Prairie Girl Bakery
Prairie Girl Bakery only does cupcakes. No coffee, no tea, no other light bites. Just cupcakes--two sizes, and a variety of flavours. And it's just as well, since its vanilla/vanilla cupcake was probably the best I've tasted in Toronto.
When you walk into the pale green shop on Victoria Street off of King, you feel like you're in a quaint jewellery boutique. Rows of dark cocoa and golden buttermilk cupcakes are lined neatly in custom-made roll-out drawers, each swirled with butter or cream cheese icing and laid out perfectly for all customers to see.
Just two days in, and business is already booming. "I always loved to bake," owner Jean Blacklock tells me, "but until about two years ago, having a place like this was always just a 'never never' dream." Blacklock had spent 25 years at the Bank of Montreal before deciding to open Prairie Girl. "My husband, who worked there also, was getting a promotion and he would've been my boss. It was just the right time to move on."
So Blacklock took her cupcake recipes, which stemmed from her mother and grandmother, and developed them for large-scale baking. Now the baking team starts at 4:30 a.m. every day, preparing fresh cupcakes from scratch using natural ingredients and no preservatives. Whatever doesn't get sold (though that hasn't been a problem yet) will be donated to Second Harvest.
There's an impressive assortment of icing varieties, available on cocoa or golden buttermilk cake. There are also signature cupcakes, including red velvet with cream cheese icing, banana with peanut butter icing, and carrot with cream cheese. The cupcakes are available in regular sizes ($2.95/each, $16.95/½ doz, $31.95/doz) and mini ($1.75/each, $9.95/½ doz, $18.95/doz). Gluten-free cupcakes are also available for order, as well as one or more gluten-free flavours for purchase each day.
Though the peppermint butter, strawberry butter, and lemon butter icings each looked tempting, I decided on a good old golden buttermilk cupcake with vanilla bean butter icing. It was packed in a paper box (with a cardboard insert to keep it in place) and I headed down the street to find a coffee.
While I might have minded two stops in any other case, the cupcake more than made up for my tacked-on coffee trip. The butter icing was heavenly--almost as light as whipped cream with specks of vanilla bean and a smooth, buttery taste. The cake was fresh and fluffy, with a bit of substance to it, which I appreciated. And it tasted just like it was baked at home.
If you're going to offer just one thing on your menu, you better do it right. Prairie Girl Bakery has done exactly that.
Photos by Dennis Marciniak