Flour, sugar, butter, eggs, milk: the ingredients read like the most basic of shopping lists. But they also make up the core foundation of Vancouver neighbourhood bakery and café Butter Baked Goods. For owner and founder Rosie Daykin, keeping it basic is entirely the point.
“I would say that our ingredient list, our pantry, is just not that crazy,” she says. “It’s not really any different, for the most part, than what someone would find in their own cupboard at home. And that’s really at the root of it: I came to this as a home baker, and I’ve always said, ‘Well, there’s nothing in my cupboard that’s not in your cupboard, because that’s just the way I bake.’” Daykin has loved baking since she was a child, and kept her hands recreationally caked in flour throughout her life, but has never had professional training (in fact, she worked as an interior designer for 14 years before opening Butter). “I didn’t have any other way to approach it,” she says of her nostalgic, classic baking style. “And we’ve just sort of continued with that philosophy here.” One look at the glass cases lined with cupcakes, tarts, cookies, loaves, and scones will leave even the most sweet-toothless of observers with hearts in their eyes.
Looks can be deceiving, but in this situation, taste fully delivers on what appearance promises. The Chocolate Sandwich Cookie, with light buttercream smothered between two soft chocolate cookies, is a fantastic melt-in-your-mouth indulgence; The Dunbar (named after the street where Butter used to be located, before moving to Mackenzie in 2012) is perfect at midday for a little boost, with its oatmeal base covered in dulce de lece, pecans, chocolate, and coconut. Everything is fresh, with almost a wholesome quality to it: this is comfort baking, no bells or whistles. “I saw an opening in the marketplace,” Daykin says of why she started Butter back in 2007. “The style of baking that I did, there wasn’t really anywhere in the city that people could experience that. It’s not complicated baking. In Vancouver at that time, everything had a sort of precious, French influence. I just wanted a good old birthday cake.”
Turns out she wasn’t the only one. Aside from the success of the café (which has a steady, dedicated flow of customers throughout the day), Daykin has written two cookbooks; she has garnered attention from the likes of Martha Stewart Weddings, Sunset magazine, and Style at Home; her handcut marshmallows (arguably what helped skyrocket her brand) are carried all over North America; and she has an Instagram following of 16,000. It all barely fazes her, though. “I guess the thing is with me, as a person—I can’t decide if it’s a fault or an asset, I don’t know—but I’m not really one to really pat myself on the back,” Daykin admits. “I think I’m the person who is just always trying to keep up. I’m sure most people who are very busy feel the same thing: you just don’t really get a moment to reflect on what has happened, what you might have achieved. There’s no time for that, because you’re racing to pack a palette of marshmallows.” Daykin’s humility is sincere, evident in her warm smile and quirky demeanor. She is incredibly youthful, even jovial, though at the same time subdued and thoughtful. Just like her sweet treats.
Daykin follows somewhat of a “yes” attitude, taking life as it comes and staying open to all angles of opportunity. It’s a mentality that informs her work ethic, as well. “Very much the way that I learn is trial and error,” Daykin says. “I think opening the bakery was exactly that way: ‘I’m opening a bakery, and now I’m going to figure out how to run a bakery.’” The learn-by-doing spirit seems to run in her blood, too: daughter India is opening up a cosmetic boutique down the street from Butter, and niece Claire Mandell recently started Kitsilano nail salon Joyride. “I have to actually physically be working it out, as opposed to just reading about it or watching a demonstration about it,” Daykin says. “I would rather just get in there and screw it up and figure out where I made my mistakes.” Everyone fumbles, everyone trips up, but by and large it seems Daykin is earning touchdown after touchdown. Still, she’s not loath to dropping the ball. “I don’t even really believe in failure,” she says. “Because even if it appears to be a failure, it sets you up for some other opportunity, or puts you in a place that you might connect with someone. You just never know.” She pauses, and with an air of casual confidence, adds: “It’s all good.” It certainly is.
Sweet tooth not quite satisfied? Read more baking stories.