Old Strathcona has long been the city’s social and cultural heartbeat — it has the bars, the theatres, the festivals and restaurants. But as our food scene grows, different, tasty niches emerge. Now, if you want ice cream, cake, cruffins or cookies, you’ll want to head to the Whyte Avenue area for that, too. Because it turns out Edmonton has a sweet tooth.
One of the OG Whyte Ave dessert spots — it’s been here since 1993, including a 2016 renovation — has more than 20 delicious desserts and 20 flavours of gelato. It won’t be an easy choice, but you’ll end up with something delicious.
It’s all about chocolate — white, dark, milk — at this Montreal chain. And it’s available any way you want it; as a hot drink, in milkshakes, on waffles, in crepes, on ice cream, in cake, as fondue and so much more.
Since 2009, Edmontonians Michelle LeMoignan and Brianna Vallet have been baking up fluffy, mouth-watering cupcakes topped with buttercream and cream cheese frostings in their Whyte Avenue shop. They have vegan and gluten-free varieties now, too.
The alley behind the Varscona Theatre and El Cortez is home to this delightful bakery where baker Amy Nachtigall is known for her picture-perfect, elaborate and flavourful cakes and icings. You’ll also find a selection of cookies, tarts, scones, squares, meringues and other treats.
After moving from Garneau last winter, this legendary bakery still creates elaborate custom cakes. For smaller indulgences, enjoy cake pops, cookies and candies.
8211 102 St. NW
Whyte House Cafe
This Taiwanese cafe serves specialty desserts through late night, making it a great spot for a date or after-dinner treat. Indulge in a variety of small cakes like souffle-style cheesecake and mango cake.
A couple blocks off Whyte Avenue is a bright, airy coffee shop that’s home to local coffee roaster, Ace. It has just the thing to pair with your espresso: Cake doughnuts and bomboloni (Italian-style filled doughnuts). The classic cinnamon sugar-dusted doughnut is hard to beat.
Inspired by family recipes, Crave Cupcakes opened its stores in Alberta 16 years ago. Co-owners Jodi Willoughby and Carolyne McIntyre Jackson have turned lifelong family baking traditions into a dessert institution — and its signature buttercream icing and moist cupcakes remain popular to this day.
Vegan doughnuts from Devon have made their way to Dessert District! The Olive Nook’s cozy corner has Frickin’ Delights’ homemade doughnuts. There are six flavours available each week, so naturally you’ll have to make weekly visits.
Chef Jennifer Stang might be known for her buttery, flaky pastries and breads, but La Boule still has a sweet spot with cookies, eclairs, cakes and Danishes filling the cases. The standout sweet is the cruffin pastry. This croissant-muffin hybrid originally emerged as a response to Dominique Ansel’s world-famous cronuts (croissant-doughnuts). The peaches and cream cruffin and cinnamon chocolate cruffin are especially tempting.
Fresh doughnuts are filled with flavoured cream or custard, and coated in icing and toppings, on the spot and customized to your preference. Go classic with chocolate or vanilla, or try Ohana’s monthly specialty flavours.
This new addition to the neighbourhood serves up a selection of homemade baking alongside light fare and coffee, though it’s perhaps best known for homemade whoopie pies — a flavoured cream filling sandwiched between small cakes.
10335 83 Ave. NW
Not So Far Away, Ritchie is Becoming a Sweet Spot, Too
After much success in Holland Plaza, the party is getting even bigger. Doughnut Party’s colourful flavoured doughnuts and icings are now available south of the river on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
While it’s still best known for its sandwiches, more people really should know about Farrow’s amazing house-made pastries, doughnuts, homemade takes on Pop Tarts, muffins, and — by special order — DOUGHNUT CAKES.
Dietary restrictions and preferences don’t mean you’ll miss out on dessert. Here you’ll find gluten-free, dairy-
free, paleo, plant-based and vegan baking including cupcakes, cookies, tarts and bite-sized treats.
Edmonton’s crown jewel of dessert shops, Duchess Bake Shop on 124th Street, has recently anointed its spinoff, Little Duchess. Find a smaller selection of signature Duchess items like macarons, cookies, cakes and scones.
9570 76 Ave. NW
Within a few blocks of each other on Whyte Avenue, Yelo’d swirls popular Philippine flavours of soft-serve ice cream, Snowy Dessert concocts frozen bingsu and, in a narrow alleyway, Made by Marcus scoops up interesting flavours of handmade, hard ice cream. A short drive away in Ritchie, Kind serves its small-batch, handmade ice cream. In a Winter City, is there room for all of these cold, albeit delicious, treats?
Apparently, yes. While the sometimes hour-long lines of summer have dwindled in front of Kind and Made by Marcus, demand for frozen desserts is still steady. In fact, the Marcus of Made by Marcus opened the store in Edmonton after opening two successful ice cream shops in Calgary — another city with snow and cold temperatures.
“Obviously sales do go down in winter, but I find ice cream shops similar to coffee shops: they’re a place for people to gather and have a good experience, regardless of the weather outside,” says Marcus Purtzki, owner of Made by Marcus.
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This article appears in the March 2020 issue of Avenue Edmonton.