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Mohandiseen, Cairo, Egypt.
Nola Cupcakes: Ramadan-Themed Sweet Treats
Once you reach the halfway point of Ramadan, you will very possibly become bored of traditional food and Eastern sweets. Following the trend that started with someone putting mangos into konafa, Nola Cupcakes has marked Ramadan 2014 with a series of specials.
Utilising traditional Ramadan ingredients like dates, konafa, basbousa and more, we opted for a Salted Caramel Date (12LE), Red Velvet Basbousa (13LE), Karkade (13LE), Konafa Nutella (13LE), Konafa Mango (13LE) and a Blueberry cupcake with Ramadan-themed frosting (14LE).
There's an immediate problem with Nola's; they are far too sweet and this is a recurring theme in almost all the cupcakes.
The Salted Caramel Dates cupcake was a relative success; the dates are mixed into the cake itself, which created a nice textural contrast, but the icing was just a little much. The Red Velvet Basbousa was even more intense, but the flavours just didn't add up leaving you with an excess amount of sugar. The Karkade was the least impressive and the taste of hibiscus was undetectable in both the icing and the cake.
The Konafa Nutella was the most surprising of all, because there wasn;t so much of a sugar onslaught. The konafa, however, lacked any crisp and tasted a little stale. The Konafa Mango suffered similar problems, in addition to tasting of burnt butter..
The last cupcake was a standard blueberry muffin, only with a mountain of icing in different Ramadan themed shapes – ours was a prayer mat and beads. Unless you're a serious fan of icing, you may find yourself sliding most of it off, only to reach an average cupcake with very few blueberry pieces.
Overall, this was probably not the best dessert we've had this year. It's probably not the best Nola have done either, but with the growing trend of westernising Oriental desserts, almost all confectionaries and bakeries are jumping on the bandwagon, and to that we say: stop. You can't even find a proper konafa with nuts or cream anymore!
Remember when Cairo was crazy for cupcakes? Nola was one of the first and main names behind the trend; but as with all trends, people can quickly get tired of them – something that has seen Nola introduce cheesecake, brownies, and cronuts to their menu over the years and this year, they’ve added even more
Nola’s newest items has seen the bakery introduce mini sandwiches, chocolate stones, truffles, cake pops, mini lava cakes and Belgian hot chocolate, though not everything was available when we paid the Mohandiseen branch a visit.
We started our way to out sugar coma with a Mini Chocolate Volcano Cake (27LE); a chocolate cake that’s cooked and served in a bowl, with a valley in the centre that’s filled with thick chocolate pudding, before it’s all dusted with cocoa powder. Despite the very basic, un-Nola presentation, the cake had a great spongy texture and handled the luscious melted chocolate pudding perfectly, while the cocoa powder reduced the overall sweetness to a nice balance.
We also tried the white chocolate version (28LE), but found that it wasn’t exactly what was promised. What should have been a white chocolate cake had no white chocolate flavour whatsoever, but the white chocolate shavings on top and the melted white chocolate pudding pool in the middle took care of that. Although it was overly sweet compared to the other one, there was a little bit more to the flavours and textural contrast.
For many, two cakes would be more than enough sugar intake for one day, but we also left the shop with a Chocolate Pop (9LE) and a Red Velvet Pop (8LE). Wrapped in a plastic cover with a mini bowtie, and served on a lollipop stick, the chocolate pop was moist chocolate cake with a fudgy texture, coated with chocolate shell. We enjoyed the flavours, but we’ve tried better in Cairo and there was nothing remarkable about it.
The red velvet pop had a different problem, though; the red velvet cake is coated in red velvet chocolate and had a very strong artificial flavour, which most likely came from the red chocolate shell or the red food colouring in the cake.
We also tried Nola’s hot chocolate (12.50LE) from the serve-yourself station and it’s possibly the best we’ve tried in a long time. Made with Belgian chocolate, it boasts bold flavour and a perfect thick consistency, too.
We’ve come to consider Nola as the maker of the cutest and most colourful cupcakes in town, but the new items don’t follow suit on that front. Luckily, the items we were able to try made up for it when it came to the most important thing flavour. The new items are fun, varied and ever so chocolaty.