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Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt.
Pumpkin: Searching for the Perfect Chocolate Cake in Zamalek
Located on Taha Hussein Street, Pumpkin is a closet of a sweet shop. With no seating available behind the awkwardly heavy sliding door of the bakery, takeaway is the customers’ only option. We weren’t too bothered by this fact however, especially given that the bickering between the manager and staff member made for an uncomfortable atmosphere.
Excitedly, we placed an order for a triple layered chocolate cake (15LE), topped with chocolate shavings. Suggesting that the cake be served warm, the staff advised us to heat it in the microwave for two minutes, which seems an excessive amount of time. As this wouldn’t be an option, we decided to sample some of Pumpkin’s other offerings as well, all of which sell at a price of between 13LE and 16LE per slice.
Perhaps most famous for their cheesecakes, Pumpkin offers a variety of the sweet and savoury treat. Opting for a slice of caramel cheesecake we were disappointed to find that the cakes base was thick and crumbly, not the thin, crunchy layer that should hold the cheesecake. The caramel was sweet, yet grainy, and overpowered what was ultimately a thin layer of albeit well-executed cheesecake.
The black forest tart came on staff recommendation and fared better. A chocolate cookie base held layers of white chocolate cream and whipped cream, topped with bits of candy bars and marinated cherry. In spite of the tart’s many sugary additions, it proved to be a balanced dessert. The pumpkin meringue tart, was equally satisfying. Chunky pumpkin preserves under peaks of toasted meringue made for an excellent autumn treat, even if the meringue was a bit too soft.
Unfortunately our chocolate cake did not stand up to our expectations. Rather than the rich, moist layers of cake between creamy frosting we were hoping for, the cake was hard and dry; as though it had sat in the cooler a few days too long - something that a microwave wouldn’t have been able to fix.
The portion is generous however, but Pumpkin does a disservice by cramming it into a takeaway container too small for the height of the cake - proving that this is yet another Cairo bakery that, for all its merit, doesn’t give chocolate cake the credit it deserves.
With Brew & Chew satisfying the cravings of Maadi residents, and Dip n Dip spreading their fantastic desserts in New Cairo, Nasr City and 6 of October City, the sweet-toothed of Zamalek can be forgiven for feeling a little neglected – that is until now. Chocolate by name, chocolaty by nature, Joe’s Chocolate Bar on Taha Hussein Street could be the answer to every chocaholic’s dreams.
As a venue, Joe’s Chocolate Bar is divided into two floors; the top floor has nothing remarkable about it but allows smoking, while the ground floor is where the ‘chocolate is. Besides the melted chocolate-like decoration on the wall (which is installed upside down, so instead looks like chocolate waves) the calm lighting and wood walls create a relaxing and cosy ambiance to the place.
The items on the menu are limited and nothing grabbed our attention, but we opted for the Molten Chocolate Cake (47LE), Triple Chocolate Crepe (41LE) and their new special item – as the waiter was so keen to mention – Oreo Waffle (49LE).
The molten chocolate cake had a bold chocolate flavour and a very moist texture; the gooey centre had a fantastic pudding-like consistency, which shows that it was cooked to perfection and, overall, the dessert had a spot-on sweetness. On the other hand, we would have preferred that the ice cream was served separately, because the hot temperature of cake melted it quickly and made the top of the cake rather soggy.
The triple chocolate crepe was just as good, meanwhile; coming as three thin, light and fluffy triangular servings, each one was filled with a generous amount of melted milk chocolate, and drizzled with white, milk, and dark chocolate. We also asked for fruit (10LE) on the side which consists of mini cubes of kiwi, bananas, and strawberries, and it was surprisingly fresh even though it’s not strawberry season yet.
As for the Oreo waffle, we expected nothing more than a waffle with crushed Oreo on top, but, impressively, the waffle itself had an actual layer of Oreo in the middle. Despite the waffles needing a little more milk chocolate on top and being a bit chewy, they were largely soft with a slightly crispy exterior, and the flavour of the Oreo popped in every single bite.
Joe’s Chocolate Bar definitely impressed with their well-executed desserts and big flavours, but we felt that the variety on the menu is too safe and a bit limited for a dessert specialist. We’d very happily come back for the molten chocolate cake, though.