Monday, 10 August 2015

Cutter & Squidge - Cake Pop-up in Soho

Dear Readers, 

Last week I discovered a hidden sugar-gem in the heart of London's Soho. 

Located on the corner of Wardour Street and Brewer Street in the glass-fronted corner shop that used to be (I think) 'Shop' - my favourite ever Soho boutique run by Pippa Brooks from Britop era indie band Posh - you will find the Cutter & Squidge Soho cake cafe pop-up! It is the perfect location for post-shopping cake eating and re-fuelling. 

Formed by two sisters with the desire to make cakes without food colouring but also without any compromise on taste (which as regulars will know is exactly my aim at Silver Whimsy where if something is pink, that's because it has raspberries or strawberries in it rather than something man-made), Cutter & Squidge have, as well as making dreamy Dream Cakes (which get bonus Whimsy points for having whimsically brilliant names), invented their very own creation called the Biskie which is not a whoopie pie or a macaron (according to their website) but a "moorish blend of crisp, soft, chewy cakey and creamy delivering a massive flavour fiesta!" 

(I'm pretty sure that there's a noun missing from that adjective heavy sentence, grammar pedants, but nevermind.)

Whilst I didn't go for a 'Biskie', I will be going back for one because not only do they look divine and have amazing names like 'The Ambassador', 'I Scream Sundae' and 'Bounty Hunter', but based on having sampled a slice of Dream Cake I am convinced they will be delicious.

In the pop-up Soho shop at the moment, they are also serving soft-scoop ice cream in the vein of The Big Gay Ice Cream Shop, which regular readers will know is the ultimate Whimsy Ice Cream favourite. So if it happens to be a sunny day in Soho, why not pop in for an ice-cream pick-me-up?

But let's move on to the CAKES! The cakes in Cutter & Squidge are American style Magnolia Bakery triple layered baking extravaganzas. This is Very Exciting because it is actually pretty hard to find a decent slice of cake in London, let alone fantasy American buttery vanilla old-fashioned wonder cakes! 

I plumped for a piece of the Ice Cream Dream Cake which the delightful girl in the cafe told me was modelled on an old-school Neopolitan ice cream and it genuinely was! The flavours were almost Proustian - the dense, dark, moist chocolate sponge, the super-light ultra creamy and refreshingsly strawberry frosting and the vanilla bean cream-dream flavour sponge and frosting all combined to re-create that sense of running through sprinklers in your best friend's garden after a long hot school holiday summer day in the sunshine.

 As if the cake couldn't get any cuter, it comes resplendent with a mini ice cream cone filled with more of the melt-in-your-mouth strawberry frosting, covered in mini strawberry sugar strands. I haven't felt this way about a piece of cake that I haven't actually made myself for a very long time: I genuinely want to go back and work my way through all the varieties of cake that Cutter & Squidge have to offer!

Follow them on twitter / instagram / facebook OR (best option) go and visit them in Soho before the pop-up pops-down!

Silver Whimsy x

PS - goes without saying (but is nonetheless very important to say) that their cakes are only made with free range eggs and proper British butter!! 

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Caketastic Conran!

Dear Readers,

Who knew that inside the Conran Shop on Marylebone High Street secret delicious cake was hiding out?! (Probably several of you but nevermind.)

Imagine my delight when, out and about in London town and desperate for a slice of cake, I discovered that nestling within the deluxe furniture, open-plan, air-conditioned Conran shop there was an equally pleasant cafe.

At the back of the shop you will find a spacious, clean, well-lit, welcoming and comfortable cafe serving the most delicious coffee in beautiful porcelain cups and saucers (with matching milk jugs, natch) with an excellent crema on top and a smooth rounded finish along with a sumptuous range of prettily decorated and divinely tasty cakes.

It appears that this cafe is yet to be discovered by freelancing Mac-addicts, so it makes the perfect place to retire with a good book and/or traditional notebook and pen for some solo reading and writing. The tables are, as you would expect at the Conran Shop, rendered to a very high standard, the chairs mismatched and well designed and the staff friendly and pleasant.

But let's admit it, it was really all about the cake. I plumped for the triple-layered Strawberry and Champagne Cake and am now trying to work out a recipe for it as it is up there with the nicest cafe-bought cakes I have had in a long while.

It's hard to capture the taste of champagne within a cake, but they have actually managed to do this! The sponge itself was super-light, almost melting (which is a hard effect to achieve) and delicately flavoured with strawberries and a dazzle of sparkling champagne pop on the tongue! Obviously, the real Champagne flavour comes from the elegant icing - marshmallow fluffy, spun-sugar soft and perfectly proportioned in relation to the cake itself - and the strawberry flavour from the sticky-coulis-style jam between the layers. Genuinely a triumph of a cake - perfect for high summer!

And just in case you are not fully sated from the cake itself, there is a wonderfully dark strawberry champagne truffle a-top the cake for a final chocolatey-flavour-bomb finish!


Champagne and Summer,
Silver Whimsy x

Monday, 3 August 2015

Whimsy and the City #2

Dear Readers,

Three years ago, I returned from NYC bringing you tales of three secret cocktail bars. Three years later, I return with news of three more (not-so) secret cocktail bars from the city that never sleeps. I think the quintessential difference between cocktails in NYC and cocktails in London is that in NYC everyone drinks cocktails. There is no pretension and there is a cocktail joint for every eventuality (and you're never far away from one which is never a bad thing) so in this post I am going to tell you about three very different bars for different occasions.

1: By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Drank a Cocktail (with apologies to Elizabeth Smart)

Welcome to Grand Central Station's very own secret bar - The Campbell Apartment. If you are just desperate after your day-trip to Sleepy Hollow (yes, you actually can go and visit the place, and we did, but that's another story) for a restorative beverage of the alcoholic variety then what better stop-off than the former office of American financier John W Campbell who rented the room in the 30s and used it as an office by day and a party venue by night.

Today, visitors are welcome to enter the Apartment that has been re-furbished as a secret cocktail bar at the back of Grand Central Station. Despite the dress code of no shorts and no denim (I was in shorts; SIBF in jeans) we were granted entry and partook of (admittedly slightly disappointing) cocktails in a super-fun old-school Manhattan style bar. Recommended for the atmosphere, the history and the fun of having a cocktail in a train station rather than the quality of the drinks themselves.

2: Attaboy, Attaboy! 

The ambience of Attaboy could not be more different from that of the aforementioned bar. This is the ultimate in mixological prowess in the former location of legendary 00s bar Milk and Honey. An un-noteworthy silver door bearing the letters AB and the message 'please knock gently' on a bin-bag clad street in the outskirts of Chinatown does not look like the most auspicious location for a speakeasy, but believe me, it is the best bar I have ever been to. (Probably.) You knock gently. You wait for the door to be opened and, space permitting, you're welcomed beyond the silver door, past a velvet curtain and into a very small, intimate bar where there is room for bar seating and maybe two tables at the back. On entering Attaboy your senses take a hit - eyes adjust to the low-lighting, ears take in the up-beat 80s pop and sound of ice being struck at by a bar tender's ice pick, but above all your sense of smell is awakened by the dizzying amalgamation of fresh fruits, amazing syrups and high-end liquor.

Once you have taken your seat at the bar, you'll be asked about your favourite spirits / the kinds of flavours you like / your mood, because there is no menu at Attaboy - rather the mixologists create something for you based on what you say you like. As a result, you find yourself experimenting with flavours and combinations that you might otherwise shirk which is amazing because it makes the experience memorable and...erm...educational (??) because you learn new things about drinks. (Well, remember, I've always said cocktails are the alcoholic equivalent of baking so there's got to be an educational purpose, right?) My favourite was The Nineteenth Century (how could it not be?) featuring Bourbon, Creme de Cacao and Lillet Rouge and it was like a revelation of drinking. Like a dessert in a glass (which was what I asked for thus proving how briliant the mixologists are) on a starless night in a former age. Decadent, delicious, dreamy.

3: Take me to the CAKE SHOP! 

If neither the hipster speakseasy cool or vintage Upper East Side excess take your fancy, you may wish to go for a Lower East Side dive bar with a gig venue beneath! Cake Shop is a, yes you guessed it, Cake Shop by day and bar/venue by night! The perfect combination of activities all available under just one roof! We did not sample the cakes (I was on holiday after all) but we did pass an amazing evening hanging with the super-cool bartender and then taking in the twee musical delights of Brooklyn's Oh Golly downstairs after a drink. I plumped for the Earl-Grey infused Old Fashioned. I did question the logic of flavouring bourbon with Earl Grey (my least favourite kind of tea at the best of times so clearly not a good idea), but thought I'd give it a go anyway. It was...interesting (I didn't have a second), but for a whiskey and ginger you could not beat the place. The playlist in the bar upstairs was amazing and the bands playing downstairs were totally awesome so Cake Shop wins the prize for best all round bar for a whole night's indie entertainment in Manhattan.

So there you have it: for uptown glamour of the past head to The Campbell Apartment, for the best drinks and the hippest atmosphere head over to Attaboy and for an all-round indie night out get down toute-suite to Cake Shop. 

Coming next: exceptionally good cake from an unexpected location. 

'Til then, Cupcakes and Cocktails, 
Silver Whimsy x 

Monday, 27 July 2015

The Big Gay Ice Cream Shop

Dearest Readers,

It has become something of a Whimsy tradition that when overseas, I provide you with a review of an ice cream shop. (Well, it's a tradition in my head anyway and that's good enough for me.)

Thus, I write with news of Ice Cream Wonder across the Atlantic - Big Gay Ice Cream Wonder from, where else, The Big Gay Ice Cream Shop in New York's East Village.

The Big Gay Ice Cream Shop started out life as a food truck whizzing around the streets of NYC but, owing to demand, became an-all-year-round ice cream wonder palace in 2011. It's a tiny walk-in shop with a permanent queue outside in the amazing East Village. 

The inside of the shop is the definition of whimsy. There is a giant glittering Unicorn on the wall, and My Little Pony ephemera dotted about the shop. 

I was particularly taken by the multi-coloured cat chalk board next to the menu. 

The menu itself, modelled here by the SIBF, is a thing of sheer joy. I didn't have sufficient time to peruse it, unfortunately, so sort of panic-ordered an ice cream I wouldn't normally go for, but it was still amazing.

The thing about Big Gay Ice Cream is that it's a playful variation on traditional American 'soft-serve' ice cream. Ie Posh Mr Whippy. But better. A million times better. The joy is that the soft-serve itself is beyond delicious - creamy, air-whip-light and flavoursome - but that on top of the ice cream, the toppings are imaginative, exciting and generously portioned. In much the same way I would suggest that eye make-up is all about the glitter, Big Gay Ice Cream is all about the toppings. But I digress. 

I ordered the Rocky Roadhouse - a chocolate ice cream covered in rocky road topping comprising of marshmallows, dark chocolate chips and salted almonds. The ice cream takes its name from Patrick Swayze's 1989 movie Road House and serves as a tribute to the late great man himself. The combination of the crunchy nuts, the chewy marshmallow, the super-soft-serve ice cream and the bitey choc chips was A-may-zing (as Craig Revel Horwood might say if he were judging ice cream rather than dancing).

The SIBF ordered the American Globs which is possibly the quintessential Big Gay Ice Cream as it is 'dipped'. This means that the entire ice cream is dipped in a vat of hot chocolate sauce which then dries and creates a hard outer shell - like what a Magnum tries to do but fails. If someone decided to come up with this idea and sell it here they would make their fortune because once eaten no other ice cream is the same. On top of this, the American Globs featured dark chocolate salty-sweet pretzels dotted throughout it and its name is a tribute to Neil Gaiman's 'American Gods' making it ice cream nirvana! 

Anyway, you go in, order your Big Gay Ice Cream, leave and find a stoop to sit on and eat it. Alternatively, you could take your ice cream into Tompkins Square Park, but I wouldn't recommend it unless you like eating ice cream with rats crawling round yr feet. (Not the definition of whimsy.) 

 The trouble is that now that I've had my Big Gay Ice Cream and eaten it, how will I ever go back to ice cream of any other variation?

Coming up next: The Secret Cocktail Bars of NYC #2.

Happy Days,
Whimsy x

Sunday, 12 July 2015

The Silver Whimsy Cake Stall 5.0

And so it came to pass, Dear Readers, that The Silver Whimsy Cake Stall celebrated its FIFTH anniversary at the world famous (!) and utterly WHampsteadtastic Jester Festival.

Those of you who have been following from the very beginning will know that the true world of Whimsy (from pop-up cake events at gigs, to 60th Birthday Baking Bonanzas, to baking cakes for Zombies, to cafe reviews across London, to Whimsy reviews State-side) originally came from the Jester Festival, and so this most special of events has a place closest to my heart and to make it to 5.0 felt quite the thing! Looking back on TSWCS five years ago versus TSWCS today, it's impossible to overlook the difference:

TSWCS 1.0 


I do love the original stall - I think it has a certain innocence about it - a naivety of 'I know, let's have a cake stall' that sums up the true essence of Whimsy, but I do also think that the stall as it is now is much better in terms of quality, quantity and inventiveness of the cakes themselves. (Although, if I recall correctly, I had also embroidered the most beautiful handkerchiefs for TSWCS 1.0 and money couldn't buy one of those now.)

Indeed, the difference is not just in the quantity of cakes, the styling of the stall and the ambition of it, but within me... It's hard to think five years can change one quite so significantly physically, but then the markers of time will out and - seeing as I have no intention of going all Dorian Gray - there is no escaping the shift five years can make.


Silver Whimsy in 2009

Whimsy in 2015

I mean, what was it Bowie said again about Five Years..?

Also, without intending to be morose and focusing on the ageing process, this five years malarkey does mean that 'coming to terms with the start of my fourth decade on planet Earth' ought strictly speaking be changed to 'coming to terms with the middle of my fourth decade on Planet Earth' but I can't really deal with that right now so I'll focus on the cakes instead.

AND on the celebration of Whimsy that was The Jester Festival 2015. Thrillingly, I made it onto the front page of the Stallholders section of the Jester Festival Website:

Whimsy on the Web! 
So there was already rather a lot of interest in TSWCS before we had even arrived. This year, it felt as if some of The People had actually come to seek us out, remembering the deliciousness of our cakes from previous years. This year, the wonderful Meg (whom many of you will remember from TSWCS 3.0) was also involved in Whimsy-antics which meant we were able to offer an even more diverse range of cakes than usual.

TeamWork at TSWCS 5.0 
Meg's Dorset Apple Cake and Oreo Brownies were sell-out products and the brownies were perfectly suited to the date of the stall - July 4th!

Oreo Brownies for the 4th July!

We capitalised on this through, what else, the medium of The Mini-Flag (tm) hand-crafted for hours the previous day by the long-suffering SIBF:

My SIBF does crafts.
Past experience has taught me that the residents of NW6 love a good meringue, so as well as the signature Hazelnut and Cinnamon meringues, this year we had Pistachio and Rose Water on offer as well. They were beautiful (if I do say so myself) and sold out quickly: 

NW6 Loves Meringues!

The traditional Whimsy teapot and flowers aesthetic was kept and the number of people, as per every year, trying to buy our cake displaying accessories was overwhelming. (Note to self: purchase more of the things you like and then sell them on to other people and you will break Whimsenomics and make a successful profit.) 

The Whimsthetic.

The cake I was proudest of this year had to be The Big Pink Flamingo Cake. If you would like to replicate this recipe at home, you need to follow a basic Victoria Sponge recipe (weigh four eggs and use their weight to measure out equal quantities of butter, sugar and self raising flour - cream the butter and sugar, beat in the eggs one at a time adding a tablespoon of flour if the mixture starts to curdle, beat in some vanilla bean extract, fold in the flour and then a punnet of raspberries and 80-100g of white chocolate chips - bake for around 25 mins in two springform circular tins, checking the cake before you take it out - a cake tester should come out clean and the top should be springy - the white choc plays with the timings slightly so be careful!) and then ice with raspberry buttercream with fresh raspberries rippled through and providing the pink colour - it's all entirely natural! 

If I'd been making this for a party at home, I'd have used fresh whipped cream inside with raspberries bursting through it instead. For an extra touch of Whimsy, I added popping pink candy as a sort of ribbon around the outside of the cake. 

Note the Popping Pink Candy around the outside of the cake.

It was amazing. I mean, clearly it is impossible not to want to consume a cake featuring pink-pop-out flamingos. 

The Big Pink Flamingo Cake

Over the years, people have gone to extraordinary lengths either to visit TSWCS or to help TSWCS. In the first year, there was Ryszard and his car who gave me a lift home with all the cakes, there were also the Fire Brigade who calmed me down when I was upset about the cat, then there was Steve who came all the way from Balham and helped me limp home, there was the man at Crystal palace who gave us a lift up the hill with one hundred cupcakes, Sally and Dave who came all the way from Oxford, Charlie and Sonja who trekked from Stoke Newington and THIS YEAR none other than the FSAF (Floral-Shirted-Actor-Friend) whom some of you will remember from this post walked for TWELVE MILES - yes, twelve whole Earth miles - to experience TSWCS in its purest form at The Jester Festival. The FSAF also agreed to posing for this photograph, which shows off the Traditional Whimsy Victoria Sponge to great effect: 
FSAF with Victoria Sponge

It also seemed fitting that friends from Club Kid Days (Nikki and David) appeared for a taste of Whimsy at our fifth Jester Festival, because my first ever post on this blog was entitled

From Club Kid to Domestic Cookie Baker in Three Decades

and, whilst the Maths is wrong, there is something beautifully cyclical about club-kid friends turning up at a cake stall five years later. (Or really six, but I missed a Jester Year so in my head it's five, hence TSWCS 5.0.)

So all in all TSWCS 5.0 was the best it has ever been. To all of you who asked for a card and were given a mini-flag featuring the address to this blog, Hello! And I can and will bake for you if you so wish.

Everything is baked with love.

And with glitter.

And with Whimsy.

There's going to be a blogging bonanza over the summer so keep reading, Dearest Readers, and remember: A slice of Whimsy a day keeps the demons at bay!

Love and glitter,
Silver Whimsy x

Not only does this feature the SIBF's amazing mini-bunting, but I actually made this Whimsy-themed cake stand!!!

Thursday, 2 July 2015

The Silver Whimsy Cake Stall at the Jester Festival 5.0!

Dearest Readers,

It's that time of the year... The Best Time of the Year, nay, The Best Day of the Year...

...It's time for The Silver Whimsy Cake Stall 5.0!

Here's a sneak preview of what's going to be on the menu on Saturday 4th July at The Jester Festival on Fortune Green in West Hampstead...

  • Hazelnut and Cinnamon Meringues
  • Dorset Apple Cake 
  • Raspberry Cream Dream Cake
  • Oreo Brownies for the 4th July! 
  • Cappuccino Cake 
  • Chocolate Tiffin 
  • Summer Fruit Cake 
  • Zingy Lemon Drizzle Loaf
  • Raspberry Cocktail Cupcakes 
  • Silver Whimsy's Victoria Sponge 
  • The SIBF's Favourite Cookies
We may well include some extra special surprises on the day so keep checking back to see what'll be on offer. Remember, when it's all gone, it's gone!! 

See y'all on Saturday!
Silver Whimsy x 

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

From Ruby Jewel to Ruby Violet - Tufnell Park's finest!

Dear Readers, 

I have found it! 

I have found a little corner of Portland in North London and it goes by the exquisite name of Ruby Violet... Ruby Violet is an ice cream parlour in Tufnell Park and it not only lives up to expectations, it exceeds them. 
If you haven't already been convinced by the above image featuring an exquisite example of this super-fine ice cream parlour's perfect signage, then allow the fact that at Ruby Violet you can count on the milk being organic, the eggs free range and the products as locally sourced as possible and it is impossible not to comprehend that this is quite simply the best ice cream parlour in London. 'Why,' you may well be asking yourself, 'has Silver Whimsy never been here before?' And if, indeed, you are asking this question the answer is simple: I have no idea. I have been asking myself the same question ever since the SIBF and I went earlier this week. 
Once inside the small parlour on Fortress Road, you are instantly made to feel at home by the delightful ice cream creator/server awaiting to acquaint you with the many flavours on hand. We were invited to taste the delicious, candyfloss light delicacies without needing to ask and we were given as much time as we needed to make our choice. And boy oh boy, did we need that time, because in spite of the fact that all of the flavours are bespoke and hand made in small batches, there are still rather a lot from which to choose!
The ice creams here are all made with natural ingredients, so the Kentish Town Honey ice cream has real honey running through it in mouth-watering golden ribbons and  the Mint Choc Chip (which was my final choice) is made with fresh mint from nearby. 
The thought and time that goes into the flavour combinations means that the ice creams are not too heavy. Rather, they are decidedly light and thoroughly English with a delicate flavour and a spun-sugar lightness that means you can leave the parlour after an afternoon treat without feeling too full for your tea!
The Parlour itself is light and welcoming with several super-cute details that bring yet another touch of Portland to NW3. There is a portrait of the original Ruby Jewel on the wall and a collection of magazines and fun books for you to look through as you enjoy your ice cream. Cutest of all is the fact that each ice cream is wrapped in its very own exquisitely illustrated ice cream napkin-square.
I lucked out with the Eiffel Tower, but the SIBF's Union Jack looked kinda cool wrapped around his perfectly pink Raspberry Ripple.
I thought the pastel colours of the mint green and baby pink looked utterly delightful next to each other and also genuinely reflect the delicate taste of these flavoursome and well balanced ice creams.
I was also sartorially pleased that my ice cream seemed to be an ideal colour accompaniment to my shirt. I may no longer have an American manicure, but if in doubt I can still match my ice cream colour to my top and shoes (see below).
So, Ruby Violet:
Should you go? 
Should you go even if you live in South London?
Is it really worth the visit? 
Will I be going again?
As soon as is possible.
Has Ruby Violet captured 'the life of Portland'?
Yes (and it didn't even need to put a bird on it to do so...although if Ruby Violet did start putting birds on their ice cream that might be even better).
(Sorry. Portlandia reference.)
Does it cater to the customer who enjoys a late night ice cream?
YES!! It is open til 10pm Tuesday to Sunday and til 7pm on a Monday!
I'm going to wait until it's super-cold to go again and therefore feel absolutely free to order 'The Hand Warmer' and a cup of coffee and try out the hot salted caramel sauce. 

Ice cream and melting hearts, 
Silver Whimsy x