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Toronto Through the Eyes of Dufflet Rosenberg

Posted by Guest Contributor / February 25, 2010

Dufflet RosenbergThere are few ways to elicit delight more reliably than by announcing that you've brought 'Dufflet's' for dessert. Self-taught and self-assured, Toronto's very own 'Queen of Cake' Dufflet Rosenberg has been helping people make people happy for nearly three decades now. A staple at weddings around town--let alone the hundreds of restaurants, cafes and shops--the desserts of Dufflet Pastries are synonymous with celebrating the sweeter things in life.

Fresh from her annual skiing trip in Jackson, Wyoming, Dufflet Rosenberg sat down in the back kitchen of her Queen West shop to chat about her hometown.

What neighbourhood do you live in?

I have been in Toronto all my life. We lived in the same house growing up. I ended up moving to Queen Street West in the early 80's and lived there for close to 30 years until I moved just a block north a year and a half ago. I moved to the neighbourhood for convenience at that time as I already had the store on Queen West and everything was easy and close by. At the time, it was inexpensive to buy property on Queen West. It was a little rough back then, but that has changed. Queen between Spadina and University had just started to develop - with the Queen Mother and Peter Pan restaurants opening.

I like living downtown. The suburbs are not an option for me. I don't think Toronto is the most beautiful place to live, but it's certainly an easy place to live.

What are your favourite parts of the city?

Roncesvalles has really emerged with more families and demand. There is such a great collection of small, independent food shops around there. They've got everything you need within walking distance - cheese shops, butchers, prepared foods, restaurants, cafes.

I love High Park. I like Trinity Bellwoods too, but High Park is bigger with more roads for cycling. They used to have cross-country skiing in High Park, but they don't acknowledge it in the same way, so now it gets beat up quickly after a snowfall. I like the fact that I can put my skis in the car and be there in five minutes to ski. There's been no snow this year, but last year I was skiing in Trinity Bellwoods. You just have to catch it fresh after the snow.

You are known for being an avid cyclist. How does cycling influence your engagement with the city?

I'll bike whenever I can when it's above zero and there's no snow. You see so much more on a bike. You're at a completely different pace and there are no parking issues, plus no road rage. Although I have been known to yell at cars from my bike as well.

My husband and I have a tandem bike. We prefer to take the bike in the car and drive out of the city, and ride where there is less traffic. Favourite spots to ride... Caledon, or the Escarpment near Milton. I think we've been everywhere that's within a 40-minute drive of Toronto. I don't want to waste my time in a car, but I also don't want to ride long distances in the city - too hard on my nerves.

What are your favourite restaurants and cafes in the city?

I love dim sum but don't often indulge. I've got a long list of Asian restaurants to try north of the city in Markham and Scarborough, but that means getting in the car. My friends prefer Bright Pearl, but I like Lai Wah Heen - when it's not lined up. Mostly I go to Yung Sing pastry shop on Baldwin, eat the buns as I sit outside at their picnic tables. They also do a few dim sum things. It's a little hole-in-the-wall and now I see they are closed for renovations, to reopen in the spring. If it doesn't reopen like the sign says, I'm going to be heartbroken.

I'm allowed to customize my own coffee at Dufflet's, which is freshly roasted and delivered weekly, so I don't have a need to go out for coffee that often. Sometimes I stop in at Luna or The Common, since they're close by. I find most cafes do not make a proper espresso. If you've been to Italy, you'll know what I'm talking about. I like to go to the Italian cafes on St. Clair West or the Italian bakeries in the west end. They know the rules of serving espresso - not the west coast style. My one exception is Bar One on Queen West - now they make a proper Italian espresso.

There are places along Ossington that I like - Foxley does great fusion. I like Union and Golden Turtle. For a special occasion I might go to Splendido, Note Bene or Scaramouche. Closer to the Queen shop and home I'll go to Oyster Boy, Terroni or Bar One.

Any hidden gems in the city?

I'm not sure if these are secrets or not, but I do like to take the bike path and ride out to Mississauga. If you keep going west you can stop at lovely little beach spots along the way where you can sit on a bench and watch the ducks in peace. It's amazing that we still have access to all of this. I also like the Bluffs. I'll ride out to the Guild--so sad that it's boarded up. There are a couple of spots along the Guild parkway where you can literally fall off the Bluffs. I rarely see anyone enjoying my view when I'm out there.

Do you have any baking tips for the average baker?

I do teach classes and often I tell people to develop a few recipes that they're comfortable with - save the experimenting for later. Learn the basics and then just mix and match.

How do Toronto pastry shops compare with those of other major cities?

Ten or fifteen years ago there were few places in the city. Now a lot of French and Belgian people have come and open shop; it's changed dramatically. There are some on Bayview and Mount Pleasant; everyone loves Pain Perdu. And of course, there's Patachou. The funny thing about the European places is that they tend to stick to a certain look and pattern whereas we take lots of liberties at Dufflet's.

Do you find that your three different retail locations sell different items depending on their neighbourhood?

Yes, with more kids living in the Beaches, we definitely sell more cupcakes and little treats at that location. The Yonge location also has a lot of families, but it does more wedding consultations. The Queen shop is all about selling whole cakes, doing more parties, and more wedding consultations.

How has Dufflet's changed over the years?

In some ways we've changed a lot and in other ways we haven't. We use more butter creams and mousses now than we when we first started. The chocolate cake we make today is still the same recipe from 35 years ago. The Chocolate Raspberry Truffle, The Double Decker Fudge -those cakes have not changed. Our regular customers do not like change - they keep coming for their favourites, year after year.

What is your favourite Dufflet's cake?

We do a tremendous amount of recipe testing for all kind of customers - I get to indulge in my fair share of cake at work. Actually, it sometimes gets to be too much - we will taste but not swallow. But dessert still comes first for me. I do take the Raspberry Charlotte very often when I visit people, but the Toasted Almond Meringue is still my all-time favourite dessert.

Writing and photo by Soojin Lee



keven / February 25, 2010 at 03:23 pm
What a great article! I am a HUGE fan of Dufflet Pastries & Cakes, I actually had NO idea that the person responsible is actually named Dufflet.
Not Keven / February 25, 2010 at 03:38 pm
I bet you are, Comic Book Guy.
Inmyopinion / February 25, 2010 at 03:39 pm
I think pastries from Dufflet have really decreased in quality over the years. I'm disappointed that Dufflet has decided to move towards a larger scale of production whereby suppliers like Second Cup and Loblaws are selling their goods and thus the quality of them isn't being maintained (be it because the supplier isn't keeping it fresh, etc.).

Toronto is lucky to have many bakeries, cafes and producers that are simply creating a better product for the same price. In my opinion, Dufflet has sold out and the quality just isn't there anymore.

In the article, Dufflet mentions Pain Perdu - that is exactly what a small, quality supplier is. They keep their busy store in the city and do a fabulous job at a high demand.

Dawn / February 25, 2010 at 03:42 pm
mmmmmmm cake.
Leah / February 25, 2010 at 04:06 pm
Dufflet's Double Vanilla cupcake has the most amazing vanilla icing I have ever tasted.
Not Keven replying to a comment from Not Keven / February 25, 2010 at 04:07 pm
Sorry about my stupid comment, I was sniffing glue this morning, watching The Simpsons and reading blogTO at the same time. Worst idea EVER!
insomeoneelsesopinion replying to a comment from Inmyopinion / February 25, 2010 at 04:08 pm
Sold out? I am willing to bet that you would not have noticed any difference in the quality of Dufflet's cakes if you weren't aware that they were distributing through Loblaws or Second Cup. You present ZERO evidence that the quality isn't being maintained, that the ingredients aren't as fresh, that the production has changed at all.

You sound like one of those people who like a musician's "older stuff, y'know, before they sold out."
Carla replying to a comment from keven / February 25, 2010 at 04:49 pm
Dufflet is actually her nickname. I watched a neat little biography about her a few months ago... most likely on rogers ch 10
Darlene / February 25, 2010 at 05:00 pm
Best carrot cake in the world.
Stephanie / February 25, 2010 at 05:14 pm
When we first moved to the Queen West area, we quickly learned that the easiest way to explain where we lived was to skip the street names, and just start with, "You know where Dufflets is, right?" And who needs to learn to make a good cake when the best is right there?
mona / February 25, 2010 at 11:05 pm
My family loves to eat Dufflet cakes and we've definitely tried all the flavours. Fam gatherings, birthdays, parties...always Dufflet - something about it being not too sickening sweet like some of the icing cakes can be. Top 3 flavours: banana coconut, turtle fudge, raspberry lemon. Doesn't take anything like their names, but delicious nonetheless.
Laura / February 25, 2010 at 11:46 pm
loved reading this! I walk by the store in the Beaches everyday and have never been in. I'll try it for sure now!
lovethefood / February 26, 2010 at 02:33 am
I hear Dufflet will be at Toronto Taste again this year.
Rachel / February 26, 2010 at 06:17 pm
How could you not ask her about her name? There is a big debate (at least among the people I know) over how to pronounce it and what its origins are. Can anyone fill me in please?
Inmyopinion replying to a comment from insomeoneelsesopinion / February 26, 2010 at 07:35 pm
Um actually, I do have evidence. It tastes like shit now and it used to be way better. Their tarts suck now. The pastry isn't flakey and the lemon curd is awful.

Parker / February 26, 2010 at 10:01 pm
Great article. Dufflet is a Toronto treasure. Yum!
jamesmallon / March 3, 2010 at 05:44 pm
What a waste. You should never put anything in your mouth you're not going to swallow.
JR replying to a comment from jamesmallon / April 5, 2010 at 01:25 am
Hahahahahaha. Oh god the subtext.
blerg / April 7, 2010 at 12:59 am
Taste but not swallow?
Chew and spit?
...eating disorder.
the cake is tasty. Banana chocolate!
JP replying to a comment from Rachel / July 12, 2011 at 11:48 am
What I have read in the past about the name Dufflet is that she has an older brother named Duff and that she was nick named "Dufflet." As far as pronunciation, the "t" at the end is pronounced, as it's not a french name. I can't quote my source, but that is what I've read somewhere in the past.
JP / July 12, 2011 at 11:50 am
Correction, I should have typed, the t at the end ISN'T pronounced.
JP / July 12, 2011 at 11:51 am
Correction to Correction. Sorry I was right the first time. It's pronounced. I'm having a very stressful day, and this is merely a distraction from all the turmoil I'm dealing with at the moment.
Bonnie / January 19, 2013 at 08:48 pm
I saw Dufflet in Wagamama Pastries & Café this afternoon.
Looks like she was snooping.
Jason / August 18, 2014 at 12:52 pm
Curious about the correct pronunciation of "Dufflet". I've always heard it pronounced exactly as it is spelled, e.g. "duff" rhymes with "fluff", and "let" with a soft 'e', e.g. "let me in".

Had a nice evening out with my wife last night at the Glenerin Inn. Food was quite good, and the patio setting very nice.

However, there was one minor problem once we came inside when it started to get chilly out on the patio.

Sitting across the small room were two pretentious twits of women who interrupted our meal (to tell us how their meal wasn't up to their standards, and that they had each sent their meat back three times. (We had no complaints, everything was just fine)

They then complained about desert, which also did not live up to their standards. They then mentioned how accustomed they were to the "Dewflay" (read: Dufflet) pastries they get from Pusateri's. I'm surprised they didn't mention Michael Stadtlander in the same breath.

We both said, "isn't it Dufflet?" (as in "Duh-flet")

Nooooooooooo. It was "dewflay", because it's french, of course, which I'm sure they knew from spending weekends in Provence. (Or at least watching it on television).

I just phoned Dufflet out of curiosity, and they do indeed answer "Duh-flet", just to satisfy my understanding.

I suppose this is why they were hanging out at the Glenerin Inn on a Sunday night on a Groupon deal, complaining bitterly about the three-course meal that they only paid $25 each for using the Groupon coupon.

I'm surprised that they revealed that they were there on a Groupon deal, it didn't quite sound like the kind of thing they would condescend to doing.

They then complained to the (very nice) waitress demanding they get a discount.

This just goes to show that though there is nothing wrong with having money, the love of it, and the desire to look like you have a lot of it actually makes you incredibly boorish, and it doesn't take much to see through it.

To be cheapskates on top of that, well, that made my skin crawl.

Tarzjay / August 18, 2014 at 01:24 pm
I don't know, but perhaps "Dewflay" is sort of like "Tarzjay" for "Target". I've usually heard it pronounced Duff-let, without a "French" accent.

I've never really been a big fan of Dufflet pastries; they don't taste particularly special to me. The cakes, especially lack something to me. Maybe they use vegetable oils? I like butter in my cakes.

Nothing is worse than discount people trying to get something more for free. Shameless and they have no idea how ridiculous they look to others. They don't care, either, because all they care about is money money money.
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