Monday, 18 June 2012

The London Cake Crawl 2012

I was very fortunate to be amongst a lucky few invited to attend the London Cake Crawl 2012 organised by Cake Masters. It was a fantastic day and one of my highlights of my living in London experience so far.

We started our day at 9:00 AM in South Kennsington.  Rosie and Clare where very orgnaised and made sure everyone felt comfortable and welcome as soon as we arrived.  We were each greeted with an adorable Cake Crawl Tote full of goodies and a map detailing the locations of each of our mystery stops.  The names of the places we where to visit was kept a secret which added to the fun of the experience with everyone trying to guess where we might go next.  We were also each given an adorable Cake Crawl Cake Pop made by the lovely Zak from Zazzabella, which I can not wait to try.  Believe it or not I have never eaten a Cake Pop!  So that one is definetly going in my I will not share bag.  LOL.

Stop number 1

After group introductions we started our crawl at the Hummingbird Bakery.  This was my first time visiting Hummingbird Bakery, I've heard lots of good things about it before.  We were greeted with a lovely introduction to the bakery and what they are best known for.  They are one of London's original American Style Cupcake Boutiques.  All the cakes are baked fresh in the store.  They where particularly proud of their role in bringing Whoopie Pies into popularity.  And of course they share recipes and tips in their very popular Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook.  

 It is clear why people are drawn to this place.  The shop has a lovely layout with a feeling of warmth and luxury.   The displays are immaculately kept. And well, the cupcake flavours are just amazing.

 But at 9:00am and knowing I had a whole day of cake ahead of me I decided to start my day with a purchase for the hubby.  After all, it was the day before Father's day :)

My Cupcake was £2.95 and presented in an adorable little take away box.  

So my overall opinion of the Hummingbird Bakery.  A lovely place, some really unique flavours on offer.  I did sneek a taste of my hubbys cupcake and it was lovely.  The chocolate icing was divine.  But, if I can critique anything about it they charged me 30p extra for "piping work".  The cupcakes where already made up this way, it wasn't a special request or anything, she just made a point to make sure I was charged for a hand piped cupcake.  You can see above the extent and care of the actual piping work on my cupcake.  Hmmmm....... enough said.  

Stop number 2

One of my favorite stops of the day.  I've been to Jane Asher before as a customer for Sugar Craft supplies and have always been pleased with their standard of customer service.  So I already had high expectations of this visit once I knew where we were headed. I was not disappointed.  The Manager David greeted us each with a lovely decorated and boxed cupcake favour and a bit of history about Jane Asher.  David is very enthusiastic about his work and about the reputation of their business.  And it shows in the lovely work they produce at the bakery.  With many years of experience behind him, he is a fountain of knowledge and was keen to answer any questions for the group.  

Some of the questions 

Q. What are your thoughts on the use of glitters (Jane Asher Sugarcraft had glitters for sell in the shop)?
A. Jane likes for everything on her cakes to be as edible as possible so normally they are only used on the boards.  If any where to be used on the cake it would be at the customers discretion, with a full explanation given as to what they actually are.  He personally does not think there is any harm in the use of glitter.

Q. How do you feel about people copying designs?
A.  The company is not bothered by this at all and often uses images off the internet or brought in from customers to draw inspiration for new designs.  They never exactly copy a design, but do not feel there is any harm in taking and idea and putting your own mark on it.  

Q. Do you use Free Range Eggs?
A. Whenever possible, but at times because of costs it is sometimes necessary to use non freerange eggs.  It is simply not feesible to constantly change the prices of the cakes due to the rising cost of ingredients so this has to be taken into to account when sourcing ingredients.  

Q. Do you use shaped cake tins?
A. No, all our cakes are baked in large rectangular tins and stacked and carved to the shaped needed.  

Q.  What do you look for in an employee?  Is a bakery qualification necessary or do you consider individuals who are self taught?
A.  We look for someone who can fit in well with the team.  They need to be creative but do not necessarily need a qualification.  The Jane Asher method of decorating can be learned on the job. Each member of the team has their own skill that they are expertly good at and they are all unique. 

After a wonderful presentation and Q&A session with David we had time to wonder around the shop and purchase any bits and pieces we liked (with a discount) :).  I purchased a few items that I need for my son's soon to be Birthday Cake which I can't wait to make.  Then had a nose around at the window displays.

So my overall opinion of Jane Asher Party Cake and Sugar Craft.  The Sugar Craft store is fab, they have a fairly extensive selection of items on offer.  They don't have a cafe or sell ready made cakes.  I wish they did as I am sure I would have bought some.  My free, lovingly boxed and presented cupcake was DELICIOUS.  The sponge was to me the most delicious I had from any of the shops we visited.  The buttercream was very rich and very buttery.  You could taste the quality.  And the presentation won my daughter over. She wanted the cupcake in the shiny wrapper (yes I did give her a bite to which she exclaimed "Ummmmm").  My thoughts exactly Ayla, if ever Mommy is unable to make your birthday cake I know who to call.  

Stop number 3

Crumbs and Doilies has a market stand stall in Kings Road on Saturdays.   We were given a presentation about the company and where also offered a free mini cupcake of our choice.  I choose the Cookie Dough Cupcake.  I'll show you a picture of it here quick before it disappeared.  

Cute huh?  Unfortunately for this guy I was getting hungry so it didn't stand a chance of making it home with me.  I loved the Cookie Dough Flavour Cupcake.  I thought it was unique.  It really reminded me of Ben and Jerry's Cookie Dough Ice Cream which is my favorite.  This is one I would have again. 

Lucky for my waist line I don't live close enough to Chelsea to go there very often.  

Not only because of Crumbs and Doilies, but also these guys.....

Rummanco where a worthy unscheduled detour.  Presentation wise they aren't "pretty"cakes, but hey, "pretty" cakes are sometimes not all they are cracked up to be.  I mean at the end of the day, the cake is going to be eaten and it is how it tastes that will leave the lasting impression.  And these cakes taste GORGEOUS!  They where giving out samples so I got to try each.  In the end I bought a slice of the Coconut and Lime Cake but honestly I'm not sure why I went for that one because the Red White and Blue Velvet Rum was an other worldly experience.  Seriously, if you're ever anywhere near the Kings Road market on a Saturday pay these guys a visit.

Stop number 4

It's pretty, it's pink, it's Peggy Porschen.  This shop has the WOW factor.  Peggy Porschen has definetely got it right when it comes to presentation.  And the aroma in this shop is beautiful, something I only noticed here.  Just standing outside the front door, it becons you to come inside.  

We were invited into the Wedding Consultation room where we had the opportunity to view some of the lovely wedding cake displays.  Peggy Porschen has a tea and wedding cake taster session in this room for their customers.  It was really a lovely layout.  I have to say again, Peggy Porschen has got  presentation down to a "T".  There is definately a signature style to Peggy's cakes which I find just beautiful.  I have often been on the web site browsing at her designs and it was fabulous to see them in person.  I love, love, love the two-tone roses with a the hint of colour in the middle.  

I decided to take home with me one of their Strawberry & Champagne Cupcakes which they packaged in a very beautiful take away box.  

My overall opinion of Peggy Porschen's.  A very beautiful shop.  I think their wedding cakes are devine.  If you are ever in the area go in and have a cupcake in the cafe.  But I don't recommend taking it home with you.  My cupcake was £3.50 and along with a bottle of lemonade my total bill was £6.  A bit pricey, but I walked away happy until........

This is what I had when I got home :(  And I was not alone.  In fact, I knew what to expect before I ever even opened the box because several people discovered theirs had met this fate by the time we got to the next stop.  It was not a hot day, I think the buttercream icing was just too soft.  And I can't say it was just a bad batch because we all had the same problem and everyone had different flavour cupcakes. One of my fellow crawlers made me laugh.  I had asked someone to explain to me what an Eaton Mess was, as I had seen the flavour a couple of times but had never heard of it (silly American).  She told me I now had a "Peggy Mess".  And she was right.  It taste nice, but forgive me if I remain disappointed.   

Rosie and Clare couldn't have timed our stops better because as we left Peggy Porschen we where greeted with a spectacular flyover and display by the Red Arrows.  Lucky girls we are :) 

 And as we where on the bus moving to the next stop we passed Hyde Park Corner and had a peek of the Queen making her way away from Buckingham Palace.  If only I had my camera out. 

Stop number 5 

Lola's  had planned a presentation for us but unfortunately due to circumstances beyond their control they were not able to do it.  They where very kind and offered us each a free cupcake though.  I had only eaten one mini cupcake so far for the day and decided to buy one as well to have with my lunch.  So I had a Cookies and Creme Cupcake and a Peanut Butter Cupcake from Lolas.  Here are some of the cakes they had out on display.  I really like the Pull a part cupcake cakes.  These are very popular in America but not something you see much of here.  I also love the cupcakes on top of a cake idea.

My overall opinion on Lola's.  The location we visited had a lovely outdoor area to sit and enjoy your cupcakes.  I paid £2.50 for my extra cupcake.  I had the Cookies and Creme Cupcake after my lunch and I absolutely loved it.  I brought home with me a peanut butter flavour cupcake which was nice but I like the one I make better. I felt Lola's lacked the WOW factor, but I must remind you that we had just left Peggy Porschen so the bar had, in a manner of speaking, been raised quite high.  At least my cupcake made it home in one piece though, which is always a good thing.     

Stop number 6

In case you don't recognise and/or can't read that sign above the door It's 

If ever I was hoping and anticipating we would stop somewhere inparticular it was Choccywoccydoodah.  And it did not disappoint.  Well, almost.  There was a little mix up and it seems there was something organised for us that did not happen :(  But it did not damper my enthusiasim for visiting this shop.  It is visually breathtaking and in everyway possible the complete opposite of what you expect a "pretty" cake shop to be.  But it works and it is magical.  

We where warmly greeted by Daveed and had the opportunity to ask questions, browse and take pictures.  Their cakes are truly genius sculptures that I would find hard to ever cut into to be honest.

Upstairs there is a cafe where you can order cake by the slice.  I got a slice of Lemon cake to go for £4.99.  The most expensive cake of the day, but it was a generous portion.  Smoothered in chocolate and no buttercream it was something very unique to what other cake shops have to offer.

I took my cake home in this adorable Choccywoccydoodah bag.  I don't know why my camera refused to take anything but yellow pictures of this cake so this photo does not do it justice I'm afraid.

My overall opinion of Choccywoccydoodah.  One of my favorite stops, despite the fact that it did not go as arranged for the group.  The day would not have been the same without it.  My Lemon and White Chocolate Cake was Yummy!  Very different to what I would normally have.  I've never had a cake covered entirely in Chocolate.  The contrast of the lemon and the white chocolate was perfect.  I wish they would make a cookbook!   

Stop number 7  

Rosie and Clare definetly saved the best for last.  Bea's of Bloomsbury really went all out to make us Cake Crawlers feel special.

My husband and I have an inside joke.  My first few days living in this country he had to work out of town training so I tagged along because I didn't want to spend my first days in England alone.  His seminar was in Banbury at a lovely hotel that unfortunately did not have much to offer in terms of television programming.  I had had my fill of exploring the town and was stuck watching Sky News repeat the same headlines over and over.  And that particular day they where going on about a Garden Party where the Queen had appearantly served 14 Cakes per guest. I was so sick of hearing about the Queen and her silly party I could scream.  So now whenever my husband has repeated himself one too many times all I have to say is "14 Cakes!" and he gets the message loud and clear.

And if ever you might wonder what 14 Cakes per guest looks like, this was the spread we were greeted with at Bea's.

1.Vanilla Raspberry Cupcakes with Italian Buttercream Icing
2. Chocolate Brownie
3. Key Lime Pie
4. Blondies
5. Cocoa Mini Meringue
6. Cheesecake topped with Peanut Butter and Jam with a Shortbread Base and Struddle Topping
7. Eaton Mess
8. White Chocolate Cheesecake with Peanut Butter and a Chocolate Biscuit Base
9. Chocolate Cupcake with Pistachio Italian Buttercream
10. Chocolate Brownie with Peanut Butter Walnut and Praline
11. Banana Bread
12.  Baked Vanilla Cheesecake with Passion Fruit Curd
13.  Passion Fruit Marshmallow
14.  Red Velvet Cupcake with Cream Cheese and Mascerpone Icing

I guess you could say we were given the Royal Treatment.  They offered us Tea or Coffee and very sweetly presented each of their 14 confections to us.  There was so much that I admit I snuck some home in one of my empty cupcake boxes to try later.  And as if that wasn't enough they had packed goody bags of more samples to take home.    

My opinion of Bea's of Bloomsbury, Best Stop of the Day.  There was simply too much to critique anything but I will say that their Red Velvet Cake is the best I have tried anywhere in London. Obviously some desserts I liked better than others but overall the presentation and the quality was superb and made extra special by the friendliness of their staff.  A fabulous end to the day and I was well and truly "crawling" by the time I made it home.  

I was eager to have a look at all the goodies I had collected throughout the day as well as the gifts in our Goody Bag when I got home.

I would like to say a special thank you to Jane AsherParty Animal OnlineAlphabet Moulds and Falcon Products for the lovely pressies you provided for each of us.  To Zak from Zazzabella for your absolutely devine cakepop which I did end up sharing with my daughter after all.   To all the ladies who attended the crawl it was such a pleasure to spend the day with you and to Rosie and Clare for organsing and guiding us, you did a tremendous job and made the day really very special for us all.  I hope that you will be organsing these every year for others to have the same fabulous experience.  

Thank you Cake Masters!    

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