The hunt for Ottawa’s perfect cupcake: Part V – Three Bakers & A Bike
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.
Remember that gorgeous afternoon a couple of Fridays ago? Well on that day I was exploring aimlessly in Westboro and I unintentionally walked past the neighbourhood’s boundaries and found myself in front of Three Bakers & A Bike. As you can imagine, it was a pleasant surprise. I was famished and had been shoving pieces of bready Montreal-style bagel into my mouth in a revoltingly un-ladylike way for the entire afternoon.
But of course I was never too full for a cupcake.
Three Bakers & A Bike had a rather inconspicuous front entrance, and I may have missed it completely in the shadows of the sunny day, had it not been for the map on my phone.
As I walked in the door, I was immediately struck by the relaxed hominess of the shop. It kind of felt like the place was a combination of an old school classroom and the kitchen of a country farmhouse. A track from the Backstreet Boys played over the speakers, and I had to restrain myself from bursting out into song.
My feet walked over the dark red flood, where paint has faded to reveal the grey concrete underneath. The floor meets walls painted a creamy yellow, a colour that reminded me of a buttery hollandaise sauce. Navy blue chairs and tables sit against the left wall, the latter holding colourful teacups and saucers on its polished surface. To my right, there’s a seating area near the window, with comfy looking leather chairs ideal for a friendly meeting or an afternoon of solitary reading. Above this seating area, as well as behind the main counter, is shelving containing several eccentric and bizarre teapots shaped like animals and ornately decorated with porcelain figures.
But of course I wasn’t there to ogle over collectibles. Walking up to the counter, I admired the “baby cakes” on display. They’re miniature cakes that are as cute as a button. The cakes are decorated with vanilla or chocolate icing and an assortment of brightly hued sprinkles.
In addition to these cakes, there are bunches of sugar cookies, all wrapped in clear plastic packaging and labeled carefully with homemade lilac tags. Other than these small cakes and cookies there are, of course, a variety of cupcakes – both regular and miniature sized. It appears that Three Bakers & A Bike is big on this whole “mini-size” phenomenon. No complaints though, as it allows me to sample two of their smaller cupcakes in favour of just one Hulk-sized regular. I ask the cashier which ones she recommends and end up with the vanilla cupcake with chocolate icing and a double chocolate cupcake.
Before I could get my paws on the cupcakes, however, I had to run to the nearest bank after discovering the shop only accepts cash and cheque, neither of which I had in my university-student wallet. Keep this in mind when planning your visit, dear cupcake lovers.
Now, before I go on with my review, I would just like to say that no cupcake is ever bad. I believe it is absolutely impossible to destroy a cupcake. Even if I criticize one, the worst cupcake I ever eat will likely still be semi-delicious to me. On that note, the two cupcakes I ate from Three Bakers & A Bike were nothing special. To be honest (and I hate sounding mean, I’m so sorry!), it tasted like the cake came from a box and the icing was of the canned variety. I’m not sure if the flavour just had a strikingly similar taste to the boxed mixes my mom used to make for my elementary school classes, but it contributed to an overall mediocre vibe.
The cake was still moist, but it was moist in the sense that it left a discomforting cakey layer on my tongue; a cakey paste that I’ve never experienced from cupcakes made from scratch. If you were in the neighbourhood looking for a quick sugar fix, these cupcakes would definitely suffice, but in my search for Ottawa’s perfect cupcake I came up a little short here. Three Bakers & A Bike also only had three flavours that day: chocolate, vanilla and lemon. I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt – a small menu told me that they sold “designer cupcakes” at $4.50 a pop in flavours such as strawberries and cream, Kahlua mousse, and mocha almond. Consider, however, that other shops I’ve visited have sold similar “designer” flavours for a significant $2 less.
In the end, I don’t want to doubt the credibility of the baking at Three Bakers & A Bike. Half a dozen people came in to buy cupcakes or a cake in the hour and a half that I was there, so clearly there isn’t this issue of taste for everyone. The focus of the shop isn’t strictly cupcakes either, and they had a generous looking brunch menu that was enough to make my mouth water. The cashier was also extremely nice and helpful, and service overall was great. So my verdict is that if you’re in the neighbourhood and looking for a place to swing by for a bite to eat, Three Bakers & A Bike is an ideal destination. If you’re looking for Ottawa best cupcake, however, you might want to consider continuing your search.
Cupcake personality: *½
Cupcake overall: *½
Do you want to help Hilary find Ottawa’s perfect cupcake? Leave a note below!