A few weeks ago I was in contact with the lovely Jen from "Great Cake Places" through Twitter, she was on the search for the best cake places across the UK for a new publication that was excitingly touring the length and breadth of our fine country.
The publication is commissioned by Allegra Publications, a small publishing company based in London, host to some fantastic food guides such as "Great Cake Places London", "The New York Coffee Guide" and "The London Cheese & Wine Guide" amongst many others.
I had treated myself to a copy of the London Cake Places book just after Xmas and it has become my bible for recommended London cake spots for my trips down there and I know just how important, being a reviewer myself, it is to have tried and tested places to go to, as so many places offer a combination of bad cake and tea/coffee and often disappoint!
So I contacted Jen to rattle off a list of well deserved cake hot spots in Cambridge and the surrounding countryside that were worthy of the new publication, which sees this lovely lady (where DOES she put all that cake?! She's stunningly slim, bah..!) popping into big handfuls of coffee and tea stops, nibbling on cakes, scones and afternoon teas...all in the name of research for you, cake lovers - She's a trooper ; )
Instead of her just visiting the places I had lovingly sculpted Into the longest email in the world, she asked if I'd like to join her, being her Chauffeur for the day and introducing her to the owners of which I knew most... naturally, I agreed to join her in cakey heaven haha. What I love about this guide is that none of these places are expected to pay for advertising, the reviews are independent, based on the experiences as a paying customer, a fair review I feel and the way I work on my own reviews.
The places we stopped at aren't all currently guaranteed to make the publication, however I truly hope they do, as they all deserve a place in this new and exciting book, which should be launched later this year!
We also managed to cover a fair amount of ground as we travelled, visiting Essex, Hertfordshire & Cambridgeshire on our journey... I slept well that night, trust me!
Great Cake Place Número One: Rosey Lea
Based in the historic market square in Bishop's Stortford and owned by the gorgeous Leanne Gregory, is was the meeting place for the very start of our tour at 9am.
Opting for a very light & fluffy (and generous!) wedge of Victoria Sponge and a large ornate pot of Darjeeling, we sipped away and shared the slice of delicious cake whilst we got plotting our day. Leanne was there, so we made our introductions and got chatting to this very passionate young lady about her first year in business with her beautiful tea room, of which she co-owns with her boyfriend, who in turn renovates retro cars. She's one inspiring woman and she's a great example of how to run a tea room, where she was currently focusing on take away lunch hampers and the impending Mothering Sunday afternoon teas she was going to be offering. They even sell their tea at the counter, should you fall in the love with the pot of loose leaf that you choose on visiting- It was a perfect start to the day.
Great Cake Place Número Two: Poppy"s Tea Room
Situated in Thaxted on a cobbled lane that needs a little navigating in heels for sure! It's sitting on a gentle hill shared by a gorgeous windmill which is well worth a visit whilst there.
We were met by the lovely Liza, owner of this secretively named tearoom, she still won't let on as to why this cute tearoom is titled Poppy's, but the "usual" guesses are all incorrect apparently... Intriguing!
We went for a pot of the guest tea, "Lovers Leap" which was a seasonal single estate (Black) tea from Kintyre oya, Ceylon. It was a very delicate tea and it went perfectly with our choice of cake - Coffee Crunch, which had almost a crumble topping, it was a welcome change to my usual choice of a layer cake with cream of some sort, it was delicious.
Liza knows her tea, as her father used to be a professional tea blender, so she educates her staff perfectly and their loose leaf blends are offered to their guests to match their food choices, it's such a fantastic tearoom and well worth the drive out to visit.
You can read my full review on Poppy's Tearoom from my personal visit a while ago, HERE.
Great Cake Place Número Three: Teacake
A you know by now, I'm sure, I am a huge fan of Teacake in Shepreth, with Christine & Maurice providing the ultimate in friendly tearoom experiences in the Cambs/Herts countryside, it's the perfect country retreat.
I didn't want Jen to miss out on Teacake, but they were closed on a Monday, so I mentioned to them that I was keen to get Jen over just to have a nosey as it could mean some well deserved national coverage for them... Well, the red carpet was well and truly rolled out and I can't thank them both enough for their hospitality! We got a rare treat in actually having these fabulous tearoom hosts sitting down to join in and enjoy a cuppa and a slice of cake over some seriously passionate cake talk with us, it was one of the main highlights of our day and Jen loved the pampering, hurrah. Christine had freshly baked a gluten free meringue topped crumble slice and the smell just hit us as soon as we walked through the door, so naturally I indulged in a whole piece with a pot of warming winter spiced tea, I couldn't resist. Jen opted for a slice of their decadent Chocolate & Beetroot cake and a cup of their Monmouth coffee, a passion of Maurice's, of which she loved.
You can read my full review on Teacake from my personal visit & photo shoot for my Cambridgeshire Journal Column a while ago, HERE.
Great Cake Place Número Four: Quy Mill
The discussion of a full on afternoon tea at this relaxing hotel on the outskirts of Cambridge was a thought too far at this point, we were getting full haha. So we stopped off for a pot of tea and ended up chatting the friendly Catering manager about a current change to their afternoon tea menu, which will be taking place very soon, so he was keen that Jen didn't touch too much on their current offerings for her review. As a result, he presented us with a huge platter of savoury and sweet scones, of which they were currently adapting the taste and textures of, so it would have been rude not to have sampled them ; )
They were Devine & we are so excited to hear more from them on their new menu shortly!
You can read my full review on Afternoon Tea at Quy Mill from my personal visit, HERE.
Great Cake Place Número Five: Hot Numbers
We had made it to 4:30pm still not quite rolling, but nearly, into central Cambridge. This independent and very quirky coffee house based just off Mill Road had to be shown to Jen, as its a fave hotspot when I'm in town and in need of a pick me up. They serve fantastically strong coffees and even have The Rare Tea company on their chalkboard, what's not to love?! Not only do they have a fantastic space, based in an old Brew house, but they support local talent by hanging artwork on the walls of which you can purchase or just admire as you drink your tea and they often host live music nights, especially jazz and rockabilly stuff, it's a seriously overlooked venue and a must-visit for everyone.
We settled for a flat white coffee each, of which I regretted later that night as I buzzed into the early hours on a sugar and caffeine nightmare ( I seriously don't know how Jen does this all the time!!... She insists she drinks a lot of hot water with her cakes and I can see why snow ; ) and we opted to share a Fitzbillies Chelsea Bun, of which they stock here.
Great Cake Place Número Six: Fitzbillies
Talking of Fitzbillies... We headed into town next, getting stuck in rush hour traffic, the pedestrians were moving faster than we were in the car, so Jen and I Agreed that she would be better of hot footing it to the last stops alone by foot as time was running out before places closed for the day, so we said our goodbyes and she hopped off to this fine Cambridge establishment to say a quick hello and grab her own (albeit brief) Fitzbillies experience. This place is a Cambridge "institution" made even more famous in news by Stephen Fry a couple of years ago when the current owners left and the bakery was stood empty and in need of being carried on... Queue Alison & Tim Hayward, new and current owners doing this place more than proud, continuing with the old favourites such as their Chelsea Buns, Coffee Choux buns and fondant fancies in the shape of frogs (awesome!) as well as adding some new menus to the mix, it's a place worth visiting.
I love Tim's passion for food, as well as Alison's drive for making it a place worth visiting! In fact, I was chatting to Tim the other day about toilet humour and what people do in coffee and restaurant establishments, especially when it comes to the bathrooms still amazes him to this day... I love that no topic of conversation Is off limits with these guys haha...
You can read my full review on Fitzbillies from my personal visit a while ago, HERE.
Great Cake Place Número Seven: John Lewis Brasserie
I had told Jen that this friendly central location was well worth a visit, as so many people dismiss it for being a "chain" brasserie, but they have their own pastry chefs on site, a rare treat for JL, as most have it shipped in, admittedly by their own management team, Cambridge does not! And their afternoon tea comes with a view of Cambridge well worth seeing, it's a haven within a stressful (for me!) shopping environment in the centre of town, with free wifi to boot. I love this place, I love the service and Jen has been recommended this place many me, as their afternoon tea treats are fabulous, truly!
You can read my full review on Afternoon Tea at John Lewis Brasserie from my personal visit a while ago, HERE.
Great Cake Place Número Eight: Hotel Du Vin
I was gutted not to have given us time for Jen to visit this hotel on Trumpington Street, almost opposite the Fitzwilliam Museum, as their afternoon tea is still by far my fave in Cambridge I have to say. It's always a treat to visit, feeling completely pampered and satisfied in every way once I've left. The library is a relaxing atmosphere at any time of the year and you aren't rushed, once you are there, you are there to stay, so it comes highly rated by Miss Sue Flay. In fact, I love it so much, that my very next "Afternoon Tea Etiquette" workshop with William Hanson is bringing us back, with our guests to enjoy tea here on Saturday April 6th for their tasty wares and an education in traditional British Afternoon Tea etiquette.. It's an event not to be missed, with just a few seats left!
You can read my full review on Afternoon Tea at Hotel Du Vin from my personal visit a while ago, HERE.
Great Cake Place Bonus Discussion: The Clandestine Cake Club
On our time between each cake stop, we talked about all sorts, but I did use the opportunity to show off my very first published recipe in the Clandestine Cake Club Book and since showing Jen this, I've seen her baking away and visiting her very own local CCC...hurrah!
After such a fantastic day of eating cake, drinking tea and talking non stop about our very similar passions, I felt like I had known Jen forever, it was a fantastic day and it was great to get to know such a like minded lady - she's going to do this next book more than proud!
I had a ball, Jen is a lovely lady and she's going to do Britain proud with her cakey research... And I truly hope that our paths cross again very soon, it was fab to be able to help add to this new publication, if even very slightly : )
As a little treat for my readers, Allegra Publications have provided me with two books, a copy of "Great Cake Places London" AND a copy of "The London Cheese & Wine Guide".
There will be two winners for this, how exciting!
To win a copy of your fave sounding title from the two, we ask you to do the following:
1) Write a short review, no longer than 150 words on your fave cake, cheese OR wine place and submit it as a comment below this blog post. It can be anywhere in the world and will be a great way to spread the love for your fave establishment, no matter where or why.
2) You must also submit the review to the "Great Cake Places" website, as above for either one of your chosen place types. Visit this link to do this (We will check you do both ; )
Competition ends at Midnight on 31st March 2013.
Good luck and do keep your eyes peeled for the "Great Cake Places UK Guide",
coming summer 2013 all being well!
Miss Sue Flay
Miss Sue Flay's competition terms and conditions:
Entrants not meeting the above requirements will be deemed invalid and therefore not included in the draw.
Entries/submissions will will be deemed invalid if the entrant has not completed these compulsory entry requirements.
Entrants must leave a separate comment below (on this blog post) for their review submission of their chosen location, as well as submitting it through the "Great Cake Places" nomination form.
Entries & reviews must be independent, establishment owners/management cannot nominate themselves.
The competition will run through to midnight Sunday 31st March 2013 & we will contact the winners within a week of the competition ending. If the winners do not respond or accept the prize within 2 weeks of notification, we reserve the right to draw a new winner.
With regret, the competition is open to UK residents only.