One of my absolute favorite parts of traveling is trying new types of chocolate. I just got back from the UK on Thursday and I wish I could say the majority of my souvenirs were not of the edible variety, but alas, I spent more on chocolate goodies than on anything else. In all fairness, this was my 5th visit to the UK and I’m not someone who wears t-shirts or sweatshirts very often nor am I someone who collects shot glasses or random tchotchkes of Stonehenge or Stratford or Edinburgh Castle…no matter how cool I may find the actual places.
Instead I spent my money on a few Harry Potter gifts for my children, magnets for my classroom whiteboard (I’m always in need of them) and chocolate. Lots of chocolate.
One of the coolest chocolate stops I made was at the Cake Shop in Oxford. When I set out to look for fun and unique chocolate treats in the UK, I was thinking more along the lines of candy bars, truffles and cookies. The idea of buying a cake never crossed my mind. That is until I saw the absolutely adorable cakes on display in the window of this shop. I knew I had to have one.
The shop, which is located inside The Oxford Covered Market, had about 100 small square cakes on display. Some of them were extremely elaborate like the ones in the picture at the top of this post. I really, really wanted to buy that octopus cake in my picture, but knew there was no way I would want to eat all that fondant. Fondant may be beautiful, but it is not tasty. Most of the truly gorgeous small cakes for sale were also English fruit cakes. Try as I might, I have never been able to develop a taste for fruitcake. My grandmother, who was a disaster in the kitchen at anything except desserts, made fruit cake every year. Every year I would try it and while others raved about how good it was, I couldn’t stomach it. So, despite really wanting one of those beautiful designs, I had to make another choice.
They had simpler sponge cakes that just had expressions like “It’s a boy!” or “Happy Birthday” on them. I didn’t want an occasion cake though. Luckily for me, there were also blank sponge cakes in chocolate and vanilla available for sale. There was also a whole shelf full of fondant decorations that could be added onto any cake. My choice was easy: a chocolate sponge cake with an adorable book (in green, my favorite color) and a sunflower. It might not have been the cutest cake they made, but it was one I thought I might actually like.
I didn’t get to eat the cake right away. We had some VERY long days on our tour of London and I actually didn’t get to eat the cake until the morning we left for home. Yes, that’s right, I ate the cake for breakfast. My students laughed at me, especially after I teased one for eating sushi for breakfast, but I didn’t care. It’s not the first time I’ve eaten cake for breakfast and it will not be the last I’m sure.
The cake itself was moist. It had a layer of chocolate cream on the inside that was rich and delicious. Since it was covered in fondant, it did take a bit away from the taste of itself. It was lovely to look at, but it was mostly just a bit of chewy tastelessness. Although when it was eaten with the cake, it was fine and actually tempered some of the sugaryness of the cake. Still, I ended up sort of picking the cake out from under the fondant and leaving a rather large chunk of fondant on the cake board. I ate the sunflower, but not the book. I wanted to, I really did, but instead I pawned it off on a student. Even she could only eat part of it.
I’m glad I took the chance on this little cake because it was a truly fun experience, but it was a bit pricey. My cake ended up costing about $12.50, which was definitely a fair price for the artistry that went into the cake, but since the artistry was all fondant, it’s not a price I would pay again.