As far as general rules go, I’m a bit OVER cupcakes. Ostentatious little things – all look-at-me frosting and fat-bottomed milky sponge dressed-up in novelty casing. No thank you, I’m not a child. Give me a scone buckling under the weight of clotted jam and unctuous cream, a slab of vegetable-heavy carrot cake or a rich and decadent chocolate slice any day.
But if there was ever an argument in favour of the sugary mounds, then Violet in Hackney is leading the charge, and after yesterday’s jaunt, I’m almost prepared to eat my
Violet is the love child of Claire Ptak, a lady whose sugar-coated CV includes work under Alice Walters as pastry chef at Chez Panisse in Berkley. She’s had a little stall at Broadway Market since 2005.
I once bought ten of her mini violet and rose cupcakes for a cupcake-loving friend, then strapped the box to my bike and cycled across London. When I arrived at my destination, they were unsurprisingly squashed all over the box, but so good did they taste that said friend proceeded to lick the cake goo out of the corners.
Yesterday I took a visit to the recently opened Violet cafe with a friend who’d just run a half marathon and was in need of a celebratory sugar rush. The cafe itself comes by the way of a relatively innocuous white building, on a quiet residential street.
Inside, this pared down elegance reigns supreme. Pale turquoise crockery, a single peony on each table, reclaimed school desks and formica tables, stripped wood and bare open spaces. Calming and airy, there’s a hint of Scandinavia in the curation – where interior silences by the way of a vast white walls are considered a valuable decorating tool. Refreshing to see something other than walls filled with ‘quirky’ found objects, a tiresome trend among independent coffee shops.
An espresso machine has just been fitted, so Jack’s coffee is now available. I took a cappuccino which was perfectly silky and rich, but could have been a touch hotter. On the cake front, there were racks of American-inspired, candy-coloured cupcakes alongside sticky blood orange upside-down cakes, chocolate, prune and armangac cakes, a vast tray of cherry cobbler with rocks of upper crust bobbing on a sea of ox-blood coloured fruit, chewy cookies, and bite-size passion and bergamot cakes.
We went for the cobbler with clotted cream, the passion and bergamot nibbles and completely maverickly for me a chocolate and raisen whoopie pie. I could use a whole host of over the top adjectives to describe our coffee and cake experience, but I won’t. Suffice to say that each one had layers of subtle flavour, its own well-crafted texture and a technical excellence when it came to composition that was testament to Ptak’s previous career in pastry.
Refreshing and simple, Violet doesn’t wallow in over-indulgence. The cakes don’t go down the Innocent Smoothie route and try to be your friend with labels crammed with witty commentary. Uncomplicated, chic and lo-fi, Violet is a space that serves the most delicious confectionary without being sickly sweet. You leave having balanced your post-run calorie intake, but the whole experience has you leaving feeling lighter and reinvigorated. Cupcakes may be for kids, but Violet is very much for grown-ups.
Violet, 47 Wilton Way, London, E8 3ED
Images are from the Violet website