When my sister relocated from one of my favorite Pacific Northwest pie cities to Toronto, I was skeptical. Would a 90-minute Porter Airline flight set me down in a pie wilderness or would I encounter an urban center bustling with pie options? Was there more to Toronto than a bakery box filled with caramel butter tarts and custardy pastel de nata? I needn’t have worried; Toronto is home to Wanda’s Pie in the Sky.
Wanda Beaver is the art student-turned entrepreneur of Pie in the Sky. Raised in Niagara, Wanda’s inaugural foray into pie baking was at age nine with a sour cherry pie made with cherries gathered from her own backyard. The Ontario sour cherry pie is not only Wanda’s favorite, it has received several Best of Toronto awards. Now Magazine has voted Wanda’s the Best Dessert in Toronto in their Reader’s Choice awards. and Toronto’s source for local news and culture, blogTO, has named Wanda to four separate “Best Of” lists. On an average day, between 100 and 150 slices of pie exit the building. On weekends, it’s not unusual for more than 1,000 slices to take wing.
Located on the edge of Kensington Market where Augusta meets Oxford, Wanda’s Pie in the Sky is a Toronto landmark. The café is outfitted with an eclectic mix of casual tables and chairs, as bright as Wanda’s famous 7-layer rainbow cake. Cozy seating is available both indoors and on the sidewalk patio. Serving more than just sweets and beverages, the café offers plenty of breakfast and lunch options. Wanda’s bold signage indicates they are indeed, a vegetarian establishment, but they don’t “hit you over the head with it.” Simple truth served alongside good eats and fine coffee makes for a sustainable business; Wanda’s has been serving Torontonians for more than two decades.
Stepping inside the bakery/café, a dizzying assortment of fruit, cream, custard, and nut pies beckon from behind a sprawling glass-fronted display case. Available in comfortable 6” sizes, generous 9” options, and humble single slices, the pies taunt. Seasonal fruit tucked beneath flaky crusts vie for your attention against rich custards dressed in swirls of whipped cream.
It’s easy to be drawn to the Ontario Sour Cherry Pie sitting center stage in the display case. Embellished with piecrust cut-outs, the pie stared me down as I fell victim to the plump sour cherries poking through its rick-rack lattice. The scarlet fruit refused to loosen its grip on me until I opted for the 9” pie. With the intention of divvying up the goods amongst a group of former Seattle-ites, I watched as the pie was lowered into a box lined with gingham tissue paper. Tied securely with baker’s twine and stamped with Wanda’s signature logo, the packaging alone transformed the baked good into a gift.
Not limited to pies, Wanda has her fair share of cake and cookie fans, particularly those clamoring for her impressive rainbow layer cake and the decadent dulce de leche macarons. Juggling my pie box and a fair trade, organic coffee required all the dexterity I could manage. Additional taste testing would have to wait until a future visit.
Wanda is my kind of pie baker, allowing the fruit to shine, opting for hand-rolled piecrusts made flavorful with butter and flaky from a canola based shortening. Still, Wanda’s desserts should not be considered part of your Whole 30 meal plan.
A recent analysis provided to the Toronto Star by The Dish, (a column dedicated to nutritional health and food analysis) revealed that a slice of Wanda’s sour cherry pie boasts 536 calories. More sobering was learning that an overly generous slice of Wanda’s Rainbow Cake contains a whopping 1,230 calories. Obviously, inviting a few more folks to your rainbow cake and sour cherry pie party might be a good idea.