Montreal’s Best Cupcake: Part 2

Mini’s from Les Glaceurs

Exactly one year ago today, Under the High Chair brought you a thorough investigation into the trendy cupcake scene in Montreal. We did a citywide tasting, related its highs and lows, and ultimately named one cupcake “Montreal’s Best”.
Today we bring you an update to that post, because bakeries change, new places open, and kitchens change staff. You deserve to stay informed and I am more than happy to do the ‘work’. (Mmm, sugar)
So, does Montreal have a new best cupcake? You’ll find out at the bottom!

If you haven’t read the original cupcake post, I strongly suggest that you do and familiarize yourself with the territory, for it is a fascinating one of mafia (only speculating here guys), high prices, frosting and sprinkles! You’ll learn not to judge a cupcake by its cover, that the average price for one is almost a biting $3, which places to hit up when you feel a craving coming on and which ones to avoid like the plague.

Noah checks out the gorgeous presentation of cupcakes at Les Glaceurs

We were a different bunch this time around for the tasting blitz: instead of a group of girls, we were three guys, the two tots and myself. There wasn’t a crumb leftover as things got polished off lickety split be they good or bad! Hmm, guys certainly have a different metabolism than girls!

We did not return to two places that I reviewed last year, Cho’cola and Itsi Bitsi, as I had been informed from many sources that things remained the same at each establishment. In brief, Cho’cola: bad to very bad and Itsi Bitsi: good to pretty good. Yeah, I know that is totally vague, but like I suggested before, read the first cupcake review for details.

(Note: if you have experienced something different than I have at either of these places please let me know. e.g. a fresh, knee-weakeningly-good cupcake from Cho’cola or the opposite from Itsi-bitsi. I would be happy to return as I am always game for sweets!)

Our tour started with the new kids on the block:

Les Glaceurs
453, rue St-Sulpice, Vieux-Montreal, 514.504.469, Open since: September ’07 Price per cupcake: $2.85 Seating: yes

I have to say I’m sorry guys, because with Olive et Gourmando just down the hill, we’ve haven’t really been holding our breath for a cupcake joint in the Old Port. Fortunately Les Glaceurs sells Bilboquet ice cream though, and that in itself is a big draw.
While they have location, location, location (literally a stone’s throw from the Notre Dame Basilica) and the appearance of everything going for them (cool decor, beautiful presentation, clean bathrooms) they are a perfect example of how when you scratch a little deeper than surface, things aren’t so pretty. In short, I didn’t enjoy their cupcakes.

Clockwise from top left: Lemon-Vanilla, Chocolate Brownie, Peanut Butter, Red Velvet

We tried six different flavors, the ones pictured above plus Choco-Choco and Coffee-Vanilla. Eager to get this tasting going, Noah and I tucked immediately into the Choco-Choco, apparently one of their bestsellers. I stopped after the first bite while he kept going, a lesson right there to never trust a two-year-olds’ palate!
I found myself mentally admonishing the kitchen to upgrade their brand of chocolate, or add more, or something. It was nowhere near chocolaty enough, most certainly would never cut it for one of my cravings, was dry and completely forgettable.
Not a good start.

I went for the Red Velvet next as I had never had this southern specialty and was eager to see what all the fuss was about. Les Glaceurs tops theirs with a cream cheese frosting and it looks pretty cute. It disappeared in a twinkle and I found it more appealing than the chocolate, perhaps because I had no expectations. The color is a little alarming, but I am a sucker for cream cheese icing.

However, as we kept tasting I started noticing a pattern. The cake part of every cupcake was dry and mostly flavorless, while the icings took a lead role and kept us licking our fingers. (We liked the peanut butter especially) But in my opinion, the frosting and various toppings should take a back seat to the star of the show, the cake, and not outshine them. At Les Glaceurs the cake was bad enough that, without the toppings, these cupcakes just might be worse than Cho’cola’s Betty Crocker specimens.

Final answer? Sure, I’ll probably be back. I take just about all my out-of-town guests to the Basilica and with two kiddos to lug around now, for sure we’ll need a pit stop that has A/C and a bathroom, though you can be sure that if I have any say in the matter, we’ll be getting Bilboquet ice cream all around and skipping the cupcakes.

Next up:

Petits Gateaux.
783 Avenue Mont-Royal Est. 514.510.5488.
Open since: May ’07
Price per cupcake:$2.95 Seating: yes

Clock-wise from top left: House marshmallow samples (yes please!), Sucre a la creme, Tea Cranberry Violette, Sour Cream Raspberry and Chocolate Cupcakes

My last visit to P.G. was my first and only. I was aghast at how bad the cupcakes were, likening them, if I recall, to a day-old Tim Horton’s bran muffin. And I hate Timmy’s. However, I had heard that the original baker had moved on and that new team was turning out something rather memorable. Plus they had added mini’s to their repertoire. I had to see if the rumors were true.

Yep, as a matter of fact, these cupcakes are now made by a team of four guys who apparently have a blast playing with frosting and sprinkles and are doing a fine job of it. Their flavor combinations are creative, the cupcakes are tasty and satisfying, and those mini’s are looking like a tasting menu waiting to happen. Bravo!

Top row L to R: Tea Cranberry Violette, Blueberry Tofu, Chocolate Ganache
Bottom row: Chocolate Ginger, Pear-Vanilla, Carrot

While I was impressed with the all-male teams’ work (almost anything would be an improvement over the last baker), of course I have a few quibbles and after careful consideration my complaint would be that the cupcakes could benefit from the delicate hand of a woman.

For example on the Pear-Vanilla cupcake, a large quarter of a poached pear dwarfs the cupcake below. If I had wanted a fruit cup, I wouldn’t be here. I do like a little frosting.

The Blueberry Tofu is hands down, the ugliest cupcake I have ever seen, but gets points for originality and flavor. Frozen blueberries that bleed all over the white frosting? How hard would it be to use a few fresh ones? Still the taste is great, but let me warn you, the texture is a little funny! I’m still trying to put my finger on what it reminds me of.

On the Sucre à la Crème, the square of fudge is so large that the cupcake must taste about as sweet as a slice of toast after eating it. Same for the Chocolate Sucre à la Crème and a few other toppings that seem completely disproportional to the already small cupcake.

The lilac colored Tea Cranberry Violette Cupcake is as if someone said
“OK, now we need a girly one. Hmmm, what do ladies like? Tea and flowers, I guess.”
It’s such a random combination and from my observations, has absolutely no cranberries to speak of save a sugared one on top. The cake itself is moist and tasty, but it’s a stretch to say it has green tea flavor, and as for the violets, they seem to be M.I.A with the exception of the icing color. I was baffled by this one.

Great carrot cupcake. I love a good carrot cake, yet it’s not something I would whip up for just our little family. Give me a few more years and a few more kids and I’ll haul out my box grater and start peeling carrots. This moist cupcake with its hint of spice and cream cheese frosting (told you I was a sucker for it) was a pleasure to eat and one I will return for when the craving hits-and it is sure to!
A pretty decent Chocolate Ganache and the Chocolate-Ginger were hits with the guys. At least here the chocolate was worthy of the title, unlike Les Glaceurs.

Moving on to our last stop:
Cocoa Locale.
4807 Park Avenue. 514.271.7162. Opened: Summer ’05
Price Per cupcake: $3 Seating: a bench and a –swing?
How much to I love you/I’ll tell you no lie/How deep is the ocean/How high is the sky?

If you haven’t dropped in on baker/owner Reema and her little shop on Park Ave yet, then lower that three pound container of two-bite brownies you are contemplating buying, get out of Costco and GO!
Trust me, your guests will thank you for it.

Three flavors available at Cocoa Locale: Lemon, Vanilla, and last year’s winner for best cupcake, Chocolate-Chai

Mother’s day was tainted for me this year because I knew exactly what I wanted and I couldn’t get it. I wanted a cupcake (or four) from Cocoa Locale and after getting our family out the door (not so simple with a newborn) and driving to Park Ex. I saw a sign on the door that said ‘sold out’. I learned a valuable life lesson that day and so should you: Call and reserve your cupcakes. Especially on holidays.

I must be growing up. No, not just because I am turning 30 this year, but because more and more, I am choosing vanilla over chocolate. It’s like my taste buds are maturing and realizing that the question “chocolate or vanilla?” is no longer a no-brainer. Vanilla really can outshine its seductive counterpart, chocolate, and I finally understand why it’s my mother’s favorite ice cream flavor. Here is what helped me see the light:

Which brings me to the conclusion of our cupcake tasting and a NEW winner for Montreal’s best cupcake!

Cocoa Locale’s Vanilla Cupcake!

You saw that coming a mile away, right? Well, satisfyingly dense, just sweet enough, ever so moist, and with such a perfect grown-up, vanilla flavor, this cupcake silently outshines last year’s favorite.
Apparently it’s Reema’s favorite, too. So there.
I am also enchanted by it’s soft pink color, simply a few drops of food coloring, and that must be the girly-girl side of me coming out.

Pretty please may I have 30 of them for my upcoming birthday?

So there you have it. I’m not sure how to conclude this post, but I guess I will just say that I hope you enjoyed the read and found it helpful.
We’ll see you next year!

“Who Stole My Stollen?”

Say the word “Christmas” and the word “tradition” is usually not far behind, especially where food is concerned. Around the holiday season, families tend to lean heavily on customs passed down from generation to generation and you will find most are reluctant to change. My mother-in-law has made blueberry pancakes on Christmas morning for the last 22 years and when the 25th rolls around in just a few weeks, she’ll be serving them to her grandson for the first time. (Thank goodness Noah adores pancakes!)Without even noticing, over the last six years that I have been married, I have slipped into a pattern of holiday baking. While some may label these food habits as my own traditions beginning to emerge for my sweet little family, I see them more as a rut I have fallen into.
There is usually a traditional English trifle, dozens of dark chocolate truffles, Russian Tea Cakes and Gingerbread men for nibbling, shortbread in abundance, and plenty of mincemeat tarts. There is nothing wrong with any of those, but here I am almost 30, asking myself:”Why am I only making fruitcake now? Why have I never baked a traditional German Stollen or an Italian Panettone? How come I’ve never attempted a steamed Christmas pudding?”
Heck, I haven’t even perfected a Buche de Noel. Shame on me.
Why? Because I’m too busy making my standard fare every holiday season to experiment with something new.Now, this is quite the ‘Ah ha!’ moment for me, because every other month of the year I am all about trying new things, so what’s been happening around the 25th of December? I am not big on traditions and never have been. I like surprises, spontaneity and change. Most people can’t get over the fact that we don’t have a Christmas tree (GASP!!), but that is just one of the Christmas traditions my hubby and I balk at. (OK, it mostly stems from my tree-hugging/save-the-planet upbringing, but don’t get me started going down that road…and Santa Claus? Pul-leeze. )
I realize I am on thin ice here so I will lighten up and tell you where I am going with all of this! Starting with my first attempt at Tourtiere last December, and continuing with fruitcake this year, I am starting to branch out with my Christmas cooking and baking and avoid the tendency to always make the same things. It’s just something I have to do. I am not belittling your traditions, your family recipes or your blueberry pancakes; I deeply respect all of those dear-to-your-heart patterns, but in my kitchen I have to mix things up a little! And so I present my Christmas Stollen! Now I have never even eaten Stollen, not to mention made it, but it sounded to good not to try, and so we welcomed a little bit of Germany came into our home as a result. Stollen is a yeast-based fruitcake, full of fruit and nuts, flavored with spices and rum like a classic fruitcake, but more like a challah or a brioche in texture. I didn’t know where to start looking for a recipe, (no German relations here, unfortunately) so I used my trusty Joy of Cooking. I always find bread baking deeply satisfying and this stollen did not disappoint. It was SO good, we couldn’t stop eating it.Although I had enjoyed the better part of a loaf with my afternoon tea, when I toasted up a slab for my husband in the evening, I couldn’t resist nabbing some off his plate when he wasn’t looking. That prompted the “Hey, who stole my stollen?” quote from above, a line Danny was quite tickled with and giggled over for the rest of the night.So does this mean Christmas Around the World for Under the High Chair? I don’t know yet, we’ll have to wait and see. It would make me proud if my kids grew up not expecting a certain line-up of dishes around the holidays, but rather were open to other cultural favorites like Paella, Cougnou, Nougat glacé, or Tamales.
If you’re in the mood to try something new, this stollen is a great place to start. Just don’t turn your back on it–it may disappear!Christmas Stollen(Adapted from The Joy of Cooking)
Have all ingredients at room temperature. 6-8 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon yeast
1 ½ cups milk, scalded and cooled to 110F
¼ cup dried cherries
¾ cup golden raisins
¾ cup currants
1 ½ cup almonds, chopped
½ cup chopped candied citrus peel
¾ cup sugar
1 ½ cups butter, plus extra for brushing loaves
3 eggs
¾ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon grated lemon rind
2 tablespoons rum In a large bowl, combine warm milk and yeast. Allow to sit 10 minutes until yeast is dissolved. Add 1 cup of the sifted flour and mix to form a sponge. Let sit in a warm place until doubled. Meanwhile, combine cherries, raisins, almonds and citrus peel. Sprinkle a little of the sifted flour over and combine. Set aside. When sponge has sufficiently rested, place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat well. Beat in sugar and blend until light and creamy. Add eggs one at a time, followed by the salt, lemon rind and rum. Mix well.
Mix in the fruit and nuts. Add all the sponge and the remaining flour. Knead the dough until smooth and elastic, adding more flour if too sticky.
Cover dough with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk. To shape dough, toss it onto a floured board and divide in two. Pat dough into a rough oval and fold over one third of the dough lengthwise onto the other two thirds. Repeat with remaining dough. Place on baking sheet -one loaf per sheet- and brush with butter. Allow to rise again until almost doubled in bulk. Preheat oven to 350F. Bake loaves for about 40 minutes until they are a dark golden brown.

Tea Time with Eccles Cakes

The Complete Book of Pastry by Bernard Clayton, JR. is a battered, dog-eared, stained cookbook that I took with me from home when I left. My dad gave it to my mother back in 1985, so the inscription dates, but it was more my sisters and I who delved into it and began baking our own sweet and savory delicacies at a very young age. I have an attachment to this cookbook, not just because of all the great recipes it holds, but because of all those memories between its pages.
Recipes such as Quiche Lorraine, Croissants, Apple Strudel and Classic Puff Paste are penciled-over, ripped, and well-used. My dad certainly benefited from this purchase, but then he generally did for every cookbook he brought home!
As a young girl, a particular favorite recipe of mine was Eccles Cakes. This particular interpretation of a classic British tea-time treat is more of a Canadian version of the original tea cakes of Eccles, England.
Imagine a layer of black currants and sugar pressed between two sheets of puff pastry and baked to a crisp, caramelized delicious morsel.
What’s not to love? With only three ingredients (once you have bought or made that time-consuming puff pastry) it is fast to make and you can easily whip up a batch for afternoon tea. So put the kettle on.
Bernard Clayton credits British Columbian chef, Bert J. Phillips for the recipe.Eccles Cakes
1 ½ lbs puff pastry, chilled
½ cup granulated sugar
1 cup currants Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Plump currants in hot water 10 minutes, drain and set aside. Roll chilled dough in a floured surface in to a rectangle 3/16 inch thick. Put aside for a moment while removing all dusting flour. Sprinkle the work surface generously with sugar and continue rolling dough to 1/8 inch thickness.
Trim the piece in to a precise rectangle. Cover half the dough solidly with currants in a single layer. Sprinkle lightly with sugar. Fold the remaining half of the dough over the top of the currants.
Gently press a rolling pin over the entire surface until the black currants show through the sheet of thin dough. The result is a nice speckled appearance.With a knife or pastry wheel, cut the dough into 2-inch squares and place 12 inch apart on the prepared baking sheet.
Place in the refrigerator to relax the dough for 25 minutes while the oven heats. Reheat oven to 375F.
Place the baking sheet in the middle of the oven. When the bottoms have caramelized and who light brown, carefully turn the cakes over and finish baking. ( I forgot to do this step, so my tops are less caramelized.)
Place cakes on rack to cool. Enjoy!

Tomatoes, Bread and Cheese. Repeat Several Times.

Tomatoes, bread and cheese. Tomatoes, bread and cheese.
For a while now I have been craving little except for crusty fresh bread, sweet garden tomatoes and any cheese I can get my hands on. Something about the simple and classic combinations of flavors appeals to my occasionally queasy, first-trimester-preggers stomach. Of course the bountiful harvest of fresh tomatoes from my little kitchen garden would be tempting to just about anyone.

While tomato sandwiches have been a lunch staple for a good week now, I decided to take my trio of ingredients to the next level–and use up that fresh mozzarella in my fridge. What could be better than a pizza?
Allow me to share my current favorite pizza dough recipe with you. I say current, because I am always on the hunt for the perfect crust. Like the ones I had in Italy. Who knows if my search will ever come to an end this side of the pond, but for now this one will do.

Pizza Dough

60 ml warm water
1 tablespoon yeast
2 1/2 cups white flour
180 ml cool water
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon honey

In the bowl of your Kitchen Aid or stand mixer, dissolve yeast in warm water and let sit a few minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients and with the dough hook, beat on medium for a minute until combined. Knead on low for five minutes. Dough will be soft.
Coat dough in olive oil and cover with a towel. Let rise in a warm place 30 minutes. Punch down dough and divide into portions. It is now ready for pizza making!
Makes enough for three 12 inch pizzas.
May be refrigerated for up to two days. Freezes well.

Cherry tomatoes, basil and fresh mozzarella were my toppings of choice as well as a drizzle of olive oil, homemade sauce, and fresh cracked pepper.
Mmm, just what the doctor ordered!

Montreal’s Best Cupcake and then some…

Montreal seems to be one of the last major North American cities to catch the cupcake fever. Perhaps it is because we have such a fine selection of standard French pastries available at every corner boulangerie, that cupcakes tend to fall into the category of kindergarten birthday-party sweets.Not anymore.

Gourmet cupcake shops are popping up all over Montreal as fast as potholes on Decarie Boulevard, already three in just the last six months! Surprising for a city where until recently, (unless you shopped in the bakery section at Loblaws) if you wanted a cupcake, you had to make it yourself. Now that there are four bake shops scattered over the city where you can pick up one of these trendy little cakes, there is bound to be one close to chez vous.
Google ‘cupcake New York’ and you will get about 1.3 million hits, where ‘cupcake Montréal’ will give you a little over one hundred thousand. Why is there such a cupcake craze south of the border, and how did we Montrealers end up with three new ‘boutique de cupcakes’ in a matter of a few months?
I decided to try and find out. A cupcake tasting was needed. Urgently. Have we been missing something? Have our noses been buried so far into our napoleons, pithiviers, and tarte au pommes that we have been overlooking such an elementary delicacy as the cupcake?
Somehow I doubted it.
But! An afternoon of nibbling sweets sounded pretty nice, so I rounded up three of my girlfriends, each a bona fide baker in their own way and none of them watching their weight, and we stoically set out to complete our task. I think it’s probably been at least a year since I’ve made cupcakes, and even then they were only to donate to a kid’s camp. I may not be a cupcake connoisseur, but I was confident I would know perfection when my tongue encountered it. I was looking for perfection and perfection only, here’s why:
The average cupcake in Montreal sells for $3. That’s three dollars and forty cents with tax, thank you very much. It is the equivalent of a sublime Vahlrona chocolate brioche at Olive et Gourmando, two flawless croissants from the Fromentier, or about five Polish prune paczki from Wawel.
These had better be really, really good cupcakes. With a bag of icing sugar retailing around $1.99 and a box of cake mix the same, I can whip up a couple dozen for the cost of one of these designer cupcakes.
New York City’s Magnolia Bakery, credited with starting the whole cupcake craze, (popular thanks to regularly screen time on Sex and the City) sells their celebrity cupcakes for $2. Other well known cupcakes shops in Manhattan, such as Sugar Sweet Sunshine, sell for even less, $1.50, so why the huge hike just six hours north? It’s not like we have to fly the frosting and sprinkles in by seaplane or anything. Come on!
Ok, so where are these shops, you ask, and more importantly, where are the photos??
At first glance at the business cards gathered from our tour, one might assume there are universal rules for owning a cupcake shop: you colors must be pink and brown. Either that, or there is cupcake mafia already and they have a hand in all these bakeries. In Montreal, it wouldn’t surprise me. Showcase at Cho’cola
5601 Monkland, 514.485.cola. Open since: June ’07
Price per cupcake: $2.95 Seating: indoor and outdoor
. Cho’cola is a nut-free environment. Cho’cola was our first stop. We passed by the attractive outdoor terrace (which is sure to be a big draw even if the cupcakes don’t work out) and into the ultra-modern, girly-girly pink interior. Under the counter, an army of cupcakes stood at attention, leaving me to wonder about freshness issues. It is 3 PM on a Wednesday, folks, are you really going to sell all these cupcakes? I found the colors of frosting rather dull and the decorations very ho-hum average. (above photo)
We chose four and it’s a good thing I jotted them down at the time of eating, because they were completely forgettable.
Key lime had a pretty swirl of meringue topping it, but the cupcake had about as much of a citrus taste as a Ritz cracker. There was a florescent green blob of something in the middle and I am assuming this was the namesake key lime. The cake part was probably just plain vanilla, but I guess it would have involved actually reaching for a real lemon to change that, and we all know how much work that is!
A carrot cupcake had mixed reviews. The girls used the word ‘muffin’ more than once, however, I was focusing more on the tasty cream cheese icing. It was OK.
A ‘Chocolate Fever’ cupcake was about as low-grade as they get. This was our first stop of the day and I was dying to sink my teeth into something really, really chocolaty. Unfortunately, this light brown, hint-of-cocoa cupcake did nothing for me and its heavy icing was way overkill. Doubling the height of the cupcake, it was a disturbing pile of pasty, overly-sweet frosting that hadn’t even come close to a stick of butter.
Finally a Chai Latte Cupcake helped smooth our ruffled feathers as we pronounced it the best, yet it was hardly more exciting than a plain vanilla cupcake with a few specks of spices. You have to wonder about a place that has row after row of bottled water with their label on it, but no website to speak of. Granted they have only been open a few weeks, but in this day and age where branding and marketing seem of paramount importance (hence the branded water), you would think that at least getting up a homepage with some contact info would be a priority.
I couldn’t help but get the feeling that if Betty Crocker came back in a time machine from the past, she would have opened Cho’cola, as the cupcakes have that straight-from-a-box taste. Petits Gateaux.
783 Avenue Mont-Royal Est. 514.510.5488.
Open since: May ’07
Price per cupcake:$2.95 Seating: yes
Truth be told, I was rooting for this Plateau bakery. We lived in this corner of Montreal during the first few years we were married and it will always hold sweet, sweet memories for me. Unfortunately, Petits Gateaux didn’t help me make any new sweet memories.
The decor is cute enough, minimalistic, modern and fun, but it was here we encountered the worst of our research. “You ladies choose which ones to get.” I offered, (usually the first to make my selection loud and clear.)
“Oh, I don’t know, you decide.”
“No, YOU!” Maybe my friends we just trying to be nice, but I kept scanning the case, desperately looking for temptation and finding none. If you looked closely, past the sprinkles and large rosettes of crusty icing, you could see the hard, cracked edges, signaling a dense, dry cupcake. Red alert! We managed to choose three: banana caramel, coconut and chocolate ganache. The bright blue coconut-quaffed cupcake looked cheery enough, but all the coconut fell off at the first bite and the baking soda taste was too overwhelming to continue eating. Too bad, because it was the fluffiest one. When cut in half, the banana cupcake looked about as appealing as a day-old Tim Horton’s bran muffin. And I hate Timmy’s. As I had predicted, it was very dry. On the flip side, the chocolate ganche cupcake was moist to the point of being messy. It fell apart the second I touched it, and more resembled a brownie than a cupcake. Tip: don’t eat this on a date where you are trying to impress. Itsi-bitsi,
2621 rue Notre-Dame Ouest, 514.509.3926. Opened:December ’06
Price per Cupcake $2.50, Seating: limited
Itsi-bitsi was a slight encouragement to our sinking spirits. So far we were not finding the perfection we were looking for and our stomachs were starting to churn from the large doses of gummy icing.
With a bright, cheery interior, Itsi-bitsi was very welcoming and the cupcake displays were the best we had seen yet. Each cupcake sat in a round hole in a notched piece of wood that slid out like a drawer for the case. It was impeccably clean and very chic looking. There were enough cupcakes on display to chose from, but not so many that you start to wonder if they have sold any at all that day.
We chose just two to taste, as basic vanilla and chocolate ginger. If you can’t get these two flavors perfected, there’s no point in moving on!
I loved the icing on both of these cupcakes. It was generous, yet not overdone; fluffy and creamy with a buttery taste that absolutely has to be there for me! The vanilla cupcake was tasty, very nice, but still not worth the steep price. I would probably go back for their chocolate-ginger cupcakes. Light in texture and dark with chocolate, they had bits of candied ginger throughout that livened them up somewhat.Still, the chocoholic inside of me wasn’t completely satisfied. It was looking for something better, something worthy of the title of Montreal’s Best Cupcake. A cupcake that made the world stop turning for a few seconds when you bit into it. An experience.Something like this….

Montreal’s Best Cupcake: Chocolate-Chai from Cocoa Locale

Cocoa Locale.
4807 Park Avenue. 514.271.7162. Opened: Summer ’05
Price Per cupcake: $3 Seating: a bench
I knew our mission was accomplished the second I bit into one of Reema Singh’s cupcakes at Cocoa Locale. Owner of the teeny-tiny Mile-End shop, Reema does all the baking herself and alongside other assorted baked goods, offers three kinds of cupcakes: vanilla, lemon and chocolate-chai. Of course we took one of each.
We knew this was the end of the search for the best cupcakes; we didn’t even have to say anything. Seated on the grass at Parc Jean Mance, we collectively nodded our heads, sighed and licked our fingers. Perfection was found. What a relief!
The delicate lemon cupcake tasted exactly as it should: like lemon! With a fine crumb, produced only by a cake made from scratch, and a thinned-out lemon buttercream icing, this cupcake is the ultimate garden party confection.
The vanilla cupcake, usually the most basic of flavors, was actually the most complex. Whatever trick Reema has up her sleeve must be working, because this was the best vanilla cupcake I’ve ever had!
However, the ultimate part of my day was my first bite into the chocolate cupcake. It was the kind of deep, dark, rich chocolate flavor that makes a chocolate-lover’s knees go weak. I wanted to rub that cupcake all over my body. Mmm, let me just sit here for a minute and remember it. Cocoa Locale only uses the best chocolate: Valrhona, and I heartily approve! Also, the subtle chai compliments the chocolate beautifully, taking this cupcake up another level. That now puts it way, way above any other cupcake we tried that day.
Now I know I am not the first to sing the praises of Cocoa Locale. It’s been around for a few years, I am just sorry that I am only discovering it now. We were all charmed by this little shop-around-the-corner and agreed that it certainly made a trip up to Mile-End worthwhile. It’s interesting how all these new copy-cat designer cupcake shops can’t hold a candle to Montreal’s own original little bakery. It’s not that the other cupcakes were terrible, they were just not worth $2.95 each. The quality of ingredients and the care just wasn’t there. Sure there was plenty of pretty packaging, fancy lighting, style and more than one Joe/Jane who knows their way around a piping bag, but ultimately in the end there was always flaws that no amount of icing -or sprinkles- could disguise.
Montreal is already widely known for its gastronomic strengths, perhaps once our cupcake bakeshops (with the exception of Cocoa Locale) work out their kinks, our city will have yet another feather in it’s culinary cap.