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Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt.
Nola: More Cupcakes in Cairo, Hurrah!
Here’s yet another reason why living in Zamalek is awesome if you have a sweet tooth! Located on the always busy Brazil Street just off of 26th of July Street is Nola, a quaint and elegant little cupcake shop with charming decor and sweet desserts. Though it’s definitely not the first pastry shop in Zamalek to sell cupcakes (you’ve got Loolie’s and Sugar N Spice in walking distance), it is the first to devote itself entirely and completely to cupcakes.
At the time of this reviewer’s visit, the cupcakes are sold in two sizes, a tiny bite-size and a large size, which– quite honestly– is not as large as we had hoped it would be. The cupcakes are arranged in a glass display shelf on one side of the shop, while the other side holds a chalkboard with the menu list written out in coloured chalk. Nola’s interior is painted in Robin’s Egg blue with elegant floor tiles, white chandeliers and two white high-top tables in the centre for you to wait at while your order is being prepared.
The upper level is completely devoted to the in-house oven and baking section, where a new batch of cupcakes is consistently being baked. So, if they’ve run out of your favourite flavour; be sure to ask when their next batch will be ready: it could be a matter of minutes.
At the time of this reviewer’s visit; the following cupcake flavours were available: chocolate, peanut butter, blueberry, apple, vanilla, carrot, coconut, red velvet and lemon meringue. Prices range from 8.50LE for the vanilla cupcake all the way up to 12LE for the quite extravagant chocolate cupcake.
The cupcakes are all so prettily arranged and decorated; you almost feel bad taking your first bite. Biting into the little treat, you’ll find that the cake’s texture is lovely and chewy with just the right consistency of fluffiness. In some cases such as the vanilla (8.50LE) and carrot cupcakes (11LE), the icing is just a little too creamy; as we prefer ours to be thick and heavy.
Some flavours are also a little too vague; it was difficult to figure out if our cupcake sample was carrot or banana, especially since the cake itself tasted more like banana cake and the icing had too much butter. The lemon meringue (11LE) and coconut cupcakes (9LE) brought interesting twists to the traditional flavours, but while they were sweet and pretty; they were nothing special to write home about.
The red velvet (10.50LE) is decorated with a picturesque, fluffy cake texture, though its cream cheese icing overpowers the cake’s flavour. The chocolate cupcake (12LE) has a rich, creamy chocolate icing that complements the rich chocolate cake.
All in all, the cupcakes at Nola are sweet, pretty and daintily decorated: they’re the perfect gift to bring to a ladies’ afternoon tea or an elegant birthday party. Their moderate sizes and so-so flavours stop them from becoming our all-time favourite desserts in Cairo; but since this is only the shop’s opening week, we see great potential in Nola’s future.
With an abundance of cake shops, bakeries and cafés in Cairo, we really are spoilt for choice. Carousel has managed to bring the sugary craze all the way to Heliopolis, opening up on El Horreya Street, close to one of our favourite tea-time destinations, Dukes.
In adopting gimmicks, dining venues in the city come in all shapes and sizes, but at first glance, Carousel has managed to distinguish itself with bright lights, vibrant colours and wonderful window displays of imaginative cakes.
Fun, custom-made cakes can be made in two-three days; you can either present your own design or choose one of the one's previously made. At the time of our visit, a pastel pink and white three-tier cake sat proudly in the window, topped with a tiara – perfect for every little princess.
Several brightly-coloured tables display their offerings of various chocolate cookies (10LE), brownies (10LE) and a multitude of cupcakes (15LE), whilst a large refrigerator chills eight-serving cakes (130LE), cheesecake (170LE), éclair buns (10LE), chocolate volcano cakes (20LE) and small boxes of truffles, complete with sugary sprinkles (20LE).
Watching us torn between all the different choices, the friendly shop assistant supplied us with a truffle to try. Although they were textured more like cake pops than truffles as we know them, they were absolutely delicious; cold, sticky and chocolatey with a hint of almond flavouring. However, we went on to choose a couple of cupcakes, a Twix brownie, and an M&M cookie.
Amongst the chocolate, strawberry cream, peanut butter and coffee cupcakes, we noticed the practically mandatory Oreo cupcake alongside a white chocolate one. Considering we arrived late in the day, the sponge of both cupcakes tasted surprisingly fresh, whilst the creamy toppings were fluffy and sweet. Unfortunately, the Oreo taste was a little too subtle, leaving the creation a little bland. The same applied to the white chocolate cupcake; the creamy topping tasted more like fresh cream than white chocolate, but was delectable nonetheless.
Twix fans, unfortunately, maw well be disappointed with the Twix brownie; no caramel was detected whatsoever, but the bulk of the giant slice was a thick, sticky chocolate fudge cake, sitting on top of a thin, crunchy biscuit base. The M&M cookie fared the best, with crunchy biscuit sides, a gooey middle and plenty of M&Ms. Overall, had we not felt ever so slightly misled with some of the offerings, we would have little to complain about.
It's very early days for Carousel but should the quality remain high, and the prices stay reasonable, it certainly has the potential to compete with existing cake giants to become a must-have dinner party accessory – particularly as their take-away boxes are so pretty.