Montreal Cake Club & the Bake Sale
I have these two friends who I’ve known for about two decades now, which is about the same amount of time I’ve been working in pastry. It’s no coincidence, of course, that they also work in pastry, although that they should be such total geniuses is almost too good to be true. Stephanie Labelle is the pastry chef behind Montreal’s Patisserie Rhubarbe, which any connoisseur knows is one of the very best spots in the country. Michelle Marek is the former chef (yes, she can do savoury too) of the SAT FoodLab. Sadly we no longer live in the same city, but years ago we had a very small (aka the three of us), quite informal little group we called Montreal Cake Club. In a bid to keep up the pastry skills we weren’t using (cake decorating first and foremost) and as an excuse to hang out, we got together, often all bringing baked cakes, and practiced buttercream flowers or Lambeth Method.
Ten years or so later we decided Montreal Cake Club should be resurrected in the form of a book project. We wanted to collaborate on putting together all the recipes from our years of cooking together– Cake Club, cookie swaps, Michelle’s Kaffeeklatschs at Restaurant Laloux… So we huddled together at a dimly lit table at FoodLab and scribbled notes. We took them to Michelle’s country house for the weekend along with our friend Etienne Marquis (the fantastic photographer who took all the photos in my book!). We ate well, drank well, and created a few signature cakes. And then, as so often happens, we got swept up in the rest of our responsibilities, and let the project get buried.
Now that Michelle and I serendipitously ended up nearby in southern Ontario and have been working together, Cake Club is back. But this time it seems there’s more to say. The world has changed a lot since 2015, and what is resonating most is that this is not just about cake. The restaurant industry is notoriously male-dominated, and pastry is perennially underrated and taken less seriously than cooking. What Cake Club has meant to me over these last two decades is having the support of other professional women, who are always there when I need to vent, to plan, or to get a recipe for stabilized whipped cream. Instead of competing, we celebrate each other’s achievements, learn from each other and advocate for one another. So this time, as we return to the book proposal, there are of course, recipes (most certainly for cake– and preserves, don’t you worry), but also stories and profiles of other women makers who inspire us. Community is the most important.
For now you can find us on Instagram @mtlcakeclub
I am extremely pleased to announce that our first official event as Montreal Cake Club will be the Cafe Altro Paradiso Bake Sale for Planned Parenthood. This will be the third year for this incredible event organized by our old friend & pastry star Natasha Pickowicz. We are honoured to be in such excellent company (CHECK THAT LINEUP) and awed to see so many folks come together to support such a vital cause. For our part, we will have gorgeous nougat, jams, an herbal tea blend by Herbal Underground in ingenious reusable tea bags designed & sewn by Michelle, plus more no doubt, all presented on the mind-blowing ceramics of top notch genius Maggie Boyd. We will be profiling our collaborators in the coming weeks on our instagram, so make sure to check in for a serious dose of inspiration.
We hope to see you there! That said, if you can’t make it, you can still donate online.
For more infomation, head to the Café Altro Paradiso Bake Sale for Planned Parenthood website.