I recently got my hands on the newest issue of Avenue Magazine. Every year, Avenue brings together a group of culinary experts to rank the top restaurants in the city in a wide range of categories. The category that I always flip to first is the “Best Dessert” category.
Shockingly, it was none other than Duchess that took top honors. Their commitment to making the freshest desserts and using the finest ingredients has always put them at the top. In fact every year since 2012 (when the Best Restaurants list started) Duchess has taken the top spot.
In second place was Dauphine, which is sort of a hidden treasure, tucked in the basement on 104 St. They are easy to miss, but if you spot the basket of baguettes you know you are in the right place. They are a fine French pastry shop known for their perfect tarts and also offer up soups and sandwiches.
In third place was the Art of Cake. The basement of City Center Mall is not the first place you would go looking for a bakery, but their friendly service and bright displays of cupcakes will draw you in, and you will instantly fall in love.
So to ensure this “Best of” Edmonton bakeries list was accurate, I took it upon myself to visit each one and report back. I know it is a hard job but somebody had to do. Your welcome. So read on about my adventures!
The first stop on my bakery tour was the Art of Cake! I was with a few of my classmates when I entered the shop and the staff behind the counter, with big smiles, greeted us instantly.
The bakery is owned by the talented team of Gloria Bednarz and Guenter Hess. Gloria is a former NAIT Culinary graduate and Guenter was a former instructor. The business is a family affair, with their son working behind the counter selling the delicious creations. He was very excited to hear that we were NAIT Baking students and offered us a sample of their mini cupcakes!
They had a wide selection of different flavors to choose from. I and few others had the Elvis cupcake. It is a chocolate cupcake with peanut butter buttercream, topped with chocolate drizzle and peanuts. It was AMAZING. The buttercream was so smooth and the chocolate cake was nice and moist. The other girls had mint chocolate and oreo cupcakes.
Other flavours available were:
Cookies ‘n Cream
The Elvis (Chocolate Cupcake, Peanut Butter Buttercream Icing & Bacon
Pricing was fair I though,as the products are of great quality and are absolutely delicious!
Mini Cupcakes –
12 pack, $18.00
Regular Cupcakes –
4 pack, $12.00
6 pack, $18.00
12 pack, $33.00
The packaging was simple and functional in clear plastic containers but it didn’t really match their whimsical character.
The Art of Cake specializes in made to order cakes, so each one is unique and different and absolutely gorgeous! Cakes can be made to suit any occasion but Weddings seem to be very popular.
Apart from the Cakes and cupcakes, there is a well-lit display offering delicious treats that can’t be resisted. There is a large assortment of cookies, small cakes, scones, pastries, tarts and cake pops. The main focus of the display is to draw the busy, business person in and give them something they can eat on the go, or bring to an office function.
I loved almost everything about the Art of Cake, my only negative is there was no place to sit down. I know they are close to the food court which has ample seating but the atmosphere is so wonderful in the little shop that it would be great to sit there and enjoy it! Apart from that, I think Art of Cake has definitely earned their spot in the top 3!!!
The Second stop on my whirlwind tour was Dauphine, located on 104 street. This is a great location for a bakery because it is right in the center of downtown Edmonton. In the summertime, there is a very busy farmers market that operates on 104 street. Dauphine participates in this market every Saturday, offering up their fresh baked bread and pastries.
The bakery was a bit hard to find but the basket of baguets out front definitely helped. My first impression of the bakery was great, it is beautifully decorated and really feels like a french pastry shop. The decor of the bakery is very beautiful, however, it was lacking in seating. In the main area, there were two tables but only one of the tables had chairs, and it was occupied. There were a few more tables in the back corner of the bakery but they also were lacking chairs.
When we ventured in, it was about 10 minutes before we were greeted and received service. There was only one person working, and he was busy making coffees. A line quickly formed, about 5 people long including us. Once we received service it was polite and quick.
There was a large variety of treats available at Dauphine but one of the things they are known for are their tarts. I have had their lemon tart in the past so this time, I decide to try the white chocolate pistachio tart. I also thought I would try their carrot cake cupcake. As there was not a lot of available seating we decided to take our food to go.
The packaging at Dauphine was pretty standard, it was a clear plastic clam shell container. My only complaint with that was, instead of putting my two separate items in separate containers, they squished them into one. I felt that this didn’t maintain the integrity of the product. The icing on my carrot cake got squished in the seam of the clamshell. It didn’t ruin the flavour or taste of my cake but it definitely didn’t look as beautiful as it did in the display case.
Overall my experience at Dauphine was alright. I enjoyed the items that I ordered but the service was lacking. It would have been nice to have been greeted when we entered the bakery and had the option to have a place to sit down and eat. I do think that Dauphine is a great bakery and we may have just caught them at a busy time.
The third and final stop on my list was the infamous Duchess. Duchess offers a blend of classical French pastries as well as a light lunch menu. Right next door to the cafe is their shop Provisions. The store sells hard to find ingredients, cookbooks, bakeware, and kitchen tools. This is really convenient because I got their cookbook for Christmas, and every ingredient you need in the book, can be found at Provisions. I love it!
We had a hard time finding parking out front and ended up parking about a block and a half away. I was expecting that, as parking is not readily available in that area of town. Once we got into the bakery it was packed. There were no available tables to sit and the line to order was quite long.
The line did move quickly once we in it, however, my only complaint was that I could not see the display case as I waited. Lanaya and I took turns holding our place in line while the other went and checked out the display.
I do have to say that the displays are flawless, you can tell the product has been prepared with the finest attention to detail.
When it came time to order the staff was very polite but our interaction felt very mechanical. It is as if the employees are just working an assembly line. They greet you, take your order, take your payment, and send you off on your way. I understand they are busy and this is the only way they can keep the line moving quickly but, it still felt very impersonal.
Duchess is known for their Macarons, I ended up ordering two, a blueberry lavender one and a vanilla one. I also had to try their blackberry and rhubarb crumble. Of course, everything was delicious! I was hesitant at first of the Blueberry lavender macaron (lavender is usually to perfumey for me) but this was the perfect combination, you must try it!
As we could not find a place to sit we got our stuff to go and the packaging was beautiful. It had all of the bakery information on the box in an elegant gold type.Yes, it was beautiful but it was not very functional. Lanaya got a tart and they put it inside this great big box and by the time she got home it had moved all over the place. If they took the time to secure the little tart board to the bottom of the box, it would have made a world of difference!
Overall I think Duchess is a beautiful bakery and they truly are providing us with the finest French pastries in Edmonton. I think they are amazing at what they do and are deserving of the “Best Dessert” title here in Edmonton.
Duchess is also being recognized by many others for their outstanding pastries. I came across a list of “23 Bakeries Around The World You Need To Eat At Before You Die” and Duchess was number four on the list!
If you have not been to Duchess before, make sure you check them out!