Dolci is ‘sweets’: Hilary explores more gluten-free cupcakes

Cupcakes from Dolci Bakeshop

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 is currently writing an LTOttawa series on her hunt for Ottawa’s perfect cupcake.

Gluten: something that I would probably miss should my body suddenly decide to form an intolerance to this beloved wheat protein. Luckily if this did happen, I’d still have Dolci cupcakes (website/Twitter) to fall back on.

Past cupcake adventures have allowed me to momentarily glimpse into a world of gluten-free baking, even though I did so rather unknowingly last time. The Dolci cupcakes were, from the outset, the real deal, and I was given full disclosure of their gluten-free (hereon into to be known as “GF”) state.

Joanna Zappia, of Dolci Bakeshop

The baker of my GF treats and the owner of Dolci is Joanna Zappia. When translated, dolci appropriately means “sweets,” and the name was a great way for Joanna to pay homage to her Italian heritage.  Unlike some of the bakers I’ve spoken to that have stumbled into the wonderful world of cupcakes from other careers or just moonlight as bakers, Joanna says she always knew what she wanted to do. Her training began at the Bonnie Gordon College of Confectionery Arts in Toronto where she learned the nuances of cake designing and decorating. Then a few years ago, Joanna started baking wedding cakes, but wasn’t yet dedicated solely to GF items. At the time, she herself was actually on a GF diet, meaning she couldn’t eat a single bite of what she made (as a side note, this would kill me since I’m notorious for eating cake batter, ask my roommates). As a result of her inability to eat her own baking, Joanna recruited assistance. Whenever she wanted to test her cakes, she brought them to family and friends.  They kindly served as Joanna’s taste buds for the experience and, if you ask me, benefited quite nicely along the way.  Now Joanna says her mission is to make GF products that she can actually eat and that taste exactly like the non-GF desserts she remembers.

While she stuck with baking cakes for a while, it wasn’t until last May, at the Ottawa Farmer’s Market, that Joanna really got her start. As one of the only GF vendors at the Lansdowne Market, Joanna says she quickly developed a loyal following. Not only did throngs of customers come flocking to her booth, but she also had several local businesses express an interest in selling her products. Today, Dolci’s products are sold in more than five different stores across Ottawa, from Credible Edibles in Hintonburg, to Life of Pie in Old Ottawa South.

Dolci started selling at the Lansdowne Farmers Market

But the farmer’s market was just the start for cupcakes. 

Eventually Joanna says she wants to start her own shop, and the farmer’s market was just a testing ground for flavours. It was only in February that Joanna started selling GF cupcakes at The Flour Shoppe on Saturdays. Every weekend Joanna provides the cupcakes and the shop crowns them with a delightful iced topping. New this month: GF cupcake lovers can now also get Dolci’s cupcakes at Market Organics on Tuesdays, where the flavours change weekly.

I got to try two different flavours. The first was a chocolate cupcake with chocolate hazelnut icing and the second, a chocolate cupcake with a vanilla bean buttercream. Now, unfortunately for me, I had to work at the university immediately after meeting with Joanna. Since I had gotten way too into discussing cupcakes and had lost track of time, I had no more than 10 minutes to bike to Carleton from the edge of the Glebe, some three kilometres away. What comes next will hopefully impress you. Not only did I make it on time for my shift, but on my way I managed to dodge a Bank Street driver who was determined to hit me while parallel parking, and maneuver my way over speed bumps on Sunnyside, all while keeping the tower of icing in tact. Oh right, I was also biking with one hand.  Not to brag or anything, but it was possibly the proudest moment of my life.

Chocolate, with hazelnut frosting

But anyways, after the cupcakes taunted me for my entire shift, I finally got to dig in. You know that cupcake sandwich technique that I’ve referred to in the past?  I definitely took advantage of it for these cupcakes, and tore off the bottom cake, smushing it down on top of the icing. My co-worker laughed at me, but it was a completely necessary procedure.

Chocolate, with vanilla bean buttercream

The cupcakes were good, albeit excruciatingly messy (mostly my fault).  The vanilla buttercream reminded me of marshmallow fluff, and was a great contrast to the chocolate cake. For any GF clientele, you won’t be disappointed with these and, while the cupcake may taste average to everyday cupcake lovers, they would provide an exceptionally tasty treat for the restricted eater.

In the end, I think Joanna most certainly accomplished her mission of taste and dietary practicality. Dear readers, these Ottawa bakers are great – gluten free or non-gluten free, both just read as “delicious” in my books.

Cupcake personality: ***

Cake: ***

Icing: ***½

Cupcake overall: ***

Has Hilary missed a single shop yet while on her cupcake tour? Let us know by leaving a comment below!