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