Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Primrose Bakery - an olfactory time machine

Anyone in the know about bakeries and other such things in London will have heard of Primrose Bakery. With two branches, in Primrose Hill and Covent Garden, their cakes have always been on my list of culinary goodies to try, as their cookbook has always been on my list of books I must own.

Imagine my combined joy and anger recently then, when I discovered that the Primrose Hill branch is a mere two minute walk from where I been working for the past two months, and where I spent last summer working too; joy that I could now make my long-intended pilgrimage, but anger that I had been missing out for more than a year. In hindsight, my waistline and bank balance will both have benefited from my ignorance, so it's not an entirely bad thing.

Naturally, I visited at the first chance I got. Situated among the beautiful terraced houses on the edge of Primrose Hill, just a stone's throw from Regent's Park, lends an aspirational air. Walking down these streets, you want to live here. You want to be part of the Primrose Hill set who can pop into the bakery on a whim, on a quiet Tuesday morning. The location makes the bakery feel secret, as if only a select few people know about it and you are privileged to be one of them (the success of the Primrose Bakery cookbook suggests otherwise, but a girl can dream).

Entering the bakery, the dream continues. Your senses are overwhelmed by the smell of cupcakes baking. Real, traditional, home made cupcakes, the very same smell that lingered in your kitchen when you made cupcakes as a child, an olfactory time machine transporting you back to a sprinkle topped, icing drenched childhood. I've been to more than my fair share of cupcake bakeries, and written about many of them, but I never realised until now, none of them have THAT smell, a smell that you can relate to, and that people all over the world will instantly identify as fairy cakes or cupcakes being baked. Sure, other bakeries smell of cooking, but more industrial cooking. Be it by accident or design, this made the experience even more personal for me.

I went for a chocolate topped vanilla cake, the same flavour that I had opted for a few days before at the Hummingbird Bakery in Kensington. En-route to work, I opted for the take away option and was delighted when my order was put in this cute box:

The joy thickened a few hours later, when, after a long shift at work I got on the train and opened the box, the smell of chocolate escaping instantly, to discover the cake nestled in a doily.

Unfortunately this picture does not do it justice, but the sprinkles were ever so brightly coloured, similar to those I remember on Dunkin Donuts in the States when I was little.  As anticipated by the smell, the cake had a certain home made flavour to it, although the icing did have the American donut frosting taste.

In terms of flavour and service, this is the closest I have come to filling the gap in my heart left by Sooty's when I moved back down South a couple of months ago. Contrary to other bakeries, they both feel unique and homely, a secret you have stumbled across and don't want to share. I only hope my bank balance can take the hit it's about to receive due to my daily proximity to such sugary delights.

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