And without further ado, more cakes!
Posts Tagged ‘cupcake’
In the evening, we crossed Berlin via the sensible and timely S-bahn to our second hostel in the east side. But this was no ordinary hostel. It was also a boat! It was on the river Spree, just behind the east side gallery – which is the standing portion of the Berlin wall, covered with art works. It was an incredibly fun place to stay and the staff, one lovely Canadian lady in particular, were supremely helpful.
We arrived at the boat footsore and tired after a full day of sightseeing and asked our awesome Canadian hostess to recommend a nearby restaurant for dinner. She directed us to an Indian restaurant across the river called Amar which was exactly what we needed. The staff there were very cheerful and welcoming, providing complimentary shots of non-alcoholic drinks as we sat down and bringing our food promptly, which was much appreciated. Although three separate waiters did forget to bring us plates to eat off of. I started with aubergine pakora, which I would have shared with Mark if he liked aubergine (His loss, they were epic!) and then followed up with the lamb kadai which was lovely, tender meat in a hearty, fragrant sauce. Mark had the lamb tikka and we shared a rice and naan bread. And to drink? Tequila sunrise of course! I know it sounds weird, and I only ordered it because it’s my very favourite cocktail and I was very much in the mood for one, but it went extremely well with the curry! It was also huge. Serious value for money there. All in all, one of the best Indians I have ever had and such a vibrant environment to enjoy it in.
Well fed, but still tired, we ambled back across the bridge to bed.
Early the next morning I was woken by the most amazing thunder storm over the river, only to drift back to sleep and be awakened again by a quack at the open porthole. Holiday bliss!
Our destination for brunch was another recommendation from that dear, hardworking, Canadian. An unassuming place called Salon Schmuck on Skalitzer Strasse, across the river in Kreuzberg, with white garden furniture for outside seating and comfy mismatched sofas and arm chairs indoors. The music was chilled and suited to my tastes for a relaxed day – foo fighters, killers, etc. The drinks menu (alcoholic and non) was extensive. As well as the usual lists of tea, coffee and saftschorle, there were fresh pressed fruit and vegetable juices, chai lattes (hot and iced) and the best chocolate milk Mark and I had ever had. It was blended with ice and tasted dark chocolaty, rather than the sugar-sweet stuff we get over here. The breakfast menu was almost as interesting as the drinks and there were one or two lunch dishes as well. As far as I could tell, no self-respecting cafe in Berlin stops serving breakfast much before 16.00. I went for the cinnamon french toast with bacon, maple syrup and fruit salad, imagining a delicate dish of the kind that leaves me hungry in the one or two Edinburgh cafes I have been to for brunch, but with the added bonus of fresh fruit to cut through the richness. I could not have been more wrong. The three slices of french toast, topped with a pile of German bacon (which was like wafer thin fried ham), surrounded by a mountain of fruit, and served with a bowl of maple syrup, took me most of an hour to eat, although I must admit I was defeated at the very end. Mark’s breakfast was also substantial, but somewhat unorthodox – a great big bowl of chili with sour cream and bread. Stuffed with food, comfy on our sofa listening to the tunes and the patter of rain outside, we decided to camp out at Salon Schmuck a little longer, order a second round of drinks, and get stuck into a good book (or laptop).
After a while, though, we really did have to stretch our legs and walk off some of that bacon! Disregarding the rain – it was warm enough not to bother us much – we had a nice wander through surrounding Kreuzberg. The contrast between Kreuzberg (and Friedrichshain north of the river) and Mitte is pretty amazing. As we took the S-bahn between hostels I could easily believe we were now in a completely different city. Where Mitte had no litter or graffiti whatsoever – spookily so, actually, as there were no bins to be found. At one point I saw a woman abandon a broken umbrella in Mitte and when I looked back it had disappeared – the east side of Berlin was full of it. Even so, it didn’t really feel dirty, just untidy in a sort of well-loved way. Like a student flat. The people in the east were much more what you would expect to see from Berliners, in fact, I felt under a lot of pressure in Kreuzberg in particular to be ‘trendy’, something which I am most definitely not! That’s not to say there were less tourists in the east – I heard several British accents and spied many a map and guidebook – it just seemed to me that people there dressed for the environment. Naturally, I didn’t take any pictures of the buildings, bars, parks and railways. I did however, take a pictures of the biggest copy of “the very hungry caterpillar” I have ever seen. It was fully a meter long and remains the highlight of my afternoon adventures in Kreuzberg.
That evening, we headed out into Friedrichshain to another modern German restaurant I had read about – Schneeweiss. The boat hostess suggested she book us a table, and as she had yet to go wrong, we agreed. I don’t think we would have got seated if she hadn’t. Every smooth white table in that smooth white restaurant was reserved when we arrived, a little early, for our reservation. The decor was, as expected, white and icy, with beautiful forest and deer motifs on the windows. To start, I ordered a moscow mule from the cocktail menu – white and icy to match the room – and prayed that “gurke” was cucumber and not gherkin. Thankfully, my high school German did not fail me and it was very tasty! Mark and I both chose the braised beef dish from the menu. Local beef slow cooked and served with mashed potatoes, spring onion, roast salsify and celeriac and a thick, rich jus. Meltingly tender and satisfying. From my perusal of the menu, I was very excited by the special pudding – fresh madeleines, blueberry jelly, handmade blueberry marshmallows and elderflower sorbet. It looked amazing, but was far too sweet for my taste. The jelly was jam, the madeleines were saturated with sugar, the marshmallow was sticky and it was served on a smear of dulche de leche. The sharp sorbet was all that saved it from being nauseating. Mark, sensibly, had the apple strudel with custard.
Our last full day in Berlin dawned dry, so we jumped at the chance and rented a couple of bicycles from the hostel. Our route took us along the east side gallery and the bank of the Spree, crossing the river and canal mid-way through museumsinsel and onto Unter den Linden. Then it was pretty much a straight line through Mitte, then beautiful Tiergarten and into Charlottenburg to meet up with the Spree again as it flows into the gardens of Schloss Charlottenburg.
By this time the sun had come out in full force and we were beginning to wilt in the heat. High time for lunch! To Mark’s lasting enjoyment, we took Leibniz Strasse to Kant Strasse (the second street after Goethe Strasse) in search of Jules Verne – a cafe with a breakfast menu full of dishes named after his books. It’s actually a little hard to find, being as it is tucked away round the corner on Schluter Strasse, but this means its outdoor seating is away from the main road. Not really in the mood for breakfast, we both chose from the blackboard list of daily lunch specials. I had matjes (a very mild salt herring) with fresh herbs and a potato rosti and Mark had the pasta with sausage. And, just when it was most needed, cool refreshing grun bier!
Trying to locate Jules Verne resulted in a minor detour during which I spotted the only cupcake I had seen in the entire of Berlin. Always self sacrificing in the name of research, I proposed we move along the road for dessert. Der Kuchenladen was a bright little cake shop which claimed to specialise in cupcakes as well as other handmade desserts. Everything looked amazing but, despite the lure of the German cheesecake, I had to try a cupcake. There were only two kinds on offer and one had a great big half apricot on top. That’s the one for me, I said. While moist, tasty, and very generously sized, this was much more muffin than cupcake. Studded with chunks of fresh apricot and lightly iced, it was very tasty…for a muffin. Mark had the blackforest cake which had, beneath a full foot of cream (well…almost…) the tastiest cherry layer I have ever had in such a confection. A very good cake shop, but not really a cupcakery.
Our return journey took us through the bottom of Tiergarten, behind the zoo, where you can see several of the animals being exhibited including some very grumpy exotic birds, watching as their round, German cousins flit in and out of the bars. Then, not entirely intentionally, we cycled through Potzdamer Platz and back to the Spree again at Kollnischer Park where reside the Berlin bears Schnute and Maxi who were sensibly hiding in the shade. By the time I got back to the boat and saw the lovely pink colour of my arms, I wished I had had as much sense!
After a cooling shower and several bottles of water, we ambled out in search of dinner. Not having any strong preferences we sought somewhere close, cheap and shaded. Just across the street from Amar was a small Italian restaurant with plenty of tables outside and a few inside. For 10 euros we got two plates of pasta, bread and a bottle of water. Just what was needed. I didn’t take any pictures, but you can probably imagine what spaghetti bolognaise looks like.
We didn’t intend to have dessert again, but, as we sat at the window enjoying our dinner, more than a dozen people walked past with ice creams and frozen yogurts in all sizes and colours (but only one shape – scoops). Just round the corner we discovered a little hole in the wall ice cream shop with a queue the width of the street. Luckily the queue was fast moving and we got our lovely cold ice creams without too much extra sun exposure. The flavours that we tried included rhubarb frozen yogurt and ginger ice cream. As it was our last night in Berlin we decided we should explore the local nightlife, but first we’d head back to the boat and put our feet up – just until the sun went down.
We woke up the next morning very well rested and, after checking out of our room and leaving our bags in the lobby, wandered back to Salon Schmuck for a farewell drink and a more modest breakfast of bread and jam and boiled eggs. Then it was back for our bags, a stroll along the east side gallery to the S-bahn and a fast, efficient, train to the airport. After one more scoop of ice cream at the train station of course. Which was blackcurrant flavour and, despite coming from a train station, heavenly!
It might seem strange that I travelled all the way to London to review cupcake culture before checking out what was on offer in my own city, but the fact of the matter is that, until very recently, there was nothing at all. Cupcakes in Edinburgh tend to be made by people like me – fresh to order, rather than lined up on boutique counters for choosing. This means that people get the freshest possible product and can easily have it tailored to suit their occasion, however, it doesn’t really suit inquisitive foodies like me who like to wander around, peer into windows and buy the occasional sample to dissect. Knowing myself to be in a very unusual minority, this wasn’t too surprising, but I was never the less pleased when cupcake shops started to pop up nearer to home. Google provided me the details of two cupcakeries in the city centre and I set off on a sunny spring day to investigate.
First on the list was Bibi’s Bakery, a little shop just off Princes Street very much in the style of the London cupcakeries. The shop was colourful and trendy and the cupcakes were frosted high!
Then onto Liggy’s Cake Company in the West End Village – a quiet couple of old Edinburgh streets just a few steps away from the end of bustling princes street. Unlike Bibi’s, Liggy’s seemed to me very much like an Edinburgh cake shop and the girl behind the counter was really cheery and enthusiastic about her cakes and baking in general. So much so, in fact, I came away very pleased to have met such a like minded person!
Time to gather the experts and taste the cakes!
In interest of fairness (and because I was only visiting two bakeries a short walk from my house) I bought the same to flavours of cupcake from each bakery – double chocolate and lemon. I picked these flavours because it seemed a safe bet both bakeries would have them and because, even though they seem standard, almost everyone has a different take on them. They’re also the two flavours that I’m particularly fussy about in terms of my own personal tastes – I prefer a dark rich chocolate and a sharp, light lemon.
Me: Lovely light sponge with smooth mousse like frosting and milk chocolaty taste. I could feel one or two sugar crystals but it was not over-sweet. However, it was not very rich either.
Holli: The chocolate icing was like fluffy mousse which was a nice surprise! The cake was nice and moist and tasted like a chocolate brownie.
Mark: Good. Nice consistency, slightly too sweet but not in a bad sugary way.
Me: My initial impression was that this cake was incredibly sickly, but on closer inspection it was just the yellow icing that I didn’t like. It put me in mind of fondant fancies and was far too sweet for my palate. Without this, though, the sponge was very nice, light, fluffy and pleasantly lemony.
Holli: Thought this cake was really pretty and the sponge was lovely – like a lemon drizzle cake. However, the white icing didn’t taste of anything and the yellow icing was slightly too synthetic lemony.
Mark: Liked it. Tastes like a lemony angel cake but better quality than your typical angel cake.
Liggy’s Cake Company
Me: This cake had a lovely chocolaty smell when I unwrapped it. The cake had a smooth texture and a chocolaty flavour which put me in mind of hot chocolate drinks for some reason. The icing and the sponge balanced well.
Holli: Looked really pretty and had a nice sort of malty flavour to it. “I rather liked it.”
Mark: Tastes like chocolate chip cookies. At first the icing seemed too soft but actually went really well with the cake. Smells nice too.
Me: Tasty, zesty, fluffy sponge with smooth icing that tastes like lemon ice cream. Mmm…
Holli: The cutest cupcake! Love the sprinkles! Really liked the lemony icing but thought there was not much flavour in the sponge.
Mark: Icing seemed kind of strange and it was sort of like a lemon meringue pie in flavour and feeling – which is good. Flavour is nice and it looks nice.
And now for some verdicts!
Favourite Chocolate Cake
Me: I can’t choose! I liked them both, but neither was perfect (remember I have high and unusual chocolate cake standards!)
Favourite Lemon Cake
Overall Favourite Cake
Me: Liggy’s Lemon
Holli: Liggy’s Lemon
Mark: Liggy’s Chocolate
From London to Suffolk to stay a day with Fran and her husband Søren, catch up and, most importantly, get their opinions on the four remaining cupcakes! Trust me, these guys know their cake.
Chewie’s – Chocolate with coconut topping
Me: I was a little daunted by the thick layer of frosting but it actually tasted lovely, felt silky smooth (more ganache-like than frosting-like) and helped to compensate for the bland sponge which tasted brown rather than chocolaty. I think the coconut was mostly for decoration rather than flavour.
Fran: Less chocolaty than expected. The icing was very pleasant and incredibly smooth, overshadowing the cake.
Søren: Found this cake slightly disappointing as he expected really chocolate truffly-ness but would still eat this cupcake again.
Sweet Couture – Peanut Butter
Me: The sponge had a great peanut butter flavour but the icing was too sugary to take the flavour on. I would be happy with an uniced version of this cake and a big glass of soya milk!
Fran: Liked the real peanutty taste. Thought the icing was slightly too sweet but there was a good all round flavour and the sponge had a good texture.
Søren: This cake could have done with half as much icing – it was way too sweet! The icing completely overpowered the sponge. Would have liked it better with just a thin layer of icing. He didn’t think he liked peanut butter but quite enjoyed this cake.
Outsider Tart – Chocolate
Me: The sponge had a nice firm, moist texture but no chocolaty flavour at all. The whole thing put me in mind of those ‘chocolate-flavoured’ syrups you get for ice cream and dunkin’ donuts. Which is not my idea of chocolate!
Fran: Not chocolaty at all although it has sort of a nostalgic charm, conjuring memories of sugary childhood treats and the chocolate icing they use on cinnamon swirls in Denmark.
Søren: Thought this cake smelled like the chocolate cakes of his childhood but didn’t taste of much. The most distinctive taste was from the sweets used to decorate it.
Maison Blanc – Pistachio
Me: This cake was beautifully executed – the sponge had a lovely light texture and the frosting was airy and not oversweet – but the whole cake tasted a lot like marzipan which I do not like at all. Sorry!
Fran: Icing was slightly over-sweet but the balance of icing to cake was good as the light, crumbly sponge needed a good frosting to complement it. However, it tasted like marzipan rather than pistachio.
Søren: Doesn’t really like marzipan but loves this cake. Liked the way the icing sort of melted with the light cake. This is the only one of the bunch he could have eaten all of.
Søren: Maison Blanc Pistachio
Fran: Peanut Butter. But thinks the pistachio cupcake was actually the best, just not to her personal tastes.
Me: I totally agree with Fran. In terms of the best cake, Maison Blanc’s pistachio was flawless but the taste is not my cup of tea at all. Personally I like the peanut butter cupcake from Sweet Couture the best today.
So what was the best cake overall? It’s actually very hard to say. In terms of what I enjoyed eating, I think it was the raspberry ripple (Cox again!) but the peanut butter cupcake would have maybe taken the top spot if it had been unfrosted (or frosted in a less sickly fashion). However, if I had to award the title of “best cupcake” to one of these eight, it would have to be the pistachio from Maison Blanc. And, even though I think price isn’t really a factor for luxury goods like cupcakes, the Maison Blanc cake was also the cheapest.
Now for the important part, how did they taste! I’m sorry to say that after a full day of travelling the length and breadth of central London these cakes didn’t have much of a chance of looking perfect when the tasters got their hands on them which is a great shame, but couldn’t really be helped. My original cake eating experts join me again for round 1.
Buttercup Cake Shop – Chocolate Marshmallow
I’m afraid there is no picture of this cake. Unfortunately it was the first cake I picked up and the only one that didn’t come neatly boxed, thus it was rather pathetic and squashed looking by the end of the day. I don’t hold this against the bakery. I’m sure a paper bag is perfectly adequate for normal people who buy one cake and then eat it at the earliest opportunity rather than spend a day collecting cupcakes before dissecting and analysing them! I would like to add, in place of a picture, that this cupcake looked supercute in the shop with smooth chocolaty icing and a piped white heart.
Me: To me, the sponge tasted exactly like the mass produced chocolate muffins you can pick up in any supermarket or corner shop. This was disappointing as it looked so perfect and the topping was not too sweet, although not too chocolaty either. Also, I was surprised to find chocolate sponge as for some reason it looked like a vanilla/plain cupcake through the wrapper. Not a bad cake, but definitely not great.
Mark: First reaction – “There is a layer of different coloured stuff around the outside!”. Thought the sponge seemed quite moist and nice and the topping was chocolaty. He didn’t detect any marshmallow flavours or textures but this could be due to the rough handling it received. “If it was a chocolate sponge cake, then it was. If it was not, then it wasn’t.”
Rich: Thought this cake felt a bit mass produced. There was a sense of chocolate but overall it was pretty average.
Lola’s Cupcakes – Black Forest Cupcake (cupcake of the month)
Me: Firstly, I’d like to say that I was impressed with the robustness of the packaging. The cake itself had a nice well rounded flavour and the filling was lovely and rich although the icing was a touch too sweet. I thought the presentation was beautifully simple and loved the fresh cherry on top.
Mark: Very good. There was nothing wrong with this cupcake at all. It tastes exactly like black forest gateaux. If he had to be extremely critical he’d say the icing was ever so slightly too sweet.
Rich: It’s only flaw is that the sponge is a little dry. Really tasty. Sweet but not too sweet.
Hummingbird – Vanilla with chocolate frosting
Sadly this cake was badly formed, slightly greasy looking and didn’t completely fill the wrapper. I’ve had the same thing happen when trying out new recipes that contain a lot of butter but didn’t expect to see this from hummingbird. I’ve had a couple of cupcakes from here before that were flawless and so have my friends so perhaps I was just unlucky. By 22.00hrs returning to exchange it was out of the question so we went ahead with the tasting anyway.
Me: I was disappointed with the flavours in this cake. The texture of the sponge was slightly chewy and the flavours were too harsh.
Mark: The sponge tasted fine where it worked and the icing was good and chocolaty tasting.
Rich: Good. Not as good as Lola’s but really flavourful. However it tasted slightly too buttery or creamy, almost bordering on sickly.
Cox – Raspberry Ripple
Somehow, and the mind boggles as to how, this cupcake managed to flip all the way over inside its box.
Me: This cake had a real raspberry flavour – more jammy than fresh but tasty none the less. The frosting was creamy and smooth and not over sweet. The whole cake was very moist and the only one so far I could have managed more than a quarter of.
Mark: It tasted like a raspberry ripple or rather it seemed no less fake than a raspberry ripple. Did not taste chemically or disappointing.
Me: Definitely the Raspberry Ripple. I don’t know what it is about Cox cakes but they push all the right buttons for me.
Mark: Black Forest (with raspberry ripple in second place) because it tasted like what it said it would taste like.
Rich: Black Forest, definitely.
The rest of the cakes will be reviewed in the next post.
Due to the tube strike in my first tour I left a lot of stones unturned in my hunt for a decent cupcake. So once again as Mark headed to Londinium for some serious work (so he says…but it looks a lot like playing with toys to me! – PS, Mark is not actually in this video but I have it on good authority that he was there) I tagged along, armed with my notebook, annotated maps and good comfy shoes. A lot of the places I planned to visit this time didn’t make the first list due to the fact that they often weren’t within walking distance of anything else and required semi-long tube journeys to get to. This in mind, I set off early with one rule – only one cupcake per bakery.
First on the list was the Buttercup Cake Shop. This is a really sweet little shop not far from the High Street Kensington tube station with a good selection of cupcake flavours including some unusual ones. I had to choose the limited edition chocolate marshmallow cupcake not just because of the cute heart piped on the smooth frosting but because I’m a sucker for anything I only get one chance to try. Close second, though was the passionfruit cupcake with its whipped cloud of pale orange frosting. Only at the first bakery and already my “one cupcake” rule is sorely tested!
As I wanted to start early, I did a bad thing and skipped breakfast. Or at least, it’s normally a bad thing to skip breakfast. In this case it gave me to opportunity to duck into a branch of ottolenghi and pick up a berry crumble muffin.
The berries in question were HUGE and delicious!
Suitably refreshed it was back to the underground and off to my next destination – Outsider Tart. However, on my way there I unexpectedly passed by a branch of Maison Blanc and even though it wasn’t on my list, not being a cupcake specialist, the pistachio cupcakes in the window looked good enough to try. Unfortunately the picture I snapped of them on display is just an indistinct blur so on to the outside of Outsider Tart.
This little shop is packed full of mad cookies, brownies and one that was a cookie with a brownie baked into it…or vice versa, it was hard to tell… as well as a few imported american products such as breakfast cereals and fluff in a jar. Unfortunately, I got there so early there were only two chocolate cupcakes sitting alone on a large stand. “I know,” commiserated the shop assistant, “they look so lonely waiting for their friends to come out of the oven!”. Still, at least this made my choice of flavours easy!
The next stop on my tour should have included three bakeries before getting back into the stuffy (but marvelously useful!) tube, however I was somewhat disappointed to find that the Euphorium Bakery (or at least that branch) does not do cupcakes at all and that, after a fourty-five minute search which ended in a small row of tiny industrial units which smelled tantalisingly of baking chocolate chip cookies but had no attached shopfronts, signs or doorbells, I had either been misled by the website into thinking that Sweet Things had an actual shop in the area or I had managed to get myself completely lost . Either way, the trip on the northern line was not a total loss thanks to Chewie’s Bakery where I found a small but nicely presented range of cupcakes to choose from. I selected a chocolate cupcake topped with chocolate frosting and coconut and headed back to the underground a little more footsore and a little less laden than I had intended.
Back in familiar territory I headed for topshop at Oxford Circus. Anyone who knows me well may be shocked by this announcement unless they also knew that Lola’s Cucpakes has a kiosk there on the ground floor. Last time I was in London I thought I had picked up one of Lola’s cupcakes from Harrods but it turned out to be a Lily Vanilli creation. This time I was dedicated to getting the real thing. Strangely located right in the middle of the bustling high street fashion store is a cute little kiosk selling cute little cupcakes. The cupcake of the month was black forest and looked ever so special with a fresh cherry perched on top.
From Oxford Circus I took the familiar walk into soho and stopped to collect cupcakes at two old favourites. I know that cupcakes from both these bakeries were reviewed last time but they both have such extensive ranges that it couldn’t hurt to try them again, right? First, to the Hummingbird Bakery to pick up a vanilla cupcake with chocolate frosting.
Then to Cox, Cookies and Cake for a raspberry ripple.
By this point I was hungry and a little weary but it was lunchtime in soho and pouring with rain. The queue for Leon Caranaby Street was out the door and it was too wet to peruse the menus in chinatown so it was a mad dash to the Candy Cafe for a taro bubble tea and a comfy seat. Thus fortified, and the downpour passed, I carried on despite my cravings for savoury food. I had a few errands in chinatown – soot sprites, tofu and pocky – and then it was on to Sweet Couture, a beautiful boutique shop between chinatown and Covent Garden and just round the corner from CyberCandy, to pick up a peanut butter cupcake.
All my primary objectives complete I was now free to source a very late lunch from Leon on the strand. Mmmm, Slow-cooked shredded pork wrap and lemon, ginger and mint quencher.
Despite my concerns about all the travel to and from remote bakeries, I actually concluded my cupcake tour with time to spare before my scheduled meeting with Mark and Richard so spent some time shopping leisurely before being drawn into the tiny “Jen Cafe” on the Leicester Square edge of chinatown by the woman making dumplings by hand in the window and the promise of a warm cup of green tea. I was rewarded for my curiosity by a plate of the best fried dumplings I have ever had!
Watch this space for the first in a two part review of the cakes!
Last Friday, while I was down in Englandshire, I managed to get to the ICHF Cake International Expo . This was my first cake related show and the website didn’t give a lot of useful information so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Unfortunately I heard about it very last minute so couldn’t enter any of the competition categories or even book myself in for the more interesting demonstrations, but hopefully I will be more prepared next year. The one demonstration I did get to see was very informative and the stall holders were all showing off new bits and bobs, some of which I had heard of and some of which I hadn’t. I’ve picked up one or two new toys which I am looking forward to playing with the next couple of weeks. It was held at the NEC in Birmingham and even though I went on the Friday, the hall was heaving. The queue for the Wilton store was at least half an hour long and it was hard to squeeze in to see what the other stalls offered. But I persisted for the more unusual things and left Wilton to the domain of online shopping. The stars of the show, however, were the competition entries. They were all in roped off areas surrounded by people like me taking pictures and were being judged at the time I was there so I almost never managed to see which category I was looking at but I’m not particularly bothered by categories and winners, I was there to see cakes! So here, without any reference to the judges decisions, are my favourites from the show:
I loved the bold colours and shapes in this whimsical cake and the inexplicable dragonflys circling it.
This is a cake! Really. Not a wooden box with cross-stitch panels. A cake.
I loved the figure modelling on this cake. Check out her eyes!
The Moulin Rouge elephant! How about that for cake carving? Look at the little room above its trunk. Deceptively difficult.
Seasonal and simple. Or is it? Imagine all the work that went into those tiny leaves and flowers!
Just what exactly are these witches protecting?
This was my very favourite cake in the show and it was in the “Novice” class! Cheerful, unusual, and perfectly executed in every detail.
Picture cakes with icing “frames” seemed popular. This was my favourite, but there were several more.
I love the white on white detail here, and the top tier standing on its side!
This was very elegantly done. I hope there is real cake in there, because the balance is perfect.
The most adorable cake on show. Looks like this fat little guy ate a whole chocolate cake by himself! Unfortunately, it was positioned as far away as possible from every edge of the roped off area, so I couldn’t get a good detail shot.
There were of course tables of sugarpaste flowers and figurines but they were all equally perfect and realistic – I don’t envy the judges their job – and the cakes I have picked as my favourites aren’t the most technical of the bunch. There was one which seemed to be nothing but hand piped threads of royal icing and lace work, but these are the ones whose look appealed to me and which looked designed to be served as cake. I think it’s probably because I’m a baker first and a decorator second. You can be as fancy as you like with icing and put on a brilliant show, but at the end of the day, cake is meant to be eaten!
The last of the London cupcakes! After a long break which involved a lot of fresh air and almost as much dim sum, we set to again. Ah, the things I do for my art!
Cox Kiss Cake
The cox cakes were the most expensive at £4 each and somehow they both ended up in the last round. They looked amazing and I can never turn down a blueberry, but could they live up to their price tags?
Me: This cake was perfect. Really. The filling had a lovely blueberry flavour, the sponge was moist but not sticky and the frosting was smooth and not too sweet.
Mark: Thought this one was the best one yet. The flavours were not over-sweet or artificial.
Richard: A proper bit of fruit. It was really good and the sponge was really moist. If anything let it down it was that the topping had no actual flavour.
Pudding Cook Toffee Apple Cake
Due to the aforementioned lack of labelling, I could only guess that this was the toffee apple cupcake until, that is, we cut into it to reveal a layer of apple sauce!
Me: This was very tasty with a lovely apple filling but after the initial taste you were hit with a harsh sweetness and an uncomfortable aftertaste.
Mark: Thought THIS was the best one yet. Real fruit, real flavour, good texture and not too damp. It did have a slightly odd aftertaste and after experiencing this for a minute or two, he revoked his “best one yet” comment.
Richard: rough sugaryness, but good flavour. Did not take much as is allergic to apples.
Cox Red Skull Cake
The last but possibly the most striking of the cakes with its glittery-eyed skull topper.
Me: I was nervous of the great big pile of icing on this cupcake but when I finally worked up to the courage to eat it, it was actually very good. The icing was not rough or sugary and it had a really interesting flavour. I loved the fruity goo and the addition of chocolate chips.
Mark: THIS was the best one yet. It was all good. The flavours were good, the sponge was good, it looked off putting but actually tasted good. All the components had a purpose and combined to make a tasty cake.
Richard: Thought the chocolate chips were a pleasant surprise but he did not approve of the big hard thing on top.
So, all the cupcakes have been tasted, but which one was the very best?
Me: I loved the Cox Kiss Cake. Its smooth texture and blueberry flavour won my heart. But close second was the Cox Red Skull cake for its unique flavours and cheeky chocolate chips. I didn’t expect both my favourites to be from the same bakery, but cakes surprise you sometimes!
Mark: Definitely the Cox Red Skull cake. No competition.
Richard: The strawberry (EDIT: red velvet!) Lili Vanilli cake. But second place was the Cox Red Skull cake.
Another result I didn’t expect. We could all agree on the winning cupcake! The Cox Red Skull cake despite the handicap of knowing it cost so much more than the others and its off putting exterior took the gold hands down thanks to it superior textures, flavours and inventive combinations of the two.
The next morning we set upon the cakes again, all in the name of research of course!
Primrose Vanilla Cupcake with Chocolate Frosting (Selfridges)
I’m a sucker for sprinkles, and this traditional little cake was impossible to resist.
Me: This was a very nice, simple cake. The vanilla sponge was light and tasty and the chocolate frosting was not over sweet, but not very chocolaty either. I think the sign of a good cook is when they can do a simple thing perfectly. This little cake fit the bill, but not to my personal tastes, which lean towards real chocolate in the frosting.
Mark: Thought this one was very good. The sponge had a good consistency and the topping was not too sugary.
Richard: Slightly dry. The topping was sugary but not too sweet, although it didn’t taste of chocolate at all.
Hummingbird Grape Soda
This was an exciting looking cupcake. The frosting was perfectly piped and it was simply decorated with grape soda jelly beans. The purple was a subtle, natural looking tone rather than the garish hue of real grape soda.
Me: The sponge, when eaten alone, was pleasantly (although mildly) flavoured but the frosting was far too mildly flavoured for what the colour led you to expect. Also, there was far too much frosting and its sweetness overpowered the delicate sponge. I thought the jelly beans were a nice touch.
Mark: The sponge was fine, but he totally hated the frosting. Although he did say there was nothing really wrong with it, it was just a flavour that he did not like.
Richard: Was the most excited by the look of this cake and couldn’t wait to try it however was disappointed by the mild flavour.
Lily Vanilli Ginger Cupcake (Harrods)
I think this one had a more interesting name than “ginger” but I’m afraid I don’t recall it. I liked the handmade chocolate disk on top but for some reason was expecting the sprinkles to be popping candy and was disappointed when they didn’t pop.
Me: I liked the look of this cake with its chocolate piece and it had a good traditional iced gingerbread flavour. Personally I would like more ginger, but I can’t really fault it on that.
Mark: Thought it was quite good gingerbread, but the topping tasted of nothing and was too sticky.
Richard: Actively disliked all of this cake. The chocolate disk was artificial tasting and the cake was too gingery. I might add here that Richard does not like ginger.
Only three more to go!