Afternoon Tea at Kensington Palace Orangery

This post has been on hold for a while! Which seems fair because the birthday treat for Steph was also pretty late.

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A full afternoon tea treat

It was a scorching hot summer day in London and we sought the cool interior of the orangery at Kensington Palace to hide from the glare. Now, i’m not very used to frequenting fancy eateries, and on first glance the orangery did look rather fancy. There were men in expensive looking suits and very well dressed yummy mummies enjoying afternoon treats. Our waiter, however, was new to the job and more than overjoyed at having us to serve. He made us feel very welcome, even though he forgot to bring us plates and we had to sneak over to the shelf and help ourselves when nobody was looking. Sometimes an honest nature and good attitude makes it easy to overlook a person’s mistakes – or perhaps it is just very British not to want to embarrass the waiter by pointing out that he didn’t wait on you very well!  IMG_0929

The afternoon tea itself was lovely. We loved the teacups, which reminded us that we were in a royal venue! They set the scene for a very British experience. Scones that Mary Berry would have been pleased with, except for those nasty sultanas snuck into two of them. The selection of cake was also very quintessential, lemon tarts and Victoria sponge. Looking back it was as if our afternoon tea was foreshadowing the Bake Off final! The cake was all very well done, the passion fruit tart was my favourite and I know Steph would say the chocolate was hers. I shall judge the experience on the Victoria Sponge, because it is classic and if a restaurant isn’t getting that right then they are going wrong. It was a decently moist cake but with a slightly odd jelly-ish filling rather than jam which didn’t really stick the two halves together. A very good try at modernising perhaps, but it could have done with a gooey-er filling.

Ratings:

Atmosphere: 6/7  – really lovely feeling and welcoming atmosphere.

Cake: 5/7 didn’t wow me.

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Garden Museum Cafe

Would you like to know about a secret quiet space in Central London? Wouldn’t every Londoner? Well I discovered one on Sunday.

We all need a little calm time in our lives, I could do with some right now. I am writing this sat at Gatwick airport waiting to take 4 students on a once in a lifetime trip to Jamaica. They have all flown long haul before. I have not. I’ll let you know how we get on in 2 weeks time.

Just down the road from Waterloo station, attached to Lambeth Palace, is a garden museum. In the museum is a cafe, which is free to enter and set both inside a deconsecrated church as well as the pretty gardens outside it. Charlie and I found our way inside wandering down the south bank and it is in the book!
The cake selection was not huge but it was the most homemade looking cake so far! And with rather adventurous flavours. We could choose between: courgette, ginger and lime; butternut squash or orange almond and rosemary. Charlie opted for the courgette and I went for orange.
We sat outside in the lovely garden and it was so peaceful, particularly because it started raining gently. There was nobody else around and we sat under a tree eating cake. We felt like the only people in the world!
The cake tasted very homemade, which is a compliment. It wasn’t perfectly shaped and iced but tasted like it was lovingly stirred and watched in the oven. I don’t know how you can mix love into a cake but I’m sure that’s what makes home baked cakes different. Charlie’s lime and courgette cake was rather like a carrot cake but green. Soft and crumbly, cream cheese topping, not a particularly strong lime or ginger flavour. Very subtle. Mine was also very moist, I was very impressed with the sponge itself. The flavour was less impressive. I could taste everything and there was rosemary in the cake, but it was a little underwhelming. Perhaps too experimental for their own good?

Ratings:
Atmosphere: 7/7 – try and go on a quiet day
Cake: Me 6/7 Charlie 5.5/7

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Cupcakeathon. Lola’s Cupcakes

Today it is raining, but for this post I need you to cast your mind back to when it was hot. I mean really hot. The kind of hot which makes us British wish for rain. It was that sort of hot Sunday when I had to dress for a one day flying visit to Windsor, to see a priest. Yes that’s right, you may be aware that I am planning a wedding at the moment, and the time had come to go and see the priest.

What do you wear to see a priest on the hottest day of the year? I needed demure yet cool, smart casual but sweat-proof. I ended up in a cardigan, strappy top and skirt. Cardigan = coverage right? Well I thought I had nailed it but from the moment I entered the perfectly cool house of the priest and shook his hand, any evidence of sweat proofing left and I promptly stuck to the armchair I was sat in. I guess I am just one of those sweaty people.(Do they exist or is it just me?) Stick me in an awkward situation and I will swiftly sweat away, not profusely, but like a nice cold pint of cider which fogs up on a hot day. I always have done and always will do. Luckily the priest was very friendly and didn’t notice that my handshake on the way out was slightly damper than on the way in.

After getting lost in the backstreets of my home town, being a bit late, meeting the priest, explaining why I wanted to get married in my own church back home, walking across Windsor in the heat, dodging the triathlon taking place in front of the station entrance and missing a train, I finally made it back to the air-conditioned safety of a carriage. Here I could escape the heat and found myself having a little train nap to recover from a busy day of travel and excitement.

It has been a while since I have eaten cake; wedding planning and working many Saturdays has not been cake friendly. So imagine my excitement when I crossed Waterloo station towards the Jubilee line entrance and saw this shining in the distance!

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Amazing! Lola’s Cupcakes hasn’t been reviewed yet so Charlie and I excitedly bought 4 cupcakes just for us! I gave them each their own photo shoot. We eventually chose Banoffee, Raspberry, Chocolate Truffle and Peanut Butter but there was a ridiculous amount of choice. They were the perfect after dinner pick me up to remedy a hot stressy day and prepare for a week away with 32 school children on PGL. More on PGL later.

Review time! I wasn’t sure what to expect because Lola’s Cupcakes has expanded a lot recently and I’m always wary of the quality of mass produced cake. I was pleasantly surprised. I must start with the Banoffee cupcake because it was the best. The best cupcake ever that is! It simply had that moist texture that cupcakes don’t normally have. It tasted just like I imagine a slice of the cake would, and the slightly cream-cheesy icing was perfect. A good banana and toffee flavour with chunks of chewy banana as well. YUM!

The chocolate truffle cupcake was second up with a delicious chocolate ganache topping to die for and decorated with actual chocolate truffles. A gooey chocolate filling finished it off. The sponge, however, was missing that moist cake texture and was verging on the dry. The raspberry and peanut butter were both very good cupcakes. The buttercream was flavoursome and tasty with a creamy texture. Both however were slightly dryer than I would have wanted. Although I am very fussy, and they were by far the best cupcakes tasted so far!

4 Large cupcakes sitting in a box...

4 Large cupcakes sitting in a box…

Ratings:

Banoffee: 7/7!!!                 Chocolate Truffle: 6/7              Peanut Butter and Raspberry: 5/7

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Paul

Frangipagne

Summer Term is meant to be the quiet term. When we calm down before the summer holidays. I feel busier than ever at the moment. Working lots of weekends coming up means less cake time, but I hope to make it up during summer. Today’s blog is a rather belated write up of cake from last Wednesday when I was still on half term and had the time for cake related shenanigans.

A long overdue catch up day out with Steph. Steph and I are both going to be brides in the near future so we had a trip to one of my favourite discoveries in London, and a place that has already featured on this blog, the V&A. We were off to their new Wedding Dresses 1775-2014 exhibition to pick up some tips. If you have never planned a wedding before – and I haven’t yet either – I can let you know from my experience so far that it is far more stressful than you think. I have only just begun my journey to the aisle and I am sure I have already spent more hours in the planning to plan stage than hours there will be on the day itself. Yes, I have spreadsheets that plan my planning. That is perhaps all I should say on the matter at the moment.

The final week of May was not a sunny one this year and I had had to dig out a jacket and some tights for the occasion, a definite step back from summer. A nice lunch Al Fresco in Kensington was not such a welcome idea so we headed to Paul instead for some extravagant french patisserie hidden away in their upstairs dining room. It was warm and decorated with some rustic looking pottery that made me feel right at home. I love a good ancient looking pot. A light lunch of quiche set us up nicely and we both had to have an orangina or two, because, well, when in Rome… Then came cake time. What a tough decision it was this time around, such yummy French desserts to choose from. Steph went in for the classic Tartelette Chocolat, a one person chocolate lover’s paradise.I always have eyes bigger than my stomach so in the name of cake blog I went for a frangipane because it is essentially a CAKE IN A TART! The original hybrid. Who cares about the Cronut when you can have a sweet pastry case filled with almond flavoured cake and topped with more almonds? Heaven! If only I had snuck in some amaretto to go with it. I even bought some little choux pastry buns on the side because choux pastry is SO French.

Steph’s chocolate tart was excellently done. Rich, dark, smooth and gooey ganache filling that gleamed slightly on top. Crisp pastry tart around. Fantastic. The Frangipane was a ‘eat it really slowly so it lasts ages’ type of dessert. Lovely almond flavour, melt in your mouth sponge. The super shiny top upped the presentation credentials as well. The little choux pastry buns whose name I can’t remember or find on the Paul website were enjoyable even though I must admit i’m not the greatest fan of this pastry. I would never normally pick an eclair over a cake but these were sweet and tasty. They could have been crispier I feel as there wasn’t much ‘bite’ to them. Other than that I must owe it to you Paul, in the words of today’s youth, you did good. As the biggest chain bakery I have reviewed so far I was nervous that the products would feel somehow less loved than the effort that goes into a small cafe’s cake, but everything at Paul looked special in itself. So Paul is, as it’s my only French Patisserie so far, the best. I would recommend you go next time you want to eat something that sounds fancier than a Carrot Cake and is guaranteed to taste good, even if it is from a place I have always thought of as the Gregg’s of Paris.

Ratings:

Cake: Me: 6 Steph: 5

Atmosphere: 4  – a decent place to linger but not the cosiest.

Well this blog post was so much fun to write because of all the french words I was able to use! I know that none are accented but i simply can’t work out how to do it on here/ it’s past my bedtime on a school night and I am willing to forgo accent accuracy.

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Nordic Bakery

Rain rain go away come again another day.

Today was a doesn’t stop raining all day kind of day. I broke with my fashion sense and wore my lime green waterproof into Central London. It turned out to be a good idea! It seems like a long time since there had been a day like this, a curl up and stay in bed if you can day. It’s half term for me so I met up with Clare for a catch up. As a dear Norwegian friend is coming to stay tonight I thought the Nordic Bakery in Soho was the perfect choice!

We both braved the rain and fought our way to the Golden Square. The Nordic bakery was rather inconspicuous and when we finally found the door among the camouflage of wood we found a rather sparsely decorated cafe with dark decor. There was a tasty display of cakes and rye bread sandwiches. I tried out a Danish salami and cheese rye bread roll and a Karelian Pie. The sandwich was hearty, heavier than a white bread roll and very mustardy! I couldn’t quite eat the whole thing. The pie was so unusual looking I knew I had to try it! A savoury potato pie with what I assume was a pastry case but it was so thin you didn’t notice it when eating. The filling tasted like buttery mash potato. The whole thing was rather like eating a cold jacket potato skin smothered in butter – a nice experience and I would quite like to see what the rice filling would have been like. Clare went for the quiche, perhaps a safer option, and it was good!

Well that was lunch. We were already quite full by this point but we couldn’t leave without trying what we came for. This is a cake blog, not a lunch blog. So Clare want for the Apple Tosca Bun and I opted for the Tosca cake. Tosca it turns out is flaked almonds cooked in a layer of caramel. Yum.

Clare’s bun looked tasty but lacked the apple taste she wanted. It lacked something special to make it stand out. My Tosca layer was very tasty, not as crunchy as I expected, a layer of nutty caramel on top of the cake. The cake underneath was heavy and slightly on the dry side. If there is one thing I have learnt about Nordic eating it is that they like heavy stodge. I suppose this fits the climate, but it was still a bit too much for me in the English drizzle. My stomach was not happy with me after my meal.

A combination of the rain outside, the sparse decor and two overfull stomachs inspired us to leave the Nordic bakery and seek the comfort of my flat where it was warm, dry and there was plenty of soft furnishings to lie out on!

The Nordic Bakery, good for a hearty take away lunch, not one for a lingering catch up.

Ratings:
Cake: Me 4 Clare 3 – perhaps very good recreations of Nordic baking, but not my cup of tea.
Atmosphere: 3. They gain points for free water but could have been more friendly.

How do you spend your rainy days?

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Lazy like Sunday … day? Del’ Aziz

You know when you just feel like doing nothing? When the weather isn’t brilliant and everything seems too much effort. This was one of those weekends. I felt so lazy in fact that I couldn’t make myself write up my blog until Monday night.

What with being so lazy, I didn’t want to venture far for cake. Del’ Aziz is the nearest we get to a ‘local’. Only 10mins down the road – or a 40min walk if you are us and far too lazy to get the bus. It is a Lebanese (amongst other things) restaurant that does a great brunch and a cake selection to die for! I realise as I write this that I should have taken a photo of the impressive spread of cakes and pastries that fills an entire corner of the cafe. The meringues are a sight to behold and I have only ever just about struggled through half of one before, they are the size of a human head. We arrived and helped ourselves to cucumbery minty water from the jug on the table. Anywhere that does free flavoured water on the table is immediately in my top 10. I love a freely provided jug of water. Amazing. It had cucumber in.

I feel we chose poorly for our cake. There was chocolate truffle cake, which featured in an earlier blog, vanilla cake, red velvet, chocolate, Black Forest, every type of fruit tart, five types of loaf cake, an almond and blackcurrant slice, two types of cheesecake and that’s just what I can remember. It doesn’t include the brownies, muffins etc.
I chose the orange and poppyseed and Charlie chose the banana loaf.
The banana loaf was spongy and soft. Well baked with a strong banana flavour and chunks of banana. Not very unusual but cake doesn’t always have to be interesting, just tasty. My orange and poppyseed cake was disappointing. If I had
n’t eaten lots of Del’Aziz cake before I would have been put off. The cake was just too dry. It had a strong orange flavour and the poppyseeds gave a unique texture. The cream went well but there was a touch more than needed. But the sponge was overcooked. Let down by my go to place.

Good thing I did a jog to counteract all that cream. Yes you heard correctly. Blog = jog is still going strong. I have to admit something I never thought I would say. I like jogging. I am a girl who used to jog once a year and decide it was horrible and give up until the next year. I thought people who ran for fun were insane. I have converted myself, for the moment. My only active moment on Sunday was the jog I went for at about 1 o’clock because I thought it was time to get up finally, and I actually found myself feeling good about doing exercise. Revelation.

So that was Sunday. Now I am going to be out of London for the next two weeks for various wedding and birthday related reasons. None of them my own I hasten to add.
This means I will not be able to blog about cake adventures and I have decided to ask if anybody else would like to do it for me. So if you love in London and fancy eating cake and writing me a review you could be on here next week! Just let me know.

Ratings:
Cake: Me 4.5/7 Charlie 5.5/7
Atmosphere: 6/7 – relaxed but not too quiet and table water!

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You may not be able to tell from the photo but the portion sizes at Del’ Aziz are out of control. You will never find such large pieces of cake anywhere else. Ever.

Gail’s of Exmouth Market and Failed Vikings

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How do you spend your bank holidays? Relaxing? Adventuring? Getting out of the city? I turned my weekend around. Saturday became Sunday with its obligatory trip to the supermarket and Sunday became Saturday, with its cake trip and discovery of another new area of London Town.

A rather hungover start I have to admit but I made it to Central London before 12! A success for any weekend when you like a lie in as much as I do. A lovely brunch in covent garden to catch up with a fantastic friend and a walk kicked off the day, followed by more walking to the British Museum.

I wanted to see the Viking exhibition but we had to stop for more food on the way from a bizarre cafe down the road. Then we arrived only to find the exhibition was sold out. No Vikings for us! Not ones to be put off we spent some time looking at the Africa area. The BM is a truly wonderful place and however often I go there I still manage to find something I haven’t seen before. I feel I could have whole holidays there just looking at its treasures. I didn’t even go to see the Roman section which showed great self control. That is a section I know well already. I marvelled at African masks and bronze plaques from cities that used to be large and powerful.

We had our fill of culture, or as much as one with only half a nights sleep can take, and went off in search of cake. We walked to Clerkenwell and found Gail’s – an entry in the book – in a lovely quiet street called Exmouth Market. I love finding parts of London to explore that aren’t rammed with people on a weekend. That peaceful road away from a tube stop that only locals use. When people say to me they don’t like London because it is too busy I say they haven’t been to the right bits.

Gail’s was quiet and the big table filling the centre of the room was scattered with tempting morsels. We immediately picked out the best looking sausage roll we have ever seen. Then chose a piece of cake each, although it was a difficult choice. I had a flourless chocolate cake which was moist and dense and squidgy. I accidentally put my arm in it, because that’s just the kind of person I am, and I’m still trying to get the chocolate off my jacket. It wasn’t as chocolatey as I would have hoped. It had all the promise of texture but there was no big chocolate hit. Charlie had the white chocolate cheesecake which was a traditional American style. Well baked and a good chocolate flavour that would have left it rather plain otherwise. The stealer of the show however was the sausage roll. I know this is a cake blog but that was the meatiest, juiciest, herbiest sausage roll I have ever eaten. Ok I made up the word herbiest but I mean it. That not so humble looking sausage roll, packed with meat and served with homemade tomato sauce far outshone it’s cake rivals.

Ratings:
Cake: Me 4 Charlie 5.5
Atmosphere: 4.5 – nice modern layout inside but our table was too cramped outside.

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Post scriptum: having written about that sausage roll makes me want to eat it again! I will have to try and recreate for dinner tonight.