The hunt for Ottawa’s perfect cupcake – Part IV: Little Cakes

A brownie cupcake with marshmallow buttercream from Little Cakes

Hilary Duff (blog/Twitter) is a quirky 20-year-old who loves multimedia journalism, cycling, food blogging, and churning massive amounts of baked goods out of her cramped student kitchen. She is currently writing an LTOttawa series on her hunt for Ottawa’s perfect cupcake.

Two weeks ago I received a lovely Twitter message from Shakira Whitton at Little Cakes asking when I would like to sample their cupcakes.

Shakira Whitton of Little Cakes

I was immediately excited, since Don from Ottawa food blog foodiePrints said I needed to include this very talented baking duo (co-owners Shakira and Colleen Rhedey both bake out of their homes) in my hunt.   This was my first “no storefront” sampling, so Shakira and I settled on meeting at the Bridgehead by my house.  Now, since I can’t ramble on about store décor and atmosphere as I usually do, let me instead tell you a bit more about Little Cakes.

After opening their (oven) doors in March 2009, it seems like Shakira and Colleen have experienced a sugary success story.

The two take orders from their website and bake out of their individual kitchens.  Just earlier that week they miraculously baked 48 dozen (that’s 576!!) cupcakes to fill Valentine’s Day orders.  Simply put:  these women must be magic, because to me that seems like an impossible, insanity-inducing feat.  While Shakira says they aren’t planning on opening a storefront anytime soon, Little Cakes’ signature baking can sometimes be found at the Timothy’s in Bayshore.

To learn more about Little Cakes visit http://www.littlecakes.ca

They’re also looking to mobilize their business, and are thinking of buying a special cupcake-friendly van to drive around Ottawa like a modern day ice cream truck.  Until this van does come rolling into a neighbourhood near you, Little Cakes offers monthly cupcake sampling events so that brides or cupcake lovers alike can try out their different flavours.

But on to the cupcakes themselves.  I was truly spoiled with this week’s sampling.  Not only did Shakira drive in from Kanata to deliver these treats, but her and Colleen put their heads together and decided on three different flavours for me to try: a cherry cupcake with cherry buttercream, a spiced cupcake with cinnamon buttercream, and a brownie cupcake with marshmallow buttercream.  As you can imagine, I was in cupcake paradise and experienced my earliest sugar coma yet, thanks to a three-course cupcake breakfast at 10:30 a.m.

Little Cakes cupcakes: a cherry cupcake with cherry buttercream, a spiced cupcake with cinnamon buttercream, and a brownie cupcake with marshmallow buttercream.

Like I said, I’m dreadfully spoiled.

To somehow justify me eating cupcakes for breakfast, I decided to eat the cherry one first.  The fact that there was a fruit mentioned in the name of the cupcake made me feel slightly better and shamefully healthier.

Please don’t judge me too harshly.

Also, have you ever heard of a cherry cupcake? Cherry is a flavour that I more often associate with pies or cheesecakes, so I was absolutely delighted to hear that it was now in cupcake form.  Overall, it was really quite yummy, with little cherry bits scattered throughout the cake, giving you a surprise blast of flavour when you were least expecting it.  The one downfall, I thought, was the inconsistency of cherry flavour.  Since the name of the cupcake did have cherry in it twice, I was expecting a little more of a fruity punch.  Nonetheless, it was nice and light, and the cake was fresh and moist.

Walking home after meeting Shakira, I shared the other five cupcakes with my roommates, carefully staking claim to half a spiced and chocolate brownie cupcake for my own tasting purposes.  As a side note, it’s kind of funny how critically we’re all eating cupcakes now – since my roommates are often included on my missions, they too are starting to pick out things they like and dislike.  We ended up having a mini cupcake forum around the kitchen table that morning.

Like the cherry cupcake, the spiced cupcake was good overall, but lacked the punch I was expecting from something boasting the word “spice” in its name.  The icing was smooth and subtly cinnamon-flavoured, which was a lovely contrast to the occasional gingerbread hint of the cake.

A spiced cupcake with cinnamon buttercream from Little Cakes

As for the brownie cupcake, this one was made for chocoholics.  Not just your everyday chocolate cupcake, I peeled back the liner to find the most dense, moist, and rich brownie I’ve ever tasted.  I have this weird reaction where I sneeze whenever I eat really rich chocolate, and this cupcake set me off like it was allergy season.  With the chocolate brownie cupcake you need to know what you’re getting into.  If you’re looking for an actual fluffy cake base, then you’ll be out of luck, but if you want something to please the chocolate-obsessed family member, friend, of class of kindergarteners, then this is the thing for you.  The icing was again sugary smooth, but any slight marshmallow taste was overwhelmed by the taste of the brownie itself.

The cupcakes themselves were all modestly decorated, with small garnishes topping the point of the perfectly swirled icing. At the end of the day I was so pleased to try out my first home bakery-baked cupcakes, and hope to try out many more private bakers in the upcoming weeks.

Keep an eye on your inbox, dear bakers of Ottawa; you may just be getting an e-mail sometime soon.

Cupcake personality: ***

Cake: ***½

Icing: ***

Cupcake overall: ****

For more information about Little Cakes, please check out their website or Twitter. Do you want to chat with Hilary about her adventure? Please leave a comment below!