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

#26ActsofKindness and Beyond

On Dec. 14, a tragedy took place in Newtown, Connecticut at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. A shooter, for reasons unknown, decided to take the life of his mother and then the lives of twenty children and six of their teachers in a rampage that is too hard to fathom. In honour and remembrance of those lost too soon, Ann Curry from NBC News took to twitter on Dec. 16 to ask if others would commit to twenty acts of kindness, one for every child taken. That snowballed into 26 (#26Acts or #26ActsofKindness), 27 and even 28 from those who wanted to take part.

This request came at a time of year when people are often feeling generous, loving and kind towards one another, usually more so than the rest of the year. And, though this holiday season is coming near an end for another year, the goodwill that is so abundant doesn’t need to stop.

I don’t believe what Ann Curry (@AnnCurry) came up with is anything new, but, regardless, the point of her idea is to spread joy in this world rather than hate or hurt, and I think that this is important for all of humanity to adhere to. If each of us can bring just an iota of happiness to one person, maybe that would be the key to preventing such horrible occurrences in the future. This can be a better world if we take the steps to make it so.

In an effort to get you started on your acts of kindness (random or not), which I hope will continue past twenty six, here are a number of small and big things that you can do.

1) Hold the door open for someone.

A simple gesture that is usually appreciated.

2) Donate toys and clothes that are no longer being used to a shelter.

3) Donate non-perishable food items to the food bank.

4) Babysit your friend’s kids, so he/she can have a night off.

It might not be your idea of a great night, but your friend will love you for giving up your day or evening so they can have a bit of a break.

It might not be your idea of a great night, but your friend will love you for giving up your day or evening so they can have a bit of a break.

5) All too often, what others do goes unnoticed. Recognize and acknowledge someone else’s hard work.

6) Donate a bus ride. Edmonton Transit System has a program. Maybe your city does as well.

7) Bake cookies for your co-workers.

My favourite kind of cookies!

My favourite kind of cookies!

8) If you have long hair, consider donating some of it towards wigs for cancer patients.

9) Smile and say good morning to a stranger, co-worker or friend.

10) Help carry someone’s bags.

Kids always want to help. We should emulate them.

Kids always want to help. We should emulate them.

11) Truly listen to people when they’re talking to you. You never know what you’ll learn or how you might be able to help if you don’t take the time to absorb what they’re saying.

12) When a co-worker is swamped with work and you’re not, offer to help them out.

13) #FF (Follow Friday) your Twitter friends.

If you think someone is worth following on Twitter, don't hog them to yourself. Share with others!

If you think someone is worth following on Twitter, don’t hog them to yourself. Share with others! But, make sure to give reasons why they should do so.

14) Clear away shopping carts that are blocking parking spots.

15) Surprise a friend by paying for their lunch, too.

16) Buy coffee for the next person in line.

They'll be glad for the free morning pick-me-up!

They’ll be glad for the free morning pick-me-up!

17) Volunteer at a non-profit agency.

18) Help your parents by picking up their groceries, cleaning their house, doing their yard, etc. Whatever they need and you’re able to do, even if it’s small, will be appreciated.

19) If you’re buying a cart full of groceries and the person behind you only has a few items, let them go first. They’ll be thankful they don’t have to wait so long and it will only keep you for a few more minutes.

Shopping cart

Those with a few items will appreciate your willingness to let them butt in front of you.

20) If you’re done with you shopping cart at the grocery store and someone else needs one, let them have it and your quarter.

21) If a friend is moving, offer to help them pack up their stuff or transport their things.

22) Drop off a care package and some homemade chicken noodle soup for a friend who’s feeling under the weather.

Chicken soup for the soul is always comforting.

Chicken soup for the soul is always comforting.

23) Support local artists by buying, viewing or listening to their work.

24) Give away a gift card you received to someone who needs it more.

25) Sometimes we take people for granted. Thank someone if they do something for you.

We often don't say this enough.

We often don’t say this enough.

26) Leave positive notes in random places for people to find.

27) Donate a party dress for upcoming graduates who may not be able to afford something on their own. There are various projects in many cities. Google to find one near you.

28) Adopt a pet from the local animal shelter.

Improve your emotional well being and provide a home.

Improve your emotional well being and provide a home.

29) Be a snow angel and shovel a neighbours walkway and driveway or clear off their car.

30) Donate blood.

31) Tell someone special how much you care about them.

This is something a lot of people forget to do. Don't leave it until it's too late.

This is something a lot of people forget to do. Don’t leave it until it’s too late.

32) On the road, let someone merge into your lane if they need to.

33) Help someone bag their groceries at self-checkout.

34) Hug a friend.

Getting a hug always makes me feel special and brightens my day!

Getting a hug always makes me feel special and brightens my day!

35) Set aside $1 a day for a year and once you’ve collected the $365 donate it to the charity or agency of your choice.

36) Send a care package to a friend or family member who is far away from home.

37) Light candles in honour of those who have passed.

Each flame is representative of the soul of someone meaningful to you.

Each flame is representative of the soul of someone meaningful to you.

38) If your parking ticket hasn’t expired, pass it onto someone who can still use it.

39) Be a mentor.

40) Help someone wrap gifts, decorate for a party or bake a birthday cake. Or bake a cake for your best friend just because.

I love coconut anything.

I love coconut anything.

41) Be kind to yourself. Sometimes we worry so much about others that we forget to take care of ourselves.

This list is by no means comprehensive. However, I included whatever I was able to think of over the last few days. I tried to come up with a variety of things – some might require a bit of money, but most can be done without. It’s all about the gestures and paying it forward.

If you have other ideas to add, please share them in the comments section below.

Peace and Love,

Crystal