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.

Ginger and White

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A lazy Saturday morning needs a fairly relaxed Saturday afternoon to follow. We decided to seek out the countryside and go for a wander, so we went to Hampstead. I’m sure such a faraway part of London counts as the countryside? We were offered a plethora of cake eateries along the high street but we headed to Ginger and White which was the book option for the area.

Tucked down a side road this little cafe was full and we were greeted by a smiley member of staff who directed us to some seats. Although the cafe was full the atmosphere was one of quiet contemplation, many customers were using laptops and crowded around a central table. The cakes were a variety of vegan and gluten free flavours, all looked tasty. We opted for a chocolate with early grey ganache and a pistachio and almond loaf. Both were surprisingly delicious given their unusual combinations. The earl grey ganache was particularly nice and oddly tasted like tea – but in a good way, that somehow went with chocolate? I suppose a good chocolate biscuit and cup of tea combined in a cake! The nutty loaf was very moist and packed with pistachios, in the cake and piled on top. An impressive cake experience, the kindly waiter even forgot that he had already brought ours to us and we almost had double cake! There was a sting in the tail however – it was rather expensive! Over £10 for two cakes and tea I believe is too much.

After cake we left behind the stress of the laptop users busy clicking away and sought Hampstead Heath. We spent some hours looking at the pretty flowers and climbing trees on parliament hill. A trip to a pub in Kentish Town sealed the afternoon. Thanks North London -you were most obliging.

Rating:
Cake: Me 5.5/7 Charlie 5.5/7
Atmosphere: 3.5/7 – staff delightful, but too many punters obsessed with laptops!

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Dubrovnik; my experience of Croatian Cake.

 

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I must apologise profusely for my recent lack of publicised cake consumption. I assure you that I have been trying to keep up my cake eating ways while I have been on my Easter holidays. I arrive at this blog after a week in Dubrovnik, Croatia, and a long weekend of chocolate eating.

I didn’t research Croatian cake before I arrived but instead sought out the cakes that I could find in the old town during my wanderings. A whole week offered up a range of cake experiences and types. The most common thing I found in cafes was two types of cake on offer translated into English; ‘cake’ and ‘pie’. Pie was a firm and shortbready textured sponge cake with fruit sandwiched in the middle. Cake was not cake at all, but more often than not a layered slice of soft soft meringue, mousse and cream. This cake was also on dessert menus in restaurants alongside a Croatian style creme caramel concoction that I didn’t actually try – I have never been overly keen for creme caramel.

Our first cake experience was in Cafe Festival on a rainy day. We had already been here before for the hot chocolate, which was SO tasty. A cup of thick chocolate sauce rather than a drink, it was even served with a spoon. If I have learnt anything about hot chocolate in life, it is that the Europeans do it so much better than us. This rainy afternoon however the other tourists had drunk all the chocolate before us, so we were served instead a tall glass of hot chocolate cocoa with a straw. Feeling immediately like a child we tucked into our choice of cake. I went for a cherry pie and Charlie a ‘festival’ ‘cake’. The cherry pie was a lovely textured sponge, firm in a good way. The perfect middle ground between cake and biscuit with soft juicy cherries squidged into the middle. I would love to know the recipe for that not quite sponge. Charlie’s cake was a creation of chocolate mousse, meringue and cream. The chocolate mousse was the heaviest part! Definitely not a cake in the British sense but a fluffy light taste experience.

Cherry Pie

Cherry Pie

Festival Cake

Festival Cake

Cafe Festival felt to me like a very french cafe, the decor was dark, the staff attentive, the coffee served as espresso’s. The huge bar was stocked with every type of spirit I had and hadn’t heard of. A piano in the corner was played in the evenings. Our next cake spot was rather different. We found, after many days of wondering whether other cake locations existed, the Patisserie Pupo. A much more modern affair of coloured checked tablecloths and retro posters with a glass display of homemade cakes under the till. Here a peach juice was a more suitable cake accompaniment than a luxuriously small cup of melted chocolate. I chose an orange and almond cake, Charlie the apple pie. The orange cake was a traditional sponge cake with a strong orange flavour and a zingy buttercream, decorated with an almond. A moist cake with a good taste, not too strong. Charlie’s apple pie was the Dubrovnik style sponge with grated apple, cinnamon and sultana filling. This again had that difficult to describe firm almost shortbread tasting texture that reminded me of a cake my Grandma used to make me when I was young. I was a little bit jealous.

Orange Cake

Orange Cake

Apple Pie

Apple Pie

Finally, we felt we needed to go off piste, or off cafe as it were, and seek out some more casual cake. We needed to discover that truly local joint. We found the Gregg’s of Dubrovnik. I have to admit I can’t remember the name of the shop. We have been sea kayaking and were walking back to the hotel dripping wet and quickly getting colder when we came across a bakery, this was far outside the touristy old town in localsville. We stumbled in and ordered a hotel room picnic of cake and pastry, and the very nice lady inside ignored our soggy state so well you would have thought her British! We ended up with a pastry horse shoe filled with walnut paste and a baklava cake. The pastry was crispy and sweet from the icing sugar, but the walnut filling wasn’t particularly flavoursome. We were very excited by baklava cake; cake + baklava must = awesome? Well it was ok, nice crunchy bits on top but the cake was soaked in syrup so much it was rather soggy. A very sweet cake dripping with sugar syrup, perhaps good for a boost and would have been nice warmed with cream, but not the best cold from a plastic container. Get me a steak bake any day.

Baklava Cake

Baklava Cake

Walnut Pastry

Walnut Pastry

No ratings this week. These cakes are not in London so ratings are on holiday like me.

Has anyone else had Croatian cake and found something different?

 

 

Peggy Porschen Parlour

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Other than my delight at the alliterative nature of the name, this pink paradise of cake was a truly charming place to spend an hour on a Saturday afternoon. The sunny decor sweetened up an otherwise dull Saturday and the first day of the Easter holidays.  Meeting some friends in Chelsea we ventured inside to see what was on offer. 

There are only a few tables inside and more outside so we were lucky to find room for four. The parlour mainly serves cupcakes but there are slices available as well. We all chose a drink and cupcake, and Doug had a slice as well to try out as much as possible! The cupcakes were impressive. I chose the Champagne Strawberry and was delighted to discover it actually tasted of champagne. The buttercream was gorgeous and every cupcake had a gooey middle surprise. Mine was a strawberry compote with real chunks of strawberry. The sponge was flecked with black vanilla seeds but was just that tiny bit on the dry side which prevented it from reaching a seven. The buttercream, gooey fillings, and fresh strong flavours meant that these are some of the best cupcakes I have tried yet. Doug wasn’t as impressed with the slice of cake because it wasn’t very chocolatey, despite appearances. 

The white tables looked rather plain until covered in candy coloured teacups. The teas were well flavoured, mine a delicate rose, but the coffee was average. Overall, not a cosy cafe for the afternoon but more a sophisticated and super girly cake hangout to get a cupcake fix in a lovely area. 

Ratings:

Cake; Me Strawberry Champagne: 6 Tash Salted Caramel: 6 Lulu Banoffee: 6 Doug Salted Caramel: 6 Chocolate Slice: 4. 

Atmosphere: 6 – a very sleek operation all round. 

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Colosseum made of Cake

What happens when year 11 ask if they can do something fun on their last lesson before Easter? Do you say yes or no?

“What kind of fun thing?” I ask, suspicious. This year 11 class aren’t the basic Disney Hercules watching kind. They are more inventive. “Can we make something out of cake?” “What about the Colosseum?” “Yes! Can you make us a cake that we can carve into the Colosseum?”

A cake carved into the Colosseum by three 15-16yr olds. What a brilliant idea! I obliged.

Here are the results. I know there is only one tier but forgive me because on a Thursday night in the last week of term I could only manage one cake. And remember, this is my students first attempt at carving cake into Roman amphitheaters with basic kitchen utensils. I am impressed they got so far without eating it all.

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Start by hollowing out

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Carve in some arches and ice the top

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Add some slanted seating and a stage

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Finish off with some buttercream sand and tiny chocolate cake gladiators. Job well done year 11!

Mother’s Day Afternoon Tea

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It is the time of year when we all celebrate our mothers. Last year the pub we chose for lunch had a hidden surprise, the beer garden was tidal. We thought that having to climb up a fire escape clutching our roast dinners to avoid rising Thames water would make the most memorable Mother’s day yet. We might have been wrong.

This year we pre-planned. We booked an afternoon tea at the Knightsbridge Green Hotel. We had a voucher from TimeOut. It should have gone perfectly. We turned up at the hotel at the appointed time. There was a small room of full tables and no members of staff. The hotel receptionist said she was unable to help us, we needed to wait for dining room staff. They didn’t come. Eventually the only table for 6 became available so we sat down. A waitress turned up and looked confused. She told us we hadn’t booked. She insisted that our e-mail confirmation was for yesterday, even though it clearly said Sunday. She said they didn’t have enough cake to feed us. This was unacceptable – not enough cake! She went to get the manager, and after she left two women seated nearby called over to us. ‘Escape while you still can’ they said, ‘we have been here half an hour and we only have water so far.’ We needed no extra encouragement, we up and left.

Oh dear. Mother’s day not going well again. Rude waitress and no afternoon tea, mothers displaced in London with no cake in sight.We headed down the road and went to a safe haven, Harvey Nicks.  We were offered chocolate alcohol to taste as soon as we entered. Much happier mothers! Thanks Harvey Nicks.

Soon we were all sat down waiting for an afternoon tea! The Easter themed chocolate tea was a good treat. Strangely presented not in the normal tiers but on a large piece of plastic, but it looked impressive and sprawling. With so many of us, there were many opinions to be dealt with. Mothers always do have high expectations, and rightly so. Main areas we all agreed on; the savoury options were good but we needed more of it, the scones were too big because we couldn’t finish it, and the cake was a little heavy, also because none of us managed to get through it all! So in summary, a generous amount of cake that would have been easier to eat if it was a little lighter! For me the headline act was the homemade candy floss bedding for the chocolate eggs and macarons. The best presented part of the tea. The sandwiches were fine but nothing too special, the poached salmon on dark rye was the best. The scones were tasty, too large for us to eat two each! They did come with sultanas however which would not have been my preference if I were asked and I had to pick them all out. The various cakes were all nice and moist and tasty although still rather too raisiny for my liking. The one with orange curd was unusual in a good way and a dark chocolate tart was the perfect amount of not too sweet and not too bitter.The cake was let down by some very inviting looking chocolate Easter biscuits sprayed with gold which turned out to be inedibly burnt.

The service was very polite compared to our first experience. Our order didn’t turn up as quickly as our stomachs wanted and there was an incident with a mistaken tea, but we were given doggy bags with not a hint of judgement. The waiter even went back and fetched us Harvey Nichols carrier bags to display our doggy bags in high style. The atmosphere was lively as we were in the cafe but beautifully decorated with flowers and very spring like. Not a cosy tea shop, but far better than your average cafe in a department store experience. Truly another memorable adventure of a mother’s day – can’t wait for next year!

 

Ratings: I hope i have remembered these correctly! Tell me if not.

Cake:  Me: 5.5/7 Clare: 4.5/7 Nicki: 5/7 Jane (my mother) 5.5/7 Alison (mother of Clare) 5/7 Margaret (mater to Nicola): 6/7

Atmosphere: 5.5/7 – an average.

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Very Tasty Candyfloss!