I don’t miss much when it comes to being gluten and dairy intolerant. I don’t miss macaroni and cheese (thank heavens), my chia pudding is equally fantastic with fresh peach or guava juice, and I’m fine with forgoing the bread basket at dinner. For the most part I don’t pine for the sweetness of dairy and I don’t miss the head/blood rush I get from ingesting gluten. There’s only a handful of foods I would risk having a food baby for, which means I don’t at all miss the physical fallout from taking in any lactose and/or too much gluten.
Unless it involves cake that is.
*For all the un-Intolerants in the house…this post is for you.*
Of the items I truly miss and consider putting up with the pain for, it boils down to the following:
- A piece of good cheese – be it a creamy Manchego, mature Brie or aged Parmesano-Reggiano. The kind of cheese you take a big slice of and let sit on your tongue and melt. The kind of cheese where using a cracker is blasphemous.
- A sinfully good dessert that can bring an adult to tears.
Though I rarely partake, there’s something about prettily made desserts that make me lose my mind. Carefully crafted layers of sweetness that are baked to perfection with a strong aroma of nutmeg, cardamom or vanilla, a meticulously placed layer of icing, and a light dusting of sugar. Or cinnamon. Or cacao. Or love.
If I could cry on cue, this would be the moment to do so.
Despite my choice to not eat items with dairy/gluten in them I can still damn well appreciate a good dessert. I love bringing people cupcakes and cookies when I’m invited over for a drink. I enjoy sharing a coffee with a friend and watching them blanch after their first bite of a rich dessert. There’s something mischievous and thrilling about being in presence of someone who is so taken with their food that their elation is contagious and you find yourself caught up by the experience as well.
Enter Cake, a café located near Gezira St. that sits adjacent to the Gezira Art Center and down the street from Beano’s Coffee. Run by a woman that goes by the alias Cake Fairy, it’s a locale where I have witnessed many a “this is so good it’s bringing up childhood memories and I might cry in my flan” sentiment. With glass windows that reveal a sumptuous decor and smattering of floral, plush and mauve, one is easily lured inside where the smell of sugar and spice keeps you riveted. You sink down into a seat because you realize you’re not going anywhere until you try something, which is easy because there’s plenty to choose from.
Brownies, oatmeal/chocolate/peanut butter cookies, chocolate cake, red velvet cupcakes, carrot cake, lemon bars (they’re infamous), ginger snaps, sugar biscuits and your choice of coffee or tea to wash it all down. There’s fresh sandwiches (vegetarian and cold cut options) and salads for those who want something more substantial. Everything is baked with precision and joy it seems, and the care that goes into each item is evident. There are no wilting pieces of lettuce sticking out of the sandwiches. There are no 4-day old cookies languishing in the jar. Everything looks like it just came out of the kitchen with the last touch of piped icing laid moments before. Even if you’re a severe Intolerant and can’t partake of the sweets, the coffee, tea, salads and welcoming interior make it a great place to stop and take a much deserved break before heading on your way.
Any/all sweet endings at Cake can be made to order and in terms of price, slices of cake/bars run between 18 – 25 LE with cookies starting in the 10-12 LE range. It’s a bit on the pricier end for café fare, but for items that look so splendid the extra pounds are worth it. It’s about quality, not quantity remember?
You might wonder how I can plug a place when I don’t try what’s served. It’s a bit suspect admittedly, but the reasoning behind it is simple: given the countless wide-eyed and breathless reactions I’ve seen among friends and patrons, I can’t help but conclude that Cake is slowly gaining ground. They’re on a roll and whatever they’re using to get ahead is infectious, even for an Intolerant like myself. Just looking at their desserts brings a childish smirk to my face.
A case study for extra measure: a friend of mine – whose unbearably cute Egyptian-South Asian baby turns one this winter – was stuck at home for an extended period of time throughout September. I was invited over for tea one morning and brought her a small selection (their take-away presentation is beautiful by the way) of bars and cookies from Cake. Her husband was the first to weigh in and he was immediately taken with a lightly frosted sugar cookie in the shape of a present. She started with a bite from a peanut butter option that had her licking the excess crumbs from the corner of her mouth. She then made a move for one of the ginger snaps that caused her eyes to grow wide and allowed for a small (barely audible really) breath to escape her lips. When she got to the lemon bar I’m pretty sure time stopped – at least our conversation did – because she actually lost herself in the saccharine tangy-ness of it all and required about four seconds to utter the words: “This. Is. Amazing.”
See, there is food that can make you lose your mind.
Today I went back with a friend/colleague for a quick chat. Sitting down to a cup of tea, latte and a lemon bar we discussed the work at hand, the advantages and pitfalls of social media and plans for Christmas. I enjoyed my tea while furtively eyeing her up as she sipped her coffee and brought a small forkful of the famed lemon bar towards her mouth. She closed her lips around the fork and everything became quiet for a moment. Her eyes widened, she looked down her nose towards the plate, savored the burst of lemon for a moment and then uttered with an excited yelp: “It tastes just like the lemon cake my Nana used to make when I was young. Yes! No, really! It’s that good.”
Watch out Grandma, Cake’s lemon bar is so good that you’ve got competition now. Hell, it’s “so good” that I offered up the likelihood of a food baby to try a bite.
I look about 3 months gone, but you know what? It really is that good.