Whenever I thought about my wedding day I didn’t picture my dress or imagine getting married in the church I grew up in, I thought about the food. I daydreamed about the various courses and the flow of the meal, what types of sauces would be drizzled over the entrees and what desserts would sweeten the whole event. Desserts turned from a simple plate to finish the meal to an entire dessert table featuring cookies, tarts and candy all centered around The Cake. I used to naively think that I would make my own wedding cake. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to show my friends and family all the skills and efforts that I possessed, someone who started baking as a hobby but had become skilled enough to tackle a feat like this.
After we got engaged I realized this was a ridiculous undertaking. I never fully realized how much went into planning a wedding and how much of it has to be done closer to the day. I have never made a multi-tiered cake before and it would be crazy to think of doing this for the first time the week of my wedding. If I failed, where would we get a cake of that size and beauty that would be substantial enough for our wedding?
Although this was a sad realization it meant that we could do cake tastings. Is there anything better than eating cake for free? I don’t think so. I went to a bridal show at the start of January with my entire family (that started as a nightmare and is a whole other story) and was able to sample three bakeries. I then researched Toronto bakeries (this list by BlogTO is a good starting point but it is out of date – Bakerbots is currently not taking orders and Cake Opera no longer exists) and started setting up appointments.
1. Our first appointment was with Adam from For the Love of Cake in Liberty Village. We had been to this bakery before in November 2012, had a sample of various flavours and overall had enjoyed them. We arrived at our appointment and they were running late. The bakery is not set up to have people waiting as it is narrow and has little seating. The meeting area is where all the display cakes are which makes it intrusive and awkward to try and look while another meeting is going. The meeting before ours ran about 15 minutes late.
When we met Adam, he didn’t introduce himself. I don’t know if this is just a thing business owners no longer do (when we had our first DJ appointment no one introduced themselves) or if they assume it has been conveyed to their customers who they are meeting but it is annoying and awkward. I like to know who I am talking to. Even when we introduced ourselves he just said hi.
Our meeting went well. Adam was approachable and knowledgeable. He helped pull from us what we want our cake to be: 3-tiers, square as opposed to round, modern and simple. He suggested based on the size of cake we wanted we would have to have 120 slices instead of the regular 75-80 that is suggested due to our party size. Although the prospect of extra cake is tempting, do we really want to be eating cake months after our wedding? He listened to my input and thoughts about baking and I could tell that he knew that I knew a little bit about baking.
The other let down of the tasting was how few cakes we actually got to try. Our appointment was at 3 so the supply of cupcakes had dwindled. Given that our appointment was scheduled I feel like they should have put aside a better selection for us. We tried only 3 flavours: salted caramel, red velvet and cookie dough. All three were good (our favourite being the salted caramel) but I was disappointed by the lack of a lemon cupcake on their menu. Adam reassured me that they can do a lemon cake and it would be best to pair it was something similar to a raspberry butter cream. Adam told us that if we booked with them we would not have to decide our flavours until about a month before and until that time, we could sample as many flavours as we liked (at a cost of course).
This appointment left (literally) a good taste in our mouth and made us think that if we went with Adam and For the Love of Cakes we would have a beautiful cake to celebrate on our wedding day.
2. Our second appointment was with Michelle from Sweet Coco Cakes. This was a bakery that I had sampled at the bridal show and they held a tasting day a few weeks later. This is a relatively new company so they do not have a commercial space yet so the event was being held in a law office they borrowed from a friend. The law office was outdated and dingy and I was constantly distracted by the grungy aquarium in the room. This office really took away from the beauty of the cakes. They were running late, about 20 minutes but we were able to look at the baker, Michelle’s, designs and sample her baking while we waited.
The set up was impressive and over-the-top. There were delicate details on each piece: from tiny cherry blossoms on cake pops to sugar flowers on a massive wedding cake you couldn’t help but be impressed. Her style was flowery and pretty, but she had no examples of modern simplicity.
We sampled 6 cake flavours: coconut, banana chocolate, red velvet, chocolate, lemon and strawberry. The only flavour I enjoyed was the banana chocolate but this isn’t an option for our wedding cake as my Dad is allergic to bananas. The coconut used shredded coconut, giving the cake a choppy texture that ruined the smooth, soft texture of the cake. The red velvet was boring, with no strong chocolate flavour and the cream cheese icing was runny. The chocolate was too sweet, again with no strong chocolate flavour. The lemon was awful. The center was a lemon curd with supposedly real lemon flavour but it was gummy, thick and slightly chewy. It was not delicate and light like good lemon flavoured anything should be. The strawberry was nothing memorable. Again, she later claimed that she used fresh strawberries but the flavour was so weak and unapparent that I would have thought I was eating vanilla cake rather than strawberry.
We were left in a bit of a predicament: we had sampled the cakes and we weren’t impressed. And Michelle was running late. Should we leave and be obvious that we didn’t like what we had tried or should we be polite and suffer through a meeting with someone we knew we wouldn’t book for a wedding? We decided to be polite and wait. We were further annoyed when the couple who apparently had an appointment before us showed up late and was seen before us. We thought they should have been penalized and forced to wait but I guess that is bad business. We just wanted to get out of there as soon as possible!
When we finally met with Michelle it was one of the more awkward interactions I have had with a professional. Part of it was a language barrier but she also lacked confidence in herself and product. She had a bit of judgement in her voice when we showed her our simple design. When she asked what flavours we would use and I said I wouldn’t want to use red velvet and chocolate because they are too similar she tried to refute this. I let it go because I shouldn’t have to convince a professional baker that red velvet has a chocolate base.
We were not impressed. We didn’t like any of her flavours, her decorating style was not what we envisioned for our day and I knew I would be frustrated dealing with Michelle and her company for our wedding cake.
3. Our third appointment was with Christina from Truffle Cake & Pastry. I was most looking forward to this appointment. From our email exchanges, Christina seemed fun and excited to meet us. She was the most aware of allergies and preferences in flavours, asking before our appointment if we had any allergies or if she should be aware of anything else. I was also intrigued by the fact that we were meeting her in a house, rather than in a bakery. I liked the idea of having the opportunity to support a smaller, less established baker.
As soon as we walked into Christina’s space I was impressed. She is in a basement apartment and at the base of the stairs before you even enter the apartment, there is a display of wedding cakes. When we walked into the apartment we were greeted by at least 10-15 cakes. I was awestruck and speechless. As we munched on cupcakes Christina told us about her background: she went to Western for medical sciences, worked at the UHN and then quit to start her own business about 5 years ago. And the craziest/most impressive part: SHE’S SELF TAUGHT! I instantly fell more in love with her. Once I sampled her flavours, I was even more impressed. We tried a number of cupcakes, all of which were amazing but our favourites were chocolate raspberry, lemon, white chocolate and banana chocolate chip.
She changed our idea about what we want our wedding cake to look like: instead of simple and modern, we want modern elegance, with a bit a flair and sparkle to it. This still keeps to our theme and look but takes it up a notch. It would be such a shame to use her as a baker and not fully utilize her skills and abilities. The final piece that made us fall more in love with Christina and her baking: her boyfriend’s name is Giancarlo! Kind of perfect, right?
We had one more appointment with The Wedding Cake Shoppe which we were going to go to but then we decided that we loved Christina and her style too much to see anyone else! Another wedding related thing crossed off the list!