Vellar Chou snaps a photo of the Empress Chocolate Torte in the Tea room at the Fairmont Empress Hotel. Don Denton photography

Vellar Chou snaps a photo of the Empress Chocolate Torte in the Tea room at the Fairmont Empress Hotel. Don Denton photography

#Sweetstagram – Desserts So Beautiful They Have To Be Instagrammed Before Eating

Picture-perfect treats to savour and share

  • Dec. 17, 2018 8:00 a.m.

– Story by Jane Zatylny

Story courtesy of Boulevard Magazine, a Black Press Media publication

The sweet season is upon us, that time of year when croissants, tarts, muffins, macaroons, cakes and pies line bakery windows, inviting us into warm shop interiors for an indulgence or two. Paired with a robust Americano or aromatic cup of tea, it’s a sweet way to treat ourselves or the ones we love.

With moderation in mind, choosing special, high quality desserts when I do indulge is my modus operandi. And, of course, it doesn’t hurt to find desserts pretty enough to include on any Instagram account.

So pick up your Smart Phone and your fork, and dig into five of my favourite Vancouver Island desserts — plates that are meant to be shared, savoured, even gifted to family and friends.

Taking a cel phone photo of a citron tart at De’Lish in Oak Bay.. Don Denton photography

#pastrylove #sweettooth #yum

@De’lish, Oak Bay

Tucked away on a quiet residential street in Oak Bay, steps from the ocean, this small café/bakery lives up to its name with a wonderful menu of salads, frittatas, sweet and savoury pastries, soups and, of course, desserts.

Join locals inside the cosy cafe, outside under a blanket on the ivy-covered porch, or take out and head to a nearby Beach Drive pull-out, where you can enjoy your treat from the warmth of your car.

My favourite De’lish dessert is the 4-inch Tarte au Citron. Perfect in its simplicity, the lemon custard is made from fresh lemon juice, sugar, lemon zest and fresh cream. Baked on low heat, the custard is smooth yet firm, delivering the perfect sweet-to-tart lemon ratio. Baked in a delicate butter pastry that almost crumbles under the weight of the custard, the tarte is glazed with a sweet lemon syrup and topped with a house-made candied lemon julienne.

“The recipe was created by my wife and business partner, Lorelei Debelle,” explains co-owner and Chef Mark Davies. “We make it for most of our own dinner parties, as our friends seem to love it.”

Good to know: The Tarte au Citron is also available in 7-inch and 9-inch sizes by request. Catering menus are available, as well as take-home dinners. Closed on Sundays and Mondays.

Info: 677 St Patrick Street, Oak Bay; 250-598-5614.

Taking a cel phone photo of Layer Cake at Patisserie Daniel with Chef Daniel in Victoria on Cook Street. Don Denton photography

#patisserie #24gold #cakeart

@Patissierie Daniel Victoria

I found Chef Daniel Vokey where the magic happens — in the kitchen of his bustling European-style bakery, behind the magnificent front counter displays of pain au chocolat, cookies, loaves of bread and other sweet and savoury pastries.

As we chatted, he shaped marzipan flowers and pressed them onto a child’s birthday cake, smiling as he told me about the cake we’d chosen to share in this article.

Decorated for winter with a pure white fondant, 24K gold, frost-touched rosemary “branches” and fresh berry fruit, the creation features five to six layers of gluten-free almond cake, generously soaked in Jack Daniels bourbon and chocolate ganache infused with rosemary.

The taste? Well — it’s clean, wintergreen, rich, flamboyant, yet humble.

“The Jack Daniels casualizes the elements,” explains Daniel. “A lot of people think it’s [going to be] raw tasting — but it’s not.”

The ingredients are original, yet complementary and simple. The chocolate and almond flavours coupled with the secondary notes of rosemary and bourbon bring to mind a fine holiday fruitcake, without all the fuss and bother.

Good to know: This cake is available in a range of sizes and is served wrapped with a white ribbon on a wrapped board covered with laurel leaves. Call for more information and pricing. Open daily.

Info: Patisserie Daniel, 1729 Cook Street, Victoria; 250-361-3234.

Vellar Chou snaps a photo of the Empress Chocolate Torte in the Tea room at the Fairmont Empress Hotel. Don Denton photography

#chocolateheaven #instagold #royaltreat

@The Fairmont Empress Hotel Victoria

I was understandably distracted when I sat down with Executive Chef Morgan Wilson to taste the hotel’s new Empress Torte. After all, there was a cake between us, and all I could smell was chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate.

While the scent was intoxicating, the flavour was divine. This gold-dusted hazelnut chocolate sponge torte features moist layers separated by cassis jam, Aiyana chocolate ganache and Etenia dark chocolate creameux. The chocolate was specially developed for the Empress in France by Executive Pastry Chef AJ Thalakkat.

“It’s made with honey from our own garden, hazelnuts from Oregon and BC-grown blackcurrant,” says Morgan.

Take this gluten-free showstopper to friends and family in its pretty cake box, inspired by the hotel’s china, or enjoy a single slice in the Lobby Lounge or Q at the Empress restaurant. My piece was plated on a deep burgundy swirl of raspberry coulis, garnished with freeze-dried raspberries and topped with a chocolate crown, a replica of the one worn by Queen Elizabeth II.

Good to know: In its box, the torte can travel without refrigeration for up to four days.

A full Empress torte will serve 10 people and is $100 plus tax. A single slice is $10, and you won’t want to share it.

Info: 721 Government Street, Victoria; 250-389-2727 to order, or email empress.cake@fairmont.com.

A Red Velvet Cupcake at A Wee Cupcakery in Nanaimo. Don Denton photography

#cupcakestagram #sweets #party

@Wee Cupcakery Nanaimo

It may be wee, but Medina Mayes’s tiny bakery shop is my favourite mid-island destination for a specialty cupcake.

Medina produces a beautiful selection of cupcakes, including a take on the Nanaimo Bar, Toasted Coconut, Vancouver Island Sea Salt, Rootbeer Float and Red Velvet. The selection is ever-changing and dependent on the availability of fresh ingredients and in-season fruits — as well as “the mood of the baker,” laughs Medina.

One of the most exquisite choices at Wee Cupcakery is the Raspberry Rose cupcake. This vanilla-based cupcake is scented with rosewater and filled with lemon curd, then topped with buttercream icing and edible dried rose petals.

“I just use a little rosewater,” says Medina. “It’s enough to be intriguing without being overly perfumed.”

The artisan cupcake shop also sells petite cupcakes or “wee ones” and other specialty baked goods from its tiny Old City Quarter location, all made from fresh dairy products, eggs and specialty chocolate. Vegan and gluten-free options are also available daily.

Good to know: Arrive early to avoid disappointment; these cupcakes often sell out. You can request a special order for a favourite type of cupcake or cake. Closed Sundays and Mondays, and after baked goods sell out.

Info: 407 Fitzwilliam Street, Nanaimo; 250-591-0770.

Capturing the goodness of the Caramel Apple Cinnamon Bun at the Old Town Bakery in Ladysmith. Don Denton photography

#ooeygooeygoodness #buns #yummy

@ Old Town Bakery Ladysmith

Veer off the highway at Ladysmith and head straight to Old Town Bakery on First Street for one (or more) of the establishment’s nine cinnamon buns.

The full-service bakery offers breakfast, lunches, coffee, freshly baked breads, sausage rolls, pies and Cornish pasties, but the cinnamon buns are the real stars, displayed on numerous baking sheets near the cash register.

“We make and sell more than 48 dozen every day,” says co-owner Geoff Cram.

Other flavours, like caramel apple, coconut pecan, peanut cream cheese and blueberry may tempt me, but my favourite is the traditional bun topped with sliced almonds. Airy, light, and so very flavourful, the recipe from Jeff’s wife and co-owner Katie Cram’s grandmother combines simple ingredients like brown sugar, butter and, of course, cinnamon, and then adds a delicious cream cheese icing. I like mine warmed with the icing on the side. The serving size is extra-extra-large, so bring a friend or two. Attain super-hero status by gifting someone special with a selection of buns for brunch.

Good to know: Closed Sundays.

Info: 510 1st Ave, Ladysmith; 250-245-2531

One more view of the delicious Red Velvet Cupcake at A Wee Cupcakery in Nanaimo. Don Denton photography

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