Category Archives: The Baker Sisters

7 Most Indulgent Desserts You Need to Try from The Baker Sisters

There are desserts, and then there are unforgettable, show-stopping masterpieces that are so good you can’t get them out of your head. Considering that Rachel Smith and Jean Parker have travelled far and wide in search of the best bakeries for their series The Baker Sisters, it’s safe to say that when it comes to indulgent desserts they definitely know a thing or two.

From deep-dish dessert pizza that’s so indulgent you won’t be able to stop yourself after just one slice, to a mousse cake that’s like a giant chocolate-wafer-hazelnut confection that goes by a certain name, here are some of their top picks from across the country.

1. Chocolate Peanut Butter Caramel Corn Crunch Cupcakes at Crave Bakery in Calgary


Click here to get the
Caramel Peanut Popcorn Topping recipe.

It’s like the bakers at Crave took the wishes of every sweet-toothed consumer out there and combined their cravings into one delightful cupcake with this mouthful of a concoction. Between the chocolaty peanut butter, the salty popcorn and the sweet caramel, this is exactly what we picture an explosion of flavours to physically look (and taste!) like.

“It had the biggest name and in one little cupcake, it delivered,” Jean says. “You had your two frostings playing with each other, the chocolate and the peanut butter. Their cake recipe itself was like grandma’s and it was spot-on perfect…Then we made our own caramel corn, and put that on top of it. It was little and stacked up, but it was crazy good.”

2. The Dark Knight Cake at Chess Piece Patisserie & Café in Fredericton

This Fredericton-based Parisian style café may offer a wide range of baked goods and pastries, but for the Baker Sisters one thing truly stood out: the Dark Knight Cake that Jean got to recreate for the show.

She raves:  “It’s a mousse cake, praline in the inside, and covered in a chocolate glaze. The flavours, the textures, everything about it…”

“Your fork slid through it,” Rachel adds. “It was so indulgent because of those layers of chocolate.”

3. The London Fog Cake at Cadeaux Bakery in Vancouver

In terms of making classic hot beverages come to life in cake form, Eleanor Chow Waterfall has an instant, indulgent winner with her London Fog cake.

“There were 37 steps to make it,” Jean recalls. “Eleanor was awesome. One cool chick, but very precise and would not skip or take any shortcuts. It took a long time. I think there were nine layers of cake; it was huge, and it was perfect. It was infused with this tea, silky, light and fluffy, really high.” No wonder the sisters thought it was to die for.

4. The Amazing Schnecken at Trafiq in Vancouver

We may never be able to look at cinnamon buns with a fair eye (or taste them with the same palate) again after witnessing the magic that went into making the Schnecken at this cafe. Rachel goes so far as to call the treat, which is reminiscent of a Chelsea bun, “insane.”

“Even in the show when I’m doing my tasting, I turn to the baker and I’m like, ‘I need to take a private minute,’” she says. “It was buttery. It was ooey goey. You pour your caramel on the bottom and then your nuts, and then you put your buns on it. He actually froze his buns and then sliced it, and then baked it frozen because what ends up happening is it doesn’t over-bake the dough. So the dough is still really soft and the outside of it gets that firm, crispy that you want. And it was huge.”

Get the recipe for the amazing schnecken here. 

5. The Deep Dish Pizza at Junked Food Co. in Toronto

You don’t have to travel to Chicago to experience delightful deep-dish pizza, especially if you’re looking for a sweeter riff on the original. The crew at Junked Food Co are renowned for their sweet eats, especially since they’re open late and speak to a very specific, sweet-toothed crowd.


Rachel eyeing a slice of that dessert deep dish pizza made by Junked Food Co.’s Brian McKilligan.

“That deep dish pizza was crazy. These men know exactly what they’re doing and who they’re selling to,” Rachel says. “This deep-dish dessert pizza had everything—marshmallow goo, chocolate, caramel, gummy candies. It’s got it all.”

6. Wild Strawberry Brioche Bun with Cream Cheese Icing at The Old Apothecary Bakery & Café in Halifax

Sometimes the most indulgent offerings are the ones that actually bring us back to the basics thanks to the simplicity of their ingredients. That was definitely the case for the sisters when they travelled to Halifax and made these wild strawberry brioche buns.

“It’s not terribly fancy, but it was a brioche wild strawberry bun, like a cinnamon roll, but it was made with wild strawberries from Halifax,” Jean recalls. “The brioche dough was slathered in this cream cheese icing. It was so fresh and lovely and decadent.”

Want to see more indulgent treats? Take our delicious quiz: Pick a Dessert and We’ll Tell You Where You Should Live. You’re gonna want some cake after, though.

7 Great Bakeries the Baker Sisters Are Sweet On

When you’ve pretty much made it a life mission to source and sample all of the best baked concoctions in Canada and beyond, it’s safe to say that you know a thing or two about where the best bakeries are located. Especially if you grew up with baking in your blood the way Rachel Smith and Jean Parker did.

So as the first season of The Baker Sisters wraps up on December 1, it only made sense to ask the sisterly duo to dish on their favourite bakeries, letting us all know where to indulge the next time we crave sweet, sugary cinnamon rolls or the best baked bread around.

Here are seven of the sisters’ top picks; some are their local haunts and some are new ones they fell in love with while filming The Baker Sisters.

Christie’s Mayfair Bakery LTD, Saskatoon

If it’s a family style, European bakery experience you’re looking for, then Christie’s is certainly it. From their pretty cookies to their bountiful breads, this establishment has the vibe and flavours to match.


Jean and Rachel pose with the bakers from Christie’s Mayfair Bakery while filming an episode of The Baker Sisters. Photo courtesy of Jean Parker and Rachel Smith.

“They’re an Italian family. For lunch, they brought over their stone pizza oven that’s on a trailer and they made pizzas for everybody, even in the community,” Rachel recalls. “People came over and they were giving them free pizzas. This bakery actually figured out when we were flying back home, and they met us at the airport with boxes of granola and t-shirts just to say thank you. You felt like you were one of the family.”

Watch baker Tracey make cannoncini, an Italian pastry classic:

 

Sugar Bakeshop, Charleston, SC

This small-batch bakeshop is known for its made-to-order concoctions and wedding-worthy, seasonal cupcakes, but it was the place’s small-town charm that really spoke to this sisterly duo.

“The vibe those guys were putting out was amazing,” Jean says. “[They’re] huge members of the community. We could stay there forever and their baked goods were delicious. They were so welcoming and hospitable. Southerners do have their charm.”

Leslieville Cheese Market, Toronto

Don’t let the name fool you—this establishment may have earned a huge reputation for its amazing variety of cheeses, but this shop knows how to whip up some baked goods to match—especially when it comes to melt-in-your-mouth, buttery croissants.

Just being baked by #epibakery . At 10am this delicious croassaints will be at #leslievillecheesemarket

A post shared by Leslieville Cheese (@leslievillecheesemarket) on

“I love Leslieville Cheese Market. They have the best butter croissant,” Rachel raves. “You gotta go early because they go quick, and I normally buy two.”

Evergreen Brick Works Farmers’ Market, Toronto

Jean admits that choosing an all-encompassing farmers’ market is “cheating” slightly, but both sisters call out Henry from The Humble Bread for having “beautiful” breads, and Alli’s Bread for the amazing cinnamon buns.

“The cinnamon bun at Alli’s will blow your mind,” Rachel says.

“You really have to share it. As much as it hurts my heart to share, you have to because it’s so sweet and lovely. And huge,” Jean adds.

Celena’s, Toronto

Umm… I'm having a #Chocolate #Croissant for #breakfast today! #CelenasBakery #TorontoBakery #DanforthEast #pastries

A post shared by Celena's Bakery (@celenasbakery) on

This traditional bakery makes everything fresh and in-house, and they have a wide variety of goods including breads, pies, sweets and cookies. For Rachel though, this place is her local haunt for one pretty big reason: its chocolate croissant.

“They do a chocolate croissant that no matter what time of day it is, and even if it was made in the morning, when you bite into it, it melts,” she says. “It’s not a hard piece of chocolate. I want one right now.”

The Rooster Coffee House, Toronto

To be fair, the location that Jean frequents on Broadview in Toronto gets their baked goods from places like Jules Patisserie and Circles and Squares. Still, it’s still her favourite place to hang out at while enjoying a hot beverage and a pastry (or two).

“They have the best view of the city, 100 per cent, on the patio,” she says. “The baked goods are plentiful and gorgeous and delicious.”

Wanda’s Pie in the Sky, Toronto

When pie is a part of your name it’s safe to say that you know how to whip up a mean tart or two. The sisters experienced this firsthand when they visited Wanda to learn her tricks of the trade, and the establishment has since become one of their favourites.


Click here to get the recipe for Wanda’s sour cherry pie.

“When we baked at Wanda’s, that sour cherry pie,” Rachel remembers. “She made the best sour cherry pie. She’s known for her pie, and her favourite is the sour cherry pie and one of the first pies she really started making. It blew your mind.”

OK, we’re sold. Road trip, anyone?

Use our bakery map to find all all the bakeries featured on The Baker Sisters

6 Bakery Hacks That Will Make You Feel Like a Pro

Some say that homemade is best, but to be honest, we think those people have never been to some of the amazing bakeries featured on The Baker Sisters. Sure, some of us know how to whip up the best batch of cookies on the block, while others may boast cake-baking skills that would rival Nonna’s. But at the end of the day, it’s the tricks of the trade that really elevate a baked good to the next level.

The-Baker-Sisters-at-Sweet-Hereafter-Cheesecakery

Well, we’re ready to level up, and we’ve enlisted Jean Parker and Rachel Smith’s help to do it. Here are six genius hacks that all next-level bakeries use that will have your home kitchen smelling like a bakery in no time.

1. Make use of your freezer

Perhaps you’ve heard that freezing—or at least refrigerating—your cookie dough before baking is a surefire way to get gooey-but-crispy cookies? As it turns out freezing many of your concoctions in advance is a great way to add extra moisture and ensure a perfect bake.

“Your fridge and freezer are just as important as your oven sometimes,” Jean says. “That and giving yourself the time. For a home baker it’s hard to wait 12 hours for [something], but you do.”

Bakeries certainly seem to have the time, which is why they’ll freeze cakes or cinnamon buns before baking or decorating. Now that’s what we call a cool trick.

2. Enhance with citrus

Peach-Buckle-Proof-Bakery
Proof Bakery’s Peach Buckle recipe calls for 3 tablespoons of lemon zest. 

One of the best ways to elevate the flavour profile of something is by hitting all of those complex layers of seasonings—that’s true whether you’re baking or cooking. But one of the most common mistakes we make is adding too much salt and not enough acidity. Well, it turns out that latter ingredient elevates baked goods, too.

“You’d be surprised how much lemon juice is in a lot of things that you don’t necessarily get that flavour,” Rachel says. “It’s like salt. They can enhance flavours and really change the flavour profile.”

You’ve  seen lemon juice in apple, blueberry or strawberry pies (to name a few) but don’t be afraid to try it in chocolate cake, too.

Lemon-Chevre-Brownie-Purebread-Bakery-Vancouver
Vancouver’s Purebread bakery marries lemon and chocolate flavours in their Lemon Chevre Brownie.

3. Invoke some flour power

How many times have you baked fruity muffins or chocolate-chip scones, only to have the fruit bleed through and sink to the bottom, or the chocolate chips melt into a gooey mess? It turns out there’s a very simple solution to all of those problems: a little flour power.

“Coating chips and berries in flour is a huge one,” Jean says. “It prevents them from sinking or melting. Blueberries, if you toss them in flour first, won’t blend into the batter.”

It’s so simple, yet makes concoctions so pretty. Who knew?

4. Swap flour for cocoa

No, as much as we love all things chocolate we don’t mean swapping out flour for cocoa powder when you’re baking in general. But when you’re coating a cake pan—especially a cake pan being prepped for a chocolaty concoction—that’s a swap the real pros make.

“A lot of the time you’ll see a baker dust their pan with flour to help prevent it from sticking,” Rachel explains. “But if you’re doing a chocolate-based cake, use cocoa powder so it actually doesn’t change the colour of the cake. I learned that at Little Bird in Saskatoon from Tasha and Kim.”

5. Get creative with jam and jelly

Not all Pinterest-worthy projects actually come out like the photos that inspire us—that’s why #PinterestFails were created in the first place. But if you’ve been eyeing a trendy birch-bark stump cake the way the bakers at Saskatoon’s Little Bird were, it’s time to get creative with your decorating to achieve the desired effect. And sometimes that means using creative ingredients like jams or jellies.

Double-Chocolate-Birch-CakeSaskatoon’s Little Bird Patisserie & Cafe makes this gorgeous Double Chocolate Birch Cake.

“I made a birch bark stump [at Little Bird]. It was insane,” Rachel says. “Watching somebody decorate a cake, you learn little tips. [They] took brown food jelly and put holes in the side of the cake, and then smeared it with an offset spatula to create those lines of the birch bark around it. When you see the finished product, you just look at it and wonder how the heck did they do that. It’s actually quite simple, those little details.”

6. Oil it up

Want to know the secret to a moist, indulgent cake? We’ll give you a hint: it’s not an extra pat of butter, despite how deliciously rich that sounds. Nope, the secret to moist cake comes in the form of a more unexpected ingredient: oil.

Chocoalte-Chip-Marscarpone-Cupcakes-Giada-de-Laurentiis
Giada De Laurentiis knows that secret to moist cake, too! Try her recipe for chocolate chip and marscarpone cupcakes.

“Oil doesn’t evaporate because there’s no water in it, but butter is made with water so it evaporates,” Rachel explains. “Butter is great for flavour; it’s not necessarily great for a tender cake.”

Aha. So it turns out butter doesn’t make everything better. Just most things.

Rachel-Smith-at-Purebread-Bakery-Vancouver

So what are you waiting for? It’s time to get out there and start baking like the pros.

The Baker Sisters’ Piping Hot Tips for Running a Truly Great Bakery

Bakeries may be a dime a dozen (every neighbourhood seems to have one, after all), but that doesn’t mean they’re all successful. In fact, we’ve been to our fair share of dives and hidden gems over the years, experiencing everything from so-so bread and non-existent customer service to desserts from the nicest bakers we’ve ever met that basically knocked our knickers off.

The-baker-sisters-Proof-bakeshop
Jean Parker and Rachel Smith enjoy coffee and dessert at Proof Bakeshop in Atlanta.

Odds are that if a bakery exists, it’s there for good reason: the bakers involved know their way around a confection oven. But skills are just the first building block to a successful storefront. Here, Canada’s own The Baker Sisters, Jean Parker and Rachel Smith, divulge their top 5 tips that any bakery owner simply kneads to know.

Nail the Environment

Some bakeries are sit-down affairs while others are more about the counter service. Whatever type of establishment you’re running, you want to do it with a warm and friendly face because that’s what’s going to keep people coming back for more.

Just look at those smiles behind the counter at Vancouver’s Purebread bakery:

“(Have) a warm smile right off the bat,” Jean says. “Be really welcoming, because people will want to stay. There should be no rush.”

While you’re at it, it might not be a bad idea to offer a good cup of coffee or a strong pot of tea. Complete with a freshly baked scone or biscotti, of course.

Display Your Goods

Everyone knows that you eat with your eyes first, so that makes playing up the visual aspects of a bakery an important pillar of success. According to the sisters, it’s not just important to display your goods for customers as soon as they walk in, but you also want to share a variety of goods that showcase your awesome selection.

“One of our first trips away, we went to the West Coast in Canada, to Purebread in Vancouver, and this bakery was amazing. You walked in and it was like a bounty of desserts,” Rachel recalls. “Your eyes bugged out from how much of a selection they had, and they were all on different plate sizes. They weren’t hidden under a counter. They were just like, ‘Look at this bounty.’”

Purebread-Vancouver-Display-2
Purebread’s bakery display is a sweet sight to behold.
Photo Credit: Rachel Smith and Jean Parker

Foster Your Clientele

We’ve all heard how the customer is always right, but customer service should go beyond that approach. Making your clients feel welcomed and appreciated will only keep them coming back for more, and in the end, isn’t that the goal? That’s why the sisters feel it’s important to not only get to know the people who frequent your shop on a personal level, but to go that extra mile for them too. Rachel goes back to Purebread as another example of exemplary customer care following a day they happened to be closed to the public.

“Purebread stood at their front door and gave people sweeties for free to say, ‘I’m so sorry we’re closed today,’” she recalls. “At one point, they were giving gift cards.”

Purebread-Vancouver-Display
One more delicious shot of Purebread’s deliciously over-the-top display.

Be a Community Cornerstone

If you want to become a community staple, giving back to that community is probably a good start. Attend community events and get to know the residents, but also donate to local charities and organizations to really stand apart from the other establishments in town.

“Give day-olds to the community, like shelters. That stands out to me,” Jean says. “There were a handful of bakeries that I knew, maybe a lot of them did that, and they become a community cornerstone.”

Sugar-Bakeshop-Charleston
Sugar in Charleston, South Carolina donates its day-old baked goods to community shelters.

Go for Gold

If you’ve nailed the other pillars of bakery excellence, there’s still one pretty big step to keep in mind—making sure you stand out from other bakeries with unique ingredients customers just can’t get elsewhere.

Nugateau-Display
Toronto’s Nugateau prides itself on using high quality products and no artificial flavourings.
Photo Credit: Rachel Smith and Jean Parker

Have fresh, quality ingredients like chocolate and vanilla,” Jean says. “A lot of the bakers were using Kentucky bourbon vanilla, Madagascar vanilla came up a lot. Himalayan salt.”

“New Zealand butter,” Rachel raves. “It’s like using these ingredients that are really rich and special and luxurious. New Zealand butter has more fat content than regular butter, so it really lends to a buttery sweetie.”

Now that’s a pastry we can get behind.

Beginning October 20th, watch Rachel and Jean indulge in some of North America’s most delicious baked goods every Friday at 10 E/P in back-to-back episodes of The Baker Sisters. Visit foodnetwork.ca/thebakersisters to get the recipes and find all the bakeries Rachel and Jean visit in the series.

For ‘The Baker Sisters,’ Baking Is In Their DNA

Whipping up delectable desserts isn’t just a passion for Canada’s baking duo, sisters Rachel Smith and Jean Parker; it’s basically in their DNA. They were helping their mom whip up butter tarts, cookies and a “green pie” they still rave about to this day, since before they could even stand at the counter, inherently fostering their love of all things sweet and sugary. It’s a love that launched the sisters on a pretty sweet career path, and now, an exciting new TV series The Baker Sisters, premiering October 20th at 10 E/P.

TheBakerSisters1
Rachel reaching for her first birthday cake, made by her mom Heather.

“Our mom, even from the very beginning, really tried to get us to help,” Rachel remembers. “We would make cookies on the floor. She started doing it on the floor because when I was a baby, I fell off the counter. She was like, ‘I’ll put you on the counter in one of those seats,’ and unfortunately I fell off while helping her make cookies.”

TheBakerSisters6
Jean on her first birthday, getting her own from-scratch birthday cake from mom Heather.

Jean jokes that Rachel has never been the same, but it’s obvious that their mother’s love of baking and their fond memories of her concoctions still resonate with their palates to this day.

“The one thing I remember asking for a lot was this cinnamon coffee cake. It was marbled, it was beautiful, it was moist,” Rachel raves, recalling how her mom was always covered with flour and that the house usually smelled like baking, attracting the neighbourhood children. “The cinnamon and butter throughout the cake was thick, so you’d get that buttery piece of cinnamon. We’d always eat it with crunchy peanut butter. Whenever she said she was going to make a coffee cake, I was like, ‘Is it that one?’”

TheBakerSisters11On Rachel’s third birthday from left to right: older sister Brittany, Jean, mom Heather and Rachel.

“My mom would have her bake days and then freeze everything,” Jean chimes in. “The problem is things just taste really good in the freezer. Frozen chocolate chip cookies are up there as one of my favourite things… I remember being a kid, watching the cookies rise was like TV. Sitting in front of the oven with the light on watching the cookies rise. ”

To be fair, there was a period when these sisters thought they were over baked goods… well, for good. They refer to themselves as “broody teenagers” who had little interest in butter tarts and the butter tart business their mom ran at the time, complaining that they’d smell like their mom’s signature treat.  And while they have early memories of whipping up brownies, chocolate chip muffins and snickerdoodles out of spare tart dough (they were given free reign to shape those scraps the way they wanted), they also yearned for regular kid treats like Flakies, Twinkies and Jos Louis.

Jean and Rachel shared a family photo from when their mom started her own butter tart business:

Where it all started.. The original photo from 90's #familyofwomen #maplekeytartco #canadianbakers #canadiantarts

A post shared by Maple Key Tart Co (@maplekeytartco) on

“I never wanted to eat another butter tart again. And now here we are,” Jean shrugs.

Here we are indeed. It’s memories like those that have made the sisters closer and perhaps even unified them over the years as they’ve expanded their own baking skills and launched their own butter tart empire, Maple Key Tart Co.

While some siblings in that situation would inherently bust out the rivalry when asked who was better at the craft, these sisters are nothing but complimentary, pointing out their strengths with affection. Rachel is quick to reveal that Jean is better at nailing the precise measurements and recipes needed to be a successful baker, but Jean says that when it comes to kitchen efficiency Rachel reigns supreme.

“I’m staying at her house right now and at dinner last night she was making four separate meals at one time. It’s (her) speed and (her) confidence in the kitchen,” she explains.

The-Baker-Sisters

Today, Rachel and Jean both try to continue the baking tradition with their own kids. At Jean’s house, cookies are always a safe bet (the kids love anything with chocolate while she likes rolling peanut butter cookies in sugar), but Rachel takes a slightly different approach by sneaking extra vegetables into muffins.

“Muffins, like a carrot cake muffin, because I love jamming vegetables in it. With a carrot cake muffin, I’m grating a whole zucchini in there. Vegetables are tricky. Also, scones or biscuits. You can put broccoli in there and totally trick your kids.”

The kids may be tricked into eating veggies or baked goods for now, but if they’re anything like their moms, baking will eventually hold a strong, familial place in their hearts too.

It is, after all, in their DNA.

We’re Sweet on The Baker Sisters and You Will be Too!

Rachel and Jean are sisters and lifelong bakers who live by the motto “Eat dessert first!” They’re also the stars of the new Food Network Canada series The Baker Sisters, premiering October 20th, where they’ll hit the road to find the most delectable sweets at bakeries and restaurants across Canada and the U.S.

The Baker SistersIntroducing The Baker Sisters: Rachel (left) and Jean.

Rachel Smith and Jean Parker grew up surrounded by the sweet smell of baked goods in Bayside, Ontario. Before they could even reach the counter, their mom, a baker extraordinaire, had them helping her in the kitchen. As kids, their single mom started a butter tart business to supplement her income and the girls, earning 10 cents a tin, helped their mom fill the tins full of delicious tarts. Inspired by their mother, Rachel and Jean went on to establish the Maple Key Tart Co., tweaking their mother’s award-winning recipe to create their own delectable butter tart formula. Now they’re taking their baking know-how on the road to get the sweet scoop on some of this continent’s most blissful treats.

If you’d like to really indulge, we’ll be posting the recipes and locations featured in the series to the show’s website so you can create confectionery magic in your own kitchen or plan one sweet road trip! Throughout the season, we’ll get to know Rachel and Jean better with exclusive interviews on the baking secrets they learned on their journey, their favourite desserts and have them answer the most controversial dessert question ever: “Do raisins belong in butter tarts?”

We’re sweet on The Baker Sisters and we’re positive you will be too!