Edmonton Bakery Review: The Art of Cake

One of the displays at The Art of Cake shop.

One of the displays at The Art of Cake shop.

As I’ve grown, my appreciation of food has, too. I can cook and bake well enough, but I don’t really have that touch. Not yet, anyway. Some people learn from a really young age, some are just naturally good at nurturing and cooking, but not everyone has what it takes to venture out on their own and make a living from it. Gloria Bednarz and Guenter Hess, pastry chefs and owners of The Art of Cake, took the leap and have made a nice niche for themselves in Edmonton over the last few years.

I first learned about The Art of Cake about five years ago when my friend Alexis announced she was getting married. Gloria, being her aunt, was going to be making her cake, so I was lucky enough to try a few of them at both Alexis’ engagement party and her wedding. Unfortunately, I don’t recall the flavours that they opted for, but I do remember that the cake itself was absolutely delectable, moist, dense and not overly sweet. Most memorable was the look of the 4 or 5 tier cake, which had been covered in a white chocolate fondant that had been rolled and applied to look like the petals of a flower – delicate and beautiful – with the final touches being fresh gerbera daisies.

Alexis and Ryan's beautiful wedding cake!

Alexis and Ryan’s beautiful wedding cake!

Their independent business has built up a good reputation since it was established. Named to Avenue Edmonton‘s list of 25 Best Things to Eat 2012 and The Tomato‘s list of the top 100 best things to eat and drink in Edmonton for 2013, it’s obvious that they have a big fan base here. So, lo and behold my excitement when I walked through City Centre mall during my coffee break back in July and found their new shop in the basement level by the food court (next to Caffè Sorrentino). I was so excited that I could finally try some of their touted old-fashioned coconut macaroons – the item that kept getting mentioned in all these articles – without going out of my way.

The shop, for the most part, retains the layout created by the previous tenant, Big City Cupcakes. Simple and sleek, the store keeps a largely white palette, allowing the desserts, wedding cakes, tiers of mini cupcakes and large canvas imagery to steal the show. The Art of Cake’s tagline is “Nostalgic Artisan Baking” and it’s easy to see that they’ve made the choice to keep things to the basics. Everything is wonderfully presented with a vintage feel that fits the classic offerings, but nothing is overdone.

On our first visit, my break companion and I were happily greeted by Dawn who keeps watch of the store. Even though I walked in fully ready to purchase a Friday snack, she plied us with samples of blueberry cake and fluffy cruellers. I tried each one and both were delicious, but the blueberry cake would be my choice between the two. In the end, I opted for a carrot cupcake. Having been recommended by Alexis and also one of my favourite cakes, there was no question about it. The cake was soft, but it didn’t fall apart when eaten and the flavours were good as they refrained from using too many spices. The icing was unexpectedly subtle as well. It still had a bit of a cream cheese taste to it, but instead of being heavy, it was closer to a buttercream frosting, making it smooth and much lighter. I could tell that it was made fresh that day and everything tasted natural.

Our second trip was my chance to try their coconut macaroons. I forgot to buy them the first time around, but that’s okay because it was an excuse for me to go back. Plus, I think it’s better to spread out all these indulgent desserts. Packaged in groups of 6, the macaroons were larger than I thought they would be, and the bottoms of each macaroon were lightly spread with dark chocolate. The outside was nicely browned on the edges, providing that slight crunch when first bitten into, but breaking away into a moist and chewy center. My friend walked away with a couple “Elvis” peanut butter bacon cupcakes, which she tells me were very yummy.

The third time around I bought myself a shortbread cookie and a slice of banana cake. The shortbread was super buttery and melt-in-your-mouth with a small dollop of raspberry jam on top. It was delicious. Honestly, sometimes a good shortbread cookie is all you need. I found the banana cake to be heavier than the blueberry cake. It’s covered with a thick layer of brown sugar icing that I could have used a little less of, but doesn’t take away from it overall. Thankfully, their cakes seem to have little excess grease and this particular one was filled with the perfect proportion of semi-sweet chocolate chips making for a lip-smacking, albeit, sweet lunch substitute.

A lemon poppyseed cupcake with raspberry icing - the September feature - bought for my friend's birthday.

A lemon poppyseed cupcake with raspberry icing – the September feature – bought for my friend’s birthday.

I’ve stopped by to check out the dessert cases a couple more times since. In addition to everything I’ve mentioned so far, they seem to have muffins, cookie packs, cake pops and housemade jube jubes (covered in white chocolate and shredded coconut) readily available. Cupcakes come in an assortment of flavours and are offered in both regular and mini sizes, and you can also order single tier cakes through the shop.

If you’re looking for a bakery that can cater to your wedding needs, a special event, or cravings for your sweet tooth during the work week doldrums, I highly recommend you stop by The Art of Cake. Although, at this point in my life, I’m not expecting to get married any time soon, I’ll continue to keep them in mind for when I do…one day. In the meantime, they’ll be one of my go to places for when I need a pick-me-up.

Consider The Art of Cake for your wedding, special event or just because!

Consider The Art of Cake for your wedding, special event or just because!

For a more in-depth look at this establishment, visit The Local Good to read my profile of The Art of Cake

Edmonton Bakers Make Life Brighter

Joint Photo

Left: Tiramisu cupcakes from Beyond The Bowl Baking
Right: Lemon cupcakes from Cupcakes by Courtney

I’ve been fighting a cold these last seven days. And it’s starting to take its toll, especially because it’s a week before I leave for a trip to see The Rolling Stones. I don’t want to be sick during my holiday, so I’m doing my best to get rid of it, but without the help of meds. I’m drinking plenty of fluids and rinsing with Listerine. However, it’s persisting and maybe it’s because my busy schedule isn’t really allowing me the rest or sleep I should be striving for. Sometimes settling down for a bit and having a nap is a good thing for us. While I know this probably won’t happen today, I wish I could sit on the couch and just veg out with a plate of cupcakes and some movies or a book. That, for me, would be a day of heaven.

Cupcakes really help to brighten my day and I’m certain that others feel the same way. I count myself as a connoisseur of the delightful treats, and in my home city of Edmonton, Alberta I have tried the majority of the cupcake shops in town (thank you Groupon and all the other deal sites for contributing to any weight I may or may not have gained over the last few years). Some of the shops I’ve bought from have been great and others could certainly use improvements.

Yet I’m currently counting myself lucky because I now not only know just one, but two bakers who have ventured into the world of cupcake creations over the last year! I share them with you in the hopes that you will find the perfect dessert for your upcoming celebrations or your own personal indulgences.

Both ladies bake part-time outside of their full-time jobs, so if you would like to order anything from them, a few days notice would be great.

Cupcakes by Courtney is the first.

Courtney

Courtney of Cupcakes by Courtney

Courtney really started baking for others last fall with a few trusty recipes including Red Velvet and Irish Car Bombs and has been experimenting with new flavours ever since. She is a fellow bridesmaid in our friend’s wedding this coming August and will be providing peacock themed cupcakes for the reception in place of a traditional cake. We did a tasting one evening and the chocolate cake with whisky chocolate ganache filling and white chocolate cream cheese icing was the winner! Other delicious sounding flavours include:

Cinnamon-Sugar

Cinnamon sugar cupcakes

Coconut cupcakes

Coconut cupcakes

Grapefruit Chiffon with Grapefruit Cream Cheese Icing

Grapefruit cupcakes with grapefruit cream cheese icing

Triple Chocolate with Jack Daniel's Whiskey Ganache Filling and White Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream Icing

Triple chocolate cupcakes with JD’s whiskey ganache filling and white chocolate swiss meringue buttercream icing

Red Velvet and Lemon Cake Pops

Mix of red velvet and lemom cake pops

Courtney also makes beautiful cake pops for those who prefer a sweet in a bite-sized package. I believe she can also do some cakes sugar or butter free. Please inquire with her for specifics.

Additional information can be found on her Facebook page by clicking the link above her image. You may also contact Courtney by e-mail at courtneys355@hotmail.com or phone her at 780-288-5249.

The second is Beyond the Bowl Baking.

Bev

Bev of Beyond the Bowl Baking

I’ve worked with Bev for a few years now. She heads the United Way committee at our office and as a group we’ve been holding bake sales annually in which Bev’s cakes are the undisputed star. They get snapped up within minutes of the table opening, so it just makes sense for Bev to bring her baking prowess to the masses. She’s worked hard to expand her recipes for her launch this April and I have been lucky to be one of her few product taste testers. I will tell you that, without a doubt, you will not be disappointed.

A new flavour seems to come out every week or so (like the fairy godmother of baked goods I probably gain a pound just smelling one, but it’s worth it – just eat healthy the rest of the week!) and each one becomes my new favourite.

Bev’s uniquely filled cupcakes are moist, deliciously flavourful and topped with the perfect amount of frosting. Here are some samples of what she’s got on her order form right now (the list is growing!):

Chocolate Raspberry

Chocolate cupcake with raspberry cream cheese frosting

Peaches Supreme

Peaches Supreme cupcake

Root Beer

Root Beer cupcakes – these are amazing if you love this soft drink

Cinnamon Bun Cupcake

Cinnamon bun cupcake

Mango Coconut topped with Mango-Coconut Rum Frosting and Dried Mango

Mango coconut cupcakes topped with mango coconut rum frosting and dried mango

Chocolate Infused with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting topped with Chocolate Shards and Bubble Sugar

Chocolate infused cupcakes with chocolate cream cheese frosting topped with chocolate and bubble sugar shards

Bev also makes some slab cakes. I would highly recommend her pumpkin cake (my personal favourite) and her Guiness gingerbread ones.

Her order form includes pricing: BtBB 2013. If you would like to place an order, please fill it out and e-mail to Bev at beyondthebowlbaking@gmail.com. You may also click on the link above her photo to view her Facebook page.

I hope that these cupcakes bring happiness to your best days and perhaps even your worst. People always ask me why I love these single serving desserts (I was probably obsessed with trying every one I could get my hands on for a time) and I think it’s because they bring a little sunshine into my life. And, I believe that’s something that the world can use more of.

Photo sources: Cupcakes by Courtney images were all borrowed from her Facebook page and taken by her husband, Pat. Solo cupcakes from Beyond the Bowl Baking were snapped by me. All other images of cupcakes from Beyond the Bowl Baking came from Bev’s Facebook page.