The Icing on the Cake

By / Photography By Ben Welland | December 13, 2015
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Seasons turn and fashions shift in and out faster than many of us can clean out our closets. Traditions evolve from one generation to the next, but birthdays, weddings and great accomplishments are always celebrated. And with each celebration, there is always one thing: cake. Despite enormous changes in food throughout history, cake preserves its place as the icon for commemoration. Cake transcends cultural differences, withstands time and remains the universal symbol of a celebration.

To celebrate the one year mark of the magazine, the edible Ottawa team set out on one delicious quest: to enhance the merrymaking with some of our favourite locally made cakes. Though debates about our love of cake were disputed (some of us unabashedly admitting a general dislike), we persevered until our taste buds achieved satisfaction.

Over the next few pages, the swoon-worthy, drool-producing images are cakes each of us have personally selected. In fact, these cakes are so delicious we believe they will turn any cake sceptic into a cake lover. So find something to celebrate: your dog's birthday, your newly cleaned closet, another issue of edible Ottawa, grab your friends, your forks and join us in a moment of indulgence.

Carrie Bradley - Patisserie la Toque

Carrie Bradley always knew she was destined to a profession that promoted good health. She just didn't realize this would come by feeding hearts and souls with cake. Having originally sought out to study kinesiology, it wasn't long before she realized the way she really wanted help people was by creating cakes that commemorate life's special moments. She made one wedding cake for a friend, took a trip to Paris, read Julia Child and reshaped her entire life plan.

From this resolve, Bradley's story mixes an impressive batch of determination and grit. She pays of her student loans from the kinesiology program, marries, scrimps and saves, has a baby and, during her maternity year in 2010, completes the Basic and Intermediate program at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. In 2011 she completed the Senior program and did a Stage at Le Café Pouchkine. Much to our collective happiness in the Ottawa/Gatineau region, she settled in Wakefield and opened La Toque in February 2013. True to character, her motto is "I bake fresh. And I don't sell day olds."

Her cakes continue to be inspired by annual trips to Europe, magazines such as Bon Appetit and a french publication "Fou du Pâtisserie," and instagram. Local ingredients include berries from the fruit stands down the road, Wakefield's Berg en Dal honey, Älska Farm's maple syrup from Ferrellton, Quebec. Milk and cream is sourced from Laiterie de l’Outaouais. It is a co-op that sells milk from a number of local farms.

She prefers doing simple, modern versions of the classics, particularly vanilla, caramel and coffee flavoured cakes. Lemon is popular in summer while dark chocolate and caramel take the cake in winter. As far as edible Ottawa is concerned, we'll take her cakes anytime.

Patisserie La Toque
729 Chemin Riverside, Wakefield, QC

Linda Bartlett - The Girl with the Most Cake

The girl with the most cake is what happens when sculptor meets icing sugar. For this artist-turned-pastry-chef, icing sugar is the world's most delicious medium. Bartlett's training in frosting emerged while completing a master's degree in sculpture at the University of Windsor. She was drawn to the idea of working with cake as a material because of the perishability. Once people saw her exhibitions, it didn't take long before they started asking her for cakes.

Cake making for Bartlett is like a philosophy course. She says, "I am inspired by the paradox of phrases like, you are what you eat, and my simultaneous desire to create beautiful things. I also like to see what happens when you smother things as much as possible — to the point where they become absurd."

These days nothing seems absurd to her anymore. One look at the company's facebook page will prove her array of design talent. She regularly fashions cakes covered with cartoon characters to those with floral and lace designs delicate enough for weddings. She makes funky eye-popping designs to sophisticated and delicate butterfly wings. "While I can't say that any request is strange anymore, one cake that stands out in my mind is a cake that looked like Van Gogh's painting 'Starry Night’. It was hand painted. In fact, she even framed it in melted chocolate with a shimmery, edible gold lustre.

The amazing part about these creations is that the icing is actually made from butter cream not fondant. Bartlett refined her icing until it was as smooth as fondant, looks like fondant but once tasted, melts in your mouth with a silky smooth feeling the way only butter can. There are four traditional flavours to choose from — vanilla, lemon, carrot filled with produced from the Carp Farmers' Market where she also sells her cakes and the most popular, Belgian chocolate.

The business name comes from both Courtney Love's song of the same title, and also the saying the girl with the most cake wins. It's easy to find a winner in this gal's designs. 

The Girl with the Most Cake, 613.832.8952

Michael Holland - Holland's Cake and Shake

Michael Holland's wacky and wonderful creations have proven that he has cake down to a science. Literally. After spending his first few years of university in science labs, he found himself combining his knowledge with his passion for pastries (in a much more productive way than most of us, we might add). "I became a pastry chef specifically because I like the art and the science behind it," says Holland. "I'm science-minded, but I love the creative outlet it provides too."

Holland had been dubbed the Pastry Overlord, and for good reason. His sense of humour comes through in his food and he never ceases to surprise his customers with his unusual flavour combinations. "Most of my inspiration comes from music and television," says the hip baker. "I love rap and I always make references to certain songs through my desserts."

It's that kind of flair that is attracting people to the shop. In fact, it seems the crazier the flavour profile, the more popular the cake tends to be. To date, his bestseller was inspired by the Jimi Hendrix song "My Bleeding Heart." This Valentine's special was topped with a liquid heart-shaped truffle, that, when broken into would bleed all over the cake.

Holland's shop "The Cake and Shake" features his signature 3-inch cakes and sandwiches on homemade milk bread from his grandfather's recipe. True to his own salt cravings, sandwiches are topped guaranteed to be topped with potato chips. But the real draw at The Cake and Shake is his twist on the classic milkshake. More specifically, the "cake shake," where a customer picks a cake to be both massacred and reinvented into an indulgent beverage.

The convenient location of the Parkdale market has made sourcing local ingredients easy. During the summer months, they are especially pleased to use berries from Cleroux farms. They are also good friends with their neighbours from Beyond the Pale and use their beer often, both in the cake and bread.

Whatever he's using, it's working and we're pleased Holland keeps shaking up the cake market.

Holland's Cake and Shake
229 Armstrong St, Ottawa, Ont., 613.695.3311

Amanda Hearty - Algonquin College

It was one serendipitous moment that is responsible for this exquisite cake. A few years ago, Amanda Hearty was slogging through a social science degree in Montreal until the day she met her destiny: a cake display at Premiere Moisson bakery. Struck by the beauty of the cakes on display, she acknowledged the fork in her road and chose a new path, enrolling in Algonquin College's Baking and Pastry Arts (is this the official title?) program the following year.

Hearty grew up in a family of bakers in the Pontiac region of Quebec. Her grandmother's farmhouse had an an open-door policy which people heartily made use of because of Grandma's tasty homemade buns. (I prefer to say rolls) Hearty fondly remembers spending a lot of time with her grandmother in the kitchen. Under Grandma's (Did she call her Grandma?) wing, Hearty was encouraged to choose recipes from various cookbooks for the two of them to bring to fruition.

After completing the pastry program, she worked at the National Arts Centre under head chef Kurt Waldele. From there she went to the French Baker in the Byward Market for three years. The diplomat cake finally entered her life when she moved to Vancouver and worked at True Confections as well as at Chocolate Arts. It's worth mentioning that her macarons were also mastered while in Vancouver under the guidance of German Chef Marco Ropke at the Pastry Training Centre of Vancouver.

Thankfully, she eventually made her way back to Ottawa and is using her creative talents for the betterment of future pastry chefs, teaching at the Algonquin College in the same program that first helped her when she faced that emphatic fork. She's constantly cooking up cakes that best feature the season's ingredients: from strawberry shortcake to pumpkin and spice cakes to the everchanging flavours of macarons. But that diplomat cake, with its layer upon layer of vanilla sponge cake, vanilla buttercream, pastry cream and crunchy, flaked puff pastry — that forces all of us to reconsider our forks.

Algonquin College, Baking and Pastry Arts Program
1385 Woodroofe Ave., Ottawa, Ont., 613.727.4723

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