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The Varsity

The University of Toronto's
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Frostings, fillings, and flops

W Network’s Cupcake Girls have finally launched a shop in Toronto. But is it worth all the hype?

By Danielle Klein
Published: 8:58 pm, 3 March 2013
Vol CXXXIII, No. 18 under
The new Cupcakes shop in Leaside. Bernarda Gospic/THE VARSITY

One word can sum up the aesthetic of the recently-opened Cupcakes bakery: pink. There are bubblegum pink walls, a healthy share of pink frosting, pink aprons, pink merchandise. The narrow store is also decorated with bright chandeliers and white shelves featuring pastel, retro ice cream bowls and delicious-looking cakes and candies. Glass cases display charming cupcakes, which come in three sizes: mini, normal, and “big,”the last of which are mammoth cupcakes for brave (or just very hungry) souls.

Cupcakes is the newest franchise of Cupcakes by Heather and Lori, otherwise known as the “Cupcake Girls” from the W Network television series. The Toronto store is the first of its kind outside British Columbia. Cupcakes are prepared fresh on-site using the original recipes of the Cupcake Girls on a rotating basis. The Toronto manifestation of the store is distinguished in featuring roasted marshmallow ice cream from Greg’s, one of the city’s staple ice cream shops, although this treat was not yet available upon my visit to the shop.

I left the store with a box of 12 mini cupcakes, featuring an array of the different available flavours. In a neighbouring coffee shop, I plunged into the selection, along with Varsity photo editor Bernarda Gospic, and my friend and discerning foodie (read: person who likes cupcakes very much), Cam.

The cupcakes are undoubtedly adorable, particularly in their miniature form, although microscopic might be a more fitting term to describe these treats, which seemed to get smaller and smaller with each one we unwrapped. The chocolate cupcakes were more substantial than the vanilla ones; in a feat of gravity, these cakes didn’t even reach the bottom of the cupcake liner.

Our first taste was of the confetti cupcake, a simple vanilla cake with a vanilla buttercream icing and festive sprinkles. Immediately, I found the taste nostalgic, reminiscent of the kosher, non-dairy birthday cakes of my childhood, which always left something to be desired (specifically, taste).

Bernarda Gospic/THE VARSITY

Opting next for a sure-fire hit, we tried the red velvet, which an employee had earlier informed me was the bestselling cupcake in the store. The classic did not disappoint, with a flavourful light cream cheese icing.

In general, we concluded that the fruit-flavoured cupcakes were far superior to the array of chocolate and vanilla options, due to the attention paid to executing both a delicious cake and a delicious icing. The “Raspberry Beret,” a lemon cake with a raspberry filling, iced with lemon buttercream and a raspberry jam, had a powerful flavour. The surprise hit of the dozen, this cupcake was the best we tried, with the jam providing unexpected sweetness and a nice tang to the cake.

The “Lemon Drop” was also delectable, covered in a rich, tart buttercream. The “Koo Koo,” a coconut cake topped with cream cheese frosting and doused in coconut shavings, was delectable, if not the most aesthetically appealing of all the cupcakes. Less appealing of the fruit flavours was the “Feelin’ Razzy,” a superfluous second raspberry option that had the group feeling more disappointed than razzy.

The chocolate and vanilla cupcakes often fell flat because they relied on unsophisticated buttercreams to provide flavour to bland cake. I had high hopes for the “Caramella,” a chocolate cake filled with caramel, and iced with caramel buttercream. The group, however, was struck silent by the cupcake, which was largely tasteless, except for a vague, perplexing hint of mint. Other chocolate and vanilla selections included the “Sweet 16” (a vanilla cake with pink vanilla buttercream), the aptly titled “Chocolate” (a chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream), and the “Diva” (a chocolate cake with pink vanilla buttercream), which were all basically the same formula in different combinations, and all tasted subpar. The best of this group was the “Mint Condition”, which was redeemed by flavourful mint icing and a chocolate chip topping.

Generally, we felt that Cupcakes could use more unique flavours and more concern for the flavour of both the cakes and the icing. The store and its merchandise are adorable, and there are some gems in the cupcake offerings, but Cupcakes suffers from the too often pervasive blandness of the franchise.