Kamla McGonigal’s whisky cakes share her love for the province
Gwendolyn Richards, Calgary Herald
Published: Saturday, April 23, 2011
A fourth-generation Albertan, Kamla McGonigal takes pride in her roots.
And she’s found an unusual way of sharing the love she has for the province she calls home.
She’s put it into a pair of cakes.
Chocolate flavoured Alberta Whisky Cake created by Calgary’s Kamla McGonigal as seen in her home Wednesday March 2, 2011.
McGonigal, an emergency room nurse in Calgary, came up with the Alberta Whisky Cake concept about eight years ago after realizing she wanted to create a unique way to represent her home.
She wanted, she says, to express through the cakes what Alberta is to her: solid, authentic, rich, bold.
“We’re very spirited,” she says.
As are the Alberta Whisky Cakes.
Whisky goes in the batter and then cooked cakes are soaked with a glaze made from the liquor.
(Canadian whisky has no E because that’s how the Scottish – who predominantly settled in Canada – spell it; the Irish, who settled in the U.S. in greater numbers use the E, which is why south of the border it’s spelled differently.)
The smell emanating from the black hexagonal boxes containing the chocolate and maple-walnut cakes is unmistakable.
“This is an experience, right from the aroma,” McGonigal says.
The Bundt-shaped cakes are moist, rich and full of flavour.
The final recipe took a long time to perfect, with McGonigal spending every Saturday making two cakes to present to her testers – friends and family tasked with trying out varying versions.
“Is this the best cake you’ve ever eaten?” she would ask. And she kept recreating and refining until the answer was yes.
As part of the process, she ordered liquor-based cakes from all over the world.
“I’m thorough with my research,” she says, laughing.
“I wanted to make them a world-class product every Albertan would be proud of.”
McGonigal’s grandparents made the move to Calgary from northern India, farming land where Chinook Centre now sits; she now lives a few kilometres away from her family’s former homestead, but she was raised on a ranch west of High River where her parents still make their home.
Like McGonigal, the cakes are grounded in Alberta.
Her aim was to make them as local as possible, down to the packaging and labels.
The whisky comes from the Highwood distillery in High River; the flour from Lethbridge; they’re baked in a Calgary bakery. (The maple syrup is also Canadian.)
And yet they have universal appeal.
The cakes – heat sealed after baking to keep them fresh and moist – can be shipped anywhere in the world.
One of McGonigal’s first online orders went to Ottawa; she now ships to every province.
And one customer ordered 16 cakes, sending them all off to Scotland.
The medium cakes, which serve about 12 people, go for $35.
Large cakes serve 24 and retail for $60.
They can be purchased online at albertawhiskycake.com or by calling 403-256-1888.
McGonigal also sells them at the Millarville Farmer’s Market all summer and at Christmas.
The market launches for the season on June 11 and will be open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. each Saturday.