Wednesday, June 18, 2008

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!


LyB said...

Reading about all those places, you're making me wish I was in Montreal again! I loved these cupcake posts, it's nice to know that simple is best. Now I'm craving a vanilla cupcake! ;)

Anonymous said...

My girlfriend converted me to the cupcakes. We tried a few store and I must say that I’m not agree with your review of LesGlaceurs. I found the chocolate cupcake well balanced; light and moistly with just enough chocolate icing. It's probably only a personal preference but, actually, this is the only cupcake bakery where I got back without her … for me, it says everything.

La Cuisine d'Helene said...

Nice article. I have to say that the best cupcakes are the ones I bake at home. I would never spend $3 on a cupcake. That would kill me.

Emily said...

Oh, I love it! I can read about cupcakes all day. The pictures were great.
I think I'd have to agree with you; the white cupcake looks moist and delicious, and so soft and pretty with the pink.
I think the peanut butter topped cupcake looks good also. You should do this more often!
I wish we had cupcake places...

Anonymous said...

Don't feel bad about not calling ahead - from what I understand, Reema of Cocoa Locale does not take reservations for her cupcakes. It's first-come, first-served all the way.

winedeb said...

What a great post! Funny, I am with you on the vanilla cupcake. Don't get me wrong, I still love chocolate, but there are so many other great flavors out there to discover!

Nora B. said...

Terrific review and how fun to go for a "cupcake crawl", Aimée! Noah must have had a ball as well. I am a vanilla ice-cream fan like your mom. As for cupcakes, I usually use the vanilla cupcakes as the benchmark since the baker can't use the other ingredients such as fruits to "mask" the quality of the cupcakes.

What i would really like to do is learn to expertly frost cupcakes - that's one of my many "to-do" projects for this year.

Hope that you are having a lovely weekend,


Jen said...

I live in Washington, D.C. and we seem to be in the middle of a cupcake craze too, although our bakers don't get nearly as creative as yours do. We have mostly vanilla/chocolate combos with the occasional citrus or berry flavor thrown in. For me though, there's never a choice- it's chocolate hands down.

Aimée said...

Hi Lyb- You can probably bake something just as good (and better) than what we can get here!

Hi yaa- Thanks for your comment! I'm so glad you enjoy the cupcakes at L.G., what matters most is that you are happy!

Hi Helene- Yep, it hurts.

Hi Emiline- Thanks! Why don't you open up a shop?

Hi Amanda- Hmm, she did for me once, but maybe I shouldn't tell anyone that...

Hi Deb- Cool! Just like ice cream, right?

Hi Nora- You are so right. If the vanilla is bad, watch out for the rest! Have fun with your cupcake frosting project. Keep it simple!

Hi Jen- Chocoholic all the way, eh? Excellent!

Anonymous said...

Hi, I just wanted to let you know that you must have gone to Les Glaceurs on a bad day or something, b/c I've been there several timeswith my boyfriend, and everytime we've gone the cupcakes were so moist that they could barely hold together. We have noticed however, that depending on the flavor and even time of day (b/c of demand) they can be a be a bit dry but still quite moist I have to say. I was extremely surprised by your review.

Anonymous said...

This was a lot of fun to read! I love to check out the competition, but not only do I check it out, I actually go there and try a lot of these myself, so now I know where to go and where my biggest competition will be! lol I guess I can say I'm new in town, and this is my business! I had a shop in Ontario and this is what I did. People came from far for my cupcakes! So I guess I'll have to get in on the competition in the next few years! :) who knows, maybe i'll have the best cupcake of the year! ;)

Bilboquet Westmount said...

Have you ever tried Ice Cream Cupcakes? Not cupcakes with ice cream. Cupcakes made out of ice cream! Bilboquet Westmount created the best ice cream cupcakes made with, of course, the best ice cream.
The bottom 1/4 is made with either vanilla or red velvet cupcake. The balance is filled with ice cream or sorbet and the top is piped with ice cream or sorbet. A myriad of combinations are possible and you can create your own!!! Come and try for yourself! There is nothing like this around! These are only available at the Westmount Bilboquet Location which is open all year!

Maya said...

I LOVE cupcakes!!! Whenever I pass by Cocoa Locale they are always closed :( :( :( I've been dying to try their cupcakes ever since I read your cupcake post last year. I ordered cupcakes from a Montreal based online bakery called Cupcake Couture and they were amazing! Here's the website if anyone is interested:

D Liche said...

Drool! Love sweets. Oh the photos want me to jump in there <3


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