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

Feeling Nostalgic

1950’s Oceanic Surcouf French Valve Radio

I am currently the teaching assistant for a course about using and managing communication technologies. Essentially the class covers the history of the subject and a couple of weeks ago the topic up for discussion was the radio. The professor asked each of the students to share their memories of the technology in the hopes of finding someone else who related to the medium on an ethereal and intimate level just as he had as a child.

Growing up in a time when television played a larger role in my childhood and the computer was becoming the norm, I didn’t quite fit the bill of a radio listener. In fact, I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with the format. You can’t choose what you listen to and the advertisements bothered me to no end because it seemed like when one station had them on, every other station did as well. But, after reading some of the responses from the students, I saw how important the radio was to them. It presented an escape for them when there was nothing else at their disposal. The radio triggered their imagination with one student recalling how they listened to hockey games and the play-by-plays made them feel like they were actually there seeing the game live and in-person.

This discussion made me think about how I sometimes long for a previous time in my life. I’m feeling more and more lately like we’re inundated with too much information and that we’re too accessible. We’re constantly tethered to devices and people. Instead of separating personal and work lives, we’re available through our smart phones at all times. Since when did it become okay for work to seep into evenings and weekends?

I wish I still had the time to sit in my living room creating the perfect mix tapes like I did when I was a teenager. I’d pick out the songs and time it all so that I could get the most out of both sides. How many of you remember doing that?

When I didn’t have a care in the world, I would re-watch a movie over and over again until I memorized all the lines. I did that with Legally Blonde and Zoolander. But, then you grow up and there never seems to be enough time to do the laundry and the dishes, fit a workout in, pay the bills, run your errands or walk the dog, among a million other things. For many people, that carefree feeling that we used to have somehow goes out the door as we get older.

My memories of being a kid running around at recess, sitting on the school steps playing with pogs, walking to the neighbourhood general store with a friend to pick up a slushie or some five cent candies feel like they happened forever ago.

I think, in the end, what I’m trying to say here is that we can’t forget how we grew up and what made us happy when we were younger. When you feel nostalgic, call up your best friend and ask them to take a walk with you to the corner store like you did when you were kids or make yourself the perfect mix CD for your next road trip. You deserve to take the time out for yourself, to go back to a time when you had no obligations, even if only for an hour, an afternoon or a day.

I’d love to hear about what makes you feel nostalgic. Please share in the comments section below.

Photo source: http://thebakeliteradio.com