Cupcakes have been popping up all over since Carrie and the girls Manolo-ed their way into Magnolia Bakery, NYC. For a few years, and in ever-growing numbers, Londoners don’t seem to be able to get enough of these little bites of nostalgia.
The proprietor of Violet Cakes, Claire Ptak, worked for three years as a pastry cook for Alice Waters at Chez Panisse, the restaurant largely credited as the most influential in the Californian gastronomy movement.
In 2005 Ptak brought her baking skills to a modest Saturday stall at Broadway Market in Hackney, and her cupcakes sold… well, like hotcakes.
Her new shop is dominated by its open kitchen, with sacks of flour piled beneath wooden counters and on spare chairs. A glass counter is squeezed in, along with one table for two and a bar stool for customers.
Further seating can be found in the small rear garden, on the pavement outside, or on the first floor at two larger tables.
Additions to the bakery range are a daily quiche or sandwich (£4.50 or £6.50 with salad), the latter made on St John sourdough bread ( also available as whole loaves to take away). Filter coffees (£2 a mug) are supplied byJack’s or Square Mile, and like the loose leaf teas, can be supped either in mugs or by the pot.
A crumble-topped muffin with cherries and raspberries, along with own-made Oreo-like cookies, were the highlights for us. Lemonade at £1.50 for a tiny cup, though good, was over-priced despite the Amalfi lemons. The signature cupcake (£2.20), a vanilla sponge topped with intensely violet-coloured butter icing, was somewhat shrinking in flavour and the same was true for the salted caramel icing.
Whoopie cakes are tipped to be the ‘new cupcakes’, but this US kiddie import – in this case, two dense, red velvet sponge discs, filled with a very sweet butter cream – was not something we’ll rush to try again.
A sweet spot, but only if you’re in the neighbourhood.