Charlotte Liu rounds up an afternoon of cake tasting with UCLU Baking Society.
London’s streets are lined with great bakeries and patisseries from all around the world. Unfortunately, student life often gets in the way of exploring these places. Last weekend, the UCLU Baking Society decided to treat their members to an afternoon of eating their way through four of Soho’s cake shops.
My group started off with the Nordic Bakery at Golden Square. I’d always been lured by their display of pastries through the floor-to-ceiling glass windows, and at last it was time to have a taste. It was a delight to step in and be greeted by the beautiful wood-decorated interior and scent of fresh bakes. We were fortunate enough to have a batch of their famous Finnish cinnamon buns (£2.80 each) emerge straight from the oven, and these were unanimously declared the best bake. Also top of the list was the classic Swedish Tosca cake (£3.20/ slice), a soft sponge with caramelised almonds that somehow managed to be fluffy, crunchy, and gooey all at once. We tried the lingonberry buns too, though they were slightly on the dry side and could have done with a more generous dollop of jam.
Next was Maison Bertaux on Greek Street, which prides itself on being “London’s oldest (and best) patisserie”. Established in 1871, the bakery lasted both world wars and still serves freshly baked traditional French pastries (£4.50 each) in a quaint café. The Gateau Saint-Honore received our praise for its airy and crispy choux pastry topped with whipped cream and fresh fruits. The best compliments, however, went to the chocolate mousse cake. Although it looked dense and rich, it turned out to be ethereally light and smooth, melting as soon as it touched the tongue. Every bite was relished and the cake was polished off far too quickly for my liking.
Our third stop was Cutter & Squidge. Their newly opened shop is thoughtfully designed with adorable décor and furniture that transports you to a land of tea parties and picnics. The sisters behind the bakery found fame with their signature Biskies (£3.90/ small), which combine elements of a biscuit, cookie, and cake in a single sandwiched dessert. They also have Dream Cakes (£4.90/ slice) of an impressive height and sense of grandeur. The Thanksgiving special, an Autumn Spice cake full of beautiful cinnamon and nutmeg notes, is slathered with a rich cream cheese frosting – an ideal treat for hiding from the gales outside. We went for their OMG It’s Green cake as well, which matches silky matcha and raspberry buttercream on layers of vanilla sponge. Cutter & Squidge have certainly got their flavour pairings on point, and I will have to be back to try the Biskies.
Finally, we headed to Yauatcha, a contemporary restaurant that combines Chinese dim sum with European pastries in a stylish dining setting. They have a breathtaking window display of Italian macarons (£1.80 each), and boast exquisitely crafted pastries (£5.90 each) that seem more like works of art. After much deliberation, we finally settled on an apple vanilla tart and jasmine honey cake. The tangy apple, satiny vanilla cream, and crunchy choux crumble played off each other, and it was a welcome palate cleanser from the afternoon of cake tasting. The floral tones of the jasmine mousse also went well with the sweet honey and came with a textural surprise from popping candy hidden inside. Yauatcha’s delicate creations were certainly the best way to finish off the cake crawl.
My favourite cake stop of the day was definitely Yauatcha, which delivered on both style and taste. However, bearing student budgets in mind, I would recommend and personally go back to the Nordic Bakery. There, I know I will find fresh and hearty bakes and a peaceful coffee stop for a breather in the middle of London’s bustling city life.
Featured image credit: Janice Fung