasions); watermelon pink, lavender, pale pink and yellow, and powder blue cardstock (Recollections); dessert printed cardstock (The Sweet Stack with glitter by DCWV); cupcake, candy, and dessert stickers and embellishments (The Sweet Stack embellishment pack by DCWV); rhinestone embellishment (Crafts by Dollarama); pink scalloped lace heart stickers (Martha Stewart Crafts); vintage postcard patterned paper; black and white floral patterned paper; blue and white speckle dotted patterned paper; pink and blue plaid patterned paper; powder blue, yellow, and gold floral paisley patterned paper (Anna Griffin); wedding cake stickers (Sticko); brown twine; medium scallop circle paper punch (ek success).

The Wedding Cake Shoppe is located at 859 College Street, just west of Ossington Ave.  They are open 6 days a week (closed on Tuesdays) and their weekday hours are from 11am-7pm, weekend hours from 11am-5pm.  You can check out their official website here, and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Petal Pink and Summer Strawberry Cupcakes – Making Cupcake Memories at The Wedding Cake Shoppe, Part II

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Party-ready cake and cupcake stands, sweet-as-can-be cupcake tags and decorations, and fresh flowers in water at every table – The Wedding Cake Shoppe is a bright and fresh wedding cake and cupcake emporium with enough whimsy and happiness to brighten even the cloudiest of days.  The Wedding Cake Shoppe, as a wedding cake decorating company, has been in operation for 7 years, while the retail storefront located on College Street just west of Ossington Ave., is celebrating its 3rd in Toronto later on this month.  Sisters Cindy and Sarah Coelho are the pastry chefs, artists, and brains behind the business and I was lucky enough to chat with Cindy during my time at the shop where we talked about cupcakes (surprise, surprise!), our passions and work, and swiss meringue buttercream! 

Although the shop is known for its beautiful, larger-than-life wedding cakes, cupcakes happily share some of that limelight.  Awash in pastels, cute polka dots, and swiss dots, the shop has over 20 different rotating flavours of cupcake cake and frosting to satisfy every kind of sweet tooth.  Chocoholic?  Check.  Fruity tooty?  Check.  Coffee drink addict?  Check, check, and check.  What sets The Wedding Cake Shoppe’s cupcakes apart from many other bakeries in the city is its use of different buttercreams and frostings.  While many shops and businesses mainly stick to one or two types of frosting, Cindy and Sarah use a mix of cream cheese frosting, chocolate ganache, and swiss meringue buttercream to frost their cupcakes, making their cupcakes more fluffy, whipped, and airy as opposed to thick and sickly sweet.

In a nutshell, swiss meringue buttercream is a frosting that requires more time, technical skill, and careful observation to prepare than American buttercream (icing sugar + butter) because of its use of egg whites.  Egg whites are whisked into a bowl of granulated white sugar (notice the absence of icing or confectioners sugar; big difference!) set over a simmering pot of water.  The sugar and egg white mixture is then whisked in a mixer to create a meringue base.  This meringue base is then mixed with butter and flavouring (fruit, extracts, whatever your heart desires) to form a smooth, velvety, swiss meringue buttercream.

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Spring Pastels and Sprinkles Abound – Cupcakes & Cakes at The Wedding Cake Shoppe, Part I

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With balmy spring weather hitting the city and Easter just around the corner, everything is looking brighter, fresher, and happier and that sentiment certainly includes cupcakes and cupcake shop storefronts!  The cupcake shop tour continues on Ate by Ate and with a new season upon us (and Oreo’s year-long birthday party!), I think things are going to get even more delicious and aesthetically beautiful in the next few months.  I have admired The Wedding Cake Shoppe’s menu of cupcakes from afar for so long and I have spent many an hour daydreaming about which cupcake flavours I would love to devour the most (for starters, the green tea, the spicy chai latte, and the cappuccino), not to mention using their cupcake flavours as inspiration for new and upcoming series on the blog.  Before my first visit, I thought a lot about these cupcakes.  To the point where I was mentally putting together half dozen boxes in my head.  It was bad. 

When I first found out about the shop months and months ago, I wasn’t sure how large the cupcake selection would be, or whether or not the cupcakes would be accessible to the public on a drop-in sort of basis.  Would they have more than the usual vanilla and chocolate options?  Would I be able to pop in to just buy one?  Or was it the type of business that was solely devoted to catering and big bulk orders?  After all, the shop was named The Wedding Cake Shoppe for a reason!  I had faced situations in the past where I was so sure I had hit pay dirt with a new bakery discovery only to find out that, well, cupcakes really weren’t all that present and that I would have absolutely no material to photograph or write about.  Or that individual cupcakes weren’t for sale and that the minimum purchase had to be dozen.  Which is fine – just not during the times I only feel like one. 

After doing a quick search online, all my questions were answered and all my reservations were blown out the window.  I was gobsmacked to find out they had even more flavours than some of the cupcake exclusive bakeries in town!  And that I could go walk in and pick out a cupcake at my leisure!  This visit was a long time coming  and it was everything I could have hoped for.  I left feeling even more inspired than before and with so much more appreciation for the artistry and chemistry, even, behind cakes and pastry in general.  Visiting cupcakeries around the city is just as much a treat for the eyes as it is for the stomach and The Wedding Cake Shoppe is beautiful inside and out.  I’m excited to share my full write-up with you all tomorrow and all the sweet and delicious goods.  Here is a photo spotlight and the first part of my two-part series on The Wedding Cake Shoppe!

*****

The Wedding Cake Shoppe is located at 859 College Street, just west of Ossington Ave.  They are open 6 days a week (closed on Tuesdays) and their weekday hours are from 11am-7pm, weekend hours from 11am-5pm.  You can check out their official website here, and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Bright Green Chocolate Candy Cane Macarons & Christmas Tree Shortbread Cookies – Bobbette & Belle, Part I

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If there was a pastry shop, cupcakery, and macaron heaven fit for a princess here in Toronto, Bobbette & Belle would be it!  Ever since I found out about Allyson Bobbitt and Sarah Bell’s queendom of sweets from Where Toronto magazine months and months ago, I’ve been envisioning pastel colours and chocolate cookie biscuits and macarons and pastries and beautiful shop that would render me speechless.  Or at the very least a hushed, “Oooo” and “ahhh”.  And “Oooo” and “ahhh” I did.  After passing by Bobbette & Belle on the Queen streetcar more times than I can count on the fingers of my hand, I made the trip especially for the holidays and I squealed as I stepped inside the beautiful shop.  Wreaths!  A Christmas tree!  Poinsettias!  Edible Christmas gifts!  HOT CHOCOLATE, CUPCAKES, AND MACARONS.  I wanted to sprinkle flower petals while pirouetting around the lovely shop.  Oh, this was going to be fun.

Located in Leslieville, Bobbette & Belle’s pastry shop is beautiful, plain and simple.  The spacious interior oozes romantic, floral, Victorian, cozy, and modern rustic with its plush arm chairs, coffee table, couch, long wooden bench tables, large wooden communal table (perfect for cake order consultations!), stools, and shelves lined with sweets, gifts, and B&B’s gorgeous decorated cakes and wedding cakes.  The space is illuminated by natural light streaming in from the front and side windows and you feel like you’ve walked into a pretty in pink music box fairy land with dainty, feminine framed art on the walls.

Don’t be completely fooled by the flowers and bows though; behind the sweetness lies a subtle touch of fun attitude.  Nothing says “we are bakers and pastry chefs, we love sweets, and we’re damn proud of it!” like the framed criss-crossed whipping whisks!  Aside from those framed whisks, my favourite thing in the shop is a giant framed print listing some of Toronto’s popular neighbourhoods in big block letters on a turquoise background.  It’s bold, it’s punchy, and it makes it known that Toronto is home to B&B.

I know many have been to Bobbette & Belle and I know a number of people who’ve done plenty of press on them, featuring photos of cupcakes, macarons, and other sweet confections.  I never feel contrived though when writing about such popular places such as Bobbette & Belle because the perspective and feeling will always be different.  It doesn’t matter how many people know about them, how many times they’ve been showcased in media outlets, or how many photos I see of their products.  Everyone’s experience is their own and that’s why I don’t mind writing about places that probably seem like old-hat to others because what’s familiar and known to some is exciting and new for me, and vice versa.  Things continously and consistently change and even though I feel like I’m late to the party half the time, I feel like this blog is my way of seeing things with fresh eyes and for Christmas, I finally got to see B&B up close and in person.

Although French macarons are at the heart of Bobbette & Belle’s creation and birth, the shop specializes in professionally decorated cakes and wedding cakes, cupcakes, cookies, meringues, tarts, whoopie pies, and plenty of sweet pastries.  Along one wall you’ll find B&B’s retail section where you can pick up already packaged yummies and gifts including meringues (candy cane ones for the holidays!), marshmallows, cookies, and more.  Their selection of sweet delights include creamy buttercream frosted cupcakes ($2.95) in flavours such as mango passionfruit, apple spice, espresso, pumpkin, and lemon among others. 

They also had cake stands filled with blueberry scones ($3.25), pumpkin tarts ($3.75), toffee pudding ($3.75), Christmas shortbread cookies ($1.00 for small ones, $1.25 for large ones), chocolate peanut butter whoopie pies, vanilla raspberry whoopie pies, custards, tarts, and Christmas cupcakes for holiday orders in the glass display case, and of course, macarons!  Priced at $2 a piece (which is very reasonable and average priced across the board), flavorus include milk chocolate salted caramel, gingerbread, dark chocolate hazelnut, pistachio, and my pick for the day, chocolate candy cane!

I know most of you would have expected me to inhale a cupcake because I love cupcakes and would eat them every day if the opportunity presented itself, but there’s always a time to be unpredictable.  I went against the grain and instead of a cupcake, I had me a Christmas tree shaped shortbread cookie and a bright, vibrant green chocolate candy cane macaron instead!  C’mon, Christmas themed macarons?!  I would be a fool not to introduce one of those to my sweet teeth. 

The chocolate ganache filling was wonderfully thick and fudgy and rich without being overly sweet, overly bitter, or overly anything!  If I had to compare the chocolate filling to anything, I would say it tastes like soft, fudgy brownies.  I absolutely adored the shade of green used for the candy cane flavoured meringue shells and I really appreciated the subtley in candy cane flavour.  The flavour pattern was like a gradient, where it started off subtle and then gradually became stronger as you bit closer to the center of the macaron.

It was a perfect marriage between chocolate and candy cane flavour because the macaron wasn’t overpowered with stingy peppermint and the candy cane flavour had a bit of sweetness to it that I loved.  Some people might like that breathy pepperminty feeling, but I don’t prefer it because it ends up tasting like frozen ginger mixed with mouthwash and all the dessert-like sweetness flys out the window.  And a macaron must be sweet and decadent!  Even when savoury flavours are mixed in, when you eat a macaron it has to feel like you’re eating a dessert, and it has to taste crispy on the outside and airy light just beneath the surface.  The melt-in-your-mouth aspect was bang on and that egg-shell delicacy was definitely there.  I know.  I accidentally nudged the macaron downward with my knuckle (don’t ask!) and heard an egg-shell like crack that reverberated in my ears as I gasped and quickly turned the macaron over to hide the dirty deed.  Sigh.  Anything for a pretty photo.

I have Part II for you all tomorrow and to give you a hint as to what sweet something something I’m showing off, it’s something chocolatey and toasty.  Very toasty 😉  Have a sweet one, everyone.

*****

Bobbette & Belle is located at 1121 Queen Street East, just east of Jones Ave.  They are open 7 days a week from 7:30am-6:30pm Monday-Friday, 9am-6pm on Saturday, and 9am-5pm on Sunday.  These are their holiday operating hours and they will be closed on the 25th, 26th, and 27th, as well as on January 1st and 2nd.  Visit their website here for product descriptions, information on orders, and photos.