Sugary Swirls, a new bakery on Bathurst, is the realization of owner Sonia Esteves' long-held dream of running a bakeshop. After a life-changing experience with breast cancer, Esteves finally decided the time was right to launch her business, taking over the old Madeleine's space.
In its new incarnation, the building has been upgraded and the interior painted and transformed, but the charming cafe windows and facade remains. Inside, there's a bright display case, with the latest pastries and cupcakes lined up and ready to go. Rows upon rows of pink and speckled buttercream frosting, the crystal sugar gleam of sugar cones and the shiny glaze of custard tarts, muffins, bread and danishes makes it hard to choose one over another.
Come at lunch and they'll make up a panini, like ham and cheese. They also offer coffee and tea, and you can sit in the window and enjoy your lunch and sweets.
On the mezzanine above you can see Esteves hard at work baking these treats, or perfecting one of her customized speciality cakes. That is where Esteves shines: Her cakes (and cupcakes) are truly impressive.
The cake is soft and moist; popular flavours include classics like vanilla, chocolate, lemon, carrot cake and red velvet, but talk to her and she'll work something out great. They'll come covered with bright buttercream frosting, or richly coloured fondant tailored to your celebration's specifics. A children's birthday, wedding or baby shower would be topped off beautifully by one of her inventive cakes, which are priced according to style and size.
The cupcakes are mini-versions of the same great cake and frosting, with sometimes little fondant or nonpareil decorations on top.
The pastries are like the ones many Portuguese bakeries carry, though Sugary Swirls offers upscale versions: Custard tarts, cinnamon swirls, sugar cones, slices of cheesecake with fruit on top suspended in a glaze.
Preferring the flakey buttery lightness of French puff pastry, I often find this style of pastry kind of flavourless - though it works well in the case of a custard tart, where there is a low pastry to high filling ratio. (Portugese bakers are famous for their custard tarts, and Esteves' are no exception.)
Since Sugary Swirls reads as posh and sophisticated, I thought I'd find a difference, but eat a Danish ($3.50), as I did, and you will notice that the pastry itself is predominantly tasteless white flour, dense and overworked, and doesn't pull apart lightly into delicate threads, but is tough and chewy. People who have grown up with this style of pastry may prefer it; I find it bland.
That said, cake is clearly Esteves' focus and passion, and where her skill set is put to best use. The cakes are so beautiful and delicious, why bother with pastries? I say - let them eat cake!
Photos by Jesse Milns