I have a confession to make. In over a decade of living in Burlington, our family has never before boarded a Burlington Transit bus.
That is, until this summer, when 7-year old Jr Burlington suggested Burlington Transit as one of our 100 Burlington adventures in 2013. As we all know, children offer a wholly unique perspective on the world. “It’s just like the buses we like riding at Disney World, Dad!”
He had a point. So why not enjoy a fun bus ride here at home?
This led me to an idea for a “Burlington Transit Cupcake Crawl” modeled after an annual pub crawl in University.
Using the Burlington Transit website, I worked out a map of all the cupcake shops that have sprung up across Burlington in the past few years and plotted out our plan:
- Five different cupcake bakeries
- Five different Burlington Transit routes
- A three hour touring plan
Our first stop was MollyCake, a bakery and sweet shop right near our home in the Orchard community. We walked over to MollyCake and, tongues wagging, browsed her delicious assortment of tarts and squares, cookies and candies, macrons and more.
Owner Christine has an amazing flair for the creative. Walking into her store is just like walking into a fairytale storybook where sweet treats take centre stage.
As with everything at MollyCake, there are no “ordinary” cupcakes to be found here. Instead, Christine offers Cake Push Pops that offer layers of cake and icing combined with a variety of flavours. I tried a “Blueberry Fool” made with fresh blueberries — I’ll substitute this over a cupcake any day.
Our first bus stop was just outside the entrance to Mollycake. The route 11 bus pulled up just a few minutes after the time indicated on the schedule. We each paid our fare — $3.25 for the adults and $1.90 for the child with the toddler being free. We were provided with transfers that allowed for two hours of unlimited travel across the system.
On the bus, our 20-month old had a look of worry at first but this was soon replaced with excitement when he realized he was allowed to ride without a car seat!
Before long, we came to our first stop at the corner of Appleby and Dundas. This intersection is home to Fortinos in one corner, Walmart in another, Toys R Us in another and our first true cupcake destination in the other.
Cornerstone Centre is perhaps best known for Starbucks but it is also home to LA Cupcake Boutique.
We weren’t quite sure how we were going to handle cupcakes from five different places in one day. Thankfully LA Cupcake Boutique offered mini cupcakes in addition to the full size versions. This allowed us to sample a few different flavours and save room for later.
Chocolate Mint, Cookies and Cream and Carmel were our choices here.
We had a cupcake “toast” to a fun evening ahead. Cheers!
These cupcakes were moist with flavourful frosting that wasn’t sickly sweet. A great start to our adventure.
Returning to the bus stop on the other side of the intersection, we boarded the Route 15 bus. This was a great chance to see the new Alton community that we had drove through early on during construction. It’s now well developed and looking good.
We disembarked again at the corner of Dundas and Walkers and made our way over to the Longos plaza to find Cupid’s Gourmet Cupcakes.
Cupid’s features mini cupcakes too, but this time we decided to share a full size lemon flavoured cupcake.
This cupcake was called the Pucker Up. A sign in front of it declared that it was made of “Lemon yogurt cake with freshly squeezed lemon juice and zest, lemon frosting, and a candied lemon wedge.”
Cupid’s really impressed us. They boast of baking from scratch daily, using only high quality ingredients like imported European chocolate, freshly grated citrus zests, pure fruit purées and nothing but real butter.
In addition to a staple of a dozen standard flavours — five of which are featured any given day — there is a daily Chefs Choice. This may include something like “Fred & Gingerbread” (molasses and ginger cake with a ginger cream cheese frosting), the “I Heart Canada” (maple and cinnamon cake with maple syrup frosting) or the “Key Lime Crime” (buttermilk cake with lime zest & graham cracker pieces, tart lime filling, and a cream cheese frosting).
One way that Cupid’s sets themselves apart from other cupcake shops is their ability to boast of a nut free facility. One of the owner’s children was diagnosed with a nut allergy and from that day forward the menu was changed to make it safe for those suffering from nut allergies.
Back to the bus stop, we had a while to wait for the #6 bus to arrive. We found a shady spot on the grass and relaxed in the warm sun.
Before long, the bus we were looking for appeared. This bus gave us a tour of Headon Forest, another area of Burlington we hadn’t seen much of before.
I asked the bus driver to let us off at the corner of Guelph Line and Upper Middle Road. I found that it’s easier to just ask the driver when you’re not sure of where the stops are.
All of the Burlington Transit drivers we encountered were friendly, courteous and professional. Over and over again we saw people boarding with questions or needing help making a connection. Each time the drivers went out of their way to assist, often by placing a call to dispatch, all while keeping their eyes on the road and staying on schedule.
We made our connection to Route #3 in plenty of time and were headed downtown. The boys were excited at the prospect of sampling two more cupcake shops still!
After disembarking at the Burlington Transit Bus Terminal on John Street, we found Kelly’s Bake Shoppe right across the street.
We first visited Kelly’s Bake Shoppe on their opening day back in December when they were giving away free cupcakes but hadn’t been back since. In just the few months they’ve been open, Kelly’s Bake Shoppe has joined its nearby sibling restaurant Kindfood as having reached legendary status in this city.
Everything sold at Kelly’s Bake Shoppe is gluten free, vegan and organic. But that’s not all. Everything is also dairy-free, egg-free, butter-free, lactose-free, no cholesterol, no trans-fats, and peanut-free!
And there’s more
than just cupcakes here. Kelly has cookies, doughnuts, and her famous, award-winning “mile high” brownie too. And now she even serves ice cream that is vegan and gluten-free and just 100 calories per serving.
Our family isn’t gluten free or organic or vegan but the treats were great anyway. We tried a red velvet cupcake and while it wasn’t as rich as one baked with butter, eggs, white sugar and white flour we understood that you just can’t compare them. This cupcake had more of a lighter sweetness to it. After sampling so many traditional cupcakes that day, it was a welcome change.
The final destination on our Cupcake Crawl was just down Brant Street at Sweetness Bakery. This is the same shop that has a mobile food truck that travels to many different community events. This is another nut free bakery!
With something like 18 different creative flavours to choose from on display, it was a hard choice to make. That’s when we made the decision to select half a dozen different ones to-go! We were attending a pool party the next day and these would make for a perfect surprise desert.
Our choices included: White Chocolate Raspberry, S’mores, Chocolate Sundae, Chocolate Mint, Brownie Explosion, and Salted Caramel. They all received rave reviews at our party.
We made our way back to the bus terminal and picked up a “Ride Guide” while waiting. I hadn’t realized it, but transit service had just been increased in Burlington a few weeks prior. I’m not sure that our Cupcake Crawl could have happened in under three hours without these more frequent trips on some routes.
We boarded the Route 10 bus that would take us across South Burlington to the Appleby GO station. Because more than two hours had elapsed since the start of our adventure, we purchased new fares for the way home.
At Appleby GO, we transferred to Route 11 to return back home.
Notice the unique partnership between Burlington Transit and Burlington Public Library in the bottom right of this photo. The library has placed copies of this year’s “One Book, One Burlington” selection on many buses. Riders are free to borrow John Lawrence Reynolds’ “Beach Strip” and return it to a bus when they are finished reading it.
With one last enthusiastic ring of the bell, we were let off in front of MollyCake where we had started our adventure.
Three hours of cupcake consumption at five of Burlington’s top cupcake shops took stamina and a steely will to uncover our city’s finest desserts, but we did it!
I highly recommend taking on this crawl with family members or friends — sharing allows lots of memorable taste-testing without the full-on calories and resulting sugar highs!
Of course, you could try something other than cupcakes too. Perhaps a theme like chocolate, appetizers, beer or cocktails might work better for you. But whatever your choice, if you need a partner, you can always call me!