Wanda Beaver in front of her bakery-cum-café Wanda’s Pie in the Sky at the corner of Augusta Ave. and Oxford St. in Kensington Market
It’s a beautiful fall day 10 days before Thanksgiving.
The sun is streaming through the open windows at Wanda’s Pie in the Sky in downtown Toronto’s Kensington Market. I’m chatting with Wanda Beaver, the co-owner of the bakery with her husband David, sitting on a tall stool at a small, tall table.
I’ve lived in Kensington for more than 40 years. It’s my ever-changing home and my adopted family. This is my favourite place for people-watching while sipping a cup of coffee with a slice of pie.
Wanda is a graduate from OCAD (Ontario College of Art & Design) in photography, illustration and graphic design. She began baking for a living decades ago by accident. “I had given a pie to a friend,” she begins. “Her friend owned a restaurant.” They loved her baking. Next, she was selling pies to restaurants wholesale. I remember her tiny shop in Yorkville in the 1990s. They expanded and moved to Kensington Market in 2008.
Wanda begins, “This corner is the best spot to be. It’s in the heart of the city.” She continues, “Kensington has a long history – over 100 years. People live here and it’s a shopping neighbourhood.”
Wanda and I agree. We both love the feisty, colourful Market – and pie.
“Everybody loves pie,” she insists, “It’s a warm blanket on a cool day.” She says, referring to the pandemic, “It’s comfort food, especially now.”
Wanda tells me, “Pie comes in so many shapes and forms. You can go from a rich chocolate peanut butter to a light lemon meringue pie.” Then there are fruit pies. “You can always make pie in a seasonal way. “In spring, you can eat strawberry rhubarb pie. In early summer, there is sour cherry pie – it’s my favourite – and later in the summer, peach and blueberry.”
Fall is the toothsome fruit pie season. She cites: “We make several kinds of apple pie including apple crumble, rustic apple pie with raisins and pecans.” Her bakers use a mixture of apples – Mutsu, Spartans and Northern Spy. She adds, “We also bake pear pie with cranberries. Pear pie is underrated.”
“We make hundreds of pumpkin pies.” Wanda expects to sell about 2,000 pies during the three-day Thanksgiving weekend.
Wanda baked her first pie at nine years old. “No one told me making a pie was difficult – I was an instant expert,” she tells me with a smile. She grew up in St. Catharines, Ontario – the Niagara fruit-growing region – and her family had fruit trees in their backyard. “We had cherry, apple, pear and peach trees,” plus they had home-grown raspberries and rhubarb.
You can buy other baked goods at Wanda’s Pie in the Sky and you can have a sit-down light meal with a caffe latte or herbal tea. They sell about 20 varieties of pie, mostly with decorative lattice tops. In addition to seasonal fruit pies, cream pies include key lime, coconut cream and banana cream.
“Our croissants are very popular,” Wanda says, “and we bake cookies, squares and cakes – cheesecake and layer cakes.”
Talking of cakes, she says, “Pies are more healthy than cakes – fruit pies and have less sugar and calories.” The bakery uses only vegetable shortening and butter in their pie crust. “Shortening gives flakiness. Butter gives you flavour.” They don’t use preservatives.
“Sweets are always popular. People are watching their sugar and gluten,” Wanda continues. She adds sensibly, “Everything in moderation.”
You can contact Wanda’s Pie in the Sky and see their menu at: http://wandaspieinthesky.com/pies/.