Dundas Dining: Swirls Cupcakes

February 23, 2010

Swirls falls a little outside of our usual Dundas Dining boundaries (roughly The Junction neighborhood), but it’s not too far past the Ghettobicoke line so I figure it’s fair play.

Mandi and I both love cupcakes. So it was with a little trepidation we approached Swirls. It’s not too far from my place so, if it were the heavenly cupcake experience it threatened to be, it’d be game over for us. We may as well start stocking up on insulin and acai berries.

Luckily, Swirls was merely “meh”.

Which is always odd for a restaurant or bakery which specializes in one product. If you’re a cupcake bakery, it’s completely fair for your patrons to have lofty expectations of your product. Which, frankly, I did have of my Still-a-Vanilla cupcake. So when the buttercream icing seemed more like whip-cream out of a spray can and the vanilla cake was a bit rubbery, I have to say I had not choice but to be a bit let down. I did ask myself if this was a case of my expectations being too high. I think I would have been a little more forgiving if cupcakes weren’t their specialty, but even so I’d have to rank this cupcake as just on the high side of average.

Mandi got the Red Velvet which was a better cake, but not as “red” as you’d expect. It did have a slight rosey tint to it. It was brown. The sign also said it was supposed to have cream cheese icing which she said it clearly didn’t.

As we left, we noticed they were putting out an Oreo cupcake which appeared to have proper buttercream icing. It looked absolutely delicious. Maybe it was. It made me doubt my cupcake had buttercream icing on it at all and I was right in thinking it was merely whip-cream out of a can.

As we were leaving we also noticed Swirls apparently makes fondant laden art cakes as well.

edward twlight cake

We think that’s the apple from the book cover.

One thing that was really fabulous about our visit to Swirls was the coffee. One of the best Americanos I’ve had on Dundas, bar none. Also the small size is apparently huge. But in typical Dundas Dining fashion, there has to be some awkwardness in ordering. You need to place your coffee order with someone at another counter entirely from where you place your cupcake order. Then they tally your coffee on a calculator which they slide over to the cupcake people. Really? That’s the best way to do it?

There’s also the option, the girl informed us, to pay them each separately. Though why they’d think anyone would ever want to do that never came to me. True, it would be more awkward and be slightly worse customer service which is the ideal in Dundas West restaurant culture, but I can’t really see the advantage.

The coffee was well worth the awkwardness. The cupcakes, not so much.

2.5 cups out of 5 cakes
5 Americanos out of 5 awkward moments

Dundas Dining: Malta Bake Shop

May 16, 2009

We woke up tired and a bodum of coffee wasn’t enough to nudge us towards consciousness. So it was an excellent opportunity to try out the Malta Bake Shop at the east end of Malta Village (or west end of The Junction, depending on which way you’re walking).

Things this bake shop have in its favour would be a) being open all the damn time b) being open on Sundays and c) being open on holidays. With these qualities in its favour, we were hoping the Malta Bake Shop would turn out to be the best damn bake shop in Toronto. Somewhere delicious to go when everything else is closed. It’s always packed, so it must be? Or its popularity could be due to it simply being open or the nostalgic feelings it gives its patrons. The walls are covered in Maltese decoration and memorabilia including photos of all the Maltese celebrities who’ve graced the bake shop with their presence. These include archbishops and jockeys.

Approaching the bakery case, you immediately notice all the tidbits have an exotic (to non-Maltese) appearance. I hadn’t seen a trizzi before nor had I a molasses ring. The other items I couldn’t guess at, so we had the two aforementioned treats. We purchased these, plus two coffees, from a girl who appeared to not want to be there. Fair enough, the atmosphere was vaguely oppressive and dimly lit.

Though interesting, the baking wasn’t particularly good. Or it might have been perfect, not being familiar with Maltese baking. The main ingredient in Maltese baking seems to be almond paste. The trizzi, basically a date square, tasted more or less identical to the molasses ring, a bread ring stuffed with the same dark almondy paste. I found the ring too chewy, Mandi liked that about it. The coffee was adequate.

Like many ethnic joints, this place seems to be a hang-out for the Maltese community. Especially after church. The old couple at the only other occupied  table were watching football (soccer) on the TV and greeting everyone who walked past to the church (there was a wedding). A sense of community can make a mediocre restaurant a lot better. We, of course, could not benefit from this communal feeling. But it was interesting to watch.

Two weird almond pastries out of five.

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