This is what happens when you end a lovely meal, but feel the need for something sweet with which to finish it properly: you ask for the menu, you pore over it with your dining companions, then pick something that you could all share. Under ordinary circumstances, you’d be torn between getting something light but toothsomely sweet. However, if you had to wait for a table for the better part of nearly two hours and it’s already pushing half-past nine in the evening, best to make the most out of things and pick out the two most tempting confections amongst the dessert offerings.
At Cafe Mary Grace, there is no shortage of such sugary glories. You have the classic ensaimadas, those buttery coils of brioche dough, smothered with cream, sugar, and a snowfall of cheese. There are cheese rolls: something like abbreviated ensaimadas, but every bit as rich and as gloriously calorific. And there are the cakes: oh, and such cakes!
The caramel-vanilla bean cake is a fluffy treat that was introduced as a Mother’s Day special for this year. Here, layers of soft vanilla bean-speckled chiffon cake\ are layered with luscious ribbons of a house-made dulce de leche which, surprisingly, isn’t too sweet. The flavours are beautifully balanced and the lush vanilla bean buttercream that covers the whole thing brings all the elements together into a deliciously rich yet surprisingly light dessert. A cup of milky English Breakfast or, just to add a citrusy counterpoint, a lemony Earl Grey would not come amiss with this.
The second dessert was a rather plain-looking slab of chocolate cake. But what it lacked in looks, it certainly more than made up for in taste and texture!
If, like me, you grew up during the 1980s/1990s, you’re probably familiar with the lush chocolate-caramel cake from the now defunct Kookie Monster Bakeshop. Mary Grace’s spin on chocolate cake will certainly bring back happy, glowing memories for you: a dense, gloriously moist chocolate cake; its layers sandwiched with a gooey, rich, absolutely gorgeous and golden caramel filling; the whole cake smothered to the gills with an almost-chewy textured chocolate fudge frosting. The utterly rich chocolate cake melts in your mouth quite sensually, pleasantly unctuous and gorgeously bittersweet. The frosting and the filling make it even more so.
If, like some of my friends, you’re a fan of Besotted, that song by The Desert Wolves, you may recall that there’s a line in the song about sharing one’s chocolate cake. Seriously, if it were this cake, you’d be hard-pressed to share and may be tempted into wanting it all for yourself. Indeed, my brother and I agree that it’s the sort of cake that deserves a round of applause once you’ve wolfed down every last crumb; yes, it is that good.
There is actually a variation on two themes on the dessert menu, a hybrid of sorts between the chocolate cake and a standard-issue red velvet called a black velvet. Here, the dense chocolate cake is frosted and filled with a tangy, somewhat lemony cream-cheese icing and dolloped with a border of chocolate ganache.
One bite will mess with your head and make you think you were eating a decadent sort of chocolate candy bar rather than plain cake: lush, a little chewy, bittersweet, with an appealing tang.
And, of course, any chocolate cake demands to be eaten with a milky mug of coffee. Whether it’s a latte, a macchiato, or even an old-school cappuccino, it’s a fantastic combination and a spectacular end to one’s meal.