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I Left Toronto's New Vegan Bakery With A Free Drink & Restored Faith In Humanity

Everyone can pick a free drink — no purchase necessary.

I Left Toronto's New Vegan Bakery With A Free Drink & Restored Faith In Humanity

This Review article is part of a Narcity Media series. The views expressed are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Narcity Media.

With the ongoing pandemic that has left many people struggling financially, a ray of sunshine arrived in the form of a family-owned bakery.

Toronto’s Caked Coffee is a High Park vegan bakery and coffee shop that decided to respond to that crisis in a way that gave me a little faith in humanity during an extremely difficult time. The idea was to offer a free hot drink – with no other purchase necessary – to all guests who visit, promoting the idea of treating everybody who enters like part of a communal family.

With people struggling to make ends meet and not seeing family as much as they would’ve hoped, Caked Coffee provides exactly what many have been missing.

The backstory

Founded by husband and wife team Supreet Arora and Raman Gill, Caked Coffee is the epitome of what it means to give back in a time where much has been taken from so many. The former insurance brokers decided to leave their 9-to-5 jobs with the intention of a higher purpose that would be family-centred. With the arrival of their newborn daughter, they wanted an occupation that would enable them to be around for their child’s precious years. Their hope was to build a business that would exemplify hard work and ethical behaviour, with the desire to bring the same feeling to the High Park community.

The decor

As soon as I stepped into the bakery, the essence of “family” was clear. With a warm greeting and inviting smile, I was greeted by the driven couple – along with their bundle of joy – to their welcoming space. The bright white business was dressed with modern decor and shelves filled with artsy homeware, giving it a real residential feel.

Itai Buenahora | Narcity

Living upstairs themselves and spending countless hours a day at their shop, they wanted it to feel much like an extension of their home. With a fireplace in the heart of the seating area, I would say they have accomplished exactly that.

Itai Buenahora | Narcity

The food & drinks

The focus on family and the notion of giving back is clear in the Caked Coffee menu, offering all guests a free hot drink upon arrival. From chai teas to americanos and lattes, everyone who enters is treated to a drink of their choice, with no purchase necessary, much like being hosted in someone’s home. Although free, the hot beverages are prepared with quality ingredients sourced from trusted local roasters to ensure quality.

The baked goods are the couple’s staple, priding themselves on a vegan, refined, sugarless menu. I got to try the cinnamon bun first; a homemade recipe that was championed through extensive experimentation. The $6 bun is mixed with molasses and features raw sugar and cinnamon, with the recommendation of enjoying it frosting-free to experience its natural flavour. I can personally vouch for that, as it stacks up against the very best cinnamon rolls I’ve dabbled in. For those who enjoy the traditional glaze, it is also an option as an addition.

Itai Buenahora | Narcity

I tried the Cookies N’ Cream Cupcake, made with ⅔ less sugar, whipped frosting, and topped with a classic Oreo cookie. This particular recipe was something that Raman wanted to ensure was healthy enough to give to her own daughter, and you would never believe that it doesn’t feature all of the additives we’ve all become accustomed to. At $4.50, the light and flavourful cupcake was a delectable treat that must be tried.

Itai Buenahora | Narcity

Rounding off the desserts was the strawberry shortcake cupcake, reminiscent of my own mother’s homemade recipe, and exactly what I hoped for in a place like this. The tart and fluffy taste of home is defined with every bite and was a lovely way to cap off my dessert tasting.

Itai Buenahora | Narcity

For guests looking to enjoy a hearty lunch option, the bakery offers a selection of veggie, vegan “cheese” and “meat” flatbreads. The lifelong recipe originates from Raman’s mother and is made with Double O flour – a kind of flour that is softer because of how it’s milled – that is fermented for 24 hours, and topped with San Marzano tomatoes and Daiya cheese.

I tried the “meat” flatbread, available for $8.50 that was topped with a soy/veggie combination that certainly fooled a meat-eater like myself. The creamy “cheese” and vegan meat pairing was a mouthwatering combination that will have me back in no time.

Itai Buenahora | Narcity

The verdict

In a time that has ravaged countless businesses worldwide and forced many to cut costs, witnessing an initiative like this undoubtedly gave me hope and optimism for what the future holds.

Caked Coffee has delivered a business model that is not motivated solely by profit, but also to give back in a time of need. The former insurance brokers’ intention is solely to break even, with a second bigger goal of giving back to the community that supports them. Although government responses to the pandemic have led to political divisions among Canadians, the two-in-one Toronto bakery/coffee shop is an example of community on all fronts. It serves as a shining example of the good that can come out of dark times — in a warm spot with free hot drinks promoting a familial taste of home. As Supreet proclaimed himself, “Our world needs more love. Instant gratification will not work. Let's spread our joy.”

I’ll definitely be back.

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