Tuesday, 26 June 2012

It's a crawl, of the cake variety .....

First things first - if you ever get the opportunity to go on a Cake Crawl hosted by the fabulous Cake Masters, do it!  Don't stop, don't pass go, don't collect £200.  Or maybe do do that last bit, you might need the money for shopping purposes!

Last year, I saw photographs appear on the Cake Masters facebook page, of the Cake Crawl that some of the members had been on.  One word - JEALOUS!  I was pretty new to all things cakery, but I wanted in!  So when, a few months ago, they opened registration for the London Cake Crawl 2012, I was there - filling in the form on the website and crossing my fingers (they only pick 25 people to attend).  A few weeks ago, they announced that the lucky people had been emailed.  Cue me racing to check my emails, then face-planting into a LARGE bar of chocolate when I realised I hadn't been successful.  Then ..... a week later ...... HURRAH!!!   I'm really sorry that one of the original invites couldn't attend, but WOOP WOOP for me, and a happy dance around the kitchen!  Then I was counting down the days ......

Saturday 16th June - Cake day!  And typically I was up until 2am finishing off some cupcakes!  I was nearly too excited to get ANY sleep, but 5 hours later, and with a couple of hours sleep, I was at the station waiting for my train to London town!  I met the lovely Sarah on the train, and fellow Cake Crawler Claire in London, and we headed to our meeting point - at The Hummingbird Bakery!  We were a bit early, so a coffee in the sun was a welcome start to the day, as Rosie and Clare (the fabulous organisers - recognisable by their bright pink balloons!!) and our fellow crawlers started arriving.  And what a fabulous group of ladies they were (and are!).  Coming from all over the country, from Manchester to Anglesey and down to Taunton, what a dedicated bunch we are - brownie points (of the chocolate variety) go to those crawlers who were on their way to the big smoke even before the dawn chorus were out of their nesty beds!   But, we were all assumbled, it was 9am, and we were off!!

I have to clarify at this point, that apart from our first stop, and an inkling about one other, we really had NO idea where we were going - were were given an amazing goodie bag (more on that later), and a map which just had addresses on it.  As the Beatles said - a magical mystery tour :)

First stop - inside the hallowed gates of The Hummingbird Bakery - the one I was most hoping to see and most excited about

I liked this bakery - the colours and smells were just as I had imagined, although I always thought that it would be bigger considering it's reputation, but I guess the best things come in small packages!  We all crowded in and took over the whole shop (sorry to any other passing customers who couldn't get in for 30 mins!).  We had a short talk about Hummingbird, where they came from, the fact that they pride themselves at being responsible for bringing Whoopie Pies into the UK.  I have to admit though, I was standing next to the cake counter, so was somewhat distracted by the yumminess to completely take in everything that was being said!  And I completely forgot to ask why they choose NOT to pipe their frosting but to do their signature swirl instead.  Oh well - I'm sure I could Google it >;o)   And so to my first purchase of the day - the iconic Red Velvet cupcake.  But I didn't devour it straight away - I nursed it all the way home for a planned taste testing with him indoors :)  And I have to say, even I couldn't eat a cupcake of that size at 9am.........well, normally anyway ;)

Stop Number 2 - 10 mins walk away and my favourite in term of the talk we were given.  The fabulous Jane Asher Party Cakes and Sugarcraft in Chelsea.  We were met by store Manager David, who had been at the store for 20+ years, and was charming, funny, and oh-so-knowledable.  I could've quite happily pulled up a chair, and grabbed a cup of tea while he was talking - it was fascinating to hear some of his client stories (while ever mindful of client confidentiality) - flying a cake and team to Mexico, and the Clittery (!) cupcakes stories will stick with me for a long time!  It was interesting to hear his take on the glitter-debate, and also to hear how they manage order, and recruit staff was fascinating.  And did I mention that they had complimentary cupcakes and 10% off in their amazingly-stocked and very reasonably priced shop?  Awesome!  @ big thumbs up (and a full shopping bag) from this cupcaker!

And so on to Stop 3 - and the Partridges Food Market on the Kings Road (outside the Saatchi gallery), to see the stall owned by the Crumbs and Doilies ladies.  Now, as someone who has dabbled with a couple of stalls at local school, I was really interested to see how they do it every week.  Apparently the answer is that there's more than one person baking, and they start at 4am.  Oh yeah, that'll be it ...  that's where I'm going wrong LOL! :)  Cath from C&D gave us a quick talk about their company, and then we had the opportunity to pick one of their mini cupcakes from the bountiful stands on display to try.  I picked a lavender caramel mini cuppie.  I'd like to say that this one also made it home for the 'testing', but I'd be telling a fib *wipes crumbs off face*.  This is what it looked like though!

Now, let me tell you, this market was a-maze-balls.  The smells of all the different food, the steam rising from the tops of the canopies, the sounds of the grills and pans, the taste of the black olive chocolate (yes, really, and I don't even like olives!), and the fact that we had some time to wander around, grab some lunch, and other yummies, and absorb it all ..... perfect.  I'll definately be bringing him-indoors back here! 

We were just on our way out, and discovered one of the gems of the day - Rummanco.  The. Most. Amazing. Cakes. Ever.  (do you get my point?).  Seriously - all cakes made with rum (on my good side already!) - and their Red, White, and Blue Velvet Rum Cake was to die for.  I seriously WISH I'd brought a slice home.  Moist, full of flavour and just so mmmmmmmmmm.  Definately worth a visit, and a huge thanks go to them for providing us with impromptu samples!

And so onwards, and a short walk to our next stop, through some VERY posh streets (this should've been a big clue as to where we were heading LOL!).  Then suddenly, with almost an ethereal glow around it, a vision in white, pink and brown ahead of us make us gasp with glee and do a little happy dance with associated squealing.  Was it?  Could it really be?  YES!  It was the mecca of cupcakeries in uptown London.  Friend of the stars - the one and only Peggy Porschen !  Oh. My. Freaking. God.  *kneels down and worships at the doorstep*

We were chomping at the bit to go in, but had to wait outside for a mo - peering through the door into the inviting interior - all white wood, chandeliers, vintage chic and cakes - honestly, If I were to have a cupcake shop, this would definately be on my 'mood board' for design.  They promote themselves as 'London's Prettiest Cupcake Cafe', and I'd have to agree. And they were now serving champagne with their cupcakes (a great identifier of what area of London we were in LOL) (Belgravia by the way !) which sounds like a pretty perfect idea to me!

We were lead through to the hallowed 'Wedding Room'.  On the way through the sweet smell of the sweet royal icing loitered in the air, with a hint of coffee and strawberry.  Mmmmmmmm - if I was a wedding customer, I'd be sold straight away.   We had a short talk about Peggy, her shop, and the cakes, from a totally charming employee, who, despite her charm, admitted that she wasn't a baker, and that if we were to do the crawl again ( if?  IF ??  seriously?  When, more like!) we should make sure to speak the girl who is also a baker and would've been better able to answer some of our questions :)  No matter though.  The side of the room were full of the most divine wedding cakes.  There is definately a 'style' to Peggy's cakes - beautiful, simplicity in a colour palette, and feminine without being too girlie.  I loved them!  Now OBVIOUSLY I took a lot of photographs of the cakes on display, but here's a quick sample of why Stella MacCartney decided to have Peggy make her wedding cake :

Now, as expected, Peggy's cupcakes do hit the more expensive end of the market.  I brought a Strawberry and Champagne cupcake and a bottle of pink lemonade, and paid £6.  Granted, the cupcake was in the best packaging of the day - a gorgeous pretty pink hangbag style box.  But, and I do mean 'but' - I was one of the lucky ones.  I nursed my cupcake in it's box all day, and by the time I got home that evening, it was still intact.  Several of my other 'crawlers' weren't so lucky - and that's a really bittersweet thought to such a 'high-end' cupcakery.  By the time we stopped for lunch, not even 2 hours later, some crawlers were reporting that the icing had slid of their cakes and they were in a shocking state.  A couple never even made it home :(

But anyway, I digress (I did warn you guys about wombling!).  On the whole, my experience of Peggy Porschen's - love love love!  Oh, and my £3.50 cupcake - yummy!

It was time to head on to the next stop, but before we even left the doorstep of Peggy's, we were in for an extraordinary treat - a fly-past!  Cue 25 woman jumping up and down and squealing with excitement like children!  The Red Arrows are one of my all time favourite things to see (up there with Miss Stardust's smile, fireworks, and the castle at Disneyland Paris) - I was one HAPPY cupcaker!  And then on the bus on the way to the next stop, we saw the Queen.  I'm on a London Bus.  I've just seen the Red Arrow's.  And now there's the Queen.  Could I BE any more of a tourist right now???

Stop number 5 - Lola's Cupcakes near Berkeley Square.  This has been on my list of 'I would like to visit' for a while - I don't know whether it's the look of their cakes, or the colour scheme and branding of the company that attracts me to them, but now was my chance to find out!

When we arrived at what was their only store front (they have concessions in Selfridges, Harrods and Top Shop), I have to say that I was surprised at how small it was - there wasn't room for all of us in the shop!  However, they do have a seating area outside, and lucky for us the weather was nice enough that we could congregate there :)  Unfortunately, the talk that we were supposed to have from the company rep didn't happen due to mix-up at head office, and the staff in the store were busy dealing with a customer order, but to give them their due, they offered us all a complimentary cupcake from the menu  (I picked a Rosewater and Pistachio), and we moved on to Berkeley Square to rest our crawling feet for a few moments and have some lunch.

In case I forget to say later - I was quite disappointed in my cupcake from Lola's.  The sponge itself was ok - just ok though - it was quite a dense and dry bake, which would be ok with a fabulously light and moist frosting, but I found their frosting to be heavy and sticky, and thought it had a heavy artificial flavour.  I have to say, I didn't have more than a couple of bites, which is unheard of for me! Hmmmmmmm  :(   However,  I know other 'crawlers' enjoyed their cakes, so maybe I need to try another flavour >;o)

Time for another walk, and on to stop 6.  Now, we'd looked at the map, and sussed that we were heading to Carnaby Street.  And we knew what lay at one end of Carnaby Street ...... Dare we hope and dream that this mecca of all things cocoa could be where we were heading?  I don't think my inner child can cope with the anticipation.  Are we nearly there yet?  Are we nearly there yet, NOW ???

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK !  *cue the cake crawlers all starting to walk a little bit faster, with a gleam in their eyes*.  IT IS .... IT IS !!!!

It's only effin' CHOCCYWOCCYDOODAH !!!

                                                 * faints onto the cobbles *

What can I say.  I LOVED this place.  For as deliciously vintage and girlie Peggy Porschen's is, this is the polar opposite - rich in colour, decadent and sultry in style, outrageous in it's approach to it's creations, and really not giving a shit  (sorry - there's no other way to describe it!).  I loved the styling in the shop, the amount of glitter used on the cakes (yes, shock horror, glitter!), and the creativity on display.

We headed up to the cafe area, as there was supposed to be something planned for us, but unfortunately it couldn't happen (we live in wonder as to what it might have been lol!), so we went downstairs to have a proper look at the shop floor and admire the cakes!  Here's just a few of their creations ....

Now, I didn't purchase a cake from here - firstly it would be a nightmare on the train later (LOL!), but also because my budget for the day didn't stretch that far!  But I did get some chocolate-covered pretzels for him-indoors from Miss Stardust for Father's Day - and apparently they are yummy!

Then who should appear, but Daveed.  Yes - him off the tellybox!  He gave us a brilliant talk about where Choccywoccydoodah came from, what it's plans are, and lots of other snippets of info.  Thanks Daveed! 

I shall DEFINATELY be re-visiting Choccywoccydoodah again, soon.  Count on it.  Don't think I'll get away with not taking the family next time though!

All too soon it's time to head to Stop 7, and the last stop of the day.  We were supposed to be there at 4:30pm, but London Transport and the volume of traffic in town was conspiring against us :(  We didn't get on a bus until 4:30, and sat in traffic for ages!  Unfortunately that meant that some of the lovely cake crawlers had to leave the crawl to get their trains home.  Sorry you couldn't finish the crawl with us ladies - next time eh?  I feel a reunion coming on .... >:o)

We uncovered that we were heading for none other than Bea's of Bloosmbury, and that they were open until 7pm, and happy to wait for us - hurrah!!

We arrived at their St Paul's shop, and were shown upstairs to the cafe area.  Oh me, oh my - what a sight awaited us!  A seating area which was a very welcome sight to our aching backs and tired feet, but more importantly, the most scrumptious looking feast of cakes!  Hang on - I can't describe it - you need to see it .....

There - now do you see what I mean??

So, with a cup of welcome tea in front of us, we were greeted by the adorable Sara, who was the perfect hostess :)  She told us a bit about Bea's, but then proceeded to pass around each tempting morsel, plate by plate - telling us about each treat in turn.

 I could wax lyrical here about each and every taster - telling you exactly what I think of them, and I have on my Facebook photo album, but do you know what?  The best thing I can suggest - try them all yourselves!!  Seriously.  Except maybe the peanut butter streusel bar - not my thing really, LOL.  But save me a piece of the red velvet cupcake - probably the best red velvet in London :)

This 'tea party' for want of a better description was brilliant, and I ended the amazing London Cake Crawl 2012 aching, but contented, with a smile my face, a tummy full of treats and a bag full of goodies to take home!  Oh, did I mention a bag full of goodies ???? ......

WOW!  Our goodie bag was stuffed with treats courtesy of Cake Masters, Jane Asher, Falcon Products, Alphabet Moulds and Party Animal Online - thank you all so much!  I can't wait to try them all out :)

Massive thank you to Rosie from Cake Masters, and the lovely Clare, for organising a fantastic day out.  I wish I could do it again next year, but I guess I'll give someone else a chance to experience what we did.  But ...... 2012 Cake Crawlers - who's up for a reunion then???   >:o)

Laters Stardusters,  K   xoxo