Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Patisserie Valerie

With my instinct for locating cake shops, it should have come as no surprise that I seemed to find a Patisserie Valerie everywhere I went in England. I first noticed it in Oxford, its row of elegant slices of cakes lined up in the window. There were numerous locations in London, as well as one in Canterbury. All the front windows are the same, though the two I visited were quite different inside. I ordered lunch each time - a grilled cheddar and tomato sandwich one day, a bowl of minestrone another - and found the savory offerings both tasty and stylishly presented, but lunch was really just an excuse to try the cake.
At the top is the most popular cake: the Double Chocolate Gateau (all the cakes go by the Frenchified taxonomy here). A vanilla-cream-filled chou pastry and a swirl of frosting sits atop a two-layer chocolate cake filled with more chocolate frosting and iced with a flexible piece of chocolate, not really ganache but not as hard as couverture, either. It was quite rich and satisfying, but I preferred the other cake I tried another day, the Black Forest Gateau shown just above. This one uses what may well be the very same chocolate cake, but it's smothered in soft whipped cream, filled with dark cherries, and topped with a cone of that same flexible-but-firm chocolate. Other choices in the window included berry tarts, tiramisu cake, and fruit-filled millefeuilles. All in all, Patisserie Valerie seems not all that different from a patisserie in Tokyo - and I think that was one of the things that appealed to me about it.

Patisserie Valerie
Locations around London and in some other English cities

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