I spent a lot more time exploring Ginza on this trip, and I’m glad I did, because in the basement of the Mitsukoshi department store I discovered the new Tokyo branch of New York’s Dominique Ansel Bakery. I arrived late in the day so there were no cronuts left, but I did snare this little guy – a strawberry and sake daruma cake (¥756), which was so Japanese I couldn’t resist. The cake was a reasonable size, and (being in Japan) packaged carefully to avoid any damage while being transported (no dine-in at this location). The daruma is traditionally designed to help with wishes – one eye is filled in when you make the wish, the other once it is fulfilled. Luckily I could just eat both. They were white chocolate discs, and a perfect start to the flavour festival of this cake. The majority of the inside is made up of a strawberry gel, plus sake lees and lime zest mousse, which was creamy, tangy and with a subtle sake flavour. The textures were soft and springy, and when I wanted something firmer, I could slice into the almond financier cake at the bottom for balance. Yum, yum, yum.
Dominique Ansel Bakery, Mitsukoshi, B2F, 4-6-16, Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo, http://dominiqueanseljapan.com/en
Thanks so much for following along this year, I really appreciate each of your comments and likes – stay tuned for more adventures in 2017! Kinokuniya is an awesome bookshop, made even more awesome by the presence of Black Star Pastry’s little dine-in cafe. We waited a while for a table to become free, then ordered a serve of the raspberry and lychee cake, which I hadn’t seen before, to eat-in. The glazed fresh raspberries and lychee on top looked so good dusted in edible rose petals – it was calling to me, what can I say? I had no regrets – this baby is as tasty as it looks. The cake is made up of layers of raspberry marshmellow and vanilla cream, and – surprise! – there’s a rich chocolate biscuit base that anchors the cake literally, and pulls the light, sweet flavours together too. It’s quite a sweet cake, although the raspberries give a nice tartness, and the light, fluffy cream layers are particularly lovely. Mum got the lemon and pistachio zen cake, with lemon curd and pistachio dacquoise, which was also refreshing and scrumptious. You basically can’t go wrong here.
Black Star Pastry, Books Kinokuniya, The Galeries Level 2, 500 George St Sydney, NSW, http://www.blackstarpastry.com.au/
Family friends of mine have recently moved to Canberra, and invited Dad and I over for dinner in their new digs. When we were asked to bring dessert, there was really only one option. Stopping in at Space Kitchen, we picked up The Magical Mushroom giant cake!!! It had the desired ‘wow’ effect, and we got stuck in after dinner, finding it a bit tricky to cut (but really, who cares when it tastes so good?). With a vanilla panacotta stem, a rhubarb mousse and chocolate hazelnut cap, this cake follows the Space/Ricardo’s tradition of ‘soft’ cakes made without traditional batter at all. The rhubarb flavour in the creamy, rich chocolate cap is subtle, and the cake coated in a thin mousse layer of red and dotted with white chocolate disks as the toadstool spots. The pannacotta was also beautifully textured and flavoured, with the vanilla well-balanced so as not to be overpowering. But the highlight was definitely the pistachio grass – beautifully crunchy, it brought together the mix of flavours from the rest of the cake for that perfect mouthful with a bit of everything. A perfect ‘welcome to Canberra’ celebration!
Space Kitchen, Skypark, corner of Furzer and Worgan Streets, Phillip ACT, http://space-kitchen.com.au/
Autolyse is such a lovely spot for cake, especially when the sun is out. A friend of mine was down from Sydney and we stopped by for a late afternoon catch up, snagging a table outside. I grabbed a small ‘Happy’ juice ($5) from the fridge and (for once) chose the decadent option of salted caramel tart ($6.50) instead of the fruit tart. I have no regrets. The juice, with apple, pineapple, ginger and mint, was lovely and refreshing. The small jar was a good size, although I do love the pretty large jars with their Autolyse labels (next time). The salted caramel tart was beautifully presented, with tempered chocolate curls on top and a dash of edible silver glitter on the diagonal. The tart shell was a chocolate pastry, which was just the right consistency – not too firm, not too crumbly, just perfect. Within was the silkiest, smoothest layer of caramel and chocolate ganache. Seriously, each mouthful was pure luxury texture-wise. Thankfully, Autolyse has found the right balance with the salt, so it doesn’t punch you in the mouth, but does enhance the caramel flavour. The chocolate curls melted on the tongue, and the whole chocolate flavour was complex and rich without being sickly sweet. Yum, yum, yum!
Autolyse, 21 Lonsdale Street, Braddon ACT, http://autolyse.com.au/
Generally eclairs aren’t the first sweet I’ll go for in a French patisserie – not when there are pain au chocolate or macarons – but on this occasion I set out to buy eclairs, so buy eclairs I did. The selection here is impressive to say the least – it took the cashier a serious couple of minutes to rattle off all of the flavours – but eventually I settled on panut butter, crunchy hazelnut, mixed berry and fruits of the forest (in descending order from the top of the photo). The peanut butter was the least impressive, tasting far more of peanuts than the rich peanut butter flavour, but the texture of both the choux pastry and the cream inside were delightful. The hazelnut flavour fared better, with a great amount of crunch from the nuts on top and a perfectly smooth, rich cream inside. The mixed berry brought the cream into its own – such flavour! The fresh berries were plentiful and well-matched to the simple cream. But the star of the show was the fuits of the forest, which had a flavoured cream inside and shone; both literally, as it was sprinkled with glitter, and flavour-wise. If you haven’t already, definitely make a stop here. I’m an eclair convert now.
Croquembouche Patisserie, 1635 Botany Road, Banksmeadow NSW, http://croquembouche.com.au/
#sydneyweek ends with a bang! I’m heading off on holidays so the blog will be quiet for a couple of weeks. Keep in touch with my travels on Instagram – see you in September! So, when cake is dusted in gold, there’s really no way I can resist it. The Royal Cake at the gorgeous Grounds of Alexandria called to me through the cake display (which is saying something, as everything in there looks fabulous). The layers in this hazelnut dacquoise were simple but perfectly executed – the majority was milk chocolate mousse, which had the Goldilocks just-right balance of weight – not too light, not too heavy. The mousse clung to my fork and dissolved sinfully on the tongue without being sickly or too rich. Hazelnut and milk chocolate are a match made in heaven, and this was no exception. The hazelnut layers had a bit of crunch but a lot of flavour, lifting the mousse to the next level. The bottom layer was an almond crunch – this layer brought the textural balance, and reminded me of a Ferrero Rocher. The best mouthfuls had a bite of the fresh raspberry wedges on top – the tartness of the fruit cut through the chocolately richness and got my taste buds going. I couldn’t imagine more perfect surroundings to enjoy this delight in either. Definitely suited for royalty – I could get used to this!
The Grounds of Alexandria, 2 Huntley Street, Alexandria NSW, http://groundsroasters.com/
Petal Met Sugar isn’t the kind of place you can just order one thing from. I mean, look at their delicate, elegant sweets! So we ordered two cakes to share – the Vanilla and Rhubarb Eclair ($7) and the Salted Caramel ($6). The Eclair had a strip of dried rhubarb laid on top of a thin layer of sweet icing, but when you bit into the the soft, springy choux pastry, there was the lovely discovery of vanilla creme patissere. This paired delightfully with the sweet rhubarb jam also hidden inside – the flavours were subtle and sophisticated together. Next was the Salted Caramel, which was visually stunning – encased in a tart shell and topped with edible flowers, caramelised popcorn and gold sea salt (seriously, wow!). True caramel fans rejoice! This dessert takes your caramel just to the point of toasted bitterness that requires real skill – surely a moment longer and it would have been burnt. The result is a really rich flavour that has far more complexity than something less-cooked, and I found the balance of the salt just right for my taste. The popcorn added a fun textural contrast too. My conclusion? Everything here is pretty much perfect.
Petal Met Sugar, 68 Sir John Young Crescent, Woolloomooloo, NSW, http://www.petalmetsugar.com.au/
All good things must come to an end – here’s the last post in what has been a fun #sweetweek. Sadly, Zumbo has closed his Rozelle store, but luckily the tiny outlet at Balmain remains open. We stopped by and tried one of the newer additions to the dessert selection – the Hazelnut Forest, with a hazelnut dacquoise, hazelnut crunch, cherry jam, milk curd, hazelnut mousse and hazelnut spray. Phew. That’s a lot of hazelnut. Firstly, I loved the presentation of this one – something about the sprigs on top reminded me of coral. The fresh hazelnuts and dollops of cherry on top were delightful, as the entree into the perfectly soft hazelnut mousse that surrounds the cake within. For me, this dessert was just like a lighter version of a black forest cake, without the chocolate but with the delicious cherry flavour inside. There’s a lot of mousse surrounding the smaller dacquoise, crunch and jam inside, which was definitely the best bit. I enjoyed the textural contrast here, from the soft mousse to the thick jam to the crunchy base. Mmm. I was surprised at how the lovely tartness of the cherry matched the nutty hazelnut, but also how light the whole dessert was. Highly recommended.
Adriano Zumbo Patisserie, 296 Darling Street, Balmain, NSW, https://adrianozumbo.com/
#sweetweek continues with this grand adventure! When my best friend decided she was going to surprise her husband with goldfish for his birthday, she and I set out at lunchtime to pick up the fish, so they could be waiting for him when he got home from work. Yes, she’s a mastermind (that’s why she’s my best friend). Anyway, this plot took us very close to the elusive Flute (only open on weekdays), so we couldn’t resist the chance to pop in. I picked a cake I haven’t seen there before – Apple Strudel cake. Um, yes. The ‘apple’ was a dome of vanilla mousse/cream, glazed in apple-flavoured sweetness, sitting atop a cake that had all of the beautiful apple strudel flavours I feel in love with in Austria. The top was decorated with a spiced crumble, which was lovely and rich, with pieces of (poached?) apple layered inside. I was actually surprised by the subtlety of the whole cake, which probably could have had slightly bolder flavours for my taste, but everything was perfectly executed, as usual (and, incidently, like my friend’s birthday gift plan. I told you, mastermind).
The Flute, 8 Barrier Street, Fyshwick ACT, http://www.theflutebakery.com.au/
I’ve been eating a lot of sweets lately, so I declare this to be #sweetweek, starting with a flashback to my favourite cake shop ever. Ah, Cafe Comme Ca. The lovely Shinjuku store with its fun lighting, creative wall art and immaculate display cabinet was our first dessert stop in Tokyo (of course!). We were seated in the back corner which has a great view of the cake decoration space (so much fruit being styled into perfect shapes!) and the wait staff bench where the delicate cocoa shapes are dusted onto the plates – the secret is a stencil, if you hadn’t guessed already. I adore their fruity cakes, so picked one with raspberry, strawberry and mango on a flaky pastry base. All of the cakes here are beautifully creamy and this was no exception. The vibrant flavour of the strawberries and raspberries matched the bold tropical mango perfectly. I also tried their seasonal iced tea – black tea with apple. It came out in a large glass with plenty of ice and was really refreshing. I like black iced teas that aren’t too bitter and this was just lovely. I can’t recommend Cafe Comme Ca highly enough – guaranteed to satisfy your inner foodie, design junkie and fruit artist (because here, that’s a thing).
Cafe Comme Ca, 5F Comme Ca Store, 3-26-6 Shinjuku-ku, Shinjuku Tokyo http://www.cafe-commeca.co.jp/ (Japanese only)