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There is nothing worse than bad cake...

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And bad cake is rampant these days - but let me preface. I am a dull guy these days: new family, less urban, more dinners in, date nights are too rare to risk on mediocrity. It's great in a lot of ways, but it makes me less of a chowhound - my list of go to is short and steady - and you've all heard me bang the drum about it enough. We try to do a nice job with house guests - and since I hate making dessert, we usually pick something up. This has gone over well in the past.

The Good:

Strawberry and Pistachio tart from Latruwe. 5/5. Unbelievable. Can taste pistachio. If you have ever shelled an entire bag of pistachios, and eaten them with a spoon, you would have less pistachio flavour than this. Sublime.

Lemon Cake from Brulee. I think this is the first cake I had, years ago, that cracked the door on great cake and the idea of a great calgary bakery. Prior to this moment I think the Dutch something or other was the best I had. Perfectly balanced. As a chocolate guy, this satisfies me and the non-chocolate guy.

Berry Genois (sp?) and Fruit / Profiterole cake from Eclaire De Lune. Both awesome, and literally half the price of the two above. I would skip his chocolate log though.

The Bad:

Mixed cupcakes from Crave. or Mixed mini cupcakes from Crave. or Cupcakes from anywhere else. Go ahead - put that blindfold on - take a bite - can you tell the difference? from one colour to another - from one bakery to another (even safeway?). Please let this trend end. It's embarrassing. Your customers are getting laughed at. In the grand tradition of stealing entrepreneurial ideas from other cities, give up your leases so a new series of NYC simulacra can appear.

The Worst:

40 dollars for styrofoam from Nectar. Punky Brewster Plus Duncan Heinz does not equal baking prowess. I see the price Inglewood is paying for cable tv's cake shows - it's all about looks and not about taste. Red Velvet = ass in a box. It wasn't just me either - everyone who was over was so excited for that first bite - and as soon as it was in - the forks slowed to a stand still and I threw out a pile of cake. Plates were covered with leftover icing. This doesn't happen with Brulee. People lick plates from Latruwe. I have 2/3rds of a Red Velvet in my freezer. Maybe I can make breadcrumbs out of it - ruby red chicken fingers (just hold your nose).....

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  1. I am with you on Eclair De Lune. He does not get the recognition he deserves for his quality and price points.

    There are good cupcakes out there, but hard to find.

    1. Thanks for this post! I'm excited to try some of The Good.

      As far as the cupcake trend, have you tried Bliss & Co Cupcakes? It's not fair to compare that to Safeway.

      1. I didn't realize that liking mini cakes (cupcakes) was making me a laughing stock.
        Things to do today:
        Start eating big cakes

        1. I have worked in a couple of Meat Packing plants. I thought there were a few things worse than bad cake but maybe it's just me.

          Just in case I'm going to go ahead and avoid that "Red Velvet." Thanks for the heads up.

          1. Life is too short for bad cake... I'm not out there hounding as much as I'd like these days either... We've moved... to a less er food-focused town and I'm married with children too... so the hounding is either done with chowpups in tow or at home exploring new cuisines... searching out whats available at smaller shops in Red Deer - so like you when we get out by ourselves there's no time to waste on misses.

            Nectar does tarts quite well, and a lot of her plated desserts are a real treat - I've always enjoyed the chocolate experience for instance... but as much as I've tried to love her cakes... well, I can't say I've been wowed recently. I had a chocolate malt cake back when Nectar opened that was fabulous... I wonder if it's a case of becoming too popular and having to er compromise quality in order to increase production? I somehow doubt she's using Duncan Hines since I'd recognize it from my childhood. Sprinkles mix maybe?

            Cupcakes have been popular for a long time and frankly I don't give a damn about trends (or maybe I'd have stopped listening to Blues Traveller a long time ago) I DO however care about what's tasty - and you'll never find me in the lineups at Crave & Buttercream(tooooo sweet!)... you will however find me in chinatown at Bliss when I get the chance - clean flavours, good icing (and I'm not usually a big icing fan) and the right cake/icing ratio.

            Thank you for the report on Brulee, Latruwe and Eclair de Lune - the later had sort of fallen off my radar since the move. I'll have to make a note to check out his Genoise soon.

            4 Replies
            1. re: maplesugar

              I love Bliss & Co. for not only their cupcakes but also for their big cakes. We've ordered their black velvet cake for a friend's birthday. Was the most moist and dense velvet cake I've had. Plus their cream cheese icing was amazing. I like them because they aren't as sticky sweet as Buttercream or Crave.

              1. re: foodkarma

                Plus one for Bliss & Co. We are partial to their Chocolate Cake with Caramel Buttercream icing. So good. Everyone raves. I also love the ladies that run it. So nice & so wonderful to chat with. Also, if you do go the cupcake route....try the After 8 (choc cake with mint icing or the coconut or the strawberry (white cake with strawberry icing....not sure how the do it but the strawberry icing is very, very strawberry tasting). Also everything they bake is nut free.

                1. re: foodkarma

                  what's the difference between black velvet and red velvet cake? just the dye?

                  1. re: chewy_bakah

                    Black velvet cake is a deep chocolate cake topped with the cream cheese icing whereas the red velvet cake is a red cake (usually using red dye or raspberry coulis or beets to create the colour) topped with a cream cheese icing.

                    My favourite red velvet cake is the Red Velvet Cheesecake at Cheesecake Factory but the Black Velvet cake (and cupcake) at Bliss and Co is to die for!

                    I agree with Merry, I gave up Crave a long time ago - they are too overhyped for the product, there are too many restrictions as a customer (ex. my friend wanted Crave cupcakes for her wedding with 150 guests, Crave would only sell her 48 cupcakes per order so we had to break them out into 3 orders). But Bliss & Co makes dam good cupcakes. I sometimes wish they would do a peanut butter one (despite the whole nut free thing).

              2. "simulacra"

                Word of the Day!

                1. The Ladies at Brulee are amazing, I consistently have cakes from them that are 10 out of 10 and never had anything that I'd rate below 8 out of 10. The Raspberry Chocolate Ganache cakes and Fall spice cakes are my favorites.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Major_9000

                    The Rasp Choc Ganache cake at Brulee IS amazing! They did one up for me once and it was decorated so beautifully it was almost a shame to cut into. Roses and all... And their lemon curd tarts are so yummy.

                  2. Thank you for making me laugh out loud today..

                    'red velvet = ass in a box'

                    and the fact that someone used the word simulacra to refer to cake.
                    best YYC thread EVAR.

                    1. "Punky Brewster plus Duncan Hines does not equal baking prowess"

                      bwhahahahahaha!!!!!!!!!! so wrong, but yet, so fitting!

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: messier

                        re: Eclaire De lune - Part of it is location, ambiance and packaging - but the food has been really good, consistent and high value for the price point.

                        Agree about Brulee - although the cookies slightly underwhelm imo, the rest is unreal. We had the carrot caramel months ago and I still remember it. The finishing is really nice as well - flowers - not just some unwashed raspberries in a pile.

                        Cupcakes - in general - when priced the same as say... a vanilla eclaire from Latruwe: do they really compare? I'm all for some childhood nostalgia - but it's not exactly something I can't make at home, and it is priced as though it is - Besides, the next trend is couture donuts - and that is far far far more appealing, so as soon as the cupcakes are gone, we are going to get yeast raised bing cherry donuts with 85% cocoa ganaches. They just have to go out of business first.

                        1. re: Gobstopper

                          I like cupcakes & at least for Bliss & Co they do other things. Sorry if I'm not ready to jump on the "let's make them go out of business so we can get donuts" band wagon! Also, please stop painting everyone with the same brush b/c you don't like Crave & Buttercream. It's not fair to say "all cupcake places" when you haven't tried them all. I also don't like Crave & Buttercream but I say that.

                      2. Crave brought in a nice market for cupcakes - but yeah, I think everybody's surpassed them.

                        1. adding links:
                          foodkarma - I didn't add the Cheesecake Factory. I couldn't find it by googleing

                          -----
                          Eclair de Lune
                          1049 40 Ave NW, Calgary, AB T2K 0G2, CA

                          Manuel Latruwe Belgian Patisserie & Bread Shop
                          1313 1 St SE #1333, Calgary, AB T2G 5L1, CA

                          Brulee Patisserie
                          722 11 Ave SW, Calgary, AB T2R 0E4, CA

                          Crave Cookies and Cupcakes
                          10816 MacLeod Trail SE, Calgary, AB T2J 5N8, CA

                          Nectar Desserts
                          1216 9 Ave SE, Calgary, AB T2G 0T1, CA

                          Bliss & Co. Cupcakes and Desserts
                          108 3 Ave SW, Calgary, AB T2P 0E7, CA

                          Buttercream Bake Shoppe
                          1013 17 Ave SW #121, Calgary, AB T2T 0A7, CA

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: rosetown

                            It is not called Cheesecake Factory, it's Cheesecake Cafe (unrelated to the "factory' chain)

                            1. re: TSAW

                              Thanks, that crossed my mind.
                              links:

                              -----
                              The Cheesecake Cafe, Bakery & Restaurant
                              5615 Northland Dr NW, Calgary, AB T2L 2J2, CA

                              The Cheesecake Cafe, Bakery & Restaurant
                              7600 MacLeod Trail SE, Calgary, AB T2J 0L9, CA

                              The Cheesecake Cafe, Bakery & Restaurant
                              2121 36 St NE, Calgary, AB T1Y 5S3, CA

                              1. re: TSAW

                                I was referring to the Red Velvet cake at Cheesecake FACTORY - the USA chain. Not available in Canada. But Rosetown, thanks for attempting to add.

                                1. re: foodkarma

                                  LOL - I'll leave the linked Cheesecake cafes, unless it offends. :)

                            2. Latruwe is awesome. Don't laugh, but Gunthers on 17 ave s.e. has a killer hazelnut torte, and its been my go to cake for lots of occasions. Does anybody know if decadent desserts still makes the white chocolate raspberry cake? And they used to do a yummy banana chocolate cake, but its been ages since I've sought it out.
                              cupcakes are for children, who don't understand the sublimity of a beautifully stacked work of bakery art.
                              eat more cake....

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: jennlovesfood

                                FWIW, both cakes are listed in their offerings.
                                http://www.decadentdesserts.ca/menu.htm
                                Click on the 'Cake' tab.