By guest blogger Malorie Bertrand.
The first mention of a “cake to be baked in cups” appeared in Amelia Simms’s “American Cookery” in 1796. And a recent nostalgia for the past has caused a significant belly roar for the cupcake’s return only this time as organic, vegan, gluten and sugar-free as possible. Ottawa’s answer for today’s conscientious cupcake fanatic was born three years ago in the kitchen of a then down-and-out Wendy van Velthoven.
After a not so successful business venture, van Velthoven was, in her own words, “broke and bored.” So she did what every young woman does when they’re feeling down in the dumps – eat sweets. Only instead of turning to Haagen Daz, she turned to her cupcake pan and began experimenting with flavours and icing. Her organic, therapeutic creations were a hit with friends and what started off as an in-house cupcake project became Thimble Cakes, a full-fledged cupcakery. “I couldn’t just keep eating the cupcakes myself so I shared them with friends, they raved about them to their friends and then encouraged me to open up the shop” van Velthoven says.
She spent six months renovating the quaint space into a welcoming ‘shabby-chic’ cupcake boutique. The Alice in Wonderland-esque space is furnished with antique Kijiji furniture, chandeliers and blue icing-painted walls. “I want people to feel welcome when they come in” says van Velthoven.
Clearly, she put in a lot of love into her shop and is very pleased with it. “The shop has been really well received. We’re very appreciative of the positive response,” she says.
Much of that response is no doubt due in large part to her baking mastery. She has what seems to be an instinctive knack for flavor. More importantly, the shop uses all organic ingredients as much as possible and offers customers vegan, gluten and sugar-free options. When asked about this feature of the cupcakery, van Velthoven explains that to use organic ingredients flows from her environmentalism and healthy lifestyle. “As a small shop, we have the luxury of mirroring our lifestyle in our business. We can control the ingredients we use and minimize our energy consumption.” She adds, “we recycle, compost and all of our containers are recyclable.” It seems Ottawa can now have its cupcake and eat it too.
Thimble Cakes can be found at 369 Bank Street.
About the guest blogger. Malorie Bertrand moved to Ottawa three years ago after completing a degree in media studies. Her knack for writing and love of sustainable fashion fused into an online eco-fashion magazine called EF. This labour of love keeps her busy, along with a full time job and supportive group of friends and family but she wouldn’t have it any other way. Contributing to other environmentally and socially responsible publications such as Green Living Ottawa round out her efforts and connect her with like-minded Ottawans.