By Rebecca Feigelsohn
Sarah Bell and Allyson Bobbitt from Bobbette and Belle
Allyson Bobbitt and Sarah Bell’s wedding cake and pastry shop, Bobbette and Belle, embodies a combination of comfort and luxury, resulting in a space that is both inviting and familiar to patrons who visit the café from near and far. On a recent visit, the duo was kind enough to chat with me while I sampled a bevy of their most popular items, including carrot cake, chocolate hazelnut cake, three different flavours of French macarons and an Argentinean alfajor made of shortbread, dolce de leche and coconut; needless to say I was wooed from the get-go. However, one cannot only attribute the splendour of the shop to the homey décor and delicious pastries, it is the warmth and personality of Bobbitt and Bell that truly makes the café a unique spot in Toronto.
The two met while working at a confectionary art school in Toronto and formed a partnership based on the shared philosophy of “work hard, play hard.” They both have a very strong work ethic and have put their “blood, sweat and tears” into the business, working seven days a week for a year and a half when their business was forming, and taking very little vacation time since then. Their divergent backgrounds and strengths also help to make the partnership a success. Allyson has always been an artist who dabbled in portraiture and sewing, and grew up baking with her Nana, who was a self-taught bread and pastry maker. However, before transitioning into a more creative industry, Allyson also taught children with Autism. Sarah, on the other hand, has a background in hospitality, who knew even as a “teeny ankle biter that [she] wanted to be in pastry;” despite the lack of foodies and culinary influence in her family. Working first at Biff’s Bistro, then as the Head Pastry chef at Canoe, and finally as a chocolatier under David Castellan at Soma, Sarah always had a keen desire to have her own business, and was just waiting for the right business partner.
Not long after meeting, Allyson approached Sarah about a potential business endeavour and they discovered their shared love of cupcakes, macarons and French culture; everything else soon fell into place. Inspired by sugar art pioneers Sylvia Weinstock and Ron Ben-Israel, cake ladies Margaret Braun and Peggy Porschen, as well as macaron innovators Ladurée and Pierre Hermé, Sarah and Allyson created a business that melded a love of good pastry with great aesthetics. They strove to bring “really great pastries to Toronto,” by revisiting classics, like Nana Bobbitt’s recipes, and adding their own flare and creativity to the design. Their philosophy is “affordable luxury” and they are interested in creating desserts that are accessible as well as stylish; and are constantly looking for ways to bring sweets from different cultures to the citizens of Toronto. “We have a strong belief in baking things from scratch, so that hopefully people will actually enjoy eating [the cake]…it should taste good too,” notes Allyson. What they are hoping to bring with Bobbette and Belle, is a respect for food that is often lacking in North America, and a return to the use of exceptional and fresh ingredients, as well as the creation of a culture where people take the time to savour their food.
Their Leslieville location is the perfect spot to test out the “café culture” mentality, as the bright and open space is filled with eclectic knickknacks and cosy furniture, sure to make you relax and feel right at home; if your home is the sort of place filled with freshly baked pastries, that is. They have many items available for purchase including: cupcakes, macarons, and cookies, and you can also order custom wedding or speciality occasion cakes. The pair’s talent, attention to detail, passion for sweets, and genuine interest in their client’s needs is what sets them apart and has ensured their success thus far.
Bobbette and Belle is located at 1121 Queen Street East, bobbetteandbelle.com