2014 Awards – Best Cake

Hart's Bakery, in one of the arches under the Approach Road to Bristol Temple Meads StationWelcome to the final 2014 Coffee Spot Awards shortlist of the day, the “Best Cake” Award, won in 2013 by Hart’s Bakery. Despite what it says on the tag line, the Coffee Spot’s not all about the coffee. After all, what would a cup of coffee be without a decent slice of cake to go with it? So, cake plays a major part in the Coffee Spot and this Award celebrates the Coffee Spots which excel in the cake department.

This is another of my favourite Awards and while I didn’t visit that many dedicate cake spots, I was nonetheless treated to some absolutely fantastic cake along the way, proving that, like good coffee, the more you look, the more good cake you find.

You can see the shortlist after the gallery.

  • The spread of cakes on offer at the Natural Bread Company, Oxford
  • Boston's Render Coffee serves these wonderful Icelandic cinnamon rolls called Hekla.
  • I had this amazing almond tart at Plenty in Rittenhouse, Philadelphia.
  • The unlikely sounding, but lovely sweet potato and mixed berry cake from Washington Tea.
  • A St Joseph's Cake from Caffe Roma in New York's Little Italy. A year's calories in one cake!
  • Not cake, but ice cream, from Philadelphia's Franklin Fountain.
  • There might be a cake or two at the Faringdon branch of Bea's of Bloomsbury.
  • A bite-sized Vanilla and Strawberry Friand from The Wren in London.
  • The Tea House Theatre in Vauxhall, where you get to share your table with the cakes.
  • A truly excellent banana and walnut cake at Artisan Roast in Glasgow.
  • An awesome Nutella muffin from Dose, Dealer de Cafe in Paris.
The spread of cakes on offer at the Natural Bread Company, Oxford1 Boston's Render Coffee serves these wonderful Icelandic cinnamon rolls called Hekla.2 I had this amazing almond tart at Plenty in Rittenhouse, Philadelphia.3 The unlikely sounding, but lovely sweet potato and mixed berry cake from Washington Tea.4 A St Joseph's Cake from Caffe Roma in New York's Little Italy. A year's calories in one cake!5 Not cake, but ice cream, from Philadelphia's Franklin Fountain.6 There might be a cake or two at the Faringdon branch of Bea's of Bloomsbury.7 A bite-sized Vanilla and Strawberry Friand from The Wren in London.8 The Tea House Theatre in Vauxhall, where you get to share your table with the cakes.9 A truly excellent banana and walnut cake at Artisan Roast in Glasgow.10 An awesome Nutella muffin from Dose, Dealer de Cafe in Paris.11
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There are 11 Coffee Spots on the shortlist this year, all listed in order of publication.

The counter at the Natural Bread Company, Oxford, groaning under the weight of cake!

Natural Bread Company, Oxford

The Natural Bread Company’s coffee, from Has Bean, came highly recommended.However, it was the cake that really sold it to me. All home-made, the counter was groaning under the weight: pastries, cinnamon buns, brownies, flapjacks, this list goes on. Also up for the Most Popular Coffee Spot Award.

The Render Coffee logo, from the sign outside. The words RENDER COFFEE above a line-drawing of an anvil.

Render Coffee

Boston‘s Render Coffee serves up some damn fine coffee, good enough to be nominated for the Best Filter Coffee Award. However, it’s the cake that’s got it into this shortlist and in particular the Hekla (an Icelandic cinnamon roll) which come with various glazes. I tried a pumpkin-glazed one which I had hot.  It smelled lovely as it was brought over to the table and tasted just as good.

The A-board outside Plenty in Rittenhouse, proudly displaying its coffee credentials with local roasters Rival Brothers and Square One Coffee

Plenty, Rittenhouse

Plenty, in the Philadelphia District of Rittenhouse, is one of those places that excels in all categories.It was introduced to me as a “sandwich joint” which, I feel, is understating its coffee credentials.It also has perhaps my favourite space in Philadelphia, a department in which is has some stiff competition. However, it was the amazing almond tart that won its nomination: good pastry (not too solid), sweet and with a strong taste of almonds, the perfect accompaniment to my coffee.

Washington Tea, the new offshoot of Waterloo Tea, down in Penarth in the Washington Buildings

Washington Tea

The second outlet of the fabulous Waterloo Tea, Washington Tea is down in Penarth. When I was at Waterloo Tea, I made a major mistake in not having cake, so at Washington Tea I rectified this with the sweet potato and mixed berry cake. I selected it largely because it sounded horrible and therefore (so my reasoning went) had to be really good. As it turned out, I was right! It was sweet, moist and extremely tasty!

A St Joseph's Cake, from Caffé Roma in Little Italy, New York City.

Caffé Roma

Caffé Roma is an old favourite of mine in the heart of New York City’s Little Italy. This year I got a tour of the bakery to see the St Joseph’s Cakes being made. Only produced at weekends during February and March, they can be had plain or filled with either cannoli or vanilla patisserie cream.

The Franklin Fountain sign, showing a man in a white uniform, mixing sodas.

The Franklin Fountain

Strictly speaking, Philadelphia’s Franklin Fountain isn’t here for the cake, although it does have cake (which I’ve never had). It also serves coffee, which I’ve never had either! Rather it made it on the grounds of its excellent ice cream, for it is an old-fashioned American ice cream parlour. Just to ensure it wasn’t a fluke, I visited it three times, once for each day I was staying in Philadelphia. The highlight was the Rocky Road with Hot Caramel Sauce, a delightful concoction that was soon collapsing under its own weight!

Bea's of bloomsbury, from the sign hanging outside the Farringdon branch.

Bea’s of Bloomsbury, Farringdon

Also in the running for the Smallest Coffee Spot Award, Bea’s of Bloomsbury does cake. Lots of cake. Lots and lots and lots of cake. Did I mention the cake?

An outline image of a Wren, inside a white chalk circle, the symbol of the coffee shop, The Wren.

The Wren

Set in the soaring nave of Christopher Wren’s St Nicholas Cole Abbey, The Wren’s quite possibly the most delightful coffee shop setting I’ve had the pleasure to step into, earning it a nomination for the Best Physical Space Award. It also serves a small, but wonderful selection of cake, the highlights of which are the amazing bite-sized Friands which come from the Candlestick Bakery. Also nominated for Happiest Staff & Best Outdoor Seating Awards.

The Tea House Theatre on the edge of Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, resplendent in the sunshine.

Tea House Theatre

The Tea House Theatre doesn’t serve coffee. This one drawback aside, it is a delightful place, another which is also on the shortlist for  the Best Physical Space Award. Although not serving coffee, it does serve tea and some of the most sumptuous cakes that you are likely to come across. Best of all? If you’re lucky, you get to share your table with the cakes, which sit under plastic covers to preserve their modesty.

A drawing on the wall of Artisan Roast's Gibson Street branch showing the location of the Toper Roaster, Fatima, which was removed in April 2013.

Artisan Roast, Gibson Street

The Glasgow branch of Edinburgh’s Artisan Roast retains the intimacy of the two, smaller, Edinburgh branches. The coffee was excellent, as expected, but it was the cake which really took me by surprise. I had a slice of banana and walnut cake with a wonderful consistency, not too dense, but not too fluffy either, while the buttercream icing added just the right amount of sweetness, blending perfectly with the walnuts and banana.

The loyalty card for Parisian cafe Dose, Dealer de Cafe: an "Addict Card".

Dose, Dealer de Café

Not to be confused with London’s Dose Espresso, Dose, Dealer de Café, is in Paris. There’s a standard espresso menu, plus pour-over & a good selection of loose-leaf tea and hot chocolate. There’s also a limited menu of pastries, cakes, a couple of sandwiches and a bagel of the day. I had a truly awesome Nutella muffin, consisting of a lovely, rich muffin, stuffed with chocolate chips and hazelnuts, and with a thick seam of Nutella running through it. This was approaching the Foxcroft & Ginger gold standard for muffins!


And the winner is The Wren
Runners-up: Caffé Roma and Dose, Dealer de Café

Don’t forget to check out the other 19 Coffee Spot Awards for 2014.


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6 thoughts on “2014 Awards – Best Cake

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