Shaky Isles, City Centre

Shaky Isles Carrot Cake- small but tasty with great presentation.

Shaky Isles Carrot Cake- small but tasty with great presentation.

www.shakyisles.co.nz

Baking: Very good baking, and the best I have found in the area. It seems that Shaky in the city has a different baking style than that in Kingsland but, definitely in late 2011 (when I more commonly frequented this cafe), the baking was far superior in the city. My last visit only offered a slice of carrot cake ($4.50). I was very happy with this cake but do remember the scones, muffins and brioches to be up to standards also. The carrot cake was formerly a big cake so the bakers may have changed. There is a high turnover of baking stock here so it pays to get in early and ask the staff if there are any cakes in the pipeline, not yet on display.

Early 2014, Shaky took over Elske in Newmarket and continued with their delicious cakes. My last visit to Shaky in the city demonstrated standardisation of the Newmarket/City cabinets, meaning high standards for all. I have not since returned to Kingsland to confirm this delight has extended there also.

Gluten Free Options: Financiers- pretty little and not as exciting as the gluten-containing options but look pretty tasty. These are the same as the ones at Shaky in Kingsland.

Opening hours: Monday-Friday 7am-4pm; Saturday-Sunday 8am-4pm
Temperature & Sunshine factor: Not really any sunshine, would be described as “tepid” if it were a bath.
Table size: Great-sized square tables, a couple of very large tables for sharing and little bar stools overlooking the street.
Ambiance: Rated extremely highly by my infamous cake companion, however, I find it a little noisy, a little cold and just not that cosy.
Eggs: Free Range
Brunch: TBC
Coffee: $5.00 for a large
Service: Yip, good.
Bathrooms: Yeah, good.
WIFI: Yes. Unlimited, but a little slow.
X-factors: 
Cons: A little cold and noisy. Slow WIFI.

Location: 22 Customs Street East, Britomart, Auckland CBD

Shaky City_Location

Ph: +64 9 377 9310

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Mozaik, Mount Eden & a good ol’ rant about chain-coffee stores

For lack of a better word- “good” berry and chocolate muffin from Mosaik. It has a good consistency, a good amount of chocolate, but my chain-cafe prejudice gives this fella a somewhat capitalist/mono cafe-culture aftertaste.

http://main.mozaikcafe.co.nz/

A chain-store rant before I begin (given the nature of my rant, I beg to be corrected if anything I write is inaccurate): In an ideal world, all muffins would not be made equal. That is, they would all taste equally good, but each one would be unique with a slightly different shape and flavour. When we make muffins from scratch, even when using an identical recipe, this is usually the result and what we produce depends on how we beat the mixture, exactly how we add the ingredients, how we are feeling at the time and, of course, the love we have for our baking. For those who have read Como Agua para Chocolate/Like Water for Chocolate  or seen the film, you will understand where I am coming from on this last note. Urban Cafe has recently shown testament to this fact when the infamous date and orange scone began to be made by somebody other than the scone king or queen; the recipe is the same, the flavours are almost the same, but a blind taste-test, and even a 20/20 vision taste-test, would reveal two very different scones.

An ideal world would be muffin utopia where our value of top-quality muffins ruled above our lazy desire to buy the most convenient (and sometimes cheapest) option. This tendency is dangerous and can lead us down a road of mono-cafe and mono-muffin culture. Big chain coffee stores are capable of destroying muffin choice and threaten to leave us with overpriced, spongy, topless, chocolateless, fruitless muffins and even worse coffee!

Starbucks, which actually used to do a pretty good muffin is the prime example of mono-cafe mono-muffin culture. From what I have seen, a new branch pops up with a good, reasonably priced muffin. It attracts new customers with its brand and affordability, and initially makes a short-term loss as it bombards the muffin and coffee market. Amongst the hype and competition, it then forces smaller, not necessarily worse quality, cafes to shut down.It then ups the prices, downs the quality, and we are left without muffin variety or quality. This seems to have happened to a large degree in Central Auckland, particularly when you take into account other chains such as Esquires, Colombus, Gloria Jeans, Hollywood and Sierra. Starbucks did set a precedent to begin with, on how a comfortable coffee store should be set out, but whilst the interiors look good, they cheap and uncomfortable. Furthermore, I find both Starbucks and Esquires to be not overly that clean in Auckland.

I am aware that Columbus Coffee recently opened next to Auckland Hospital (sandwiched between the next Colombus 1km away on K-Road and another 500m away in the Auckland Museum). As I hang around other cafes quite a lot, I overhear a lot of the concerns of the small cafe owners and workers nearby to the opening of a large chain cafe. At Grafton cafe I became very concerned when I overheard the owner’s (?) comments regarding the Columbus down the road. These comments only emphasised what we observe time and time again with the conglomeration of wealth and resources into fewer and fewer hands. As other cafes start to struggle it is apparent that their profits decline, and to compete, they are forced to cut costs, when what really needs to be done, it to invest more and “out-quality” the competition. Instead, food turnover times and standards go down, thus leading to a vicious cycle of push factors away from small cafes and pull factors from larger ones. I fear for one of my favourite hot spots in the area, Domain Deli, and also Story which have far superior baking and coffee, and which may suffer as a consequence of Columbus’ convenience and seating. Yes, Columbus is the best for seating in the immediate vicinity, but this seems so unfortunate. A cafe should win out over the others based on the quality of its baking and coffee, not solely on its ability to afford greater space due to larger initial investment capital, and thus its seating capacity. I often think about how Esquires won the lease to serve Auckland City Library, and how sad this is when we compare it to the institution that is Clark’s Cafe at Wellington City Library, and the superb quality and culture that is fostered there.

This brings me (finally)to Mount Eden. Mount Eden is home to some of Auckland’s best cafes: Frasers, Ironique, Olaf’s and Circus Circus (to name a few of my favourites). Here Mosaik has recently opened up across the road. I was unaware on first visiting the cafe the extent to which Mosaik is making an appearance in Auckland, and before entering was oblivious to the fact it is a chain. This soon became obvious and especially upon trying the coffee-yowzers…it has chain store written all over it! Admittedly, this store is North Shore-born and based, and from what I gather, not yet a franchise (of which I approve). I agree successful business owners should be praised and rewarded because they have obviously done something right to deserve their success. In this case it is obvious that care has into the design of this cafe, the decor, and the baking selection, but I am also aware they are expanding fast, and independent of my chainstore prejudices, feel cracks in the quality of service, coffee and muffins are appearing, as one sees in some of the larger chains.

Baking: The muffin and cake selection is vast and reasonably priced (although rumour has it this is part of the colonisation strategy). and the muffins are actually quite nice. I have tried a savoury and a choc-berry and ,whilst the savoury left me feeling rather blobby, the sweet one had a good consistency, muffin top and ratio of muffin: chocolate and berries. Nonetheless, I did not enjoy my muffin flavour, it tasted like it was lacking that certain something, I like to call muffin lovemaking..(oh, that came out wrong, but does really encompass the idea)…that is, I felt it lacked the taste of having been made by a real person, who enjoyed making the muffin and felt a connection to the consumer, i.e. the intention of making the muffin was for someone to enjoy it. My muffin felt like it had no personality, no character, no uniqueness and, like the savoury muffin (dare I say it), was too buttery. I feel an overly buttery muffin is  a sign of a short-cut-to-tasty muffin. As I alluded to with my experience at Little and Friday, adding too much butter, sugar or salt indicates that sweetness and fat have been used to make up for inadequacies in other areas- such as the ability to produce an inherently flavoursome muffin. (Supermarkets tend to do this with icing…but I for some reason have a soft spot for their disgustingly decadent muffins, despite my aversion to supermarkets and spongy muffins).

Mosaik was empty the first few weeks after opening, and I am incredibly surprised at the speed in which business has picked up. I walked past last Saturday to see it full, like the other popular Mount Eden shops. This leaves me fearing the worst, that this growing cafe empire will run at least one of the others out of business in addition to the Sierra that has also made itself known.  The places mentioned above should be fine, as they are firmly grounded in the area, but some of the smaller places that are trying to make a name for themselves in this cafe hub are likely to suffer. I will have to get onto trying their muffins before making any further comments other than, long live muffin utopia! In a perfect world we will continue to support the underdog and smaller cafes, that do great unique muffins, made in true baking style and spirit.

Gluten Free Options: TBC

Opening hours: Mon – Fri 6.30am – late, Sat – Sun 7am – late
Temperature & Sunshine factor: Warm- especially by the fire. The doors seem to be kept closed which is a definite positive.
Table size: Good.
Ambiance: Cosy if you get the spot by the fire. It is clean and quite light. Maybe a little sterile-feeling, but nicely decorated.
Eggs: TBC
Brunch: TBC
Coffee: Not so good. You could probably buy something similar from a machine:( $4.0o regular, $4.50 large.
Service: Er, not impressed. Impersonal and staff spend most of the time gossiping between themselves and in an unprofessional manner. I was told I was not allowed to serve myself water, was served, and subsequently was unable to get another glass while I was there (the water jugs were continually empty).
Bathrooms: Nice.
WIFI: Limited Auckland City Tomizone- 3omins
X-factors: You can buy beer there too…everyone loves a cafe/bar AND there is a FIREPLACE!!!
Cons: Please see above.

Location: 421 Mt Eden Rd , Mt Eden, Auckland City
Ph: 09 630 2044

Jafa Cafe, Grey Lynn

Jafa’s gluten-free orange cake with a delectable berry cream cheese icing…with a cherry on top. This cake may seem like a strange combo, but is darn good!

http://www.jafacafe.com/

Baking: So, recently I have been staying away from new cafes and sticking to the tried and true. The other day, however, I found myself on the other side of town and decided to branch out. Jafa’s had been somewhere I had wanted to try for a while, but hadn’t the appetite to try when passing by. When I first walked in, I liked the ambiance, but was a little concerned at the lack of cake selection: a choc-hazelnut brioche, a choc-caramel slice ($4.00) and a ginger slice (also $4.00). The one cake on display was a gluten-free orange cake with this interesting berry whip topping ($6.50). This topping turned out to be a cream cheese icing mixed with berry coulis. All I can say is fantastic! In an age where gluten free orange cakes (and choc brownies by that matter) are starting to seem a bit cliche, it is nice to see a little variation on the theme. The cake itself- moist and not too sweet (the icing, yes, was quite sweet).

This cafe is run by Brazilians I believe and they serve the infamous pão de queijo. I will return to try this to see if it is the real deal, but if it is, will be a great culinary addition in our society (there is nothing quite like it here, so look for it on Google images!).

Opening hours: Monday to Friday 7am-4pm, Saturday and Sunday 8am-4pm. (I believe it turns into a bar on Friday evenings…TBC)
Temperature & Sunshine factor: Yes, nice and warm. No sunshine but the lighting is good.
Table size: There is a variety of tables. Most are a decent size. The bar stools are a little awkward but work to maximise seating capacity.
Ambiance: A two-level cafe. The ambiance is funky, not warming, yet comfortable. Much improved when the cafe is not so busy. There is pretty artwork displayed on the walls.
Eggs: TBC
Brunch: Goodness, I haven’t tried it, but had some serious food envy watching some of the salads come out. Amazing presentation! (and this is that I had a delicious cake in front of me).
Coffee: I forgot to check the brand, but it tasted good. Flat white $3.50.
Service: A real mixed back here. Some are funksters, some are well groomed, others Brazilian (funksters and/or well groomed), others look stressed and unhappy. I was impressed by their approach in dealing with a lack of tables in a busy cafe. They were polite and respectful.
Bathrooms: Nice.
WIFI: Yes- unlimited.
X-factors: TBC- I think it needs another visit to confirm. FREE JAFFAS- yes, this is true! (see pic above)
Cons: I accidentally arrived at peak hour (I have only been here once), which is never a time for seeing a cafe at its best when you are a leisurely cake eater/coffee drinker. I usually aim to get to cafes at non-peak times, but somehow this time did not check my watch and felt a bit of leisurely cake eater/coffee drinker anxiety. The staff were very pleasant despite this and I very much enjoyed atmosphere post-2pm.

Location: 551 Richmond Road, Grey Lynn, Auckland
Ph: 09 3611100

Strata Postgraduate Lounge and Cafe, University of Auckland, City

The BIGGEST muffin I have ever tried with the BIGGEST muffin top ever and the BIGGEST failure of a muffin too. Here’s the heads up: stick to the date and orange scone or almond croissant!- they are BIG and tasty.

Baking: Now, Strata is generally pretty good all-round for baking. The muffins and mini pseudocakes, almond croissant and chocolate brownie served me well on many occasion last year and rarely disappointed. I decided to nip in the other day for some baking whilst on City Campus. Admittedly it was Uni break, but I was still greatly disappointed by the baking selection: no croissant, no pseudocake, no gluten-free orange cake, no date and orange scone, and no brownies awaited me. Instead there was the choice of a few apple muffins (not the best when one is wanting a truly sweet-kick), a chocolate cake that looked a bit stale, and the BIGGEST muffin I have ever seen. Not surprisingly, and despite my cake-intuition telling me big is not always better and that the giant muffin did not look overly tasty, my gutsy self decided to try the BIGGEST muffin I have ever seen ($4.00). Yes, it did also have the BIGGEST muffin top I have ever seen, but no, it was not the slightest bit tasty- it was dry, stale even, perhaps even yesterday or the day before or the day before that’s muffin (it was a Monday, so it could possibly even have been Friday’s muffin!). The alleged “berry and cream cheese” variety consisted of one berry and about 1/4 of a teaspoon of cream cheese…which doesn’t amount to much especially when you are talking about the BIGGEST and DRIEST muffin you have even seen. So anyway, the long and short of it is, I used to quite like the baking at Strata and undoubtedly I will return to see if this muffin was just symptomatic of a bad day/uni holiday low. I hope to return with better tales of better baking. The lesson of the story is this though: if you know your baking intuition is good, stick with it and don’t be distracted by BIG cakes or muffins. They are capable of distracting us from true muffin greatness, just like the shadows in Plato’s cave. If you are so lucky as to come across the almond croissant though, it is probably still the best baked item offered here and the date and orange scone, was my favourite in town for a good while last year.

Gluten Free Options: Orange and almond cake

Opening hours: Mon-Fri 7:30am-5.30pm
Temperature & Sunshine factor: Very nice and light and sunny. It is generally pretty warm too.
Table size: Nice square tables and some sofas with coffee tables.
Ambiance: The academic/uni student scene but comfortable. Unlike some of the other university cafes, Strata does not make you feel like you are on campus.
Eggs: TBC
Brunch: TBC
Coffee: It has been a while since I’ve had a Strata coffee, but I remember it to be fine.
Service: Just your Joe Bloggs service. Nothing especially good, nothing bad either.
Bathrooms: University bathrooms…mmm…
WIFI: Yes- for Auckland University Staff and Students. It is quite slow however.
X-factors:
Cons: Often a big queue

Location: 4th floor Kate Edger IC, University of Auckland, Symmonds St
Ph (09) 375 0030

Foreign Cake Correspondent in Sydney: La Renaissance

Super light and flaky on the inside, crunchy on the outside, sweet but not too sweet, neither over-baked nor under-baked (really hard to accomplish with croissants)…I couldn’t have asked for better.

Greetings from Sydney! I am The Cakes of Auckland’s Foreign Cake Correspondent and lover of fine brioche, pastries and muffins.

You’ll have to forgive me in advance for not always living up to the impressively meticulous documenting standards of the Auckland pages. While I did bring a notebook and jot down some of the more pertinent details on my quest to find the best almond croissant in Sydney, I was generally too busy inhaling the most splendid of pastries to be as attentive to some of the finer points as I would have liked. But if you get a chance to try La Renaissance’s almond croissant, you’ll forgive me, I promise.

La Renaissance, as you probably already guessed, won my vote for best pastry in Sydney, hands down. It’s a small French pastry shop/café located in The Rocks/Circular Quay area of Sydney. More specifically, it’s on Argyle Street (really a cobblestone alley), which makes it that much cuter. My pastry of choice (tested two days in a row) was the almond croissant, and it was perfect. Seriously!

Super light and flaky on the inside, crunchy on the outside, sweet but not too sweet, neither over-baked nor under-baked (really hard to accomplish with croissants)…I couldn’t have asked for better.

If almond croissants aren’t your thing, there are plenty of pies, slices, and other pastry options to choose from. If only I could have eaten more, I would have tried the chocolate éclair ($4.5 AUD takeaway, $5.5 eat-in), or maybe a fruit tartlet ($6 takeaway, $7 eat-in).

If, like me, you’re all about the pastry, it’s a great place to pop in and grab some pain a chocolate to take down to the waterfront, or a croissant to eat at a table on Argyle Street or in the utterly charming courtyard out back. If you’re into “real food,” then you’re also in luck. La Renaissance has a lovely menu including French-inspired pies, savoury pastries, and some beautiful baguette sandwiches.

Opening Hours: 8am-6pm 7 days

Ambiance: The ambiance here is great. The vast majority of the seating is outside and it was gorgeous outside the whole weekend so I might think differently in the rain! Whether you hide out in the back courtyard and read a book, or people-watch from a table on the sidewalk of Argyle Street, I’m sure you’ll find it utterly pleasant, assuming the weather cooperates.

Coffee: The coffee was quite good, but alas, I forgot to find out who the roaster was. Too busy wiping pastry crumbs off my face, I guess!

Service: Perfectly pleasant, I have no complaints. The staff was quite helpful, in fact.

WIFI: Nope

Location: 47 Argyle Street, The Rocks, Sydney, NSW 2000

Web site: http://www.larenaissance.com.au/index.html

Phone: +61 2 9241 4878

Brickhouse Espresso Bar, Grafton

Brickhouse’s date scone. It is substantial but lacking in dates. If you can get there in time for the simple, yet wonderful, blueberry muffin, DO! It is sweet , but not too sweet, with a strong vanilla flavour. This is a personal favourite and goes with what is perhaps the best coffee in town!

Baking: Whilst my pic above is of Brickhouse’s date scone ($3.00), the true delicacy here is the blueberry muffin ($3.50). It is unpretentious, small, and vanillary. I’m not sure what it is I like so much about this muffin, but I probably consumed about 50 of them last year. They have a good consistency that is satisfying and have good crunchy tops. Unlike much of Brickhouse’s baking, these muffins are made in-house and are hot-in-demand, most days having been swept off the cabinet by 10.00-10.15am. Brickhouse take care of their regulars, and last year my muffin companion and I discovered they were saving a muffin for one particular customer. We frequented the cafe most days, and whilst I did get the “you can pay tomorrow” status, when I would accidentally leave my wallet at home, neither of us could figure out how long it would take to reach saved-muffin status. The almond croissant is ok, but doesn’t beat the muffin. The date scone, is quite bready and fills the gap, but it could do with some more dates. The little chocolate tart is yummy, but is not a muffin, as are the danishes, biscotti, and the gluten-free almond cake ($4.00).
Gluten Free Options: Gluten-free orange almond cake.

Opening hours: Monday-Friday 7.00am-2.00pm
Temperature & Sunshine factor: Warm. The seating is around the back hidden from the breeze of the door. It can get sunny in there, but the sunniest seats are outside.
Table size: A little small, but given this is supposed to be an espresso bar they are ok. They are not so good for reading the paper or doing work.
Ambiance: I love Brickhouse. It is somewhere that is so welcoming and warm it just feels like a big bear hug from an old friend. There records and crazy old little knic-knacs on display, a tasteful interior, and you will undoubtedly be surrounded by academics having informal meetings. The odd job interview/peer mentoring session also finds its way to Brickhouse morning coffee. Without a doubt, there is never a dull moment. The same CD plays over and over during the day, which has been the same for over a year now.
Eggs: TBC
Brunch: I haven’t tried it but looks good. There are freshly squeezed juices served here too.
Coffee: One of the best in town. Allpress. I recently started going back to Brickhouse on a regular basis and was reminded at how well they do coffee. The regular flat whites are little and strong….Wellington strong! The lattes are big and strong and are served in a glass, but are worth it $4.50. Large flat white ($4.00)- a little weaker.
Service: Lovely! I don’t know what else to say. The baristas always ask me how I am, how my friends are, they have let me pay the next day if I have left my wallet behind, let me store my bag there when I had to run around and see where I might have left my wallet and are always smiling. I think this is a family-run business.
Bathrooms: Very clean. A high toilet so your feet never touch the ground. Kind of makes you feel like you are 3-years-old again.
WIFI: Yes-unlimited. A recent addition to an already fantastic cafe.
X-factors: Almost everything! (see below). I Brickhouse!
Cons: Tables are a little small, sometimes they are full (usually at 10.30am cake o’clock) and the muffins run out.

Location: 84-86 Symmonds St, Grafton
Ph: (09) 3093720

Circus Circus, Mt Eden

My muffin was not so hot the day I went in to take its picture, so I opted for a pic of the Circus Circus special cake-only cabinet (taken at 1600iso, 11pm, zoom lense- please excuse the fuzz!). Despite the poor picture quality, these cakes represent part of a fine collection. If you are lucky enough to be buying a whole cake, you will be served from this cabinet which is not subject to the shortfalls of the cosmopolitan-cake-cabinet-life of the single serves.

http://www.circuscircus.co.nz/

Baking: Oh Circus Circus, for a time there you were like my second home. A fantastic place to find baking almost 24/7 and a cosy place to do so. The baking here is affordable and big, and generally most pleasing. The real trick here though is to order a proper dessert. Why? Unfortunately, whilst this cafe makes some fantastic cakes, they have a cabinet problem. What do I mean by a cabinet problem? They have a cabinet that keeps their food cool, but unfortunately the cakes share their spot with the savories, and the savories share their flavours/odours with the cakes.  So the cakes become tainted. The tainted twinge reminds me somewhat of when I was served my lunch in a lunchbox. No matter what I used to put in my sandwiches, they would always end up tasting of every other sandwich that had ever been in my lunchbox. This is a truly sad but true occurrence.
This is even sadder because Circus Circus is home to a pretty tasty blueberry or white chocolate and raspberry muffin ($3.60). It also boasts a number of cakes: chocolate, carrot and gluten-free orange almond cake. These cakes are a little dry, but big and will fill you up nicely for $5.90. They are definitely best earlier in the day.
If you are feeling particularly wealthy, there is also raspberry cheesecake, banoffee pie and creme brulee to be tried ($9.90). I remember at least one of these to be particularly good, but it has been some time since I have had a real dessert here so for those risk-takers out there, it may have to be a gamble.
Gluten Free Options: Orange almond cake (yet to be tried)

Opening hours: 6:30am-11:00pm, 7 days
Temperature & Sunshine factor: A wee bit of sunshine during the day, nicely candlelit and heated by night. There is a fireplace and multiple outdoor gas heaters.
Table size: Excellent. Some round and small, some round and big- for people who have several friends. Some square ones.
Ambiance: I definitely prefer this place in the late afternoon/evening when the lights are dimmed and one can enjoy cake by candlelight. During the day it feels a little large and on the weekends is very crowded for brunch (this is not surprising given the brunches are huge, look delicious and there is a 2 for 1 voucher in the Entertainment Book). There are different settings to try in this cafe as it is a large house. It is also probably the only NZ cafe I have seen for a while which has an indoor smoking area (mmm tut tut). This, however, is completely segregated from the main cafe.
I guess you can’t but mention under ambiance the all-encompassing circus theme…
Eggs: TBC
Brunch: Big and yummy. 2 for 1 in Entertainment Book.
Coffee: Very good. A highlight of this place is the bowl lattes and bowl hot chocolates. They do them so well- they are strong and are generous on the froth. The regular coffees are $4.20 and the bowls are $4.80, so there is not much in the price either. I did have one unpleasant experience with my coffee a few months back, which seems to have been slightly traumatising as I have returned very little since. That is, a new staff member was put in charge of refilling the sugar shakers and accidentally filled them with salt. I only discovered this after having added my “sugar” to my coffee. On telling the staff what the story was, they initially would not believe me. When I spoke to the manager though, they knew exactly what was going on and promptly replaced all the sugar shakers.
Service: Good. Very attentive…could be too attentive for some. I guess it depends on what you like. Sometimes they are a little rushed which can create a little bit of anxiety for the relaxed cafe-goer.
Bathrooms: Let’s just say interesting?…unique…?
WIFI: Limited 30mb/30 min Auckland free WIFI
X-factors: The bathrooms….interesting…Circus theme.
Cons:

Location: 447 Mt Eden Road, Auckland, New Zealand
Ph: +64 9 623 3833

The Fridge, Kingsland

Carrot cake from The Fridge in Kingsland. They claim to have Auckland’s best carrot cake…and I tend to agree!

Baking:  The highlight at the fridge is definitely the carrot cake ($7.50). It is the most expensive in Auckland, they claim it is the best, and I tend to agree. It has many layers, you can taste that twinge of baking soda, and it is just an all-round sturdy cake. It is also big enough to share, that is if you happen to be a social cafe socialite. The muffins are really big, but not amazing in flavour- good tops though. The cabinet here has a good range of cakes and slices, and they even stock lammingtons on a regular basis (not a common specialty around town). The pseudo-cupcake/cakes are a little pricey at $5.50 a pop. The carrot cake is pricey, but worth it for a treat. Muffins and scones are all$4.50.
Gluten Free Options: Orange and Almond Cake.

Opening hours: Mon – Fri 7.30am – 4.10pm, Sat – Sun 8am – 4.10pm
Temperature & Sunshine factor: Excellent! Sunny spots inside and out. I have never felt cold here, possibly because the doors are far from the entrances.
Table size: Great. Nice and big.
Ambiance: I like it. The 1970s retro room and wooden sun-room are nice and homely.
Eggs: TBC, but recycled paper napkins.
Brunch: Very rich!
Coffee: Excellente! $4.00 Flat white, $4.50 Large or Latte. The cups are funky red.
Service: Very good when you are indecisive about what to order.
Bathrooms: I think there is just one for a pretty big cafe, but it is very nice, just like you’d have at home. I feel there may even be a shower (but don’t quote me on it). Only issue is the glass on the door- although it is textured, it does not make for the most private of bathrooms.
WIFI: Tomizone free 30 mins/30mb limited.
X-factors: Homely ambience and carrot cake.
Cons: A little more pricey cake cabinet than average.

Location: 507 New North Rd, Kingsland
Ph: 09-845 5321

Tasca, Newmarket

Tasca Newmarket’s Carrot Cake- in the running for Auckland’s best!

http://www.tasca.co.nz/newmarket_home.htm

Baking: These cakes are excellent. There is a chocolate cake filled with dulce de leche (caramel) that looks exquisitely indulgent, an orange and almond cake (which I suspect may be gluten free, but need to ask about), and a divine carrot carrot cake (which I can vouch for, and consider a top competitor for Auckland’s best carrot cake, along with Jones the Grocer in Newmarket and The Fridge in Kingsland) (all cakes $6.50). The muffins at this joint are scrumptiously wonderful also. I think it was a banana, maple and walnut muffin I tried several weeks ago that really hit the spot ($3.50). They seem to go for interesting muffin combos here, which are capable of breaking the monotony of the ever-popular blueberry routine. (Muffins $4.00 as of 2013)
I found myself reading about atherosclerosis whilst guzzling Tasca’s carrot cake, that is, a cake topped with 2cm of incredibly decadent cream cheese icing. I wondered if perhaps this was a counterproductive activity, or if my pure enjoyment of this delicacy would counteract any plaques forming in my arteries. I tend to opt for the later possibility. In an interview on National Radio not so long ago, André Cointreau, President of the infamous Cordon Bleu Cooking School, quoted a study into perceptions of the term “chocolate cake” in France and the United States. Apparently this study showed that the first word popping into the Americans’ heads upon mention of chocolate cake was “guilt”, whereas for the French, it was “delicious”.
I tried to find evidence to support my theory that despite these differing associations, the French still had lower cardiovascular disease rates than Americans, and the WHO statistics have backed me up. Admittedly the French show cholesterol rates far higher than those of the United States population, but age-standardised cardiovascular disease rates, obesity, and diabetes were all lower amongst the French. Although my logic is definitely lacking scientific grounding, and there are many variables to consider, the cake happiness factor suggests we should just go ahead and enjoy our cake rather than feel guilty about it. Once we decide to eat cake, we’ll probably eat it anyway, even if we are simultaneously studying the detrimental health effects such consumption can have.
I like to convince myself that cake is to health, what environmental sustainability is to economics, namely, a factor that would seem more costly than beneficial, but whose greater benefits may be ignored. In other words, in economics, the cost-benefit equation has traditionally been based on monetary factors, when we know that the current model has tended to ignore environmental factors. If cake can reduce stress levels and café-going, the isolating psychosocial detriments of modern-day society, perhaps it has more health benefits than the mere saturated fats and sugars equation. In my case, it also promotes exercise…another beneficial, yet unintended consequence. I await criticism by health professionals, but at least am sure Monsieur Cointreau would agree with my argument.

Opening hours: Mon – Fri 7.30am til late; Sat – Sun 8.30am til late
Temperature & Sunshine factor: Not any sunshine here. Once again, they are on the wrong side of Nuffield St. I think it is warm enough, but there is quite a cold feel to the cafe in general which makes you feel not so warm. I think it is the Spanish “let’s pretend it is 40 degrees outside” decor.
Table size: A decent table size. Suits all size groups.
Ambiance: Spanish theme and pretty groovy at night time. Possibly a little cool-feeling for the winter months. If there were sun, it would be ideal. Nonetheless, it is very welcoming.
Eggs: Not free-range
Brunch: I haven’t tried it, but they have a reasonably-priced lunch menu, and the food looks darn good.
Coffee: $4.00 Flat white. $4.50 Latte.
Service: Friendly and a mixture of Spanish and Latin American staff.
Bathrooms: Good.
WIFI: Yes- unlimited. Just ask the barista for the password.
X-factors:
Cons: No sunshine. On occasions, staff should watch what they are saying in Spanish…you don’t know who might understand you.

Location: 25 Nuffield St, Newmarket
Ph: 09 522 4443

Nuffield St Cafe, Newmarket

Nuffield St Cafe’s Carrot Cake boasting a delicious creamy icing, but a carrot cake underneath which has some room for improvement. It looks so good, but is lacking some fundamental fruity and carrot-y flavours.

http://www.nuffieldstreetcafe.co.nz/

Baking: I once had a chat with this cafe’s owner/manager who claimed he made the best carrot cake in Auckland. I have tried this cake three times now, and each time I come to the same conclusions: 1. this owner has not tried all the carrot cakes in Auckland; 2. this owner has not tried many carrot cakes in Auckland and; 3. this owner has not tried his own carrot cake. On the outside, even to the trained carrot cake connoisseur, it is true this looks like a jolly good carrot cake. On the inside, however, this cake is not wondrous. It  is palatable, but just lacks that certain je ne sais quoi that makes you feel like carrot cake is in actual fact a health-food.From my own experiences baking, I believe this can be achieved 1. by adding pineapple 2. by adding apple, or 3. by increasing the carrot:other ingredients ratio. I am dying to ask this owner if they add pineapple, or at least apple, to their cake, but he seems so sure of himself that I am frightened off. The cake has fantastic icing with a delicious sprinkling of nuts on the top, and they even add walnuts to the mix. Nevertheless, the true icing on the cake in this instance would be the successful production of a carrot cake that tastes like carrot, not just like sweet cake.
Gluten Free Options: TBC

Opening hours: 7am -late Monday to Friday, 8am – late Saturday & Sunday (NB, cakes disappear by 6.00pm and this place converts into a bar…where apparently cakes should not be consumed- see below)
Temperature & Sunshine factor: Pretty dim
Table size: Good
Ambiance: Dim. The whole place was renovated not so long ago. The walls are black and the decor, black, white and red. I think they were aiming for funky, but the place just feels cold and uninviting for a cafe. It works later in the evening, say for a romantic cake date by candlelight, though, as I discovered, the cake is cleared away by 6pm. If you get in at 5pm, you can enjoy $5 cake with half price beer or wine…maybe not the ideal match, but a great happy hour deal all the same.
Eggs: TBC
Brunch:
Coffee: Allpress
Service: The staff are very polite, but I feel this is largely out of fear of their boss. They seem all very personable but as though they have been instructed not to interact with customers at any more than a service level. They top up your water all the time- this is very pleasing.
Bathrooms: Fine
WIFI: Yes- unlimited. Just get the password from the barista.
X-factors: None
Cons: This place makes me feel unwelcome every time I go and I really will not go back. I know the waiters are only doing what they are told and are really courteous, but as I said above, I sense fear in the workplace…hell, I was fearful, and I was merely the customer. I often overstay my welcome at cafes, this I cannot deny, but at this place, the minute I finish my cake, I feel the owner’s eyes on me to continue consuming or get out, despite the cafe only being half full.
On my last visit, this may have been due to the cafe/bar transition of which I was unaware (I really should have got the message when they turned the lights out and lit the candles). All the same, I did not like being moved from my table for a booking at 6pm, then realising when I left at 6.30pm, that noone had come to take the table. I sensed I was being judged for having cake at post-work snack o’clock. This made me feel so uncomfortable that I ended up leaving the cafe, rather than waiting for my friend who was to join me. She was wanting to have cake, so would have been disappointed anyway.
In summary, I felt embarrassed to even be consuming water after finishing my cake at this cafe, which is almost unheard-of  given my incredibly high threshold for public embarrassment. Eating cake after cake-o’clock should have been like water of a duck’s back for me, but I was mistaken.

Location: 11A Nuffield St, Newmarket, Auckland City
Ph: 09 520 2240