Overhead view of cake boxes and a pink plate

Taste of the TSW with Jeff Bray: Cake by the Lake

Jeff Bray is the co-founder and festival director of the award-winning Cultivate Festival in Northumberland County. He’s also an instructor at Centennial College, where he teaches about food tourism, a former restauranteur, and a previous contributing writer to Watershed Magazine. We asked Jeff to give us his thoughts on a few of the unique Taste of the Trent-Severn products developed by businesses around Kawarthas Northumberland.

Bobcaygeon is broken into two parts: the mainland and the islands. Together, they make up an idyllic cottage country community.

The main island is by far the largest. This is where you’ll find the largest concentration of shopping, outdoor recreation rentals, and food and beverage options. Bridges across the Bobcaygeon River connect it to the mainland—and to the second island, home of Lock 32 along the Trent-Severn Waterway.

The third island is the smallest of the three, and only big enough for a handful of buildings. It’s easy to miss, but explore and you’ll find a hidden gem: Cake by the Lake, a specialty bakery that packs a surprising variety into its tiny shopfront.

I arrived with few expectations, but was immediately impressed. The space is bright and cheery, accented with pink wherever possible. It’s cozy, filled with love and, of course, it smells amazing. Amanda, the owner and driving force behind Cake by the Lake, met me with a huge smile and tons of positive energy.

Bobcaygeon is where she spent her summers as a kid. It’s where she got to know the Trent-Severn Waterway, creating a relationship that would last a lifetime. She’s lived and cottaged in Kawartha Lakes her whole life, and when the time came to take her cheesecake business from Facebook to a real-live brickand mortar location, Bobcaygeon was the obvious choice. The building she’s in now is the first location she viewed.

Cake by the Lake serves cheesecake exclusively, following the philosophy “do what you do well!” I was lucky enough to taste three different cheesecakes—Lakeside Lemon, Dockside Double Chocolate, and By the Shore S’mores (tough job, I know). 

The Lakeside Lemon had great balance. It wasn’t nearly as sweet as I expected, striking a wonderful balance of sweet, sour, and savoury. A delightful little treat and the perfect start to a tasting as challenging as this.

Next up was the By the Shore S’mores. A fun (and absolutely beautiful) play on a cottage country classic, this cheesecake had a brown sugar cream cheese filling, topped with a decadent chocolate ganache and perfectly toasted marshmallows.

Lasty, the Dockside Double Chocolate. This, to me, was the ultimate cheesecake experience. Creamy beyond belief! I was in heaven, and it took more than a little effort to not eat the whole mini. After all, I promised my kids I would bring some home!

Amanda offers cakes in three sizes. The mini, which I had, is perfect for sharing. Those with discipline could even stretch it into four servings. That’s a big ask though. It’s hard to stop. Amada also offers a medium and large, which are better for special occasions like having friends over to the boat, or celebrating a birthday. If I were making the decisions, I would go for three minis over a large one. I love me some variety, and these are too good to choose just one.

At the moment getting to Cake by the Lake takes a little extra work, but as the old saying goes, “where there is cake, there is hope.”

The bridge at Lock 32 is currently under construction, meaning there’s no vehicle access to Cake by the Lake from the south. The good news is that while the main bridge is off limits, it’s remained open to boaters. The walking bridges are good to go as well.

If you’re on a boat, this might be easiest. Dock the boat and hoof it! You can find spots for docking on all sides of the islands. If you’re in a bit of a hurry, call ahead and place your order.

If you find yourself on the main island, make your way to Lock 32 and pop over the walking bridge and follow your nose (the only road and one more bridge will bring you right there). 

If you’re driving, the best bet may be to come in from the north and make Cake by the Lake your first stop. This island is much less busy, and walking to the main island might end up being easier than trying to find parking. Plus, this gets you to cake much faster.

However you arrive, be sure to check out the other islands too. Amanda is quick to point out a few remarkable spots on the main island. For her and plenty of locals I spoke to, Just for the Halibut is a must-stop. Unusually for a fish and chips restaurant, the burgers are excellent too! You can also get Cake by the Lake by the slice, as an added bonus.

Bigley’s is another local institution. Since 1911, they have been providing “Big City Fashion in a Cottage Country Atmosphere.” Bigley’s is right at Lock 32, a stone’s throw from Cake by the Lake.

The late, great Gord Downie immortalized Bobcaygeon with the famous line “It was in Bobcaygeon I saw the constellations reveal themselves one star at a time”. However, if the stars don’t align for a trip to Cake by the Lake, there are more options! You can buy them by the slice or by the cake at locations throughout Kawartha Lakes. Take a peek here.

Cake by the Lake may very well be the definition of a hidden gem. While the old saying goes “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey,” I’d say that, in relation to Cake by the Lake, it’s very much both. 

Read more of Jeff’s adventures along the Trent-Severn Waterway here

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