08 May Violet cakes & voluptuous candles: Broadway Market
In 11 days’ time, the church bells will ring for the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. The venue is Windsor Castle, the dress is designed by Ralph & Russo (oops, got it wrong – it turned out to be Givenchy!) and the cake made by Claire Ptak, the founder of Violet Cakes, in the fashionable Hackney post code of London E8.
Claire moved to London in 2005 from California, where she was pastry chef at Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, across the bay from San Francisco. Alice is a big name in California, where, apart from her restaurant, she’s known for her campaigning work for organic and sustainable food, as well as for Californian cuisine. In London, Claire is a food stylist, writer and food ‘developer’, as well as making cakes.
Violet Cakes in Hackney
I’ve been meaning to pop into Violet Cakes’ bakery and café in Wilton Way, on the Dalston side of Hackney, for a year or two. I even have the Violet cook book. Last Saturday, with the sun out, I decided instead to visit their stall in Broadway Market, where Claire’s venture started out.
I had also run out of peanut butter from Pavilion; they are in Broadway Market as well. The best ever – nothing but peanuts and sea salt. Especially good on toast, and with honey.
The Violet wedding cake
A “lemon elderflower cake, covered with buttercream and decorated with fresh flowers,” is what requested Kensington Palace, the royal residence where Harry and Meghan will live, reports Harper’s Bazaar.
Obviously that Saturday at Broadway Market, Violet Cakes was not catering for the wedding-cake market. It was more about cakes for tea or a morning snack.
I did find a lemon drizzle cake… and lots of cupcakes made with Violet’s infamous ‘limited edition’ buttercream icings. Don’t ask me what limited edition means. Is it that the cupcakes run out after a while? Of course they would! They’re cupcakes.
The power of the human tribe
I asked myself, why am I caught up in this fervour of eating cakes made in the same bakery as the royal wedding cake? Especially as, although a news junky, I am naturally sceptical of media circuses and celebrities.
My theory is that we all want to feel connected, to feel part of a tribe, the world. We want to belong, be seen and be heard. And buying a coconut macaroon for £1.80 is cheaper than buying a Ralph & Russo (or Givenchy) bag for (a starting price of) over £1,000.
That simple act of buying cakes at Violet’s is making me part of the royal wedding event… even if I don’t want to admit it. I’m only human.
A spring cake indulgence
Here are the five cakes that I went for… which I took home and shared with my son, and then one for next time:
My other Broadway Market favourites
- The butcher’s Hill & Szrok: ever so friendly guys, with music on full blast. The meat is superb. In the evening the butcher’s block is turned into a table and the shop becomes a restaurant.
- Noble Fine Liquor: a wine shop with the best selection of natural wine in London. This month they are opening a restaurant, Bright, just off London Fields… a good place for lunch after visiting Broadway Market.
- Pavilion: I love this place for the best peanut butter ever – just peanuts and sea salt. The bread is also good. It’s about “bread, coffee, goods”.
All the above are in Broadway Market all week long, and are not just part of the market.
The walk through London Fields
If you want to find middle-class English people who holiday in rural France, read books and watch independent films, London Fields is the place to come. It was the day after Trump had talked about a London hospital being like a “war zone” given the number of reported knife crime in the city. I walked up through London Fields on my way up to catch the train at Hackney Central. My only surprise was that in the public toilets in London Fields the loo rolls were chained to the walls. In a war zone, having the loo paper nicked would be the last of people’s worries.
bonds. Hackney – chocolate & candles
My eye caught an interesting building down a side road, with a couple of guys sitting on the bench outside. This is bonds. Hackney, a store, a coffee spot, an event space and home to the hand-poured Earl of East candles and Kana ceramics. This is not Broadway Market, but I cannot help but mention it as it’s so near, so unique and the space felt so good.
Given that I love all things Scandinavian, I was intrigued by the Strand candle – inspired by Copenhagen and with salty notes of seaweed with birchwood, bay leaf and mandarin rind. It went with the Strand Hot Chocolate, chocolate with a touch of sea salt and a dash of mandarin oil added.
Candles and chocolate? Even though we didn’t light the candle, the combination was such a powerful double whammy on the senses. I am trying to up my level of havingness – what I can have in life – and this seemed the perfect way. Why have one pleasure when you can have two at the same time.
For coffee lovers, the coffee is from Allpress, whose roastery and café is also in E8, very close to the Violet bakery and café. The bond.Hackney store, meanwhile, is full of little brands, all local to Hackney; an Aladdin’s cave of a neighbourhood store, full of items with meaning and made with passion in craftsmanship, and that I’d like to buy. There’s also a cool workshop out the back where events are held – there was a candle-making one that morning.
I’ll be back at Christmas time, if not before. In the meantime, I am craving a Violet cupcake – a strawberry one would be good, made with real strawberry purée..