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Maadi, Cairo, Egypt.
Nola: Cupcakes Slowly Taking Over Maadi
One thing is for sure, Nola Cupcakes are more than just graceful works of art. A family business run by Laila and Adel Sedky, they are definitely about great taste too. Recently opening their second branch in the leafy suburb of Maadi, they make a dainty addition to all the new dessert and bakeries popping up on Road 9.
The branding of the store is retro and sleek with a ubiquitous vivid turquoise appearing in the shop, packaging and bags. A decorative display of teacups and a large cake stand in the window entice you inside.
Entering Nola is like transforming into a child again. The fresh baked smells and colourful display arouse all your senses, and it's not humanly possible to contain your excitement. Ornate china plates adorn the wall and a dark wooden glass counter top extends the length of the shop, maybe inspired by the historic department store Fortnum and Mason in London.
The staff are smartly dressed in black uniforms complete with a trendy Nola hat. They are helpful and patient enough to point out all names and flavours and, if you’re lucky, offer you a free sample of their latest creation.
Lavishly iced cakes vary from the popular red velvet, cream cheese on a moist base, to cookie dough, which actually incorporates a whole cookie broken on top. Also, inventions like Nutella Twix, tiramisu and other cupcakes will keep you gawping. Prices range from 8.50LE to 13LE per cake and will come in stylishly ornate boxes, great for a gift.
Each cake is fluffy and light and has just the right amount of creamy topping or buttery icing. But we did find the icing on the cookie dough to be too sweet, instead preferring the creamy texture on the red velvet and the gooey fruity topping of the blueberry. For a treat, try the chocolate peanut butter flavour; a light sponge with a concoction of flavours guaranteed to tantalise your taste buds.
If you suffer from any allergies then try the allergen free selection. Nola also helps support the local causes by offering a line of cupcakes where 100% of the proceeds go directly to a chosen charity or project.
Nola is a boutique for cupcakes with the choice of free delivery if you’re feeling like a lazy Marie Antoinette. They are great to give as gifts and small enough to polish off yourself without over-indulging. But at the time of writing, the only thing lacking in the Maadi branch was seating; a must if you are to enjoy your dessert with a cup of tea.
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.