This is why I should learn how to bake.
August 16, 2010 4:20 AM   Subscribe

Can people help me find a central London bakery that sells cakes which are (1) delicious, (2) medium-sized and (3) not overly expensive?

I don't know much about the London bakery scene and I'd just like to buy a lovely cake that isn't from one of the big supermarkets, feeds more than 5 and doesn't cost the earth.

I've been checking out Patisserie Valerie, Bea's of Bloomsbury, Konditor & Cook etc and their (absurdly delicious-looking) cakes cost about £20 or thereabouts at their smallest size. I'm both poor and tight-fisted; is it reasonable to expect to find a nice cake in this city for any less?

Should I give in and head to Sainsburys? There's nothing wrong with a supermarket cake, I just wanted something a little more special. Or should I just buy one of these tiny expensive cakes and serve everyone really, really thin slices?

I've seen this thread but it doesn't really cover the cost aspect.
posted by Ziggy500 to Food & Drink (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You really don't need to learn how to bake any more than you need to learn how to mix a bucket of cement.

Beyond being able to weigh a few ingredients, mix things with a wooden spoon, and set the temperature on an oven, there's nothing whatsoever to it. Total equipment cost (mixing bowl, wooden spoon, cheap scales, cake tin) can be less than £10. A cheap mixer - another £5.

Unless you're a fan of manufactured lighter-than-air sponges, home-made cakes are way better than anything you'll buy.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 4:48 AM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Have you tried Paul? It's a mini-chain like Valerie and might be cheaper than some of the more specialised places.

If you have time you could also go down to one of the weekend farmer's markets. I've often seen whole homemade cakes for sale at the Marylebone market on Sundays.

That said, if I were you, I'd get a small cake from Bea's. They are rich enough that they serve far more people than you'd think, and they're some of the best in London. Another possibility is to get an assortment of cupcakes: that might work out cheaper. Again, Bea's does them well, and they are rich / large enough that few will want more than one.

Otherwise, I think you're stuck with Waitrose or Sainsbury.

If you're up for the minimal effort, I'd just buy a good quality sponge cake (which is also ridiculously easy to make), whip up some boozy cream and make a sandwich cake with squashed fresh peaches than get a supermarket cake. Chill well. It may not be pretty but it will be tasty.
posted by tavegyl at 4:51 AM on August 16, 2010

It's not in central London, but Costco do very very good affordable cakes that are also huge.
posted by ukdanae at 5:00 AM on August 16, 2010

The food hall in Selfridges has a pretty decent bakery that do moderately priced handmade cakes of various sizes. The last time I used it (December last year) I was able to buy a cake to feed 8 in <>
I've also used the Hummingbird bakery in South Kensington with much success. They really are good.
posted by gadha at 5:06 AM on August 16, 2010

^^ That should be 8 in less than 15 UKP
posted by gadha at 5:07 AM on August 16, 2010

I was coming in to suggest the Marylebone Farmer's market, too – and if you do end up in that area, you might want to have a look at the cakes on sale at La Fromagerie on Moxon Street. Still a bit pricey (£15-ish), but yum yum yum.
posted by HandfulOfDust at 5:10 AM on August 16, 2010

Seconding the Hummingbird Bakery. I've been on the recieving end of some very posh, very delicious cakes from there, both full-size birthday cake dealies and some of the sweetest, fluffiest cupcakes I've ever seen.

I understand it's fairly expensive as these things go, but I don't even like cake usually and they really are fantastic.
posted by Ted Maul at 5:35 AM on August 16, 2010

If you decide on the Hummingbird Bakery, there is a branch on Wardour Street.
posted by tavegyl at 5:47 AM on August 16, 2010

Finding good quality cakes in central London for reasonable prices is hard. They seem to suffer the same price inflation that all luxury goods tend to as you get into the centre. If you're willing to go further afield, to the outskirts of the city, you'll find many more independent bakers and so have a much better chance of success.

My default recommendation for "where can I buy ${food} in London" is Borough Market, very close to London Bridge on Fridays and Saturdays. I've never priced the cakes there, but there are several excellent bakery stalls who sell their breads and tarts at reasonable prices.

Depending on your definition of "central", Yumchaa teas in Camden might be worth a try. They're a tea shop who sell their (excellent) cakes by the slice, but they might be willing to sell you whole cakes if you ask.

While this one sounds slightly mad, you could also try the Smithfield Meat Market. If you go early on a weekday morning (6:00am-9:00ish), there are several stalls that sell cakes, croissants, etc alongside all the butchers' stalls. They seem to be aimed at caterers, but they're more than happy to sell to individuals. Good prices and the cakes always looked good.
posted by metaBugs at 5:54 AM on August 16, 2010

I think M&S do pretty good cakes. I know you've excluded the big supermarkets, but at under £20 you're going to struggle a little.

My wedding cake came from M&S. I looked long and hard at specialist cake shops but eventually decided against the much more expensive option on the grounds that no-one would notice. No-one noticed. The cake was delicious.

For the cash you save you can get some icing and ice roses into the cake, or add some special touches.

Failing that, Maison Blanc also do decent cakes. £27 gets one that can feed 10.
posted by MuffinMan at 6:32 AM on August 16, 2010

Not sure if it's what you're looking for, but Fleet River Bakery (Holborn Tube Station) has lovely cakes and sweets. I have only bought by the slice, but they are quite friendly and I bet they would sell you a whole one. Great coffee too!
posted by Concordia at 6:54 AM on August 16, 2010

Have you tried Paul? It's a mini-chain like Valerie and might be cheaper than some of the more specialised places.

You would struggle to get anything under £20 there, to be honest. Most of the places mentioned here will not be cheap - I'd love a cake from Bea's but it would leave me without an actual present given that they are pretty spendy.

We have birthday cakes at work a lot and unless someone makes one (I made an amazing cake for about £20, including the cost of an electric mixer and fresh tubs of bicarb/baking soda - I also can recommend a Konditor and Cook recipe that will easily feed a small office with £5 and minimal 'cooking') we tend to go to Waitrose or Tesco - Waitrose do a nice chocolate and pear one. What exactly is your budget?
posted by mippy at 8:38 AM on August 16, 2010

Konditor & Cook (at least the Waterloo branch) do a 'beat the clock' special on Friday afternoons where you pay the time on the clock for the cake. Bit cheaper than normal if you can go down when it starts.

(They are not only absurdly delicious-looking, they are actually absurdly delicious.)
posted by corvine at 10:06 AM on August 16, 2010

Chinese bakeries have much cheaper cake prices, in my experience. The cakes are usually sponge cakes so they are light and airy (which means you want a bigger slice!) There are roll cakes and also ones with whipped cream frosting and fruit.
posted by vespabelle at 1:09 PM on August 16, 2010

« Older Best method for typsetting music   |   How to exit a disagreeable contract? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.