Soma is considered by many Toronto foodies and chocoholics to be the best purveyor of chocolate in the city. Step into the store and cafe in the historic Distillery District, and the scent of chocolate hits you instantly. That's because everything - from the cacao roasting to the chocolate making - happens in Soma's chocolate lab. Visitors can watch the work being done from behind glass at this former whisky-aging tankhouse. Walking around the store is a bit like being in Willy Wonka's factory, if Willy Wonka was a gourmet chocolatier who featured single-region cocoas from around the world, and chocolate-covered confections including chai-dusted cashews and olive oil truffles. There is also a gelato lab where flavours are churned daily.
Recommended for Dessert because: If your love of chocolate runs back to the days of Willie Wonka, you must run to Soma.
Courtney's expert tip: If you are a visitor to Toronto and you need a gift to take home that won't end up in a garage sale, Soma is the best bet. If it can make it home, that is.
Nadege has four locations in Toronto and all in posh and upscale neighbourhoods. This makes sense, as the desserts look like they could be on a best dressed list. Ganache and curd tarts are decorated with fruit that is so artfully arranged, it feels a shame to eat it. Macarons are available to take away in boxes, filled with buttercream, ganache and jam. They would be an excellent gift were they not too delicious to keep for yourself. You can even buy a macaron tower in lieu of a wedding or birthday cake, for the chicest of finales to a major event. Bonbons are in flavours like dark chocolate and goat cheese. Wear your finest and eat with the refinement of royalty.
Recommended for Dessert because: Toronto is a competitive city when it comes to food. If a bakery has four flourishing branches, you better believe it is for good reason.
Courtney's expert tip: The cakes and tarts are special ways to celebrate. Although rustic is big right now in bakery circles, there is something about a tart so elegant, no one will even question if you made it yourself. (Of course you didn't.)
Toronto's one and only vegan and gluten free shop is in high demand. Even though gluten free living recently became as famous as one of the Kardashians, this is not why you should stop by. Owners Ashley Wittig and Kevin MacAllister didn't let a little butter, egg and flour free living lead them away from baked goods. Gluten free baking certainly adds another level of challenge to the home cook, but this couple has it down to a science. Birthday cakes taste beautifully complex, with the same crumb you would get with white flour. Muffins and breads sell out quickly first thing in the morning and are a dream for those used to equating gluten free breads with bricks.
Recommended for Dessert because: Gluten free, dairy free living doesn't mean you have to live on kale. Any diet deserves a little cake.
Courtney's expert tip: Everything is good here, but you can't go wrong with one of Bunner's giant cinnamon buns. Sticky and sweet, topped with vegan buttercream frosting, you will be wondering why gluten even exists.
Opened by pastry chef Dufflet Rosenberg in 1982, this much-loved bakery has become one of Ontario's most popular purveyors of wedding cakes, party trays and special treats for folks who feel the need for a little pampering. Whole cakes, pies and tarts fill the cases, but you'll want to investigate all the wonderful little individual baby bundt cakes, tiny tarts, and charming cakelets, a selection unmatched anywhere in Toronto. Whether your Achilles heel is fruity or chocolatey, spicy or buttery, Dufflet has created something especially for you. (At least it feels that way.) With three retail and cafe locations in the downtown core, as well as a number of restaurants and stores around Toronto selling Dufflet creations, treating yourself is easy. Too easy.
Recommended for Dessert because: Dufflet Rosenberg is Toronto's most popular baker. After more than 30 years, her cakes, pastries and treats have developed a cult following.
Courtney's expert tip: Take home a Dufflet souvenir for your loved ones, like branded coffee cups, t-shirts and other merchandise. Too bad the cakes don't travel as well. Oh, well. More for you.
Many women have a love/hate relationship with cupcakes and Melanie Abdilla gets it. Her little treats are the Goldilocks of desserts: not too sweet, not too healthy and "just right" to conquer a sweet craving. The cupcakes deserve the title cute, too, with names like "Champagne Dreams" and "Cotton Candy Princess." The presentation is just what one would want in a soul mate dessert, with a cloud of icing piped generously on top. There are also other options, should you want to deviate from cake, with whoopie pies and super sweet lattes, including the Internet's famed unicorn latte. Online bookings require 48 hours notice, but the shop has long hours for your sweet necessities.
Recommended for Dessert because: Adorable cupcakes that are as cute as puppies. Well, almost.
Courtney's expert tip: If you want to be the office hero, consider joining the Cupcake Club, with cupcakes delivered to your home or office the first Friday of every month.
As the expression goes, "Let them eat pie." Perhaps that was attributed to cake, but there is something so comforting about a slice of pie with flaky, buttery crust and the perfect amount of fruit filling. There are breakfasts that are less balanced than this dessert and Wanda's Pie in the Sky will meet all of your pie needs. Single fruit pies include Apricot and Niagara Peach. Combination fruit pies change with the seasons, but include Pear Cranberry and Raspberry Rhubarb. You can't forget the cream pies, like Lemon Meringue and Mango Cream with Coconut. Nut pies range from Pecan to Spiced Walnut. Sure, you can go and grab a cake or cookie, but you are doing yourself a disservice if you don't try one of these pies.
Recommended for Dessert because: Tender, flaky crusts and sweet juicy fillings are a match made in dessert heaven.
Courtney's expert tip: The patio at Wanda's in Kensington is divine. Grab a latte and a giant slice of pie, surf the Internet and be reminded that sometimes it takes less than $10 to put a smile on your face.
There is something remarkably brave about opening an ice cream shop in Canada, of all places. Although our snow days are shrinking as the earth heats up, we are not exactly ice cream friendly for much of the year. Bang Bang Ice Cream is working to change that. The flavours pick from the best of the best of Toronto-centric ingredients and you can grab a scoop, or a tub if you want to be more cost-conscious. The ice cream sandwiches are ridiculous in the best way possible. Stuff your face with one right after you grab a melty Instagram pic.
Recommended for Dessert because: Ice cream that is Toronto proud (and amazingly delicious).
Courtney's expert tip: Long lineups move along quickly, so don't let that deter you.
After a period of celebrating the jack-of-all-trades, it is nice to see some specialization in the dessert world. Nugateau is a bakery that uses French baking techniques to result in fantastic eclairs, and only eclairs. This doesn't mean that creativity is out of the window. Each pastry is hand-crafted and comes in flavours such as vanilla pecan, lemon meringue or even tutti frutti, with a fruit cream made out of banana, mango, pineapple, passion fruit and papaya. Each cylinder stands as a work of art. In the summer, iceclairs, eclairs filled with ice cream and dipped in ganache, go head-to-head with Toronto's best frozen treats.
Recommended for Dessert because: Regular and luxe eclairs that may make you rethink your doughnut obsession.
Courtney's expert tip: If you want to make a meal of it, the eclairs also come savoury. Foie gras, anyone?
There are tons of documentaries and books that we can read teaching us the evils of sugar. Christina Tosi, Momofuku pastry chef, also wants to teach us the pleasure of dessert. Items that started in the New York bakery have now become classic legends, such as compost cookies, b'day truffles and cereal milk, which steeps cornflakes in milk to give a rich complexity unlike any other. For Canadians who love a good butter tart, give a shot to Crack Pie, which has enough butter, heavy cream and brown sugar to make your grandmother proud (and your family doctor severely disappointed). Served cold, it's not a cheap pie, but taste it once and you might understand the moniker.
Recommended for Dessert because: Salty-sweet combinations that will allow the part of you that still loves Lucky Charms to rejoice.
Courtney's expert tip: Doors close daily between 4-5pm. Fingers crossed that your sweet tooth doesn't rear its head during that time.
We don't care if they are through being cool...this bakery really is cool. With limited seating, it would be easy enough to stroll right by this bakery without entering. But for the love of everything that is sweet, don't. There is a staggering amount of homemade doughnuts that are so thick and fluffy, it is easy to call just one of them brunch. From the standard chocolate dipped to the more unique banana cream pie, the yeasty favourites will ruin all other doughnuts for you. You can also nosh on other baked goods or take some dangerously addictive items like their cookie dough home. Everything is vegan, but don't let that hold you back, butter lovers. We have yet to see a non-vegan dessert that can stand up to this quality.
Recommended for Dessert because: Good riddance to doughnut shops of yore. The gourmet doughnuts of today are a satisfying meal in themselves.
Courtney's expert tip: As everything is made fresh daily, make sure to ask which flavours they have. Some won't be behind the glass and you want to be sure that you are making the most educated decision for the good of your sweet tooth.