2015 Awards – Best Cake

An outline image of a Wren, inside a white chalk circle, the symbol of the coffee shop, The Wren.Welcome to the final 2015 Coffee Spot Awards shortlist of the day, the “Best Cake” Award, won in 2014 by The Wren. 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. This year was particularly good for cinnamon buns and their ilk.

You can see the shortlist after the gallery.

  • Manchester's TAKK, where I had a lovely cinnamon Danish bun.
  • Mr Wolfe, home of an amazing orange blossom and pistachio cake with mascarpone icing.
  • Cafe Zee, home of both the almond Struffin and the chocolate Cruffin. Cake heaven!
  • Leyas, where I've enjoyed chocolate mandarin cake, plus apple and cinnamon muffins.
  • Quarter Horse Coffee's apple, cinnamon and walnut loaf is heaven in a slice of cake!
  • Soulshine Cafe, where I was forced to eat a chewy, gooey and very chocolaty brownie.
  • Harvest Canteen, home of the perfect example of a chocolate twist.
  • Wild & Wood, London Wall, serving Crodoughnuts from Cocomaya. Yum!
  • Saint Espresso where I had a Cinnamon Danish, reminiscent of a Nordic cinnamon bun.
  • The Milkman, where I had another excellent example of the chocolate twist.
  • Lemana Coffee & Kitchen, lemon sponges, Oreo brownies and lots and lots of cake!
  • Blue Bottle Coffee, where I had a sublime brandy-poached apple buckle with walnut streusel.
Manchester's TAKK, where I had a lovely cinnamon Danish bun.1 Mr Wolfe, home of an amazing orange blossom and pistachio cake with mascarpone icing.2 Cafe Zee, home of both the almond Struffin and the chocolate Cruffin. Cake heaven!3 Leyas, where I've enjoyed chocolate mandarin cake, plus apple and cinnamon muffins.4 Quarter Horse Coffee's apple, cinnamon and walnut loaf is heaven in a slice of cake!5 Soulshine Cafe, where I was forced to eat a chewy, gooey and very chocolaty brownie.6 Harvest Canteen, home of the perfect example of a chocolate twist.7 Wild & Wood, London Wall, serving Crodoughnuts from Cocomaya. Yum!8 Saint Espresso where I had a Cinnamon Danish, reminiscent of a Nordic cinnamon bun.9 The Milkman, where I had another excellent example of the chocolate twist.10 Lemana Coffee & Kitchen, lemon sponges, Oreo brownies and lots and lots of cake!11 Blue Bottle Coffee, where I had a sublime brandy-poached apple buckle with walnut streusel.12
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There are 12 Coffee Spots on the shortlist this year, all listed in order of publication.

Detail from the TAKK sign which hangs outside on Tariff Street: the TAKK logo, a cut-out T over the words "TAKK Coffee House", etched in wood in black .TAKK

This has been the year of the cinnamon bun, or in the case of Manchester‘s TAKK, a cinnamon Danish bun. This was spot on; not too sweet or sticky (as much as I love a sticky cinnamon bun, when I’m on Coffee Spot duty, they make a real mess of the keyboard when typing!).

 

 

The words Mr Wolfe Cafe in white on black taken from the side of the building.Mr Wolfe

I could have happily had all the cake that was on offer at Brighton‘s Mr Wolfe. My orange blossom and pistachio cake with mascarpone icing was wonderfully rich, but without being the slightest bit sickly. Mr Wolfe was also shortlisted for the Smallest Coffee Spot Award.

The front of Cafe Zee on Ealing's New Broadway. The roaster can be seen at the back through the door.Café Zee

Café Zee has an amazing array of cakes. I tried two, an almond Struffin, and a chocolate Cruffin. The former was somewhere between a cake and sponge in consistency, with a rich almond flavour, but was topped by the Cruffin, a cross between a croissant and muffin. The pastry was incredibly rich, the chocolate chips adding unexpected bursts of sweetness. Café Zee was also shortlisted for the Coffee Spot with the Best Basement Award.

A chalkboard inside Leyas on Camden High Street, offering coffee, breakfast, lunch and cakes.Leyas

During two visits to Leyas, I’ve tried the chocolate mandarin cake (a moist cake, subtly flavoured with citrus) and the apple and cinnamon muffin, with real chunks of apple and a crunchy, cinnamon-sugared top. This approached the gold-standard of muffins, still set by Foxcroft & Ginger. Leyas was also shortlisted for the Coffee Spot with the Best Basement and Best Espresso Awards.

The Quarter Horse Coffee logo: a profile of a knight from a chess set, surrounded by an oval with the words "Quarter Horse Coffee" written around the outside.Quarter Horse Coffee, Birmingham

Birmingham‘s Quarter Horse Coffee is both coffee shop and roaster, so it’s easy to overlook the cake, which would be a shame. I had a slice of apple, cinnamon and walnut loaf, which was nothing short of divine. Rich, moist, spicy, crumbly and with real chunks of fruit, it was heaven in a slice of cake!

 

The A-board outside Soulshine Cafe in Birdport promises coffee, juice, meals, snacks, lots of indoor seating and a lovely courtyard.Soulshine Café

Bridport is in danger of turning into foodie heaven. Soulshine Café serves excellent coffee in amazing surroundings, but it also hangs its hat on its locally-sourced food. Part of this output includes an interesting range and cake and during my visit, Dom, the head chef, arrived at my table with a chewy, gooey and very chocolaty brownie fresh from the oven. Well, it would have been rude not to eat it. Soulshine was also shortlisted for the Most Unlikely Place to Find a Coffee Spot and Best Outdoor Seating Awards.

The Ouseburn Coffee Co. logo: the letters OCC in white against a black background with the words Ouseburn Coffee Co. beneath a white line.Harvest Canteen

Harvest Canteen is the coffee-shop offshoot of Newcastle roaster Ouseburn Coffee Co., which roasts all the coffee. However, it would be easy to overlook the cake, which is every bit as good. I had the most amazing chocolate twist. Pretty much the perfect example of its ilk, it consisted of incredibly rich pastry, generously stuffed with a half-melted chocolate-chip filling.

A lovely, creamy piccolo in a classic espresso cup, seen from above on an over-sized floral saucer.Wild & Wood, London Wall

Wild & Wood, in its new home at London Wall, is just as good as its original incarnation, where the cake was something to write home about. This is also still the case: I had a Crodoughnut from Cocomaya. Layers of croissant-like bread-dough, wrapped in spirals around a heart of patisserie cream, topped in chocolate, it looks a little like a muffin. Pleasingly, it tastes as divine as you’d expect. Wild & Wood was also shortlisted for the Best Physical Space Award.

From a black board behind the counter at Saint Espresso: "Crafting Coffee with Religious Care".Saint Espresso

In the year of the cinnamon bun, I had a lovely Cinnamon Danish at Saint Espresso, which reminded me of Nordic cinnamon buns. It had a lovely dusting of cinnamon sugar over rich, closely-wound pastry. Neither sticky nor sickly, it was perfect. Saint Espresso was also nominated for the Best Lighting and Best Filter Coffee Awards.

The logo of the Milkman, on Edinburgh's Cockburn Street, a silhouette o the owner's grandfather, seen side-on, wearing a flat cap and smoking a pipe. It was taken from a photograph taken in 1938 at the Empire Exhibition in Glasgow.The Milkman

The newly-opened Milkman in Edinburgh was just getting started when I arrived. However, it had hit the ground running when it came to cake and my chocolate twist was another excellent example of the genre. Quite firm, with an almost crunchy-topped pastry, it wasn’t as sweet as some, making it an excellent choice for my breakfast. The Milkman has also been shortlisted for the 2015 Most Popular Coffee Spot Award.

A Has Bean coffee sack hanging from the counter at Lemana Coffee & Kitchen.Lemana Coffee & Kitchen

When I first visited Lemana in 2013, I remember drooling over its excellent cakes. On my return this year I was relieved to find they’re as amazing as ever. My friend was very impressed by his Oreo brownie, while I had a huge slice of the superb lemon sponge, which was light, fluffy and not too sweet (and also what I had on my previous visit). Lemana was also shortlisted for the Best Neighbourhood Coffee Spot and Best Breakfast Awards.

The Blue Bottle Coffee logo from the A-board outside the Chelsea coffee shop: the outline of a bottle painted in solid blue above the words "Blue Bottle Coffee".Blue Bottle Coffee, Chelsea

Sitting upstairs in Blue Bottle Coffee’s Chelsea branch in New York City, I had a slightly different cake experience with a brandy-poached apple buckle with walnut streusel (for UK readers, think apple crumble, only with cake for the body). This was truly excellent, with a crunchy crumble topping (the walnut streusel), and a lovely, fruit-packed cake (the apple buckle).  I could have easily eaten two. Or three…


A special mention also needs to go to the following:

Forum Coffee House, for the rich carrot cake and sweet (but not sickly) buttercream icing
Kioskafé, for outstanding cinnamon and cardamom buns
Peregrine Espresso, 14th Street, where I had a cinnamon bun WITH A HAT on!

And the winner is Mr Wolfe
Runners-up: Quarter Horse Coffee, Birmingham and Blue Bottle Coffee, Chelsea

Don’t forget to check out the other 19 Coffee Spot Awards for 2015.


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