Calling all sweet tooths, cookie monsters, and lovers of butter: the baked goods are waiting. Vancouver is blessed with many famous staple dessert spots, from Thomas Haas and Thierry to Butter Baked Goods and Beaucoup. But here, in MONTECRISTO’s Great Vancouver Bakery Crawl, are some lesser-known purveyors and their delicious sugary treats.
The Sweetie: Liberty Bakery
When word got out that South Main’s Liberty Bakery was closing down, three Vancouver artists banded together to save it. Thanks to Rodney Graham, Shannon Oksanen, and Scott Livingstone, the beloved corner bakery reopened in April 2015 with cozy, rustic decor that makes it feel like a sleepy long weekend cottage. There is always an offering of adorable sugar cookies, sweetly decorated to look like Easter eggs or shamrocks (as the holiday may be), or as cute little animals any day of the week. The sugar cookie is crunchy and buttery, with a thick layer of hard icing adding that perfect saccharinity.
The Double Trouble: The Last Crumb Bakery and Cafe
It’s called The Last Crumb for a reason: you’ll want to eat every last morsel. Owned by two sisters, this Mount Pleasant bakery is teeming with delectable goods that are free of artificial flavours and preservatives. Accented with a wall of sideways teacups, the casual space is usually teeming with a mixture of trendy Main Street dwellers and young families. There is certainly something for everyone here, but the show-stopper has to be The Last Crumb’s cookie sandwiches. That’s right: two chewy cookies with creamy icing in the middle. Try the ginger molasses or peanut butter cookies with cream cheese buttercream for that addicting mix of salty and sweet.
UPDATE November 2017: The Last Crumb has unfortunately closed shop.
The Dark Horse: The Gluten Free Epicurean
It’s a common question: can gluten-free anything really be that good? We may still fancy our pizza dough the regular way, and we won’t say no to traditional fluffy scones—but Fraserhood’s The Gluten Free Epicurean isn’t making lower-grade alternatives. Baking everything by hand with local ingredients, the 100 per cent gluten-free bakery will impress gluten-lovers, too. There are options for those who need something nut-free, dairy-free, even refined sugar-free—but all are incredibly flavourful, holding their own in a city-wide bakery crawl. The cookies are delicious, including the ginger and double chocolate, but the oat fudge bar is baked good perfection, with a crumbly oat base and chewy, creamy fudge.
The Million-Dollar Baby: Half Baked Cookie Company
There’s never a bad time for shortbread, and Half Baked does it well. Envisioned by “Chief Cookie Monster” Cheryl Low, the tiny micro-bakery recently opened up a permanent location on Nanaimo Street, where sweet seekers can stop in for a slice of pie or a bag of cookies to go. The shortbread is crunchy and crumbly, and comes in flavours including candied ginger cardamom and rosemary brown sugar; and visiting the shop means you can mix and match your own bag of treats. The runaway winner of decadence, however, is the Millionaire shortbread bar, which is larger in size and covered in homemade dulce de leche. The soft, creamy chocolate pairs amazingly with the buttery crisp of the shortbread—it’s big enough to share with a buddy, but you probably won’t want to.
The Gone Too Soon: Basho Cafe
We were heartbroken to hear that, after this story went to press, this family-run Japanese cafe in Hastings Sunrise shut down for good. This was the place to go for everything infused with matcha and miso, including a think white chocolate matcha brownie, or a chocolate miso one. Basho’s daily rotating menu also included a collection of little mochi sweets: traditional Japanese rice cakes made with a japonica rice called mochigome. These tiny round cupcake-looking treats came in a range of flavours, from coffee, to chocolate, to milk. A favourite among the staff was the cream cheese mochi mochi, which was chewy and creamy and light.
The Hold On Tight: Cadeaux Bakery
Gastown has dessert aplenty, from Soft Peaks organic soft serve to Purebread’s buckwheat sour cherry scone, but sitting a bit off the beaten path is Eleanor Chow Waterfall’s Cadeaux Bakery. She worked at local hot spots including Chambar and the now-defunct Lumiere before opening Cadeaux—a welcoming, bright space with a large open kitchen. The transparency allows customers to see their sweets being made, which only makes them more appealing. The London Fog Five Layer Cake is fluffy and decadent, a perfect choice for those looking for a fun twist on a classic layer cake. Made with Earl grey milk chocolate ganache, Chantilly cream, vanilla cake, Earl grey-infused syrup, and white chocolate mouse, it is as pleasing as a cup of Earl grey tea—if not more so.
The Immaculate: Small Victory
Yaletown needed Small Victory. Serving up fresh-baked bread and pastry, as well as a selection of sandwiches for lunch and coffee (with self-serve milk from golden taps), it has become a quick favourite in the neighbourhood. The wood and white space is accented with gold for just the right touch of posh, though eyes will likely first be drawn to the display case of goodies directly to the right of entering the cafe. There is a wide array on offer, but the mini salted caramel cheesecake is an easy winner. A rich swirl of salted caramel tops the fluffy, creamy cheesecake, and a crumbly crust adds just enough texture to cut through the decadence.
The Comfort: Aphrodite Cafe and Pie Shop
It’s easy to forget that there is Kitsilano life west of Blenheim, but indeed that is where the neighbourhood’s greatest pie lives. Housed cozily on 4th Avenue just before Alma, the Aphrodite Pie Shop (separate from the cafe) serves up the finest organic pies made with organic evaporated cane sugar, organic zero trans fat hon-hydrogenated vegetable shortening, Anita’s organic unbleached stoneground flour, organic local fruit, and organic Avalon cream. Fruit pies are where Aphrodite shines brightest, so opt for what is fresh and in season: perhaps a strawberry rhubarb or a good, old fashioned blueberry. It will be hard not to take a whole one home.
The Classic: Lee’s Donuts
It’s not a party without Lee. A long-standing staple of the Granville Island Public Market, Lee’s Donuts are still the city’s best. Made by hand each day with the best quality ingredients (such as trans-fat-free frying shortening), Lee’s glory holes are indeed glorious. Free of pretension and melting with freshness, they are the perfect way to end a day of treat eating: wholesome, pure, utterly drool-worthy. Though known for its hot honey-dip, Lee’s also excels at the simplest and most modest of donuts: the classic glaze. It’ll melt on your tongue and into your heart.
The Bonus: La Taqueria (added February 2018)
Worth an addition is a new menu item from La Taqueria: churros. Served warm and covered end-to-end in sugar, these little dough darlings are hard to pass up. After eating tacos and burritos galore, save room for churros that are perfectly crisp and chewy on the outside, and soft and moist on the inside. Muchas gracias.
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