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Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt.
Cake Café: Design Your Own Cake in Zamalek
As recently as 2010, Tivoli Dome in Heliopolis was voted the world’s largest food court by the Guinness Book of Records. In case the good people at the Guinness Book of Records decide to update their rankings we hereby nominate the entire island of Zamalek. The list of venues opening is endless and most are in close proximity to each other. The most recent addition is Cake Café that opened up right next to the Gezirah Art Center and close to Beano’s.
Cake Café specializes in custom-made cakes, cupcakes (sigh), cookies and sandwiches. The venue is relatively small with three tables downstairs and a few upstairs. As soon as you walk in, beautifully designed cakes are displayed in glass cases. Brides-to-be will have a great time here because the cakes are all decked out with roses and other wedding-friendly decorations. There is also a whole section with cookies cut out in various shapes such as bears; they are quite expensive though at 20LE per piece.
Upstairs is fitted with a bookshelf carrying a variety of books that you can indulge in during your visit. A cappuccino will set you back 20LE, which is totally worth it because it might have been one of the best cappuccinos we’ve ever had in Cairo; the coffee was strong and the foam layer was thick (Cairo 360 tip: If you want to test the foam lay your spoon on it. If the spoon doesn’t sink then the foam passes the test)
The apple pie (24LE) we tried was a bit tasteless - it was missing the refreshing burst of sour apple and the crust was overpowering and very dry. The chocolate cake (26LE) looked amazing but the taste reminded us very much of a Betty Crocker readymade cake. Since this is the only cake we can bake ourselves, we’ve become experts in detecting its distinct taste and for 26LE we could have an entire one to ourselves instead of just one piece. The Cherry Crumb Bar (22LE) was a bit disappointing too. It looked delicious but once again it was very dry and though we could see the cherry filling we couldn’t detect its flavour.
Though the venue is small it does take the staff quite some time to deliver your order. They are very friendly though. The crowd during the day seems to generally be made up of elderly ladies and mothers with children. Though it is a nice place for a cup of coffee and a piece of cake, Cake Café needs some work; especially when it comes to their recipes.
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.