Hot town, summer in the city, our displays are looking yummy and pretty…
With the change to sunnier and hotter weather, we introduced fresh strawberries on our cake menu. My favourite recipe is inspired by my friend Angela. They say chefs never get invites to dinner parties, but a few years back I was invited to a BBQ and Angela brought along her finest dessert: a layered sponge cake, topped with baked meringue and filled with strawberries and cream. To this day she hasn’t forgotten that I picked her up on the fact that it needed more cream, even though I thought it was a triumph encompassing everything that is gorgeous about British baking otherwise. She forgave me and was very happy to proffer her recipe. We have tweaked it since, but right now I feel we have finally reached ‘Strawberry Heaven’: a layer of almond based sponge topped with meringue is baked half way up in a tulip cup-case. Once cooled down, it is then filled with strawberries and whipped cream and spiked with more strawberries and a sprinkling of toasted almonds - it’s as soft as a cloud and all the flavours sing in harmony.
I have never seen London so alive and pretty too. It makes looking for new sites for the next Konditor & Cook store quite a delight. I’m astounded at the sheer volume of transformation taking place in town at the moment. It almost doesn’t seem to matter where you look, from the Kings Road via Victoria to Shoreditch, the capital is abuzz with small and large building projects - all of them humming along at such a rapid pace, it is mind-boggling! New retail spaces are being created within smart office and housing developments. Architects and city planners seem to take a lot more care over improving their surrounding environments, creating restful open spaces with seating and planting of mature trees to counter the metropolitan bustle.
A few years back the area around Piccadilly Circus was a pretty grimy spot. Along came the development of Glasshouse and adjoining Regent Street. A flagship Whole Foods Market store shows us how breads and cakes can be sold from self-service islands. Whole Foods has a maximalist approach to their display: everything is tiered and the rectangular bars and slices are stacked like circular brick turrets. Their team uses very strict, photo-led look-books that help them replenish and recreate their cake displays on a daily basis. At Konditor & Cook we use look-books for our seasonal changes, but during the year, I must admit, we have been known to slacken. Before you can blink an eye, the shops can get too busy with disposables, POS signs and packaging cluttering up space, before a single product has come into the frame. Look-books and design guides definitely rule in the competitive retail environment.
There is plenty for the eye to rest on in the über-cool corner café forming part of the famous Café Royal Hotel opposite. A baker will be drawn to the majestic Guglhupf and Bundt-shaped cakes adorning the windows, like exhibits in the British Museum. Once over the threshold, minimalism reigns supreme. You could describe it as a cake shop in a slick marble quarry, for the floor, walls and tables are all clad in the same golden-coloured Sienna marble, but really, when your “back of the neck is getting dirty and gritty” or your feet are hot from an intense shopping sojourn on Regent Street, it is a wonderfully calming space - celebrating the high art of Continental coffee houses and exquisite baking. At £8 for a serving of Café Royal’s signature Circle Noir Chocolate Torte, the prices match the surroundings.
Meanwhile, I invite our own customers to kick back and relax with a lovin’ spoonful of Strawberry Heaven at £2.95. In the summer, in the city, in the summer, in the city…*
(*with apologies to John Sebastian and Steve Boon of Lovin’ Spoonful)