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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.
While bakeries and confectionaries may not be in short supply around Cairo, the execution of items like donuts, croissants and other assorted goodies is generally questionable. If you were to consider your options for a good donut right now, chances are you can only name a couple of venues because, unfortunately, the donut isn’t the most popular of sweets here.
There’s not really much to a donut; you either have dough and icing, dough and a stuffing, or dough and glazing. That’s pretty much it.
With such a big selection of donuts, cakes, rolls, cookies, brownies and muffins, we were honestly surprised when Big Bites emerged on Road 233 out of nowhere. Sporting a modestly-sized venue with a bright yellow colour scheme, a couple of wooden chairs and tables, and the display of goodies, the server will greet you as you step through the glass door, and pleasantly explain the flavours they have on offer.
We opted for three stuffed donuts; a Blueberry and Cream Cheese (13LE), Apple and Cinnamon (13LE) and Strawberry Jam (13LE), as well as a Walnuts Brownie (12LE), a Cinnamon Roll (20LE) and a regular donut with White Chocolate and Caramel (10LE).
Let's start of with the good; the Walnuts Brownie was quite tasty and surprisingly large, while the walnuts weren’t overpowering and created a good flavour mix with the chocolate. Unfortunately, however, the donuts were the biggest let down; while the stuffing was tasty all around, the dough itself tasted nothing like donuts, but instead closer to cake - and not fresh cake at that. But that wasn't even the biggest problem; a bigger issue was how sweet the whole thing was. By our third bite, all we could taste was sugar.
The Cinnamon Roll, smothered in an obscure icing that neither tasted like cinnamon, nor complimented the cinnamon powder, had the same dough as the donuts, leaving the overall experience rather unfortunate.
Maybe it was an off-night, maybe the goodies were indeed stale, but whatever the case, everything we ordered was so sweet it rendered our taste buds obsolete.