By Jared Davidson –
For four years, Michael Holland has run Holland’s Cake and Shake, a popular stop just north of the Parkdale Market that garnered a loyal following with its innovative miniature cakes. These were no cupcakes. They had all the trappings of full-sized cakes: frosting, layers, and a distinct lack of paper wrap. Best of all, Cake and Shake’s menu changed weekly, with inventive, often whimsical themed flavours that often included sweet cereals, candy, and other unique fillings and toppings. It was almost universally accepted that there was something magical about these mini cakes and business was booming. To many people’s shock and dismay, Holland’s Cake and Shake closed its doors on March 10.
“A lot of people will think I’m crazy for shutting down a successful business,” says Michael. “But it’s only as successful as the owner can keep it up.”
He looks tired. Ever since he announced on Instagram that he would be closing his doors, Cake and Shake has been inundated with cake fans. The shop sold out of most products by noon almost every day in its last week.
“I knew I had a strong following, but not like this,” says Michael. “This week alone my volume has doubled.”
Customers were lining up out the door even before the shop opened, eager for one last taste of cakey goodness. Many were coming to show their support for Michael and their love of the business, but for the overworked business owner, the overwhelming popularity comes as a mixed blessing.
“I can’t keep this up forever. I would have eventually collapsed, just from the exhaustion.”
Running a flourishing pastry business is no small undertaking. Michael hasn’t exercised or eaten well in four years. His business has kept him away from his wife and family. So, when the lease was up, he decided to shut down.
Taking over Cake and Shake’s spot will be a new location of Morning Owl, the downtown cafe known for its commitment to strong coffee and quality sandwiches. And while Michael will step back from the full-time pastry life, he will be joining Morning Owl’s staff as their in-house baker.
“I have been a huge fan of Mike’s delicious creations for years,” wrote Jordan O’Leary, Morning Owl’s owner, in an email. “We will be integrating a large portion of his creations into the Morning Owl lineup.”
Michael’s contribution to Morning Owl will include cookies, muffins, scones and his famous soft serve. His excellent freshly baked bread will become standard in Morning Owl’s sandwiches. But the cakes hang in the balance. The word from Jordan is that, while custom cakes will be available, the mini-cakes will not be a part of the menu. However, Michael is not ruling out the possibility of the occasional foray into miniatures.
“The mini cakes were going to go, but because there’s such a strong reaction from people wanting me to keep them, we might do it,” he says, adding, “it won’t be every day.”
Michael perfected the miniature cake design over many years, partly reacting against cupcakes, which he views as abominations. If you ask him, he’ll explain his reasons: they get dry when the paper comes off, there’s no filling, the bite-per-bite ratio of cake-to-icing isn’t right.
As the cakes became popular, they became a canvas for Michael’s creativity and wacky flavour sensibilities. In this move to Morning Owl, he admits he will have to tone things down.
“The stuff I did here, I’d get fired for doing anywhere else. I’ll miss that a little bit, but in the end it’s a fair trade for less stress.”
We asked our Instagram and Facebook followers to send in their favourite Cake and Shake pics for a special photo gallery and our mouths have been watering ever since! Thanks to everyone who sent in a photo and shared their story with us. Click on a thumbnail below to view a larger version of each photo.