Wednesday, 18 April 2012

I Heart Cupcakes on Tour - Brighton

The third and final part of my recent travels takes us to the lovely coastal town of Brighton. I know not quite as glamorous as Paris but I love Brighton.

Alas I did not love their cakes - this final part is the 'downright ugly' of the trilogy.

I had wanted to visit Choccywoccydoodah for years. Every time we went to Brighton we seemed to get swayed by other things - usually the pub - however we finally made it on Valentines day this year. I really wished I hadn't bothered.

First we visited the chocolate store.

The cakes in the window were amazing and the shop has some lovely things in it but I'm afraid I find myself unable to justify paying £20 for a chocolate kitten or a tenner for a pair of chocolate lips. I actually toyed with buying a small cake but decided to go to the Bar du Chocolat first. Thank f**k I did.

I'd read online about the intimate boudoir where sumptuous hot chocolate is served - however when walking in we were faced with a modern looking cafe which smelt a lot of cheese and oil. We were shown to the back room, aka the boudoir, which was very cramped and rather shabby.

We ordered their luxury (sumptuous?) hot chocolate and some cakes; a chocolate coconut cupcake for me and for Manny lemon cake as strangely they had no chocolate cake available. Not a great start for a chocolate cafe.

Our hot chocolate was ok - nothing luxury or sumptuous about it though. It tasted less chocolate'y than a Starbucks hot chocolate, was covered in masses of cream and contained a LOT of really cheap tasting marshmallows which added nothing to it at all and made it all gloopy. If I was to guess I'd say no real chocolate was involved in the making of this hot chocolate. It tasted like it was from a packet. My home made hot chocolate is nicer than this and, even using expensive chocolate, cheaper.

Manny liked his cake with ice cream. I tried some and it was quite nice, nothing spectacular.

My cupcake was in fact a cake covered in melted chocolate with some dessicated coconut on top. The cake itself was rock hard and tasted of nothing. The chocolate was hard and rather unpleasant. But nothing was unpleasant as taking a bite and finding....a hair. A longish curly hair that did not belong to me.


Now normally I would've pointed this out to staff, however we had a charming couple and their children squashed into the area next to us - he was threatening to beat the crap out of her for not eating any of their, frankly disgusting looking Rocky Road, and being incredibly unpleasant to the staff who were young and I felt had enough on their plate. However I did email Choccywoccydodah afterwards and tell them I was disappointed to find hair in their cakes and mention how old/stale the cakes were but received no response.

Next time I'm in Brighton I'll stick to the pub.

Monday, 9 April 2012

I Heart Cupcakes on Tour - Athens

 This is part two of my three part series about my recent travels - aka 'the bad'.

A few days before we boarded the Eurostar to Paris for my 40th birthday we flew to Athens for Up the Hammers festival as Manny was playing there and as I'd never been to Greece I decided to tag along.

I was not a fan of Athens on arrival, mainly because we were staying in an area labelled the 'Greek Camden' which I can only say looked more like the Greek version of downtown Basra after a raid by lots of junkie prostitutes. Our hotel was lovely but the area outside it was not.

However the rest of Athens was lovely. The people on the whole were amazingly friendly, the food was good when we found it (our area was very much in the recession hit part - everything was closed apart from several toilet seat stores - Greeks must go through a LOT of loo seats) and the sights were amazing. Standing on top of Lycavittos Hill or the Acropolis just takes your breath away. The stunning beauty of it is awe inspiring. And how can I not love somewhere where trees with juicy ripe citrus fruit are everywhere!

It was near Lycavittos Hill we chanced upon Cake.

Their selection of cake was quite disappointing if I'm honest. Chocolate, vanilla and red velvet ALL with incredibly bright frosting - all vanilla frosting as far as we could ascertain.

 Tasting them helped in no way decipher what flavour the frosting was. We are still trying to decide what the fuck it was made out of. I'm pretty certain it was NOT butter based that's for sure, and if it was,  butter in Greece is not something I'd ever wish to try again. In trying to decide what it was I had to eat a few bites and the only thing I've ever put in my mouth of a similar taste and texture was play-doh. I am about 90% sure it's made of some kind of edible modelling clay. Oh and dear god the cake was dry and tasted of absolutely nothing. Just air and dryness, oh and a sweaty stickyness that was not pleasant. Even Manny couldn't eat more than a bite of his 'chocolate' one. It was one of those instances when we had to immediately brush our teeth after tasting these. Vile is the only way I can describe it. And wrong. Ok that's two ways.

I kinda smooshed about with the 'frosting' to try and show the texture but I'm not sure it comes across in the photo - it was totally mouldable - just like play-doh. I honestly think I ate play-doh.

I said to Manny we should move to Athens and open a cupcake shop immediately in Athens as this place has several locations - imagine how nice tasty cupcakes with actual flavour and buttercream would be received!!

To make up for the vile cupcakes I had to share the best food we ate while there - pork chops and Greek salad from Telis in an area that was described by our cab driver along the lines of 'very dangerous, you may die'. It was a little run down, with police everywhere but the chops and wonderfully fresh Greek salad made up for it. And the staff were lovely and friendly and no-one tried to kill us so..bonus.

And some amazing Gelato pre the walk up the Acropolis on a hot Saturday afternoon!

Finally, we had some lovely macarons in Costa  - I know, I know another chain but we needed a sit down and some coffee!

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

I Heart Cupcakes on Tour - Paris

This is part one of a series of three blog posts about my recent travels - the good, the bad and the downright ugly.

Paris has the pleasure of being 'the good'

I went to Paris early in March for my 40th birthday. And fell in love. Not just with the cakes but with everything. I LOVED it there. I think it could be because you can buy anything flavoured with Speculoos. 

 Whilst there the best thing I ate wasn't actually a cupcake but a Speculoos cake from ...Starbucks. I know, we went to Paris and the best thing we ate was from Starbucks...but this cake was AMAZING. So good we went twice and ate it. We'd originally just popped in to use the loo and fell in love with the cake!

We also shared some Cookies and Cream cake - Starbucks in Paris have much better baked goods than here.

We didn't make it to half the places we meant to go to eat in in Paris - mainly because we spent the two days walking round enjoying the city. Oh and buying lots of gore DVDs (Manny found the shop of his dreams just near our hotel). Oh and buying chocolate. And beer.

We did make it to Berko however - Paris's main cupcake store. We went to the branch just up the hill from Moulin Rouge, a few minutes walk from our hotel, Le Chat Noir, which I highly recommend.

We took the cupcakes back on Eurostar and unfortunately they got a little squished but we managed to salvage them so it wasn't a total cupcake disaster.

Our choices included Speculoos and the Hi Hats you can see above. We also got banofee, cookies and cream and chocolate. Although the Speculoos was rather bland and uninspiring, with some odd tasting frosting, the rest were rather good, if a little dry. I think if we'd eaten them there they'd have been much fresher. I would definitely go back to try some other flavours if I went back to Paris. I was especially taken with the fact they use little pipettes to inject coulis into the fresh fruit cakes - as I've done with alcohol into my cupcakes previously.

We also ate some macarons at Dalloyau - the Champagne one being very nice.

The same cannot be said for Eric Keyser's pink praline brioche - dry, tasteless and I really didn't like pink pralines. Thankfully I'd resisted buying a giant bag I saw earlier in the day in G. Detou.

Finally for my 40th birthday we chose not to eat anywhere fancy but instead went to Quick, the local burger chain to have Star Wars burgers - I had the Jedi burger while Manny opted for the Darth Vader one. We are totally classy non?

Oh yeah And I brought back quite a bit of Speculoos.

Oh, another finally - we didn't make it to Ladurée in Paris but we did go to Harrods yesterday and have coffee/hot chocolate and a cake - my first Religieuse - a chocolate one which was amazing. I also bought a box of six macarons in their new limited edition Hello Kitty boxes.

Too cute.