Sort-of Secret: The New Pie Company, a two-person operation baking up whimsical pies once a week
A series that shines a spotlight on the city’s hidden edible gems
The sort-of secret: The New Pie Company, a pop-up that specializes in whimsical pies
You may have heard of it if: You have ever participated in #FreePieFriday, their weekly giveaway
But you probably haven’t tried it yet because: This two-person operation sells fewer than 100 pies per drop
The next time you find yourself thinking that people are generally unpredictable, consider their reliable appetite for free dessert. Tapping into this shared, eternal human truth is how The New Pie Company—which specializes in whimsical, imaginative pies—progressed from a spur-of-the-moment idea to a quickly growing business. Shiela Labao and Miguel Hernandez, the pair behind the operation, ran a pie giveaway on Instagram at the end of March to spread the word about their fledgling company—a move that exponentially increased their follower count, and started a weekly affair.
It doesn’t hurt that these pies look pretty fantastical. At a recent pop-up, the PB Treats pie was on display with a cloud-like top layer of peanut butter–swirled marshmallow fluff. Below it was a decadent dark chocolate pudding, which in turn rested on a sticky, crunchy crisped rice and peanut butter crust. Labao, who’s behind most of the recipes, is keen on experimentation—especially when it comes to unconventional crust ideas.
Take the bananas Foster pie, for instance. Labao is a fan of retro desserts, and—not having seen them on a Toronto menu—decided to bring the popular ’50s treat of flambéed, caramelized bananas into the 21st century. She caramelizes extra-ripe bananas on the stove with sugar and vanilla, layers them over a brown-butter rum filling, and sets the lot on a pitch-black cocoa crust. Black cocoa—the dark, intense Dutch processed cocoa powder used to make Oreos—is the perfect foil for a gooey, creamy banana filling.
Labao grew up in the Philippines, where some of her earliest memories involve buko, a coconut custard pie that originates in the country’s Laguna province. “We draw flavours from our imaginations, but also from our home countries. Miguel’s family is from El Salvador, and mine is from the Philippines,” says Labao. “I had a lot of pressure creating the buko pie, since I knew that if I didn’t do it right, word would get back to my mum!” For it, Labao folds shredded young coconut meat into an airy, lightly sweet coconut cream, all set on a super flaky all-butter crust. It’s delicate, subtle and just sweet enough—a pie as good for breakfast next to a cup of black coffee as it is for dessert.
Like so many pandemic-era pop-ups, this one has an unlikely origin story. During the day, Labao works on the operations side of a venture debt firm; Hernandez is a UX designer. But in their tight-knit group of friends, they’re the designated baker and chef, respectively. (Before the pandemic, Labao was also taking pastry courses at George Brown to sharpen her skills).
Encouraged by the recent successes of other food-based pop-ups in the city, the two started talking about starting one of their own. “One day, we just decided to go for it,” says Labao. Miguel put his design chops to work creating a logo and an Instagram page, and Labao ran taste tests via Palz—an online community for Torontonians, formerly called Bunz—whose support she credits for much of the operation’s initial momentum (along with the aforementioned pie giveaway).
The taste tests were a smashing success, and now, The New Pie Company has multiple pop-ups on the horizon (and plans for a brick-and-mortar store further down the road). “My ultimate vision is to have a mixed-use space where we can run pie and baking workshops,” says Labao. For now, keep an eye on their socials for upcoming pie drops—and while you’re at it, throw your hat in the ring for #FreePieFriday. Because phone carriers crash and lockdowns (eventually) end, but free dessert is forever.