The Wicked Cake Company, Cafe, Gainsborough

DSC01113I genuinely believe the place is called ‘Cafe’ there didn’t appear to be any other name on the building and it doesn’t appear on Google search or maps. This said it does exist, it’s not a place that appears at a certain time of day, under a full moon, or when the autumnal light is just right. Frankly, it’s not quite wonderful enough (or at all) to have this kind of Elfish feature.

They weren’t selling their own hand-made slices either it was the kind made else where and packaged in branded wrapping. My thoughts on the slice do not reflect my thoughts on the cafe, but it certainly adds to it.

Cafe sells, for 99p a Wicked cake. I find that the Wicked part of their name, is the more detestable definition, brewed by a witch and banned from the world via a flaming ball of evil. As oppose to the free willed, peace out, hippy loving definition.

Firstly, the size and price are promising. We’re looking at 11.2 x 4.3 cm at 2.2 cm thick. That’s quite a whopper for 99p. But you open the packet and a smell of something, not caramel, shoves itself up your nostrils and says ‘get a load of this.’ But I don’t want to be able to smell it from two feet away, it’s simply not got the caramel flavour that it should have.DSC01115

And here’s why: The description of the cake goes like this, “A handmade shortcake layered with caramel fudgice and topped with chocolate flavour coating.”

Let’s dissect this. First of all, it’s not a shortcake, it’s a shortbread cake, there are clear sight, smell and taste difference between the two. Secondly, fudgice, as it turns out, is not a typo. From what I can gather it’s a combination of fudge and icing, and although it’s hard to find information on it, I believe is a way to make a longer lasting caramel, that has a stronger consistency. That said, it’s frankly, disgusting. Thirdly, it hasn’t got real chocolate on top, which explains to me why it didn’t melt like chocolate when in the mouth.

To sum this up, the base is something else entirely. It’s actually a very thick, dry, crumbly mess. It’s worse than a Greggs slice, because even they have a proper shortbread flavour.

The caramel is not caramel and therefore it could be described as not being a caramel slice and the chocolate is someone’s cheap idea of chocolate.

The Wicked Cake Company need to sort their act out here and either make a proper slice or change it’s name to ‘fudge shortbread,’ with ‘fake chocolate’ highlighted in bold capital letters.

Here’s to the slice with the lowest ever score: 0 out of 10

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Nero, Berwick-upon-Tweed

DSC00987A 0130 alarm call. Dwayne Johnson saying ‘good morning sunshine’ and telling me that I need to get up. For a brief ten minutes, I was convinced my friend would sleep through his alarm so I could go back to bed.

He didn’t, and at just after 0200 we left for Scotland and the border villages. There’s a great burden on you when getting up that early, but as we drove and saw the orange hues, turn to red over the coast, it lifted.

‘Wow,’ was the one thought on my mind, from before we even parked up, but all the way through to 0700. The sunrise. What a spectacle.

In Tron Legacy, Sam marvels to Quorra that the singular best thing about life outside of the world his father had created, was the sunrise. He wasn’t wrong. Sadly, the film depicted the sunrise poorly and it didn’t receive the same feeling. This morning did.

Pure tranquillity. An array of colours lined out from the tips of the sky, to the ripples on the surface of the sea. Calm, quiet, relaxed. Perfect. The thought of getting up early passed by with a yawn, but it was soon out of your mind. With the sunrise, the day took shape. To form one hell of a day.

Three hours rambling, laying on rocks, climbing volcanic layers of history and watching the golden globe rise before us, brought us to Berwick for coffee and cake. 

DSC01003I’m glad Wetherspoons was closed and we decided to go to Nero over Costa, simply because Nero was glowing, while Costa slunk in the shade. The house speciality latte: vanilla latte topped with squirty cream and drizzled with caramel, lay beside a glistening caramel slice. Moisture from the fridge looked like fresh morning dew that dazzled in the coffee shop light.

These days my expectations are low because I’ve been disappointed far too much. But when you eat something lovely, with that outlook, your surprised and comforted by the taste.

Though it wasn’t a taste that smacked you immediately in the throat. It was casual but confident, it’s in the crowd, but not shouting for attention and you simply see it in the corner of your eye, before really giving it a thorough glance.

Noticeably, the flavour was like fudge from a confectioner in Devon, that must have been the caramel boasting over the other two layers. The chocolate, was tasty and familiar, but I could not place it’s branding. As for the base, it’s cold refrigerated body, didn’t take too well to me. The whole slice was hardened because of this, but after time, it grew on me and I think it helped to enjoy it more.

Top marks have been awarded for aesthetics, it was truly a lovely slice to look at. The way the chocolate top had a light ripple to it, reflecting solemnly on the current sea conditions. It’s splash of sprinkled dark chocolate, added just that bit more flair.

£2.00 is coffee shop standard cake prices, but I think it deserves the price tag and I would happily pay for it again. There’s always the worry that my current state affects how I taste my slices. Often I’m tired and looking for a reprieve from the trails of the day, perhaps such emotions provide a better taste. All that said, I’m still convinced that this is a strong contender for the top of the leader board.

A score, not to be sniffed at, (the slice smelt good too):

9.4 out of 10

Forsyth’s Tearoom, Edinburgh

dsc00895Travel never does the caramel slices I buy any good. I should eat them and review them there and then, not 24 hours later after carrying them home in my coat pocket. But at the time I had card games to play and repeatedly lose.

Edinburgh is a lovely city. Despite how much complaining I did about the weather (it was snowing at times, raining mostly, cold of course) I did enjoy being there and the company I had to take it in.

dsc00881It was a day of getting lost in a museum, eaten by a whale or some other large mammal, getting excited about formula one cars, feeling philosophical in a church, dancing to terrible singing of Surfin’ USA and learning the history of Scotland. I had a great time.

Mid afternoon, we go to a cafe and order some lunch and of course I spot a caramel slice on the counter. I buy it, but choose not to eat it until I have pen and paper to hand. Bit of a mistake that. As I mentioned earlier and in the pictures, it got rather ruined in transit. Though to be fair in looked a bit rough when it was handed to me at the caf’.

dsc00865The effect spoiled the crumble test, when I opened it, it was a monumental cascade, a flooding on the plains of my green plate. I was upset about this, because as I ate it, I realised the base was the best part.

We’re looking at 10cm x 4cm of caramel, chocolate and shortbread. The chocolate was thin and well, tasteless. In fact, so was the caramel too. It had the consistency of a Twix bar, and I hate Twix bars.

dsc00899This lack of flavour, as a possibility, could be from it not being home-made, I mean that it was made in a factory. I know this, as it was in a wrapper. Sadly, I can no longer work out who made it, the wrapper got wrecked in the delivery. And the price, again, I don’t know, but I have the feeling that it was a lot, due to the price I paid for the entire lunch. I wish I had the key lime pie.

Don’t get me wrong, the cafe was lovely, it was down a passage from the Royal Mile. Small and warm and delightfully decorated. Just don’t get a caramel slice. Granted, home-made isn’t always better, but there’s more love and care in them. Factories suck.

4 out of 10.

Waitrose, UK

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A trip to York should have me going to an artisan bakery or an idyllic cafe, not a supermarket. Though Sunderland doesn’t have a Waitrose, and this one in York was merely a passing fancy, with a “well, why not?” thrown in.

The shop is nothing more than your average supermarket, but with more packaging wrapped around the items, and with regards their caramel slices, Belgian chocolate, instead of…something else. Though, I did notice a shelf-stacker wearing a suit-jacket, and I was surprised and thought, “Yeah, okay, that’s kind of nice, you know? Professional at what-not?” Keeping up appearances. I was sure to hide my Tesco club card vouchers at the till.

One noticeable difference in their products is the price. This packet of slices was £2.25, that’s a hefty price tag for caramel slices. To me, that should go towards a desert, like a roulade or a crumble, not some snack bite sized slices.

These Millionaire’s Shortbreads (still a caramel slice, just a different way of saying it. The fancier way.) measured approximately 4cm x 4cm. It’s approximate, because I used my pinky finger to measure it, since I didn’t have a ruler. It’s truly a great way to measure things. But I forgot to measure the depth, though going off the box it could be around 2cm, but I really don’t think that’s the case.

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Described as being luxurious and smooth, they are coated with dark Belgian chocolate, which I found to be rich and empowering and extremely tasty. Though, I am a sucker for chocolate.

Carrier bags are underrated and misjudged. They are so incredibly helpful, that a large percentage of us don’t realise when we cast them aside and thus, create havoc for our landfills, and essentially our environment. The 5p bag tax (or whatever) is a great incentive to make us consider the use and need of them. I often avoid buying one, where I can. Incidentally, I carried the shortbreads home in a badminton racket case. Needless to say they got a big shaken at an angle, and this may have resulted in their crumbly base. That said, it was a light, sweet, creamy base and so these are factors that may have affected it’s stability.

With the chocolate being so rich, it has a habit of being the main flavour on a caramel slice. Here, the caramel tastes like toffee but with a warm fudge consistency, but the flavour is mostly lost to that chocolate.

In the end, the slice just had me craving for Belgian chocolate, forgetting completely about the caramel and shortbread.

 

I rate it 6 out of 10, the price and lack of caramel flavour were the main deciding factors.

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Important bits (per slice):

Energy: 667kj / 159kcal

Fat: 8.5g

of which are saturates: 4.7g

Carbohydrates: 19.5g

of which are sugars: 13.5g

Fibre: 0.5g

Protein: 0.9g

Salt: 0.15g

 

 

Time Banh Mi, Newcastle-upon-Tyne

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I did some minor acting at the weekend. I partook in an audience and did some cheering and clapping, enough to work up an appetite. My friend suggested we stop in at a Vietnamese sandwich shop, I was like, ‘okay! Sounds good, I’m all for new foods.’ (I don’t eat out very often). 

A BBQ Pork Sandwich was my choosing and lo and behold on the counter we had a caramel shortbread. Even more so, next to it was a Caramel um, er, granola? Oat? Muesli? slice…I can’t remember what kind of base it had, but it was chocolate, caramel and then some base that I know would upset my stomach, from previous bad breakfasts. Tasty stuff, but gives me heart-burn.

Needless to say I asked for a Caramel Slice and the lady behind the counter didn’t know which one I wanted, so I did a little jig to the other side of the room to show her which…I could have just said shortbread.

For a slice from Time Banh Mi you’re looking at paying £1.70 for a fair amount of cake, measuring in at 11.4cm long x 4.8cm wide x 2.1cm deep. An average thickness, but the base took up over a third of that space.

The shortbread, was crumbly and messy and I found my notepad turning into a cake. It’s taste was just fine, it’s smell and texture were fine also. Fine. Just fine.

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The caramel, what little there was had a great texture and consistency, but because it was sparse, it had a major lack in flavour, making the slice more like a fancy shortbread biscuit.

Thin caramel led to thin chocolate, soft, tasty…fine. Just fine. It’s flavour was lost in it’s overall, rather, bland taste.

All sad really, for the size and price. I finished it, but it felt like a bit of a chore. 

The BBQ Pork Sandwich, with sweet chilli sauce, by the way was fantastic, great flavours, from the sauce and vegetables and pork and the bread was crispy but soft and easy to chew through. I recommend their sandwiches but not the’re caramel slices, I’m afraid.

Just fine gives them a 3 out of 10

(Their sandwiches though, perfect, top marks).

Wetherspoon, Durham

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Last week celebrated the 11th Berwick Film and Media Arts Festival. It gathered artists from all over the world and present their talented work. It also created a strong friendship among strangers who took the time to volunteer for the festival, lending their watchful eyes, politeness and friendly demeanour to invigilate exhibitions and steward events.

I was one of those volunteers and experiencing my third year with the festival. It was an exciting, crazy and memorable time, which will never be forgotten. Gathering on the Thursday morning I greeted Ryan, who I had met the previous year. He dropped off his bag and presented to me a caramel slice. Friendships bloom in such a transaction.

The slice was from Wetherpoon, though made by Aulds Delicious Deserts, a company based in Lancashire. It’s described as handmade, though from their website I suspect that a machine is involved heavily, but this isn’t to say it has been ruined.

Berwick battered the slice, I – weirdly – carried it around the festival with me before eating it when I returned home, five days later.. so this explains the photo.

It measures 8.3 x 5.0 x 1.5 cm thick. Ample size and shape and smells like your average shortcake based slice, which again, isn’t a complaint. Ryan tells me it costs 99p which is a little more than I would like to pay, but it’s coming from a corporation, a brand, a big cahouna of food outlets, so it’s acceptable, I guess.

So, after carrying it around, I then left it exposed to the sunlight on my writing desk, when I returned from work, I placed it in the fridge for forty minutes. When I came to eat it the chocolate top was very soft, the caramel too. I didn’t mind though. Not having to force your way through a chocolate layer is great, or not having drifting like tectonic plates is grand, but it did mean the chocolate and the caramel mixed together and the layers almost became lost. 

Sadly the chocolate has a distant bland flavour to it, but the caramel is rich and flavoursome and rather wonderful. The texture is smooth and creamy and it tastes more like I’m eating runny caramel from a Cadbury Caramel with the consistency of warm fudge. The caramel layer is also big and dominant, but not a problem to handle or consume. Though the flavour does sit at the back of your throat, clawing on for an after taste.

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The shortcake is thin, though doesn’t crumble because it is denser than shortbread and holds its own better, meaning you get to enjoy all of the slice, not 90% of it followed by 10% hoovering with pursed lips. 

What I wish I had with it was some vanilla ice cream and it would transformed it into a wonderful desert, I’d rather like another.

This is the best shortcake slice I’ve ever had. And I’m not usually fond of shortcake ones, it’s even going to be up there with some of my favourites. It’ll be interesting to know how it tastes (if any different) when it hasn’t been sat in the sun for 10 hours.

But the slice I ate and enjoyed is rated at 9.5 out of 10

It would make the top of the list if there was a 20p price drop and the caramel was just a touch less rich and if the chocolate was more flavoursome.

 

Important Info:

Energy – 1968KJ, 470kcal

Fat – 26.6g

Carbohydrates – 53.2g

Of which are Sugar – 37.4g

Fibre – 1.0g

Protein – 4.8g

Salt – 0.7g

Contains Wheat, Gluten, Milk, Soya

Made in a factory that handles nuts.

Bells of York, York

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This time, I will provide you with a review that’s longer than a jumbled and sloppy paragraph (see my last review to know what I mean). I’m not sat shivering in a cafe this time, I’m home, basking in the warmth of the sunshine while listening to AC DC (it doesn’t get much better).

On another trip to the wonderful historic city that is York, while looking for a non-crowded cafe on a Saturday afternoon, we eventually found Bells of York facing out onto the market square filled with the smells of summer. I’m talking roast pork, barbecued beef and the smoke from the fire. We ate at Cooplands instead. Because I wanted to.

Bells of York was quiet, it was small, but there were tables free inside and then more tables were decorating the square outside, so we ordered a coffee, latte for me, and I purchased a caramel slice too.

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It wasn’t a home-made caramel slice, sadly, but a handmade one none-the-less. It was wrapped in plastic and cardboard and on first appearances, due to an uneven but smooth top, looked most delightful. When I say uneven I mean, wavy like cool chocolate-spread caressing the hot body of a slice of toast, at the precise moment just after it has warmed but before it soaks into the bread.

Closer inspection, of what I perceived was a shortbread base, led me to think it was shortcake instead. In fact it was rather like both. It tasted like shortbread, but had the construction of a shortcake resulting in a cascade of crumbs, much like the demolishing of brick and concrete. It’s taste was simple, just fine.

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The amount of caramel looked wonderful, but would too much be, well, too much? It wasn’t. It was chewy and sucking on it reminded me of consuming melted cheese or a piece of French Brie, not what you want when eating a desert. The flavour was much like a toffee Quality Street and so actually was a good taste.

Not that you can really taste it, but the chocolate did exist, but it’s only job was to provide somewhere to hold the slice. It was thin and unpronounced, meaning when the slice was eaten as a whole you couldn’t taste the chocolate. On its own it tasted of the chocolate they use in advent calendars. So nothing wonderful.

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To sum up, it was pretty naff, not rubbish, just not good.

4 out of 10

The Barn at Beal. Near Holy Island.

£2.20
Thick chocolate, hard crumbly base, thin tasteless caramel, chocolate dark dominates. Expensive. Breaks messy due thick chocolate, plate is a war zone. Coffee great. 
Weather rotten, cold bum. Warm cafe.
4 out of 10.

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Somewhere Something Is Calling For You

Just an update on things.

While it’s been cold and miserable outside, I’ve been inside writing. Not about caramel slices though.

Through November and December I wrote a short novel, which you can buy through this link.

Granted, I’ve eaten a few slices, not as many as I used to, for health reasons, but I’ve still been eating, reviewing and thinking about writing more. I have a couple of post lined up for you over the next few days. But it’s the new page that I want to tell you about now while I listen to the Disney Tarzan Soundtrack.

I’ve been toying with the idea of having a leaderboard that’s strictly down to taste, so you can go straight there and see what’s what if you have no care for price, size, texture, crumbliness, slice thickness, how it breaks when you bite, etc. It’s the place to go if you just want to buy and eat.

Check it out, it doesn’t differ too much from the leaderboard, but there is some noticeable changes, take Greggs for example which is now much higher than on the leaderboard.

The page is called Tasteboard….because that’s all I could come up with.

Keep your eyes peeled, I have a review from the least imaginative named coffee shop and a gluten-free slice that’s actually pretty good.

Until then.

Cafe M, Newcastle Upon Tyne

Cafe M

Situated next to a University, a metro line and a main road I would have thought this Cafe would get a lot of business, but on any occasion I’ve walked by its been quiet. I never did see any advertising about the place and when it opened, it was sort of just there. Kind of appearing out of no where, but settling straight in, like another person clambering aboard a busy metro train.

Without trying to sound like I am promoting this place, I think people should go. If you’re with your mates and you want a coffee but one of your friends wants a beer, then that’s okay, because Cafe M has a liquor license, and I didn’t even know cafe’s could get that kind of license. But why not I suppose?

You could get your lunch there, sit in, take out, go for a chat with your mates, have a date perhaps. The place looks lovely, the staff are friendly and I’d recommend getting a caramel slice with your latte, because it works out cheaper and the caramel slices are actually rather nice.

The slice by itself costs £1.10. It measures 7.5cm x 5.5cm x 1.9cm thick. That in all honesty is an acceptable size, maybe not quite for £1.10, I’d rather pay something like 70p, maybe 60p. It comes wrapped in plastic, a little too much plastic (I’m an environmental sort of guy) and was sitting to the left of the counter on its own little shelf, naww…

According to a sticker on the back it was made the same day I bought it. I did however eat it two days later, because I forgot about it (sad, I know).

On initial inspection a part of my heart fell away when I saw that it was a short-cake base. If this is your first time reading my blog, let me just say, I’ve never come across a real good short-cake base. I’m all for shortbread. Which is massively different. And much more tasty, frankly. However, I was surprised to find that I actually really liked this base.

At first the base crumbled and powered and gave the impression of eating sawdust, a common trait when eating short-cake and working as a lumberjack. But on every bite that followed, on every suck of flavours, and blending it all together, the sawdust feeling passed and in fact it seemed to crumble a bit less towards the center. The flavour of base was that of Digestives, but it was light and didn’t dare dominate over the caramel.

The caramel and chocolate were light in both flavour and consistency. My teeth slid through the chocolate with great precision and met together in the middle, breaking off a perfect bite. The top was milk chocolate and tasted just fine.

The caramel was perfect. I’m not saying that lightly. Truly, it was perfect. It wasn’t sticky, but it was smooth and creamy and melted perfectly on the tongue, I must get the recipe! I said the flavour was soft, this isn’t a great positive, but it’s not a negative. The flavour didn’t jump up and get hold of my taste buds and shriek ‘I’M HERE! TASTE ME, TASTE ME!’ instead it strolled over and said, ‘ hello dear boy, have a good taste of this, there you go, good, that’s it, nice eh?’ And I like that, truly.

Once finished you don’t really care that it cost £1.10, while you’re eating you don’t really care about anything other than enjoying this perfection.

However, this isn’t a winner. I’m not awarding top marks, because, firstly, the base did at first resemble sawdust. Secondly, I didn’t crave another straight after and I didn’t say, while eating, ‘my goodness this is fantastic!’ But I did enjoy it, I enjoyed it in the most relaxing way possible, and I’ve changed my mind, it is a winner. It’s not the best caramel slice in the UK, but it is the best that I’ve tried so far.

I award it 9.8 out of 10, because it made me entirely content.

I look forward to having a latte with it next time.

Here’s the website, Cafe M check it out for deals and directions.

 

Apologies for the poor photograph. I’ve misplaced my camera cable and so I’m using my phone for photographs.