Location: 120 Dundas Street West, Toronto
The lemon meringue croissant from Butter Baker is one of those things that I saw on Instagram and immediately had to eat. And yes, I know: this makes me part of the problem.
A very strong argument could be made that social media (Instagram in particular) is making our cuisine appreciably worse by incentivizing restaurants to serve visually innovative food in which the actual taste is an afterthought (e.g. Sweet Jesus).
And that’s absolutely the case here. I mean, look at that! It looks so impressive! But it gets less impressive once you start actually eating it.
For one thing, it’s almost impossible to eat without getting sticky meringue all over your face. But let’s set that complaint aside, because a lot of cupcakes are just as hard to eat without making a mess, and only a monster would argue that a cupcake isn’t great.
The two main issues here are that the croissant itself is merely okay, and the lemon curd filling is completely bland. The latter point is especially egregious; the whole appeal of a lemon meringue pie is the delightful way that the tartness of the lemon curd is offset by the sweetness of the meringue. But here, the curd is disappointingly anemic, with a limp sugariness and almost no sour bite. Because of this, the whole thing comes off as one-dimensionally sweet and boring.
I will, however, give Butter Baker props for the use of creamy Italian meringue over frothy, dull French meringue. This is correct; French meringue is for jerks.
Location: 160 Baldwin Street, Toronto
I was still hungry after the horrifying abomination I was served at Kiss the Tiramisu; I couldn’t eat more than a third of it. So I went a couple of stores down to Little Pebbles, a great little Japanese cafe in Kensington Market.
They have the usual assortment of coffees to pick from, as well as a variety of French/Japanese-inspired baked goods. I went with the Strawberry Sakura Mont Blanc, which features an almond-infused crust, pastry cream, a whole strawberry, and strawberry mont blanc cream.
Maybe I was just happy to eat something that wasn’t disgusting, but I really enjoyed this. The nutty crust was tasty, the whole strawberry was sweet and ripe, and the mont blanc cream did a really great job of balancing the chestnut flavour you’d expect with something a bit fruitier.
The whole thing was quite subdued in its flavours, but it all worked really well. I’d definitely like to come back here and try some of their other offerings, because everything looked really good.
Location: 5920 Mavis Road, Mississauga
Though I find the vast majority of their doughnuts to be throat-burningly sweet, I really like the plain glazed doughnuts from Krispy Kreme. Maybe it’s just a nostalgia thing — my family used to take annual trips to Florida, and while we were there, hot Krispy Kreme doughnuts were a regular occurrence.
There’s nothing subtle about a glazed Krispy Kreme doughnut. It’s basically just fried sugar; it’s a light, fluffy amalgam of pastry and sickly-sweet glaze that almost melts in your mouth as soon as you begin to chew it. It’s great.
For a limited time (the promotion ends tomorrow, so hurry up if you want to give it a shot) Krispy Kreme is selling blueberry glazed doughnuts. Aside from a few dark flecks on the surface of the doughnut, it looks exactly like the standard version (it doesn’t even remotely have the day-glo blue of the promotional photos).
It’s quite tasty, but then it’s just a standard Krispy Kreme doughnut with a slightly tart, fruity flavour. It didn’t quite have the punch of blueberry flavour that I was hoping for, but it’s still quite tasty.
Location: 477 Queen Street West, Toronto
I guess those stupid overpriced macarons from Ladurée in Yorkdale have ruined other ones for me. Because I just ate a couple from Butter Avenue, and they were pretty good, but I couldn’t help but compare them to Ladurée — and they came up short.
I tried the pistachio and the raspberry white chocolate, and there certainly wasn’t anything wrong with either. The pistachio had a really enjoyable nutty flavour, and the raspberry white chocolate featured a delicious raspberry jam centre surrounded by creamy white chocolate. They were both quite tasty.
But the flavours just couldn’t compare to what they were serving at Ladurée, and the texture was overly dense and chewy, in stark contrast to the almost ethereal lightness of Ladurée’s version.
They were three bucks each, which is certainly less than the almost four that they’re charging at Ladurée, but not exactly cheap. If you’re already spending three bucks on a tiny macaron, you may as well spend the extra dollar and get the superior version.
Location: 150 Bloor Street West, Toronto
Prairie Girl Bakery might just serve my favourite cupcakes in the city. There are some other contenders (the Cupcake Shoppe comes to mind), but Prairie Girl is right up there.
I like that they actually have three different sizes — standard, mini, and cutie. The mini size is absolutely perfect if you’ve just had a big meal and you want something sweet that isn’t going to make you feel completely sick. It’s still a couple of decent bites’ worth of cupcake, so it’s enough to satisfy, but not so much to make you question the way you’re living your life.
On this particular visit I got the banana peanut butter, which features peanut butter frosting with banana cake. Not surprisingly, it was great — the cake basically tasted like a lighter, fluffier banana bread. It had a really distinct banana flavour that worked perfectly with the very creamy peanut butter frosting.
The whole thing was sweet, but with enough of a balance to not be a complete sugar overload. It’s good stuff.