Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Cakes in Taiwan. They suck.

Raspberry chocolate liqueur mousse (from Lamour)

Within the culinary arena, Taiwan can hold its own in a fairly vast range of foods, from soup noodles to shaved ice desserts. One would think that baking should fall under that umbrella as well, given the existence of the pineapple bun, pineapple cakes, and pretty much anything that consists of bread and red beans. The failure exists when they try to mimic the baked goods of other cultures... like macarons and chocolate mousse. Case in point, the cakes from a very well liked bakery near the 台大 (NTU) campus, Lamour.

Now, keep in mind, this is entirely my opinion... I'm rather mediocre at baking, and I'm probably not qualified to criticize, but I for one find cakes in Taiwan to be rather bland and boring. Let's start with the raspberry chocolate liqueur mousse seen above. The macaron was lacking in flavor, overly doughy, and seemingly missing any semblance of filling. Following the same theme, the mousse was subtle in flavor... almost too subtle. While the texture was light and airy, which was nice, the inner layer of raspberry was essentially a layer of thick gelatin, which made for an overly resilient center. Now I don't know if that was purposefully done to maintain the structural integrity, but it was certainly a detraction from the mousse itself.

Chocolate Cake #704 (from Lamour)

The chocolate cake #704 wasn't really that bad (I mean, it's pretty hard to screw up a chocolate cake), but it also wasn't spectacular, which was what I had expected since this particular bakery draws such high praise from almost everyone. It was like one of those chocolate cakes you buy from a local deli's fridge, except with thinner, less sweet frosting. A tad lighter than most cakes found in America as well (I want to use the word airy for pretty much every cake I've had here).

To be completely fair, I think Taiwanese people have a different taste palate when it comes to cakes and other desserts normally associated with coffee or tea. They like things with a subtle sweetness, and more bitter than the average American flavor. That would certainly explain what I called a lack of flavor. Either way, color me disappointed. At the very least... they make pretty cakes, right?

Now, this probably shouldn't have been generalized to every single cakery in Taiwan, as I'm sure there's at least some remarkable ones, but as a whole, this is what I've experienced. Now I wait for people to tell me I'm dumb. PS - I knew that already.

10 comments:

Victoria said...

In general, dessert isn't a big part of Asian cuisine, so I'm not surprised that cakes suck in Taiwan. They probably suck in China too (excluding Hong Kong - since it has such a long history of European occupation). I think the traditional Asian palate favors very subtle flavors and is less fond of the taste of sweet... or maybe is just not that accustomed to the taste of sweet that comes from refined sugars.

That being said, I must have a mutation in my tastebuds, because I LOVE dessert. Scratch Taiwan from the list of places that I have any interest in visiting: if they can't do cake well, imagine how they'll mess up the more complex pastries!

LIN said...

if you want a REAL slice of cake, go to the french bakeries around town, i.e. patisserie sadaharu aoki in bellavita or paul. but i like 85c's cakes!

Nicholas said...

nah, it's not individual to this particular bakery, it's more widespread than that. I just don't really like the airy texture and lack of sweetness pervasive through Taiwanese cakes.

munchimonster said...

Most Chinese/Taiwanese bakeries have crappy bland-ish tasting cakes. Even the stuff here like Fay Da and Tai Pan don't have that much flavor. Howeverrrr, if you go to Red Ribbon Bakery (a Filipino place), the cake is SOO FULL OF FLAVOR!! But also feels light, airy, soft, and spongey (the way most Asian cakes are). Soo good!!!

Nicholas said...

BUT... they make cakes shaped like pandas. That almost makes up for the fact that they taste awful. Almost.

Baby Madison said...

couldn't have said it better :)

joanh said...

i think it's just that asian cakes are really different from american cakes, so we are expecting a certain taste and not getting it. when i first came back, i couldn't stand a lot of the cakes in taipei, even though they were so pretty. if you want something more rich, i'd recommend the chocolate ganache cake from Pozzo (which they don't sell by the slice unfortunately), the blueberry cheesecake from 85 degrees C, and the chocolate cake from Original bakery. all SO good!

joanh said...

oh and the chocolate muffin from starbucks hits the spot when you are desperate!

SunnieG said...

If you want American style cakes and desserts, you have to come to Taichung and order from me! Seriously, I gave up looking for a decent piece of dessert in this country and started my own business. Of course, I'm just now realizing this is a realllly old entry. However, I'm with you in wanting decent dessert here.

Molinabz said...

Just so you know... the best cakes in Taiwan that I have EVER had are in Tianmu at this German Bistro/Bakery called Wendel's... The master chef and baker is from Germany and the cakes are just decadent and sweet and really moist (none of that airy stuff). It is just off of Jiantian MRT station. You will go CRAZY with the selections. My most favorite is the Aunt Dorothy Cherry Quarke. I would always go there every year to order my birthday cake which they always did ever so so so well...

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