Molly’s Cupcakes

Bakery blog, I have returned! And I’m going to ramble about a cupcake shop on Bleecker Street, which is a pretty magical street in the West Village. So magical that if I had the pictures for it, I’d devote a whole post to its glory. Between 7th Avenue and Carmine Street, there’s a gelato place (Grom), an ice cream place (Cones), a cheese store that makes arguably one of the best grilled cheese sandwiches in NYC (Murray’s Cheese), a pizza place (John’s of Bleecker Street), a doughnut shop (The Doughnut Project – not technically on Bleecker, but close enough), and several bakeries. You could spend your whole day eating your way through this street.

But today, cupcakes. Molly’s Cupcakes (228 Bleecker Street), to be specific. My mother and I wandered in because we were in the neighborhood, and it was too cold for gelato or ice cream. The entrance is mostly flat. I think a power chair could get over it with enough momentum.

MC 1

Molly’s Cupcakes is pretty adorable. Even the chalkboard outside assures you that you’re in a cupcake judgment-free zone.

MC 2

There are also cute signs around the store.

MC 3
I understand why cupcakes should be held securely instead of held while frolicking, but it’s just so much fun to frolic.

The owner of Molly’s Cupcakes says on their website that Molly was his third grade teacher. She baked cupcakes whenever one of her students had a birthday, which is so sweet. This is probably why the store looks like a cross between a swing set and an elementary school classroom, with chalkboards and desks galore.

MC 4

MC 5
These desks are giving me flashbacks of spelling quizzes, and times that I worried over my first grade GPA (which wasn’t actually a number, but I still felt a need to cram for quizzes).

Not that I’m complaining. Elementary school cupcake birthday parties were a highlight of my childhood. Except our cupcakes were usually comprised of cake mix and store-bought frosting, which the cupcakes at this establishment most definitely are not.

MC 7
This lighting isn’t doing the cupcakes justice. I really need to fiddle with my filters more.

Molly’s Cupcakes has an impressive display case and selection, with each flavor written out in neat, occasionally small handwriting. They have vegan options, and one flourless chocolate option (the Flourless Molten Chocolate). They also have the option to build your own cupcake.

MC 6
You too can live your dream of getting a chocolate cupcake with chocolate frosting and brownie chunks.

My mother and I decided to split a chocolate raspberry cupcake (we had just eaten lunch at Murray’s Cheese Shop, and their grilled cheese sandwiches are very filling), which is a chocolate cupcake with raspberry filling and a chocolate ganache. Had I gone there alone, I might have gone after the Oreo cupcake or the often-Yelped crème brûlée cupcake, which both looked lovely. We wanted a decaf latte to go with it, but we were told that they didn’t have any decaf. Apparently West Village residents have no need for decaffeinated coffee or espresso. Alas.

The cupcake itself was pretty good. Then again, my requirements for a pretty good cupcake are: 1. the cake is not dry, and 2. the frosting is not overly sweet. This sounds like a low bar, but I assure you that it is not. Most cupcake shops suffer from one of these ailments, and Magnolia Bakery is terrible on both counts (seriously, why is it so popular?). But the cupcake I had at Molly’s Cupcakes was solid. I’d definitely go back for another (and maybe sneak in some decaf coffee in a thermos).

TLDR:

Entrance: Mostly flat. A power chair should be able to get into the shop.
Bathroom: Although I did not use the bathroom there, it has a handicapped sign, so it looks promising.
Lighting: Good, although writing on labels for cupcakes might be a bit small at times.
Counter: Easy to see display, slightly difficult to reach for the counter to pay.
Coffee: No decaf.
Pastries: Chocolate raspberry cupcake is solid. Vegan options are available, in addition to at least one flourless option.

Website: http://www.mollyscupcakes.com/ny/home.aspx
Twitter: @MollysCupcakes
Instagram: @MollysCupcakes

Thanks for reading! If you like what you’ve read, then be sure to subscribe to my blog/follow me on Instagram (@valpiro221)!

Val

NYC Doughnut Showdown: Part One

I said I would finish my Cambridge entries, but eh, no one wants to read about a crepe chain.  And in any case, I’m home now, and I just went to two doughnut places over the 4th of July weekend and feel a need to tell people about them.  NYC’s got some lovely doughnut places, so I thought I’d post two per entry that seem pretty similar to each other.  Today: fancy doughnuts.  Some call them “artisanal,” but I really prefer the term “fancy,” because they really are fancier (and more expensive) than your average doughnut.

Today’s Showdown: Dough (originally from Brooklyn, but I checked out their Flatiron location (14 W 19th street between 5th and 6th avenues)) and The Doughnut Plant (220 W 23rd street, between 7th and 8th avenues).

Dough is a pretty new place (I think they’ve been around since 2010/11), but it has already been ranked as the best doughnut shop in NYC by GrubStreet.  They specialize in yeast doughnuts, which they top with various glazes.  The Doughnut Plant has been around for a bit longer, and has been featured on multiple travel shows (not gonna lie, that’s kind of how I found out about them).  It has four locations in Manhattan (five if you count the Shake Shack in Battery Park City).  They invented the square jelly doughnut (imagine a square doughnut with a hole in the middle, and imagine jelly piped through each side of the square) and the creme brûlée doughnut.  I was excited to go to both shops.

I was thinking of doing some kind of ranking system with numbers so that I could judge both places on accessibility and awesomeness of doughnut, but I think it might just be better to talk about each first, and then put some kind of win/loss column at the bottom (can I make charts on wordpress?  Let’s find out).

First stop: Dough

Dough Entrance
Slight bump at the entrance, but I think a powerchair could go over it.

Door opens outwards, so it’s a bit tricky to open while seated.

There was a line.  Because doughnuts.  My sister (who valiantly agreed to join me on this quest for fancy fried dough) waited in line while I took pictures of the counter.  It was right at my height, which I thought was a bit dangerous.

I'll have one of everything okay thanks bye.
I’ll have one of everything okay thanks bye.

We decided to share a doughnut: the chocolate salted caramel.  Don’t let the above picture fool you.  They had more doughnuts on the other side of the counter.

The table at Dough is long and at the perfect height for my manual chair.

Dough Table

My sister and I looked at our glorious doughnut.

Okay this needs a knife and fork.  Otherwise I'm going to leave here looking like I stuck my face in a vat of chocolate.
Okay this needs a knife and fork. Otherwise I’m going to leave here looking like I stuck my face in a vat of chocolate.

Holy crap it’s like biting into the innards of a homemade zeppole (Italian fried dough).  I need to show you just how dough-y the middle of this thing is.  Dough wins for more accurate name ever.

Dough Cross Section
SO SOFT. SO DOUGHY. WHY AM I SHARING THIS?

The glaze was also fantastic.  The salt balances out the sweetness of the chocolate, and when it’s done I’m sad that I split the doughnut.  It’s a salted caramel doughnut, but I don’t think I got too much caramel.  It’s okay, the salt and chocolate make up for it.

Unfortunately, Dough does not have a bathroom.  The staff there tells you to go to the Bed, Bath & Beyond down the block (and by block, I mean down to 6th avenue, which feels like going down two city blocks).  This was not an issue for me and my sister, because their espresso machine was broken that day.  This was kind of a bummer, because they serve Intelligentsia coffee (another high-end coffee brand), and I wanted to try a latte.  Oh well.  Another time.

Dough does have a water fountain, but it’s way too high for me to reach.

I know you're trying to look cool, Dough, but us wheelchair users cannot hydrate ourselves.  Not cool.
I know you’re trying to look cool, Dough, but us wheelchair users cannot hydrate ourselves. Not cool.

My sister and I trekked a few blocks over to our second location, The Doughnut Plant.  There’s a slight incline going up to the door, which also opens outwards.  What is up with that?

The door handle is shaped like a doughnut?  Does that make it harder to open?  Eh, a little.
The door handle is shaped like a doughnut? Does that make it harder to open? Eh, a little.

The Doughnut Plant specializes in yeast and cake doughnuts, so my sister and I decided to get one of each, along with an iced matcha latte (because we both love matcha).

TDP Latte

The latte was milky and not too sweet.  I would’ve thrown in another teaspoon of matcha, but that’s just me.

There are doughnuts everywhere in this store.  I mean this in a cute way.  The walls are covered in pillows that look like their doughnuts.

TDP Wall 2

Pinstripe doughnut YEAH.
Pinstripe doughnut YEAH.

The counter is a little taller than I am, but I can still get a good look at the bottom level of their doughnut case.

The counter.  You can see some of The Doughnut Plant's swag in the background in case you want to buy a bag or t-shirt or something.
The counter. You can see some of The Doughnut Plant’s swag in the background in case you want to buy a bag or t-shirt or something.
Hi doughnuts, if I had the stomach capacity, just know that I would eat you all.
Hi doughnuts, if I had the stomach capacity, just know that I would eat you all.

The Doughnut Plant has lots of small tables and a bench, which is covered in doughnuts.  They’re at a wheelchair friendly height.

TDP Table

My sister and I got a Valrhona chocolate yeast doughnut (to compare with Dough’s doughnut), and a matcha cake doughnut.  I was excited.

A star-shaped doughnut.  Because 'Murica.
A star-shaped doughnut. Because ‘Murica.

First, the Valrhona doughnut (star-shaped just for the 4th of July weekend).  I have to say, Dough does a better yeast doughnut.  It’s no contest.  This doughnut could’ve used a little salt in the glaze.  Which isn’t to say it was too sweet, just that I expect something a little more intense when it’s advertised as Valrhona chocolate, or at least something that tastes just as good as the glaze at Dough.  Boy did that sound snobby.  You get this round, Dough.

But the matcha doughnut.

Is this my new cellphone background?  Maybe.  Okay, it is.  It definitely is.  I stare at it daily.  I'm staring at it right now.  I want one.
Is this my new cellphone background? Maybe. Okay, it is. It definitely is. I stare at it daily. I’m staring at it right now. I want one.

Like the latte, it could’ve used a teaspoonful more of matcha, but that’s just personal preference.  It was a very good cake doughnut.  This is only available on Saturdays and Mondays, but I definitely recommend getting it if you’re a fan of green tea.

The Doughnut Plant has a bathroom, but it is not wheelchair-accessible.  Blast.  On the bright side, I can actually reach the water.

See, Dough?  You don't have to let your wheelchair-using customers dehydrate.
See, Dough? You don’t have to let your wheelchair-using customers dehydrate.

THE RESULTS (to substitute for TLDR):

THE GOOD:

Dough: Better yeast doughnut, counter at good height, table at good height.
The Doughnut Plant: Inventive cake and filled doughnuts, counter at good height, tables at good height, water reachable, delightful matcha latte.

THE BAD:

Dough: No bathroom, water not reachable, broken espresso machine.
The Doughnut Plant: Bathroom not wheelchair-accessible.

So, where should you get a fancy doughnut in NYC (well, in the Flatiron district)?  Depends on what you’re craving.  If you want a yeast doughnut, go for Dough.  If you want anything else, go to The Doughnut Plant.  Just remember to use the bathroom at Bed, Bath & Beyond.

Thanks for reading!  If you like what you’ve read, please follow this blog or follow me on Twitter (@Access_Bakeshop).  Or share this post on the social media outlet of your choice.  I’m so ecstatic to be back in NYC.  Don’t get me wrong.  Cambridge has its charm, but there’s no place like home.  Especially when you can buy a big container of peanut butter and another one of marshmallow fluff.  Not joking.

I think this is what those "I <3 NY" shirts are referring to, right?
I think this is what those “I love NY” shirts are referring to.  Right?

See you next week!  Well, if my dissertation allows it.

Val

Carluccio’s

I sometimes forget how my dissertation writing takes over my life.  I spent four days holed up in my dorm this week, only occasionally leaving to go to the kitchen and eat breakfast food.  Not joking, my meals the other day were: cereal for breakfast, oatmeal for lunch, and eggs scrambled with cheddar and broccoli for dinner.  I mean, breakfast is the most important meal of the day, right?  By that logic, wouldn’t you want all your meals to be important?  Okay, weak logic, I just really love breakfast food (another reason why Leslie Knope and I are spiritual twins – seriously, go watch “Parks and Recreation”).

But in all honesty, this was pretty tame compared to when I wrote my undergraduate thesis last year.  A friend who was visiting me came back to my room one night around 8pm to find me eating dinner, by which I mean scooping out the innards of half an avocado with stale tortilla chips.  Medieval history can be rough.  But on the bright side, chapter one is drafted and in the hands of my supervisor!

Back to the blog post: I did have to go into town prior to my hermit session and get groceries.  One of the interesting things about Cambridge is that all roads seem to lead to the Market.  The Market is like a farmer’s market, where numerous vendors set up shop and sell everything from produce to pies (savory, unfortunately) to accessories to knick knacks to hemp clothing.  It’s overall pretty nice, but I don’t stay there too long because this is what I have to wheel over:

Market Ground
Why hello there cobblestones. I’m going to go somewhere else now.

Wanting to save my chair from cobblestone-induced punishment, I just bought some fruit from one of the vendors in a less bumpy part of the Market.  I then wandered over to the Grand Arcade, which is an indoor shopping center (smooth floors!  Huzzah!).  I wanted to try a new hot chocolate (to go/take away, of course, because I had work to do), so I wheeled over to Carluccio’s (1 Fisher Square, Grand Arcade, Cambridge CB2 3QF), an Italian restaurant with a storefront where you can buy biscotti, pastries, pastas, and prepared foods to go.  It’s a chain, and I do feel a little silly reviewing a chain location, but hey, if the hot chocolate and pastries are good and worth returning to, then I don’t care where they come from.

Carluccio Entrance

I know it would probably be more aesthetically pleasing to include a picture of the whole door, but I just want to show the entrance for a wheelchair-using point of view.  The carpet behind the door is deceptively difficult to wheel on.  I would not try pushing myself over that while holding a hot cup of coffee.  It will end badly.  It’s slightly bumpy in front of the door, but not bad at all.  The doors are heavy, but it was really nice outside, so one of the doors was kept open.

As I wheeled to the counter, I passed by a table full of pastries.

Carluccio Counter

They were all right there at my eye level and definitely within my reach.  This was painfully tempting.  I’ve been to Carluccio’s before.  During the holidays, they sell a honey, almond, chocolate truffle that my mom loves, so I have fairly high expectations for the pastries.  So many options!  I needed to stall my indecision.  I would’ve stayed (there are lots of tables and an accessible bathroom), but I had work to do back in my room, and I had also foolishly purchased fruit at the Market, and I was worried that if I didn’t get home immediately and put them in the fridge, they’d spoil (produce spoils here weirdly quickly).  I went to the counter and ordered a hot chocolate (2.25) to go.

Carluccio Hot Chocolate

A member of the staff kindly moved the plastic tops over to me, because they were way out of reach.  She told me to stir the hot chocolate, because the chocolate settled on the bottom of the cup.

All stirred!
All stirred!

A note on hot chocolate: Hot chocolate generally takes on a milky or thick consistency.  Milky hot chocolate is less intense, and can easily be paired with a slice of cake (e.g. Michaelhouse’s hot chocolate).  Thick hot chocolate has the consistency of a melted-down chocolate bar combined with either milk or cream.  It usually tastes very rich, very intense, and should not be paired with anything heavier than a cookie.  Carluccio’s hot chocolate has a thick consistency, and is a bit on the sweet side.  On a scale from 1 (what a light snack!) to 10 (this is my entire dessert for the day and after this I’m going to bed), I’d give this one a 6.

Right, back to the pastries.  I need to find something to go with this hot chocolate.  Chocolate tart?  Oh my, no, that’d put me in a food coma.  Fruit tart?  That might also be too heavy.  Oh my, what have we here?

Hello, fancy-looking jammy dodger!

The Eleventh Doctor is jumping in delight.
The Eleventh Doctor is jumping in delight.

That looks perfect.  What could be better than a combination of hot chocolate, raspberry, and cookie?  I bought one to go (95 p), along with a lemon tart (3.50) that I planned to eat with some of my floormates later that night (because food blog research always enjoys company).  I also purchased some spinach ricotta tortelloni for dinner (not dessert, but hey, they have good fresh filled pastas here, might as well).

I got back to my dorm, put my groceries away, and drank more of the hot chocolate while I ate the fancy jammy dodger.  The jammy dodger (fine, “raspberry jam biscuit”…but we know deep down it’s a jammy dodger) was delightful.  The raspberry jam was the right amount of tartness, and the cookie surrounding the filling was soft and chewy.  I immediately regretted only buying one.  The hot chocolate was good, however I wish it had been in a smaller cup.  Thick hot chocolates work best in a 4-6 oz. cup (or 8 oz. if you’re really hungry).  The 12 oz. cup they had given me was way too much.  I was starting to feel really sleepy.

Later that night, after my hot chocolate coma had passed, and after I had eaten dinner, I took the lemon tart out of the fridge, along with some of the raspberries I bought from the Market.

Disclaimer: it does not actually come with raspberries.  If you bring this home with you, however, this method of serving is highly suggested.
Disclaimer: it does not actually come with raspberries. If you bring this home with you, however, this method of serving is highly suggested.

One of my floormates (a fellow medievalist) and I ate the tart, and it was deliciously zesty.  The raspberries were a great addition, so I highly recommend serving it with some kind of fresh fruit (blueberries, strawberries, and generally most berries would work) if you bring it home with you.  Carluccio’s is open until 11pm on weeknights, so if you have a sugar craving after dinner and just want to grab something to go, look no further.  It’s also great by itself, so if you want to sit in Carluccio’s and have the tart by itself, I’d pair it with a black tea.

TLDR:

Entrance: Flat, doors are heavy, but are open when the weather’s nice.
Bathroom: Accessible!
Lighting: Excellent
Counter: Not at a great height when you get to the register, but the pastries are at a very visible height.
Coffee: Their own brand name, Hot Chocolate: Their own brand name (both available to purchase in the storefront), bit sweet and on the heavier side of the hot chocolate spectrum.
Pastries: Fancy jammy dodgers are amazing, lemon tart is deliciously zesty
Other: They sell excellent chocolate truffles at the front of the store.  Technically part of the Grand Arcade, but you will have to exit the Grand Arcade briefly to get there.  Check the Grand Arcade directory for more exact directions.

For more information on the Cambridge location: http://www.carluccios.com/restaurants/cambridge

Thanks for reading!  If you like what you’ve read, you can follow or subscribe to this blog, share this on the social media outlet of your choice, or follow me on Twitter (@Access_Bakeshop)!  Next week: a super simple cookie recipe that only requires one bowl!

Val

Fitzbillies

When I first got to Cambridge last September, my sister stayed with me for a while to help me settle in.  We heard that Fitzbillies (51-52 Trumpington Street, CB2 1RG), a bakery and café near Pembroke College, was famous for their Chelsea buns, which are basically sticky buns.  Intrigued, we stopped by to try one, and then went outside to eat it while we went down Pembroke Street (which, by the way, was a terrible idea because Pembroke Street’s narrow and slanted sidewalks wreaked havoc on my shoulders).

Not going to lie, I got some of that sticky sweet syrup on my wheelchair rims.  Messy?  Yes.  Improvement of grip strength?  Actually, yes.  But I did wash them off later.
Not going to lie, I got some of that sticky sweet syrup on my wheelchair rims. Messy? Yes. Improvement of grip strength? Actually, yes. But I did wash them off later.

The counter was at the perfect height for viewing the buns.  We bought one bun (1.90) to split, and after two bites in, we both decided that it was very sweet, and would go great with coffee.  Really, really dark coffee.  This would have dissuaded us from going back to Fitzbillies, but we decided to try out their afternoon tea (18.00) anyway.  Because my sister and I love afternoon tea.  I mean, how could you not?  Sandwiches?  Pastries?  Scones?  CLOTTED CREAM?

YES, ALL CAPS.  Clotted cream is one of those things you can’t get in New York unless you do high tea somewhere fancy, because they import it from Devonshire.  You can also make your own clotted cream, but that requires twelve hours of oven time.  I’m not joking.

Where was I?  Right, Fitzbillies afternoon tea.  My sister and I tried it out, and the sandwiches were not bad, while the pastries were good, not great.  But that scone.  That clotted cream.  Oh.  My.  Yes.  This.  All of this.  Can I freeze clotted cream and bring it on a transatlantic flight?  I don’t know, but dangit I’m going to scour the internet until I find a suitable answer.

I raved about these scones and clotted cream for months to the ladies who live on my floor, until some of them decided to head down there with me.  For, um, important blog research.  As we went down King’s Parade to Trumpington Street, the ground got a bit bumpy.

I'm coming, scones!
I’m coming, scones!

I told myself that my butt would hurt, but it would be worth it.

We entered Fitzbillies through the bakery entrance.  Yes, there are two entrances.  One is flat and leads into the bakery, which then leads into a café area.  The other has two steps and leads into a coffee shop.  If you want to go to the coffee shop part, just go through the bakery entrance, up to the café area, and then make a right and you’ll be in the coffee shop.  Yup.  They thought of that.  The coffee shop has a large communal table and a couple of smaller ones.  Feel free to camp out and work until they close (which, like many Cambridge businesses, is at 6pm on weekdays).  The bakery area sells pastries, Kandula tea (my fave British brand), preserves, and packaged shortbread cookies:

Fitzbillies Kandula

Fitzbillies Preserves

Eating their lavender shortbread is like getting punched in the face with crumbly sweet lavender goodness.  Translation: Can I smuggle these on a transatlantic flight?
Eating their lavender shortbread is like getting punched in the face with crumbly sweet lavender goodness. Translation: Can I smuggle these in my carry-on?

Oh, and how could I forget, these lovely scones:

Hi, scones.  I'm Val.  I'm going to take one of you home today.
Hi, scones. I’m Val. I’m going to take one of you home today.

Fitzbillies renovated a few years ago, and so I noticed a couple of weird-looking ramps.  One of them leads into the café area:

Fitzbillies Ramp

Note: Whenever you see a weird-looking ramp, that means that there used to be a step there.  That means when Fitzbillies renovated, they got rid of the step and put in a ramp.  Boo-yah.

The café is well-lit, has lots of tables, and some pretty mug decorations:

Fitzbillies Interior

If you like the mugs, you can buy one at the bakery part of the shop.
If you like the mugs, you can buy one at the bakery part of the shop.

My floormates and I were seated at a table, and we began to plot out what to get.  They knew I would be taking pictures of everything they ordered, and I thanked them in advance for assisting my blog research.  Food-related research is a sorely underfunded field of study and any contributions to the “please don’t make Val order more than she can eat because there is no way her stomach is big enough for that” fund are very much appreciated.  Two floormates ordered the cream tea (6.30), one ordered a cheese scone with butter (2.20) and tea (2.50), and I ordered a decaf flat white (2.60) with a slice of coffee walnut cake (3.70).  I was going to get my scone to go and eat it for breakfast the next day.

Our tea came first, along with my flat white:

Decafffff.
Decafffff.

It was strong, a bit bitter, and fantastic.  Perhaps now I’d be capable of eating a Chelsea bun, but I had a slice of cake heading in my general direction, so I decided against ordering one.  I’ve had Fitzbillies’ hot chocolate before, and I liked it a lot.  It’s on the sweet side, a bit milky, but great to drink with a (lavender) shortbread cookie on the side.

Once the food arrived, my floormates had to wait a couple of minutes while I took pictures.  Many of them had not eaten breakfast.  It was nearing 12:30.  They were staring at scones.  I was waiting for my camera to turn on.  Have I mentioned how wonderful and patient my floormates are?  I should bake them some cookies (for more blog research, of course).

Behold:

Fitzbillies Cheese Scone

The cheese scone!  I’m not one for savory scones, but my floormate was nice enough to let me try a bite, and it was pretty tasty.

Fitzbillies Cream Tea

If you’re going to go to Fitzbillies, do not be tempted by the afternoon tea.  The cream tea is a third of the price, and is comprised of the best parts of afternoon tea: the scone and clotted cream.  The raspberry jam is good too, but it’s easier to get good jam than good clotted cream.  Seriously, the scone, as delightful as it is, is essentially a vehicle for clotted cream.  One of my floormates (not at the table) told me that when she went to Fitzbillies and finished her scone, she just ate the clotted cream straight.  Respect.  Was this a whole paragraph on clotted cream?  Yes.  I have no shame.

Then came the coffee walnut cake:

Fitzbillies Coffee Walnut Cake

It looks pretty, and I wanted to like it so badly, but I couldn’t.  The icing had no discernible flavor (unless sugar is a flavor), and the cake itself was a bit dry (and also sweet).  It did not taste like coffee.  I know that there’s coffee cake that isn’t supposed to taste like coffee, but that you eat while drinking coffee, and then there’s coffee cake that’s supposed to have a coffee flavor to it.  I think this was supposed to be the latter.  Strike two on non-scone desserts, Fitzbillies.  Disappointed, I thought about the scone I would eat for breakfast the next day.  We finished eating and got the check.

But before we left, bathroom.  The Fitzbillies bathroom lacks handrails, but my rigid frame chair can just barely fit into the stall.  It’s a tight space, but I can manage.  People in powerchairs and people who need handrails will have a much harder time using the restroom.  That said, you might not want to drink the entire pot of tea while you’re at Fitzbillies unless you have a strong bladder or can race to the Grand Arcade (up the treacherous path of Pembroke Street) in time.  Alternatively, if you’re a Cambridge student, you might be able to use the bathroom in the Mill Lane Lecture Rooms (on Mill Lane and just a 2-3-minute wheel from Fitzbillies).  I’d fault them for not renovating the bathrooms well enough, but I’m not sure how much bathroom space they had to work with to start.

Before my floormates and I left, I bought my scone with cream and jam to go (3.10).  I’m very excited for breakfast tomorrow!

TLDR:

Entrances: There are two of them!  The entrance to the bakery is flat, the entrance to the coffee shop (where you’d get work done) has two steps.  The bakery with the flat entrance can lead to the coffee shop.
Bathroom: Not technically accessible, but a lightweight rigid frame wheelchair can fit into the stall.
Lighting: Excellent.
Counter: Perfect height to see pastries, scones, and Chelsea buns.
Coffee: Fabulous, Tea: Kandula, Hot Chocolate (not pictured): milky and delightful.
Pastries: Disappointing cake, amazing cream tea.
Other: Don’t bother with the afternoon tea.  Just get the cream tea.  Unless you adore sweet things.  Then get the Chelsea bun and a cup of coffee.  If I manage to smuggle scones and cream across the Atlantic, I’ll let you know.  Or not.  I think that would be illegal now that I think of it.  Drat.

For more information: http://www.fitzbillies.com/ (just a note, their site is currently under construction)

Thanks for reading!  If you like what you’ve read, please follow (here or on Twitter (@Access_Bakeshop) – yup, I’m attempting this “be more social” thing!), subscribe, or share to your friends on the social media outlet of your choice!  My dissertation adviser just gave me two weeks to write my first chapter (which I decided to scrap and completely change and now have to do lots of primary source-hunting/research/everything), so you know what that means for next week?  Yup, procrastibaking!  Well, procrastibaking prefaced with a “Why did I decide to look through 500+ Latin excerpts of the word debilitas and its various forms from the 6th-9th centuries?” ramble.

See you next week!

Val

Afternoon Tease

With my palaeography exam completed (that’s right, Alemannic minuscule, I don’t have to look at you no more!), I thought a cake-related “Treat Yo Self” day was in order (for those who do not watch “Parks and Recreation,” please click here and enlighten yourselves).  I brought something to read (dissertation related, of course) and wheeled over to Afternoon Tease (13 King Street, City Centre CB1 1LH).

Unlike in the previous entry, where I reviewed a place I’d never been to before, this was the third time I’d been to Afternoon Tease.  I sadly do not have any photographic evidence of my previous visits, but that’s okay.  I figured I could just go again and take pictures, and then eat more cake.  Everybody wins.

The café is just a block away from the back entrance to Sidney Sussex (an entrance I am familiar with because it’s the only way I can get into the college).  You know when you’ve found it when you see the chalkboard:

This one reads: "What if soy milk is just regular milk introducing itself in Spanish?  Breakfast 8-12, Lunch 12-3, Cakes all day!"
This one reads: “What if soy milk is just regular milk introducing itself in Spanish? Breakfast 8-12, Lunch 12-3, Cakes all day!”

The entrance is flat, with some bricks in front (not really bumpy at all).  The door is a bit heavy, and I had to rely on someone inside the café, who watched me struggle for a few seconds trying to barrel through the door, to open it.

At one point, there was a corgi sitting outside with her owner, who was drinking coffee.  My friend and I were too distracted looking out the window to do anything productive.  Doggyyyyy.
At one point, there was a corgi sitting outside with her owner. My friend and I then became too distracted looking out the window to do anything productive. Doggyyyyy.

At last!  Inside!  The interior of the café is adorable.  I was annoyed with myself for not taking a panoramic picture, but you can view the entire interior of Afternoon Tease on Google Maps (I can’t seem to post the link here, but if you google “Afternoon Tease Cambridge” you’ll find it).  They also play awesome music.  At one point when I was working, I heard Buddy Holly’s “Peggy Sue.”  At another point, Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide.”  The counter is at just the right height where I can see all of the cakes and fantasize about having the stomach room for everything.

Cakes featured are Chocolate Guinness, Blueberry Sour Cream, Brown Sugar and Pear Bundt, and Carrot Cake.
Cakes featured are Chocolate Guinness, Blueberry Sour Cream, Brown Sugar and Pear Bundt, and Carrot Cake.

I told one of my friends that I was going to be there at 3pm-ish, but I ended up getting there a bit earlier (around 2pm-ish).  I ordered a masala chai latte (2.60) and, because I hadn’t eaten lunch yet, a Mexican toastie (avocado, black bean and tomato salsa, jalapenos, monterey jack cheese – 4.90).  I know this is a dessert blog, but I thought I’d post a picture of the toastie anyway, because it was delicious and really satisfied my avocado craving (although who am I kidding, it’s not a craving, I always want to put avocado on everything).

Afternoon Tease Mexican Toastie

A member of the staff brings your order to your table, so you don’t have to balance tea cups on top of saucers or anything like that from the counter to the table (which is great in my case – I can just imagine me accidentally destroying a tea cup and screaming, “Nooooo!” in that slow motion way as an adorable cup crashes onto the ground).  Weird mental image aside, time for the drinks and desserts.  The masala chai was glorious.

Afternoon Tease Masala Chai

One of the staff members recommended it, and I’m so glad I ordered it.  This has to be the best chai latte I have ever had.  Ever. I’m not exaggerating.  As much as I like the chai lattes I’ve had in Brooklyn and Manhattan, they’ve all been kind of on the sweet side, with the sweetness overpowering the cardamom, cloves, and other chai spices.  Not in this case.  There’s just a hint of sweetness, and lots of chai spices.  Perfect balance.  Be still my heart.  As a side note, I’ve also had their hot chocolate.  Unfortunately, I do not have a picture, but it’s milky, chocolatey, and utterly delightful.

Around 3-ish, my friend showed up and got a cappuccino, so of course I had to take a picture of it.

Afternoon Tease Cappuccino

She really liked it, by the way.

We then started to be productive.  About half an hour into working, my friend and I could both smell cakes baking in the oven.  We were sitting near the door and as far as you could be from the kitchen without going outside, but boy did that cake aroma carry.  Yeah, I was going to need some cake.

So many options!  The carrot cake and chocolate guinness cake are two of the most popular cakes, and other cakes rotate.  Today there was a blueberry sour cream cake, a brown sugar pear bundt cake, a chocolate earl grey torte (gluten-free), and a lemon almond drizzle loaf (gluten-free).

So tempted.  So indecisive.  I chose something else, but I'll be back for you!
So tempted. So indecisive. I chose something else, but I’ll be back for you!

I ordered a pot of chamomile rose tea and a slice of the brown sugar pear bundt cake (combined 5.00, not sure what separate prices are).  They carry Kandula tea, a brand that makes my favorite blend of chamomile in England.

Afternoon Tease Tea and Cake
So cute. Can I bring this back to Brooklyn? Please?

I was still kind of full from lunch, but I wanted cake.  In retrospect, for review purposes, I probably should’ve gotten one of the cakes that they don’t rotate, like the carrot cake or the chocolate guinness cake, but this bundt was delicious and I regret nothing.  I don’t remember what the icing was flavored with, but it tasted like coffee.  The pear made the bundt cake moist, but not too moist (and yes, there were pieces of pear throughout the cake – YUM).  I’m also a fan of using brown sugar, and I think it went really well with the pear.  Random food fact: Brown sugar is basically white sugar with molasses added to it.  It adds an extra flavor to baked goods, and I love using it when baking with apples.  Can’t say I’d ever had it with pear until today.

The bathroom is wheelchair-accessible, and the wallpaper is covered in adorable-looking recipes.  The only issue with the bathroom is that you have to go through two doors to get there, and the first door has a handle that’s just within my reach, but is kind of high.  Other than that, totally accessible.

My friend and I left a bit before 6pm, which is when they close.  It’s safe to say that this is my favorite place to go when I need to get some reading done and want a hot beverage (and a slice of cake once I get through enough reading).  It’s fairly busy during lunch hours (12-3pm), but you can usually find a place to sit.  There are so many things I want to try (hello, chocolate guinness cake), so I have multiple reasons to go back.  They also have stamp cards for drinks (buy eight, get one free!), but I’d go even without the loyalty card.  Don’t get me wrong though, I’m still getting that thing stamped.

Afternoon Tease is open everyday, except Monday, and every Thursday is cheese scone day.  Mmm…cheese scone.

TLDR:

Entrance: Flat!  Some bricks, but they’re hardly bumpy.  Somewhat heavy door.  Maybe just wave so someone will open it for you.
Bathroom: Accessible, though the handle on the first door may be a tricky grab.
Lighting: Excellent, especially when it’s sunny outside.
Counter: Perfect height, which means you will stare at all of the cakes longingly.
Coffee: delicious, unsure of brand; Tea: Kandula; Hot chocolate: delightful; Chai latte: magnificent
Pastries: Really liked the brown sugar pear bundt cake. Chocolate guinness cake and carrot cake are the most popular items.  Gluten-free options available (and look amazing).
Other: If you stay past 3pm, you will smell cake baking in the oven, and you will feel like happiness is giving you a hug.  Or at least that’s how I feel when I smell delicious cakes baking.

For more information: http://afternoontease.co.uk/

Thanks for reading!  If you like what you read, please follow or subscribe to get reviews of accessible deliciousness in your inbox!  Next week, I’m going to try something different and post a recipe that’s easy to make and super delicious, because what could be more accessible than the treats you bake yourself?

Val

Michaelhouse Café

First post!  How exciting!  Well, first post where I review a place, but hey, still exciting!

Thanks to everyone who came here to read my introductory post, and who shared my link on their newsfeeds!  The response was so positive and encouraging that I got really excited (and kind of hungry) and went out to take pictures of a café in town.  I may have gotten a little too excited, though, because I went to a place I’d never been to before.  I’d passed by Michaelhouse Café (St Michaels Church, Trinity Street) many times before whenever I went from Trinity Street to Kings Parade, but decided that today was the day I’d try it out.   Maybe I was seduced by the spiral ramp heading into the entrance.

Michaelhouse Ramp

Look at that ramp.  So smooth.  So curvy.  Oh baby.  And there are a couple steps on the side for those who don’t want to go down a spiral ramp, y’know, if that’s your thing.

I went down the ramp and it was a bit steeper than I had anticipated, so I had to grip my rims a bit tighter to make sure I didn’t hit the fence on the side.  The entrance at the bottom of the ramp has a downward incline.  As I entered the building, all I could think about was how much arm power would be necessary to get back up the smooth and sexy (and probably slightly dangerous on a rainy day) ramp.

The inside is well-lit and felt very, er, Cambridge-y?

Michaelhouse Interior

There’s a chancel inside the church, and they do hold services there throughout the week.  I really appreciated that they put a ramp down at the chancel entrance.

Michaelhouse Chancel

It says to “mind the step and the ramp.”  Hooray chancel access!  I tried to take a picture of the chancel, but the sun was out (freaky, right?) and there was a bit too much glare in the photo.

Michaelhouse Chancel Full

After I stopped staring at anything that reminded me of medieval architecture, I remembered that I was there for the noms, so I went up to the counter.  It was at a height where I could see all of the pastries, but none of the lunch items.  I’d be a bit miffed if I wanted to get lunch (it was after 3pm, so anything I ordered would’ve been 50% off), but I was there for dessert, so I let it slide.  For now.

Their desserts rotate, but when I was there they had brownies with walnuts, a lemon-almond tart, a frangipane tart with apples, flapjacks (not pancakes – these are oat squares with butter, brown sugar, and golden syrup/honey), and a gluten-free chocolate chestnut cake.  I stared at the counter in my usual indecisive manner and chatted a bit with one of the baristas, who was super friendly and explained what frangipane was.  Sounded good.  I ordered the frangipane (2.95) and a hot chocolate (2.20 for ‘regular’).  The barista brought my tart and hot chocolate over to a table, where he moved away a chair.  He then brought me a fork and some napkins from a station where I think I would’ve had to get them myself if I didn’t have a mobility impairment.

Michaelhouse Frangipane
Frangipane and apple tart.

If you see “frangipane” anything, it just means that the filling was made with almonds (think almond paste).  The bottom of the tart was lined with sliced apples, and maybe it’s my longing for apple pie, but those apples with that almond filling were delicious together.  It wasn’t too sweet either, which can be a danger with anything almond-flavored.  This is usually a concern with almond croissants where you’re 90% sure someone dropped the contents of an entire bottle of almond extract into the filling (you’ll know this has happened if your foodie friends bite into a croissant and start to visibly twitch).

Michaelhouse Hot Chocolate

Then I tried the hot chocolate.  They use Green & Black here, which, for anyone familiar with my baking, is the brand of cocoa powder I use for my chocolate cupcakes, double chocolate chip walnut cookies, and for basically anything that asks for cocoa powder.  The hot chocolate did not disappoint.  If you like your hot chocolate dark, and by that I mean with a slight kick of bitterness, then this is for you.  This is the first place I’ve gone to in Cambridge with a hot dark chocolate, and I will most definitely be back.  They also use Illy coffee, which I love.  Also checked out their bathroom to find that it is indeed wheelchair-accessible, so I can shamelessly drink as much tea and espresso as I want.  Score.

Halfway through my frangipane and hot chocolate, I realized that my actual reason for coming here was to study, so:

Michaelhouse Working
Oh Alemannic minuscule, I think you just want to mess with me on purpose.  What are letters?

Look!  I’m working!  And by that, I mean transcribing documents from the late eighth century to prepare for my test, where I will be examined on my ability to transcribe really old documents.

The café is only open until 5pm (this is fairly standard for Cambridge businesses, and I have never understood why), so I left fairly close to closing time.  I made it up the ramp with a bit of effort, but it definitely wasn’t a bad experience.  Will be back.  Partially because I’ve got some more early medieval scripts to look through, but mostly because I want to try that chocolate chestnut cake with an Illy flat white.

Here’s the TLDR:

Entrance: (smooth and curvy) ramp!  Bit steep, but not too difficult to manage.  I may avoid it if it rains.
Bathroom: Accessible!
Lighting: Excellent
Counter: Too high to see lunch items, high enough to see pastries.
Coffee: Illy, Tea: Pavilion, Hot chocolate: Green and Black (YESSS)
Pastries: Frangipane is delicious, they have a gluten-free chocolate chestnut cake that I want to try.
Other: It’s in a church!

For more information: http://www.michaelhousecafe.co.uk/

Thanks for reading!  Expect the next post within a couple of weeks.  If you like what you read, but think you’ll forget to check back here for updates, you can click “follow” (somewhere on the screen) and get accessible bakery/café reviews in your inbox when they happen!

Val