Bonnie Aguiar has a bold statement to make and she is sticking to it.
“We have the best brownie around. It’s not just me spouting nonsense — it’s the best brownie,” she said.
The owner of Sweet B’s Bakery in downtown Bradford West Gwillimbury calls her shop "the best-smelling place in town," in part from those brownies, and she may be right about that.
Walking into the shop, which is nestled behind Kenzington Burger Bar on Holland Street at Simcoe Road, the smell of fresh baking is intoxicating, and rows and rows of goodies are lined up for sale — chocolate-covered pretzel cupcakes, cotton candy cupcakes, birthday cake cupcakes, a stack of chocolate chip cookies, and, of course, those famous brownies.
Aguiar recently invited me to Sweet B’s to check out the bakery, go behind the scenes in the kitchen, and even try my hand at some cake decorating.
(And yes, I tried the brownie. Not too rich or sweet, it actually may be brownie perfection — plus, it’s huge! The perfect way to say, “I’ll just have one,” but still get to indulge.)
Aguiar launched Sweet B’s as a home business about four years ago, when she also had a newborn.
Her daughter was 10 months old when she opened the store on Holland Street, originally where Got Roots? Hair Studio is now, before moving to her current location.
Now, she comes into the shop each week with her second baby, a four month old boy, while her daughter is in school.
Her son will nap or be babysat by Aguiar’s sister and employee, while she works and helps customers.
When I arrived, her sister and son were in the kitchen, where Friends was playing on a TV, while Aguiar took me to the decorating station near the front door of the shop.
She had set up a small, styrofoam cake for me to decorate with pink icing rosettes. It seemed simple enough, but never having done it before I was thankful for the lack of audience in the shop at that moment.
Hold the piping bag closed with your left hand, and grab the middle of it with your right, she told me.
Squeeze firmly with your right hand to push some icing out, and then swirl it around that dot counter-clockwise, she said.
Voila, a rosette! Well, sort of.
Squirting out some icing, with the right consistency and pressure, was more difficult than I expected, but the end result was not half bad.
Aguiar’s rosettes were perkier than mine, which were sort of half melting off the cake, but at least you could still tell what they were supposed to be.
I’m still better than a Nailed It! contestant, that’s for sure.
“I’ve decorated a cake like that about 500 times. I could do it with my eyes closed,” Aguiar said. It just takes practice.
Sharing her baking with the community is important to Aguiar.
And she owes BWG residents a lot for helping make her bakery happen in the first place.
She said she did not have the $10,000 needed for renovations to open a shop and could not get a bank loan. A friend suggested she crowdfund the money, and she gave that a try.
“Once I’ve put my mind to something, I’m going to do it,” she said. “There’s one thing I don’t like, and that’s to fail.”
Thankfully, the response to the crowdfunding was huge, and she had met ⅓ of her goal by the end of the first day.
“We have quite the backstory, but it really makes us us,” Aguiar said. “We were the little bakery that could.”
One of the options as part of the crowdfunding was, if someone donated $100 they could help create a dessert, which would be on the menu forever.
Twenty-six individuals and businesses each donated the $100, meaning the Sweet B’s menu is quite extensive.
The Best of the Bunch cupcake, created after a donation by The Flower Merchant, is your choice of cupcake flavour topped with a buttercream icing rose.
Driving Me Bananas, created after a donation by Young Drivers of Canada, is a banana cupcake with strawberry pieces, topped with banana buttercream and fresh strawberries.
Nancy’s Nifty-cake is an oatmeal cinnamon cupcake, created after a donation by, you may have guessed it, Nancy’s Nifty Nook. It includes raisins baked inside and is topped with cinnamon buttercream and toasted pecans.
The menu goes on and on, and it includes unique treats like a butter tart cupcake, funnel cake cupcake (they make funnel cakes in-house for the topping), and custom cakes.
On an average day, you will not find all of these items in store. Aguiar posts the day’s offerings on Facebook every morning, and she said people will call ahead to have her put some aside before she sells out.
Some of her most popular items are brownies, cookie sandwiches, and birthday cake cupcakes.
Aguiar said she also has plans to release keto, gluten-free and vegan treats, as well as a line of gourmet mixes for cakes and brownies made “with real ingredients,” not ones with complicated names found in some store-bought desserts.
Since BWG residents helped Aguiar open Sweet B’s and make it a local success, she said she wants to give back to the community and work with other business owners as much as possible.
She supplies 3 Scoops with cookies for its ice cream sandwiches, Don Cherry’s Sports Grill carries her brownies and plays host to Sweet B’s Cake and Cocktail workshops, and The Flower Merchant offers Sweet B’s packages with its floral arrangements.
Sweet B’s carries Sheldon Creek Dairy products, h+n wooden signs, and Mad Platters tiered serving trays, does regular giveaways on her Facebook page, and she hands out cupcakes around town through what she calls Random Acts of Cupcakes.
Plus, Sweet B’s sold 150 of its cinnamon rolls in January to Market Brewing Co. in Newmarket for its 150th brew, a breakfast stout that included the sweet treats, coffee and lactose.
Aguiar’s four year old daughter even has a pretend cafe at their home called Coffee Cakes.
“I like to feature other little businesses,” she said. “That’s what Bradford is — we advocate for each other.”
Aguiar also takes her baking out of the kitchen and into the BWG Public Library and BWG Leisure Centre for workshops, and into Fred C. Cook Public School, where she has held cake decorating classes for students a few times.
One of her most memorable experiences while running Sweet B’s was when a woman from Switzerland contacted her because she was coming to Canada for her son’s wedding and she needed someone to bake the cake and provide her the space and tools to decorate it.
Of course, Aguiar obliged.
“We’ll say, ‘Yes’ as much as we possibly can,” she said.
Aguiar first got her footing in the dessert world through Georgian College’s culinary management program, learning everything from baking, to butchery, to how to run a food business.
She said anyone interested in running a culinary business should go for it, but get ready to work hard.
“It takes a lot more hard work than people expect. Talk to as many people as you can,” she said. “It takes a special kind of species to be an entrepreneur.”
BAKING FOR TEENS WORKSHOP
WHEN: Starts Feb. 20
WHERE: Sweet B's Bakery, 4 Holland St. W., Unit 3, Bradford
WHO: For pre-teens and teens, ages 10 to 15
WHAT: Four-week program where kids learn different skills each time: how to bake a cake, ice a cake, use fondant, and a Nailed It!-style competition on the last day with a prize.
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