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Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt.
Soufflé: Zamalek Sweet Spot
A good neighbour is always available to lend you a cup of sugar. On the island of Zamalek, sweet shop Soufflé knows what being a good neighbour is all about.
While some sweet shops specialise in oriental treats, ice cream or chocolate cake; Soufflé has it all. The large shop is packed with several coolers, a central counter and shelf-lined walls all loaded with sugary delights.
One section of baskets is brimming with bite-sized goodies of both the oriental and western persuasion. Tiny, crunchy tartlets filled with cashews, little chocolate-covered sandwich cookies and petite shortbreads with gooey apricot centres are just a few of the mini-treats in this section. Sold by weight, you can mix a bunch of your favourites for a tasty and colourful cookie platter at 70LE per kilo. For bite-sized savoury snacks, take a peek behind the gateau counter, where a slew of breadsticks and crackers in varying shapes with seeded toppings go for 26LE to 30LE per kilo.
The centre of the shop is devoted to a high counter, where traditional oriental sweets are on display. Soufflé’s selection includes traditional basbousa for 30LE per kilo– expect to pay more for the crunchy nut toppings– and konafa stuffed with pistachio for 140LE.
A refrigerated display of Soufflé’s cakes and tarts showcases the shop’s gourmet side. A number of beautifully designed cakes are available, including one covered with glistening peaches (120LE). Even better is the counter just next to this cooler, where chic single servings of a variety of cakes and tarts are sold.
One in particular features a double layered crunchy crust beneath a decadently rich layer of thick chocolate mousse which is topped with a combed design of dark and milk chocolate sauce. Another delightful option had a spongy white cake base topped with mounds of pastry cream and finished with pineapple, peach and kiwi. The sweetest part about these desserts is the price. At 9LE per piece, these gourmet treats are as nice on your wallet as they are on your tongue.Soufflé delivers to the Zamalek, Mohandiseen and Dokki neighbourhoods, and although they don’t cater; they do have a nice selection of dyed, fruit-shaped marzipan and lots of chocolates and candies in elegant wrappers that would make excellent favours for a party or a wedding.
And while there isn’t a single soufflé to be found in the store, their selection is so sweet that we barely notice the misdirection.
Bakeries are in no short supply around Cairo and while roaming the streets of Heliopolis, we came across a city favourite - Dukes. With its slick black and white facade and reputation for delicious dirt cakes, it was time to drop in and see how the years have treated this venue.
Upon entry, we found a large glass display of colourful selection of gateaux, dirt cakes, tarts, macaroons and giant cupcakes. Additionally, Dukes also serves soups, salads, sandwiches, vegetable casseroles, pasta and main courses, alongside bread, mini pizzas and other baked goodies.
After much contemplation, we opted for the Black Forest Gateaux (15LE), Chocolate Dirt Cake (25LE), Charlotte Gateaux (15LE), and a Mini Smoked Salmon Cake (12LE). The only table at the venue was occupied, so we took our orders to go.
The Mini Smoked Salmon Cakes were pretty simple and was layered in thin white bread with salmon paste in between, and covered entirely with smoked salmon slices. While the portion was tiny in comparison to its price, the fresh salmon and surprisingly flavourful salmon paste wa quite a treat.
The Black Forest, a rectangular cake with multiple layers of chocolate topped with whipped cream, had a satisfying amount of chocolate, but the excessive cream overpowered everything and made things quite messy. We recommend the Chocolate Dirt Cake to true chocoholics instead. The combination of moist chocolate and thin layered cake was the highlight; we only wish the decorative flowers on top were edible as well.
The Charlotte Chateaux, meanwhile, was a fruity masterpiece, consisting of a creamy cheesecake filling, topped with slices of strawberries, and engulfed in a pink sugar icing that holds it all together. The flavours complement each other perfectly into a delicious piece of gateaux.
Unable to try anything else in fear of a sugar coma, we stopped there. Dukes is definitely one of the top patisseries in town thanks to its huge andcreative menu; it’s a shame there isn’t any space to enjoy the food there, though.