Hilary Duff (blog/Twitter) is a quirky 21-year-old who loves multimedia journalism, cycling, food blogging, and churning massive amounts of baked goods out of her cramped student kitchen. She has officially wrapped her LTOttawa series on the hunt for Ottawa’s perfect cupcake!
Well folks, the end has finally come.
No, I do not mean the end of my life caused by an onset of early-age diabetes, but rather the end of my four-month-long search for Ottawa’s best cupcake.
Since the end of January I’ve had the honour of trying a whopping 17 different cupcakes, made by both bakeries and private bakers from across our beautiful city. I just performed a by-the-cupcake count, and realize that I have tried more than 40 different flavours. Miraculously, I am still cavity free.
Throughout my search I’ve been in great shops, met amazing people and have discovered more about my favourite dessert than I ever thought I would know. I’ve been on TV promoting the search and have judged a cupcake competition. It has been an unbelievable experience, and the end of my sweet journey is bittersweet.
But enough with the sentimental dribble.
As I’ve said before, it is extremely difficult for me to not like a cupcake. Such could also be said about the statement at the opposite side of the spectrum: If I liked all the cupcakes, how was I to determine the best one? Let me tell you, it was not easy.
In an attempt to express the diversity of combinations I’ve sampled, I’ve created a few different categories in which to award my cupcake honours. If you’re stumbling onto my search late or want more information about each cupcake, please feel free to navigate around the links below. Much blood, sweat and tears went into writing these reviews. (Translation: I endured many sugar-induced stomach aches for a totally worthy cause and it was awesome.)
Please note that these are just the recommendations of a lowly cupcake lover. Try them if you will, but either way, you will be in good hands with any of Ottawa’s other wonderful bakers.
The cupcake shops mentioned in this category all really stood out to me. Each exceeded my expectations, and each offered something a little different than anything else I had tried.
My number one bakery was one of the last shops I tried. Handfuls of people had told me that I had to try Claudia’s cupcakes, but it wasn’t until her storefront in the ByWard Market opened mid-May that I was finally able to go in and sample them for myself. They were worth the wait and I’ve already been back to visit (and stuff my face) twice. With the store located at the heart of Ottawa’s tourist district, I hope that locals and out-of-towners alike will help Claudia’s first summer be a successful one.
Why I liked it: The Cupcake Lounge cupcakes were amazing overall. The excellent flavour execution, delicious (not to mention the perfect amount of) icing and the moist cake were what made me fall in love.
The third stop on my hunt was the New Edinburgh gem, Isobel’s Cupcakes. When I think of what a cupcake should be, I think Isobel’s. My Boston Cream cupcake was to die for and, while some may find the cupcake too sweet, others will rejoice in the immediate sugar fix provided by a mere bite of the cupcake.
Why I liked it: They fulfilled my vision of the ideal cupcake: deadly decadence within simplicity. Their Swiss meringue buttercream was oh-so buttery, making it completely top notch.
Fear of vegan baking be gone! Auntie Loo’s peanut butter chocolate cupcake combined two of my favourite things. The cupcake was complete with a moist (but not too sweet) chocolate cake and a smooth icing that perfectly captured the flavour of my favourite sandwich topping. Auntie Loo herself bubbled with enthusiasm, and made the visit a friendly one.
Why I liked it: The cupcake looked low maintenance, but packed a huge punch. Creative flavour (such as peanut butter chocolate and lavender vanilla) mean that vegans can enjoy a wide variety of products.
BEST PRIVATELY MADE
The cupcakes I sampled from Daphney at the Cupcake Fairy were unique and delicious. Each cupcake I tried had its own personality and was ornately topped with everything from a chocolate fondant rose (dusted with edible gold dust, of course) to a mini lemon meringue.
Perfect for: Anyone looking to try some creative new flavours – Daphney runs a “Cupcake of the Month” club, and past featured flavours have included champagne and eggnog rum.
BEST GLUTEN FREE
It was impossible to tell that Joanna’s cupcakes were gluten free. Immensely chocolatey and piled high with icing from the Flour Shoppe, these were a great indulgent treat. Ensure you make a “cupcake sandwich” when you eat these in order to minimize mess and maximize taste.
Perfect for: Celiacs or those who are trying to cut gluten out of their diet for another reason. Buy them for the entire family – they won’t even notice a difference.
Meeting with sisters Holly and Jackie was an eye-opening experience. For those who, like me, thought cupcakes had to be unhealthy and sugar-filled, observe L’Oven’s baking principles. Pureed beets and parsnips replace all fats and oil, sweetness comes naturally from the extra fruits and vegetables infused in the cake and icing and all ingredients come from local producers, when possible.
Perfect for: Those health conscious cupcake eaters who want a more nutritious alternative without sacrificing taste (case in point: their cupcakes include things like chocolate avocado icing and organic white cranberry cake).
The title of my review for Jenny Burgesse’s Geek Sweets said it all (“Geek Sweets’ cupcakes play dress up for Hilary). These cupcakes were gorgeous. The 2010 winner of Capital Cupcake Camp’s “best decorated” category did not disappoint – my four cupcakes were almost too pretty to eat.
Perfect for: Those looking for bright and fantastically fun cupcakes or those who want to surprise their boyfriends with nerdily adorable Portal or other video game-themed baked goods.
And with that, I declare the Ottawa Cupcake Challenge officially complete.
So am I sick of cupcakes yet? NEVER.
A HUGE thank you goes out to all the wonderful people and bakeries whose cupcakes I tried (click on their name below to access their websites):
And a huge thank you to Hilary for undertaking this tasty challenge! We’ll miss her weekly updates! Have an idea for an LTOttawa series? Shoot us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.