Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Famous Frou Frou Fairy Cakes

In my last week in London I was determined to go Christmas shopping and check a few things off my "to do" list. This included seeing the Lego Christmas Tree at St. Pancreas station. This tree is 40 feet tall and made up of 600,000 bricks. So of course, I turned in my final portfolio, hopped on a red double-decker, and made my way to the station. The tree not only just blew my mind in sheer size and Lego skill, but made the little kid me squee with Christmas joy. Oh yes, it was Christmas now. Officially.

As I started off to finish my Christmas shopping though, I noticed a little bakery that I couldn't just pass by. It wasn't something extremely different or shouting out with bright colors, it was simple, with a claim to baking fame, and rows of boxed gift sets. Not only did the box sets give me an excuse to go in (under the guise of Christmas shopping) but they were quite clever sets of jams, cook books, and other British treats.

More importantly though was the selection of cupcakes in their window. I stood there staring at them for quite a while, which the woman at the counter didn't appreciate at all. She was rude. Straight up: Rude. I don't know how you can work surrounded by such beautiful food and manage it, but she was not even excited by the prospect that I couldn't decide from their selection of beautiful cupcakes. In fact, she was annoyed. Hmph.

Okay, now onto the important things. The bakery itself, which outweighed the rude woman in sheer selection of baked goodies, pies, and fresh smells, is Peyton and Byrne. And they are, according to their website, "Unashamedly British". Of course, it was a perfect stop for me on my last week in London. The cupcakes then are called "Fairy Cakes" in this British fashion and makes me even more inclined to buy them. I don't know what it is about Fairy Cakes, but it sounds cute and magical and I want to gobble it up. The selection added to my excitement. There was Lemon Meringue, Raspberry Surprise, Toffee and Banana, Black Forest, and Frou Frou. This is exactly why I stared at the selection so long and couldn't seem to decide. Truthfully, I should have just said "Give me the whole lot" and given into my temptations. Instead, as a conscious student, I got the Frou Frou, which is the cake that gave Peyton and Byrne their reputation.

This cupcake is a perfect way to get a reputation. The name Frou Frou is fun, flirty, and made me giggle as I wasn't sure if I was saying it right when I ordered it. The cake itself was soft, moist, and had beautiful tartness of the raspberries mixed with the yellow cake. The frosting was excellent. It was a bit thick, heavier, but with the crunch of the coconut flakes and the tartness of the raspberries in the cake it all gelled to this brilliant combination. I love coconut and the addition of the coconut flakes was great with the thick frosting and soft cake. It mixed up the texture to help give your taste buds something new alongside the fruity goodness.

Now if you're ever in St. Pancreas for even a moment, stop by Peyton and Byrne to give the Frou Frou or any of their other unashamedly British treats a try. I know I'm desperate to go back and try the Toffee and Banana. Whether it's a fairy cake or a cupcake, this is just good British baking.

- Mollie

Friday, December 16, 2011

*Candy Cakes: Cupcake Day*

Christmas is approaching and so is my trip back to the states. This has left me in a flurry of Christmas shopping and eating all the sweets I can get my hands on. Not only is this delicious for me, but fantastic for my friends and family. I wandered into Kingly Court while I was on a hunt for perfect Christmas gifts and discovered this beautiful sight. Not only is the covered courtyard a great idea for little boutiques and cafes, but the Christmas lights made me practically swoon in my steps. Not everyone appreciated it as they gave me strange looks.

What I especially loved was the small metal chairs throughout the center of the courtyard for a cafe nearby. But what were most of these people eating? Cupcakes. Oh yes. So when I saw Candy Cakes just beside a majority of the tables and chairs I knew I had to give it a try. I had only seen this shop in the Baker Street tube station before, so this new, quaint setting was much more appealing to pick over their selection of cupcakes, cakes, bars, and macaroons. These candy cakes are bright, fun, and took me forever to decide on what two flavors I'd have to take home with me. One ended up being a double chocolate, while the other was raspberry with yogurt. I had no clue exactly what these meant, due to their very simple descriptions, but the Christmasy marshmallows on top had me excited either way.

I surprised my friend Nicole with the cakes to devour while we watched a film later that night. She's as excited about Christmas as I am, so when we split them in half and dug in it was an exciting, jolly, Christmasy kind of time. First, let me say that these are some of the most aesthetically appealing cakes I've seen in London. I mean, they're bright, there are sprinkles, and there are these fun marshmallow decorations on top. Some of them have drawings in the icing instead of other candies, but either way they are a sweet lovers dream. And by sweet I mean like candy, sugar, bright, childlike pops of sugary-goodness. The frosting was especially delicious, but only if you love this sweetness like I do. Other people may feel like they're eating pure sugar or just candy put on top of a cupcake. That's kind of what it's like. Candy. Candy. Candy. Really though, their focus on the toppings is being fun, bright and creative. Their website has lots of pictures of the fun designs they do.

The cake itself though wasn't anything to write home about. Again, the focus is the sweet, candylike topping and less the softness or spectacular design to the baking of the cake. It was crumbly, especially the one with the raspberry and the yogurt. I wasn't sure why it said it had yogurt in it either, because I couldn't exactly see or taste it. Parts of the cake were softer than others and that made me suspect that was where the yogurt was, but it wasn't a huge taste factor and just led to a bit of inconsistency in the cake as a whole. The snowman was yummy though. The marshmallow was sweet and perfect, like a peep but a bit healthier and lighter so you weren't weighed down just by what was on top. The Double chocolate cake was much much better than the raspberry one. It had a creamy, melted chocolate mixed in with the cake that helped make up for the original crumbly and tough cake. This made it my favorite, by far. Chocolate is the go-to at places like these because it's a lot easier to work with than the berries and lighter cakes.

Overall, Candy Cakes wasn't bad. It wasn't the best thing I've had in London though. I'd suggest going to a smaller bakery or patisserie than this chain if you're looking for more gourmet cupcakes, but if you have a party you're planning or going to and need something fun, go for Candy Cakes - especially if they're for children. The playful decorations will win you major bonus points. Besides parties will give a little bit more slack on cupcake snobbery than other places.

I wish you all cupcakes and exciting thoughts of Christmas. Next time I write, I'm going to be back in the states and working on Christmas.

- Mollie

Friday, December 9, 2011

My First Mince Pie

There are 9 days left for me to eat my way through London, and it's all in a whirlwind of papers, Christmas shopping, and soaking up every bit of this wonderful city. This is my excuse for the lack of posts, but expect plenty as Christmas draws closer as I have photos and cooking projects galore.

The end of November was also a lot of work, including finishing my 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo. It was a fun nerve-wracking mess, which included a lot of self-motivation with cakes and goodies. That often meant trips to Sainsbury's for goodies, which led to buying Mince Pie due to my friend Nicole being sad that I had never had it. So we grabbed whipping cream, two kinds of pies, and ran to write and eat pies.

Let me preface this to say that I didn't know mince pie was not a meat pie until recently. I thought all the uniquely British pies were meat pies or similar to Mrs. Lovett's (except not with human, I hope). This is why I was particularly excited by the puffy pastry that greeted me in one of our packs. Although not the traditional Mince Pie, with it's crunchy and more pie-like exterior, I think this is my favorite. It was sweet, comforting, and melded perfectly with our home-made whipped creme. I love the flaky layers especially. When you cut through you get flakes of light buttery pastry and then inside is a rich, flavorful filling made of raisins and fruits and spices. I wish I knew exactly what was in the ones we had, since it appears they're all a bit different. The core idea is that it's fruity (with wintery fruits) and mixed with spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. It was Christmasy and wonderful. The smell is especially nice of the cinnamon and raisins all mixed together.

I also tried the more traditional mince pie, which you can get in all shapes and designs and has a much more traditional pie crust. It was still extremely delicious, but didn't have the same flake to it that I loved of the pastry crust. While still delicious mince inside, it had more of a crunch to it. While probably delicious and much more typical in the Christmas spirit, I have to admit I love buttery, flaky, pastry crusts above any crunchy pie crust you give me.

I'm extremely tempted to bring Mince back home to make mince pie, or at least bring some cheap boxes back. It was extremely Christmasy in tradition and made me ready for everything Christmas. Let me know your favorite traditional Christmas food and I'll start up a collection.

- Mollie