Boîte TO GO
Morag Cleeveley’s sweet little Parkdale shop will melt your heart
By MARTA S
Morag Cleeveley runs Yummy Stuff, an adorable little bakery in the heart of Parkdale. When I say it’s adorable, I mean it — her custom cakes shaped to look like anything from puppies, to bunnies, to a cartoonish 501 TTC streetcar will make your heart melt.
Yummy Stuff also offers cupcakes, squares, and cookies, all handmade using premium ingredients. Morag gifts me a box of treats during our interview and I’m buzzing for the rest of the day. (Her dark chocolate peanut butter cup is highly, highly recommended.)
Morag’s been doing the custom cake thing for 13 years, first on her own, then expanding to full-on retail back in 2008. Her background wasn’t always in crafting twee and tasty baked goods, though.
“I originally worked in commercial real estate, and did that for almost ten years,” she tells me over the Yummy Stuff counter. “And then just decided — the usual cliché story — that I wanted something more fulfilling.”
So Morag left the real estate game, did some travelling, then decided to enrol in George Brown’s culinary program.
“I always liked to bake in my spare time as a stress reliever, but when I started at George Brown — from day one — I thought, ‘This is it. This is what I should be doing,’” she says passionately.
After she completed her education, she worked for a few hotels and a few custom cake bakers over the years, but became enthralled with the idea of running her own retail shop.
Back in ’08 — after doing custom cake-work on her own out of an industrial space for four years — Morag set her sights on finally setting down roots in Parkdale.
“Truth be told, I was kind of rushed into opening the store,” she admits. “My landlord in my industrial space was taking the space back, so I had to open a little sooner than I had anticipated. I was in a bit of a hurry and, back then, Parkdale was… Cheap!” She laughs and shrugs.
“But I grew up in the west end — High Park and Etobicoke — over the years, and at the time I was living in Liberty Village,” Morag continues. “[Parkdale] made sense. I had my eye on the area. This was a convenience store before [it was Yummy Stuff]. We had to gut the whole thing.”
Opening day at Yummy Stuff was almost comically stressful.
Morag admits, “I knew nothing about retail at the time, so I was super nervous on my opening day. I came into the store and the entire basement had flooded. I got super sweaty and dirty cleaning that up, just hours before our grand opening.”
And it gets worse.
“Then we had this mishap in the kitchen,” she goes on, ominously. “We do a lot of red velvet cakes, so we had vats of red food colouring in the back. And an entire bucket of red food colouring crashed to the floor.
“Our aprons were covered in what looked like blood! We were opening in twenty minutes! On opening day!” she exclaims, chuckling at the memory. “Luckily, we had some extra aprons and everyone got cleaned up in time. We opened up with big smiles plastered on our faces. Nobody had any idea what had just happened in the last hour.”
The last eight years at Yummy Stuff have continued to be a learning process for Morag. “The biggest thing is that I’ve learned a lot about machinery,” she tells me. “I’ve always been a baker — obviously I’m comfortable with that. But now, if something breaks, I’ve got to figure it out for myself. How my industrial mixer, or my oven operates — all those things I never thought I’d know. I wish I didn’t have to pay someone to figure it all out for me in the beginning!”
If Morag wasn’t running Yummy Stuff, she tells me she’d love to have a gig working in a test kitchen.
“I love the idea of coming up with new recipes and putting in a little creative flair,” she muses. “Always experimenting and trying new things and keeping it fresh and exciting.”
But she’s quick to add that running Yummy Stuff is, basically, her dream come true.
“We strive to be the neighbourhood bakery with a focus on celebration cakes and moments,” she says with pride. “We really enjoy getting creative with the cakes, and being a part of people’s milestone moments. And I love it here in Parkdale. I don’t live in the neighbourhood, but I wish I did!”
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