Friday, 6 May 2011

Real Food Festival cupcakes - must try harder

Yesterday myself and Manny headed over to the Real Food Fest at Earls Court. We tried three cupcake companies in all. There were about four or five people selling cupcakes but we couldn't face that many - especially as we wanted to try some other food as well. As it turned out we only actually ate one each -the others went in the bin.

First, the good.

Sweet Things are based in Primrose Hill and although they don't have a store you can order online or buy at their local market stall at weekends.

The lovely Japanese girl behind the counter recognised us from being in Camden a couple of weeks ago and was incredibly friendly. We opted to have a cupcake each as pudding to our fabulous Bhangra Burger we'd had for lunch.

There was a lovely choice of flavours and I went against my normal first cupcake at a new company (vanilla), and opted for a strawberry cheesecake cupcake.

The cake was incredibly fresh and moist, and the frosting was a lovely tart cream cheese frosting with a strawberry drizzle and biscuit topping. I loved it - and made quite a mess scoffing it.

Manny, no surprises here, opted for a double chocolate cake and was so overwhelmed by how good it was I had to post a pic of him on Twitter enjoying his cake!

Second up, the bad.

This is a chocolate cupcake from Cupcake-A-Licious, a Surrey based cupcake company. Firstly it looks a little squished as I refused to pay £1 for a box for a £2 cupcake to take it home, so we re-used the cupcake boxes from Sweet Things which I happened to still have in my bag. I get very perturbed about paying extra for a box -surely this should be worked into costs?

Anyhow, our cupcake was a Chocolate Delight - a delectable chocolate sponge accompanies by an oooh so irresistible chocolate butter icing according to their advertising material. According to me, and Manny it was a rather dry, flavourless cake, with a really unpleasant frosting. It tasted artificial somehow, and I'm pretty sure it wasn't butter in there, or chocolate. It tasted like Stork and cocoa powder. I resisted it and it went in the bin after a couple of bites.

Finally, the ugly.

Ok, ugly is a bit harsh but it's not exactly tempting is it? This is a white chocolate and raspberry cupcake from Monkey Poodle, a London based baking company. Again there was no box for the cake, we were offered a bag or a napkin so alas it got squished. It had previously looked like this.

According to their website, our cupcake was; One of our favourite combos, creamy white chocolate (chunks of) and fresh raspberries in vanilla sponge topped with swirls of buttercream icing.

When we divided up the cake to share there was an odd smell about the cake, and the frosting texture was wrong. I'm still convinced it was a Swiss meringue frosting, or an attempt at one, rather than buttercream as it tasted like a glob of sugary uncooked meringue. And it got no better after the frosting - the cake had an incredibly grainy texture and Manny bit into something unpleasant which was a chunk of not very nice white chocolate. It was devoid of any pleasant flavour, apart from the raspberry so, alas. another one for the Brabinta.

All in all a very disappointing day for cupcakes at the Real Food Fest.

A couple of points. If you're going to sell an easily damageable food item at a festival where people are coming to buy goods and take it home, offering boxes is really a good idea, or you end up with photos of your cupcakes looking kinda sad on peoples websites. Also trying to be polite could be a way forward. We tried to engage in conversation with one stall owner and asked her what her company had been named after, which led to a bit of a dramatic sigh and a "oh everyone asks that" ...well yes, perhaps people do but perhaps you could think of an interesting way to engage the customer with the story of why rather than sigh, especially when no-one else was buying your cakes! Another stall holder was busy reading and when we stopped to buy she kept reading and barely glanced up, so we didn't buy her cupcakes.  Finally, I noticed that people seem to be relying more and more on glitter and gimmicks like wearing 50s clothing to sell their cupcakes (hello there is only one Ms C!!), rather than ensuring their cakes taste good and use good ingredients, which is sad.

We also sampled a couple of other baked goods at the festival - an Oreo brownie from Outsider Tart and Manny had a millionaire shortbread from The Desert Deli. Both stalls could teach the others a great deal -they were friendly, chatting to customers, explaining about what they had to offer etc, and both items were delicious and flavoursome.

Oh and if you go, do try the buffalo milk ice cream at Laverstoke, say hello to the calves and lambs for me and don't miss the dancing sheep truck at the back! And the lovely English couple living in France brewing real ale are delightful! And if you try any cupcakes do let me know!


Cupcake Kelly said...

Thanks for the tips Anne! I shall be making a beeline for Sweet Things and skipping Monkey Poodle. I've already put my cup-a-cake holders in my bag!

You'd think that since it's the "Real" Food festival surely not just any joe off the street can get a stall?? I wouldn't classify a cake made with stork as "real" food!

Made With Pink said...

Argh! Bad cupcakes make me so sad! There is no excise for a bad cupcake! It really bothers me that some people just have a lightbulb moment one day and decide to open up a cake business without doing their homework or having delicious & moist recipes. There were a few dodgy looking cupcake booths at last summer's Taste of London Food Festival as well. I really think that food festivals like this should have a tasting panel that exhibitors need to pass before being allowed to sell their treats! I'm going to this tomorrow - thanks for the re-cap I'll make sure to stay away from those you've warned us about!

msloz said...

Your blog has shown me that I genuinely could open up my own cupcake business. Im not that great, but I'm definitely better than the parade of bad places you've blogged about!

Sarah @Scrumptious Sally said...

I'm looking forward to checking out the Desert Deli. None of the cupcake companies were enticing me via their websites, but I will definitely try Sweet Things, thanks for the recommendation.
No surprises ref. Monkey Poodle for me; I wasn't taken with their Black Forest Cake at Cupcake Camp LDN, either!

Cupcake Crazy Gem said...

Hmm your sweet thing cupcakes looked yummy! glad they tasted yummy too! That festival sounds good, with the exception of your bad caked, I would go just on the basis of Outsider Tart being there!! I love their stuff!

alice_baby_jones said...

Ok i normaly agree with all your reviews but i have to step in here. I regularly get cakes from monkey poodle at cabbages and frocks market and i love them. Lemon drizzle is my personal fave, maybe you just got a dodgy batch?

TV Foodie said...

Hello, there's only one Ms C, who also happens to be your sister, if I'm not much mistaken. Perhaps if you are going to be disparaging about people relying on glitz and glamour you should get your facts straight. Like, for example the fact the MonkeyPoodle were doing the 50s dress thing a full 6 months before Ms Cupcake even started up.

If you're wondering how I know all of this, it's because I was lucky enough to feature MonkeyPoodle's cakes on a show I worked on for the Good Food Channel, where they were praised highly by Jay Rayner and chef Matt Tebbutt.

I'm all for amateur critiquing, but it comes across as though you're just trying to slander Ms Cupcake's (i.e. your sister's) competition. Very childish. I was at the Real Food Show this weekend and managed to get tasty cupcakes (in boxes!) from both Cupcake-a-Licious and MonkeyPoodle.

Oh, and just a thought. If you want a box, ask for one.

I heart cupcakes said...

@Kelly - I should have thought to take my holders with me! Next time!!
I'm not sure it was made with stork but definitely tasted of it

@MWP - there is no excuse indeed. But from feedback I get from bakeries it seems some people really like bad cake (See below)

@msloz - I know what you mean. I've tasted far better "amateur" cakes

@Sally - Manny had Desert Deli's shortbread and loved it. It would seem we're in the minority re MP

@Gem - the festival was lots of fun, even with bad cake

@Alice - I can hand on heart say it was inedible. I wish I'd taken a picture of it in the bin to prove we didn't eat it now (I usually do when we don't eat it incase people doubt what we say). It was really gritty tasting, dry and the frosting was very unpleasant. I'm glad you've had more luck than me.

@Tv Foodie - Alas I hate to burst your rather amusing bubble but Ms C and I are not related. I'm assuming that you think just because I happen to think she makes fabulous cakes we are suddenly sisters. In that case I'd have a LOT of family out there. As it is, I'm an only child. I can provide my Scottish birth certificate as proof if you like, I believe Ms C was born in either Canada or America, you'd have to ask her I'm afraid as I'm not privvy to her birth details.
I'm glad you enjoyed the cupcakes you had from them, however I can only give my HONEST opinion - the cake I bought was inedible and ended up in the bin. The point of my blog incase you missed it is to give my HONEST opinion, they were dry with a gritty texture and frosting so sweet it could bring on diabetic shock.
As for being childish, at least I'm not being slanderous about a business by implying they would ask their sister to bad mouth their competition - which is something you appear to have fabricated in your over-active mind.
Finally, we asked for a box at both stalls, one was only available if we bought 6 (cupcake-a-licious) and Monkey Poodle said they only had bags or napkins. I've been doing my blog for three years thank you and am well aware of how to ask for a box.

sweet tooth factory* said...

I wish you got to try my cupcakes at Real Food Festival. We were on the other side of the festival. Did you get to see our stall at all? Love, Sweet Tooth Factory

Manny said...

I loved my choccy cake from Sweet Things and Anne praised them highly! Anyone who thinks she is going out of her way to slander other bakers obviously hasn't read this blog, praise is always given where it's due.

It takes a lot to make me not like a chocolate cupcake but that one from Cupcake a licious left a really unpleasant taste in my mouth, the only nice thing about it was the smarties! The Monkey Poodle cake tasted plain wrong!