The first thing that strikes you about Barbara Accogli and Monja Chiaravalloti is their smiles.
That’s something worth remembering because as you get them talking about their edible art business, CakeStar, those smiles get wider as they describe the gorgeous cakes and pastries they conjure up each day. Heavily influenced by their dad, master baker Nicola, who ran his own bakery for 26 years, the sisters get nostalgic as they recall the past. Listening to memories of their sweet childhood is like reading about the delicious midnight feasts in an Enid Blyton novel. But while I had to make do with fiction, Accogli and Chiaravalloti actually got to live the real version – in broad day light.
“We used to have sleepovers and then we used to have breakfast at the bakery with our friends the next morning,” explains Accogli. “My mom and dad would make us cappuccinos or hot chocolate and then place this big bowl of tiramisu on the table and give each of us a spoon. And we would all just dive in and start eating. Sometimes it would even be leftover pieces of cake and frosting. It was delicious!”
That love for all things sweet is what led Barbara and Monja to open CakeStar. From gravity defying wedding cakes to cake balls and some of the best cannoli in Toronto, the sisters channelled their passion into making dreamy (and artful) treats for others. While I’m at the store, a potential customer enters with a dress dripping diamantes, which she wants reflected on her birthday cake. Barbara and Monja spring into action throwing out ideas on different designs and cake heights. Within seconds the customer is caught up in their enthusiasm as well and is sharing her own vision for the cake.
Passion is a word you won’t just hear often, but you’ll experience when you meet Barbara and Monja. I met them for the first time at the media opening of their store a couple of weeks ago where they taught guests how to fill cannoli (a store speciality) and decorate cake balls. Ecstatic that their dream of a cake store had come to fruition, they happily chatted about being thankful for the chance to put a smile on their customer’s faces. “We have regulars who we have done the engagement cake for, then their wedding cake and now their baby shower cakes as well,” says Monja. “Many of them recognise the passion that we share for what we do and they tell us, ‘we’re not going anywhere else’.”
But breaking the Guinness world record for the 'most layered cake' and having their cupcakes featured on NBC's series Suits aside, do they eat a lot of cake? “A bit too much,” says Monja laughing. “We just like to have fun and enjoy what we do. When people come into the store we want them to feel welcome and relaxed.” And judging from the walls painted a funky green to the chirpy ‘hello’ you get when you enter the store, you'll immediately know that you’re in good hands. And guess what? That tempting array of treats in the store front is going to ensure you don't leave empty handed as well.
Cakestar is located at 3431 lakeshore Blvd W, Etobicoke, M8W 1N2.
Barbara and Monja also host cake decorating classes and have a wicked selection of naughty cakes, wedding cakes, cake balls, cupcakes, cannoli and baked treats. Check out the images on their website. You can also read their tips on throwing a dessert party.