Sunday, March 29, 2015

Wedding bells are ringing! ...the Cupcake Quest begins!

Happy Sunday, Blog Followers!

 As some of you may know, my fiancĂ©, Carl, and I are getting hitched in 2017! This has set us off on the magical and harrowing odyssey that is planning a wedding in North America. I have a theory that North Americans have developed the wedding not only as a celebration of a couple's union, but also as a high-intensity trial of the couple's communication, problem-solving, and flexibility as a team. Only the strong survive to the finish line! Luckily, I'm marrying a saint, who is possibly the best team player on the planet.

 I love cupcakes. They represent both the influence of liberal individualism that I so cherish in Canadian culture, and the socialist notion that everyone is equal, and deserving of their own quantized and beautiful piece of confectionery bliss. In addition to this, they're delicious. So, when it came time to decide on a wedding cake or cupcakes, financial efficiency and personal bias made the the decision clear. My sweetheart loves carrot cake, whereas I am a light chocolate or royal velvet fanatic. So begins my journey to find Toronto's best cupcake in both the carrot cake, and light chocolate or royal velvet categories.

 In order to streamline this process, I'll be conducting my cupcake evaluation based on 7 categories, which will be quantified through a 1-5 star rating. 5 stars represents the highest scoring, while 1 is the lowest. As a guideline for myself, I'll give 3 stars or more for a cupcake that I would seriously consider for our reception. Only three bake shops will be considered in the final competition! The top 3 shops, with 1 entry per category (carrot cake or chocolate), will be assessed by the finalist judging panel, which will consist of the wedding party (bridesmaids, groomsmen, parents of the couple, and ring bearers if possible) and groom. Each party member's vote will be given a weight of 1, while the groom's vote will be double weighted.

The 7 Categories Are:
  • Cake quality and overall taste
  • Icing quality and overall taste
  • Cake to Icing Ratio
  • Amount of carrot or cocoa flavour/content
  • Aesthetics, decoration, and presentation 
  • Overall Score
  • Value and cost (not ranked by stars)
1. Bunner's Vegan and Gluten-Free Bakeshop (244 Augusta St. Kensington Market)

Chocolate Cupcake:
Cake quality and overall taste: (1 Star)
In defense of Bunner's cupcakes, they are attempting the almost impossible to create a comparable cupcake that is both gluten-free and vegan. If this category could take this handicap into consideration, the cake quality would easily win 3 stars; however, with that aside the cake wasn't great. It was a bit dry, and difficult to get down. By the end of the cupcake, I was starting to feel a bit nauseated. I want our guests to be able to enjoy the whole cupcake if they so choose, without having to take "taste breaks" because there is bitterness, dryness, or other aspects of the cupcake that make it less palatable. I had to be really hungry and eat this cupcake in phases to get it down; however, the first two bites weren't bad. 

Icing quality and overall taste: (2 Stars)
The icing wasn't bad per se, but it was a touch bland, and had an oily texture. It wasn't obnoxiously sweet like some icings can be, and you certainly didn't feel sugar-saturated after the first bite. Overall, a good attempt, and especially impressive given the dietary restrictions. 

Cake to Icing Ratio: (2 Stars)
The cupcake mouth texture is a complicated art. I find you have to not only create the perfect harmony in tastes between the cake and icing in each bite, but also the ratio of each. This cupcake did neither well. The cake had a bitter aftertaste and dryness, and the icing did little to compensate, while contributing an unappealing oily texture. Finally, the icing to cupcake ratio was slightly too high and messed up both the mouth feel and taste balance. 

Amount of Cocoa: (1 Star)
I think the bitterness in the cake came from an over-abundance of cocoa. If anyone has ever accidentally licked the cocoa spoon while baking as a kid, thinking it will be sweet and delicious like chocolate, you will have an exaggerated idea of what this cupcake tasted like. When you can't add eggs, butter, or wheat to your cupcake, I guess you have to add something, but I think cocoa made too large an appearance in this cupcake. 

Aesthetics, decoration, and presentation: (3 stars)
This cupcake looked appealing. There weren't elaborate decorations on it, and the icing was delivered in an approximately open-star tip form. For comparison of icing styles please see: ( The icing was a bit of a lighter brown and contrasted nicely with the cake.

Overall Score: (2 Stars)
When eaten slowly, over a long period of time and allowing for extended recovery between bites, the cupcake wasn't bad. There were even small moments, before the aftertaste, that I forgot it was a gluten-free vegan cupcake. It doesn't make the list for possible wedding reception contenders, but I salute Bunner's attempt to bring traditional cupcake joy to the vegans and celiacs of Toronto. Given the challenge they took on here, I feel they did an excellent job. 

Value and Cost: (no star ranking)
The cost was 3.75$ per cupcake, before tax (13%). The size was average :). 

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