Once upon a time, a long time ago, some old wives made a few assumptions about pregnancy. They claimed to know what gender you were carrying based on a number of random, and mostly unattractive, symptoms.
The medical community has since proven none have any basis in science. Who is right? The pregnant ladies seem to side with their sister wives most of the time, but the jury is still out. I will agree; however, with them on one specific front: I had a beautiful baby girl, and pretty much turned into Willy Wonka himself my second trimester.
Now let me start by saying, I was not a sugar eater. I never ate dessert, never craved chocolate and hadn’t had ice cream in five years. I preferred savory snacks: cheese and crackers, popcorn, chips and dip etc. Then came the food aversions. My first trimester flipped my palate upside down. Things I used to eat every day tasted gross and made me gag. Avocados? Disgusting. Gum- even worse. And no way in hell was a vegetable crossing these lips.
It was a strange time. I ate a lot of grilled cheese, pizza, bagels and Egg McMuffins. (Basically the hangover diet of my early 20s).
Then one night laying in bed, a strange feeling overcame me. Like a woman possessed, all I wanted in the world was a vanilla cupcake. This is silly, I thought, as I opened Pinterest and started scrolling through pictures of cupcakes. The next day, the fever had not dissipated. I Googled where I could find myself a nice bakery style cupcake. In Wingham, ON population 2,500 … nowhere.
Two days later the craving was threatening to take over my life. I walked to Valu-mart on my lunch break, and stared forlornly at my only options: the sad freezer cupcakes or those mini plastic-tasting sugar bombs with fluorescent icing. Neither would do.
According to those scientists I mentioned earlier, one of the reasons our appetites change during pregnancy is because our dopamine (feel good brain chemical) levels drop. Thinking about comfort food raises it, and eating them … hello dolly!
Many also believe cravings during pregnancy signal a deficiency in the body. Not unsurprisingly, cravings for sweets indicate a need for more carbohydrates and calories. Given my former restrictive eating patterns and low BMI, this makes a lot of sense to me now. In general, most pregnancy cravings are a sign the body needs more fat: one of the most important ingredients when building a tiny human.
But at the time, I wasn’t all that interested in why I was craving expensive bakery cupcakes. I just needed to figure out how to get some.
I knew there was a cupcake shop a few blocks from Evan’s parents’ house in Burlington, so in an act of desperation, I asked if they might bring me a couple the next time they came up.
A monster was born.
The following spring, I was genuinely shocked when I failed the glucose screening.
“I don’t eat THAT much sugar,” I thought. Maybe in my former non-pregnant life I didn’t. But with child, sugar literally became a food group for me: I ate donuts for breakfast, ice cream before bed and a plethora of other sugary snacks throughout the day. Basically I was living the Saturday diet of the very hungry caterpillar- but seven days a week.
Cupcakes were my kryptonite. And while I have gone back to a more reasonable level of dessert consumption, my love of cupcakes it seems, is here to stay.
Without further ado, here is my extensive catalogue of cupcake haunts across Southwestern Ontario. I have rated the ones I visited, and also listed a number of other locations where I know you can purchase those little cups of heaven.
Best overall traditional cupcake
833 Queen St. W, Toronto ON
Toronto isn’t somewhere I go often, but one of my best friends was visiting from Yellowknife last February so why not take the opportunity to pick up treats from Canada’s first gourmet cupcake bakery (according to their website).
These were probably the best traditional cakes I tried overall – I only wish there had been more selection when we arrived. Hazards of going late in the afternoon. They don’t have the wild flavours other places have, but their standard vanilla – which is what I was looking for, was amazing! AND if you live in Toronto, they deliver!!
219 Locke St. Hamilton ON
Bitten’s are the largest cupcakes on this list with arguably the best icing. However, the cake itself is a bit dry to begin with, so after a few days they will fall apart – a definite downside for me.
Another downside if you’re not from town, is finding a place to park in this neighbourhood. (Evan did not enjoy making this trip on multiple occasions. We got soaked in the rain and yelled at by a local for driving the wrong way on a one-way street – still worth it!)
Lots of rotating flavours here — I tried vanilla, lemon, red velvet and strawberry cream cheese.
Best plant-based/gluten free cupcake
401 Brant St. Burlington, ON
This popular GTA haunt is a triple threat: gluten-free, environmentally conscious, and vegan-friendly. Here the cupcake flavours are seemingly endless with fun weekly features and specialty creations for holidays and events- all wheat, dairy and egg free. Kelly’s also take home the prize for the most aesthetically pleasing cakes- the finesse and small details will make you feel guilty eating them. But eat them you should.
It’s worth noting, if you’re used to traditional cupcakes, these do have a slightly different taste and texture. But overall, still delicious and something you can feel good about eating. Now Kelly’s are the only cupcakes I eat. It’s a special treat whenever we visit the city.
Some of my favourites: Birthday Cake, Strawberry Shortcake, Cookies n’ Cream, Rosé, ‘Unicorn’, ‘Mermaid’ and Pina Colada.
Most unique flavours
32A Wilson St. Guelph, ON
For our babymoon in April, Evan and I rented an Airbnb in Guelph, ON. Of course, cupcakes were on the menu. There were a few different spots to choose from, so I picked one at random. KCG definitely had the most unique flavours and overall design. The staff were super friendly and the store’s retro theme was also fun. I wasn’t a huge fan of the cupcakes themselves. They were small for the price and didn’t hold up well. But if you’re looking for variety or boozy party cupcakes this is the place.
Flavours I tried: California Girl, Happy Days and Bad Mother Fluffer
Best local (to me) options
47 York St. Stratford, ON
Since Stratford is the closest city to me, I decided to try this place out and bought a dozen for my birthday this year.
Kandy Cakes offers regular and mini sizes with many unique flavours to choose from. Overall the cupcakes were delicious, but I found there was too much icing and the cake too short. For those who prefer to eat the icing only, these would be the cupcakes for you!
They also have gluten free options available!
Flavours I tried: Birthday Cake, White Chocolate, Lavender and Princess Bubblegum. (I wasn’t a huge fan of the Lavender and Bubblegum, but my sister enjoyed them!)
28 Main St. N Bayfield, ON
This is by far the closest gourmet cupcake venue to me (only a 15-minute drive!) so imagine my joy when I discovered it- and then sadness when half of my cupcakes melted in the car on the way home. Hazards of driving an old car with no air conditioning. After learning this lesson, I took extra precaution when transporting future cupcakes in summer temperatures.
The Pink Flamingo also has an extensive flavour list and offers gluten-free and vegan options by request.
These cupcakes were good, but again, the icing to cake ratio didn’t appeal to me and made for difficult eating. The icing is stacked in a tall spear in the centre of the cake, so not only is it difficult to bite into without making a mess, you don’t get icing in every bite.
Flavours I tried: Chocolate Chip Cookie, Cookies n’ Cream, Pink Flamingo Signature (Pink Lemonade).
Other cupcake places:
If you have a favourite cupcake haunt to add to this list, please let me know!
Fresh Start Bakery
6012 Perth County Line 88, Gowanstown, ON
It’s My Pleasure
500 Mill St. Neustadt, ON
Best Friends Bakery & Ice Cream
798 Queen St. Kincardine, ON
The Nutty Bakers Food Shoppe
885 10th St W. Owen Sound, ON
Amy’s Espresso Bar & Cakery
209814 Hwy 26 The Blue Mountains, ON
196 St. Andrew St. E. Fergus, ON
Q’s Cakes and Cafe
188 King St. S. Waterloo, ON
The Cake Box
70 Victoria St. N Kitchener, ON
Dvas Custom Cakes & Treats
383 Elgin St. N Cambridge, ON
Tiny Cakes Inc.
65 Dickson St. Cambridge, ON
Chick Boss Cake
381 Talbot St. Thomas, ON
The Boombox BakeShop (v + gf)
520 Adelaide St. N London, ON
275 Wharncliffe Rd. N London, ON
Razzle Dazzle Cupcakes
745 Waterloo St. London, ON
LA Cupcake Boutique
2500 Appleby Line Burlington, ON
Cupcakes of Westdale Village
1050 King St. W Hamilton, ON
Beyond the Batter
1791 Stone Church Rd. E Hamilton, ON
436 Hamilton Regional Rd. 8 Stoney Creek, ON