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Must try baked goods and deserts

I am going to be in London for 5 days in early September. This is my second trip to London in as many years. Last time we happened to stay at a hotel that had a small bakery/ sandwich shop on the way from the Tube station to the hotel so we would pick up little snacks to take back to the hotel at night.

And it was fun trying the various pastry available in London such as the treacle (sp?) tarts and such.
This time it does not look like we will have that as we are staying in the Tower Hotel and I don’t see any “local” shops like that in the area. So it looks like I will have to go find someplace.
Back home I enjoy baking for family.
So the question is what Baked goods or other deserts (and I suppose other foods but mostly deserts) are worth seeking out?
We are NOT foodies and have no perticular interest in “fancy” food. Those of you that do, that is great it is just not our thing. But baked goods and deserts on the other hand our something we are interested in so any advice would be good.
Actually we will be in Germany, Switzerland and Paris on this trip so the same question really applies to those also.

Thanks.

Posted by caro
Guernsey
240 posts

Oooh puddings! Apple crumble, steamed sponge pud with custard, banoffee pie, proper jelly and ice cream, rolly polly, spotted dick, eton mess. All delicious puddings, Britain is the home of a good pud! Deserts are French but nearly ad good 😁

Posted by Kathy
United States
8121 posts

Sticky toffee pudding (or other puddings), spotted dick, trifle, scones, shortbread, eccles cake....

Posted by Nigel
Northamptonshire, England
19505 posts

Early September is a bit early, especially if this non-stop heatwave is still in place, for spotted dick and the other steamed puds.

Trifle - not really baked though - but then neither are many yummy afters, is pretty good, there are boozy and non-boozy kinds, various cakes (available all over) for afternoon tea are though -

eclairs from Paul - Paris and London
Macaron from Paul or Laduree - Paris and London
Ginger Cake
Victoria Sponge Cake
Hundreds and Thousands Fudge Cake - at John Lewis Department Stores and Peter Jones, Sloan Square
Apple Cake - Germany
Black Forest Cake - Germany, particularly the southwest corner, if you like a little cherry cake to go with your booze
Swiss Roll - London, for tradition
Banoffeeeeeeeeee - London - just for the yums

and many many more.

Just stay away from the Genoa Cake

Posted by nicmx5
8 posts

I'm with you on this Doug, wherever I go I try the local pastries and desserts. In the UK we have also borrowed lots of French, German and even Portugese cakes! You can get lots of these in supermarkets (including the mini ones in big cities) and Marks and Spencers food halls, eg the one at Euston Station and full sized M&S stores. Also Greggs are everywhere and do savoury and sweet stuff, plus small independent bakeries.

Custard tarts, fruit tarts, treacle tart as you said, Fruit cake, Bakewell tart, Victoria Sponge cake. Lardy cake is more regional, as is Dorset Apple cake.

Savoury - Cornish pasty, meat pies - you can get warm pastry savouries in Greggs, other shops sell cold and you would have to reheat them somehow. Microwave ovens make pastry soggy. Scotch eggs are eaten cold, as are sausage rolls.

Germany - Torte, Kaiserschmarrn, Apple Strudel

France - where to start? Had Dol de Bretagne pave recently but never saw it in other parts of France. Just go into a patisserie and drool 'til you see something you can't live without. Cakes in France cost more than in the UK but almost always worth it IMHO! Supermarkets are good for cake there too.

Posted by nicmx5
8 posts

How could I forget Pork pies? Eat cold. Mini ones have too much pastry so rather greasy - share a bigger one. Melton Mowbray is the best type IMHO

Posted by douglasjmeyer OP
40 posts

As an American I am still not sure I want to eat something called “Spotted Dick”. Even if I knew what it was ,made of. Just saying.

A lot of these I have heard of but most I have NO idea what they are.

Posted by Barbara
Brooklyn, NY
901 posts

Was in London in 1985 and I still remember trying the spotted dick, delicious.

Posted by Suki
New York
2605 posts

I love these pastries and desserts.
England- I love Eton Mess/ Pavlova, crazy about it actually.
Germany- Apfelstrudel, Linzertorte. If you like chocolate, sachertorte.
Paris- croissants, Pain aux raisins.
Switzerland- can’t recall any or the food except fondue.

Posted by emma
London
4013 posts

Happy to translate!

Spotted dick - suet pastry studded with raisins/sultanas and steamed for hours. Served with custard
Jam Roly Poly is the same suet pastry spread with jam, rolled up, and you guessed it, steamed and served custard.

Both often have the density of lead. To be honest they really aren't eaten that often anymore. They are a hang over from the days when people needed cheap filling food because they did manual labour and had no heating. Rationing didn't help the British diet!

Steamed sponge pudding is much lighter and more commonly eaten. It's what it says it is, steamed sponge cake flavoured with, fruit, jam. chocolate, ginger or syrup. Syrup sponge is the best kind. Again served with custard.

Posh custard is the "real" kind Crème Anglaise, cream and sugar thickened over heat with eggs.
Custard served at home is more often the tinned powdered kind. Usually Birds custard. Invented by Mr Bird in the 19th century because his wife was allergic to eggs.
Both custards are delicious.

Trifle is delicious. It is one of those desserts where everyone has their own recipe and feel quite strongly about/ what is right and wrong
At its most basic its fruit and sponge cake soaked in sherry or juice topped with cold custard and whipped cream.
In my house the fruit are raspberries and they are set with sherry soaked cake in a jelly. Jam is never involved. The custard is cold birds custard and the cream is decorated with silver sugar balls, no compromise!

A trip down the biscuit aisle at any British supermarket would be an education and an adventure, The French might do posh gateaux., we do great biscuits....... Treats for everyday not special occasions.
Chocolate digestives, custard creams, malted milks, Jaffa cakes ,hob nobs, rich tea, ginger nuts, short bread, crunch creams, viscounts, penguins, uniteds,trios, the list goes on for ever. All good with a cup of tea

Posted by Kathy
United States
8121 posts

Chocolate digestives...

Emma, I fell hard for McVitie's Dark Chocolate Digestives! We run into the milk chocolate version at import shops and bigger markets within the U.S. but the dark biscuits have been hard to find,

Posted by Jennifer
Tunbridge Wells
2315 posts

Many of the pudding should described won’t be available in a bakery. (Spotted dick is a traditional sponge pudding with currants - currants = spots and dick originates from an old English word for dough).

Items in a bakery - gingerbread men, cream meringues, vanilla slices, chocolate eclairs and possibly scones, but not everywhere will have these. If you were in the north, you would also find Eccles cakes and Chorley cakes, but you can get these at Tesco or other supermarkets.

Many places these days, particularly in London are more likely to sell cupcakes and gateau rather than traditional English bakery items.

Posted by Jane
Franklin, TN, USA
214 posts

Paris.......go to Angelina’s and get the Mont Blanc.....looks like a cupcake......meringue base, hazelnut cream piped on the top like icing.......nothing better. The macaroons at Gerard Mulot there are tasty and you must eat some while in Paris as they are known for them.......also the pain aux cereales (bread) from Eric Kayser is a hit along with pretty much anything he bakes.....chocolate almond croissants.
Lucky you......have fun!

Posted by emma
London
4013 posts

Kathy next time try the “Chocolate digestive thins”.
They are are a thinner more crispy version. Nothing like the original but really moreish in their own way.

We have a very good tea club in our office and so can review most biscuits and cakes on the general market.
The two biscuits that are opened with most excitement are Cadbury’s Chocolate fingers and, slightly bizarrely, Fox’s Party Rings ( ring shaped biscuits ice day in pastel shades) Both probably throw backs to children’s birthday parties.

Cake wise, the most popular at the moment is the yum yum. A flat, rectangular iced doughnut type thing. Sold in packs of 4 at most supermarkets. Delicious, I could quite easily eat all 4 in a go, but never actually have!

https://www.greggs.co.uk/sweet-treats/yum-yum

Posted by Philip
London, United Kingdom
4132 posts

If you are hardcore into "living like a local" and want to know what British baked goods were like until recently drop into a branch of Gregg's or Percy Ingle. Don't complain to me if you don't like it, but you won't have lost much money.

Posted by emma
London
4013 posts

But they are SO much smaller these days Nigel! I blame Europe! ;-)
Serious question, did wagon wheels ever contain coconut? I am convinced they tasted like they did in the 70s, hence I decided I didn’t like them . Not a patch on a Tunnucks Tea Cake.

If you are travelling by car you can experience the joy of a Ginster’s pasty, available in every petrol station. Processed and factory made but they hit the spot with a packet of salt and vinegar crisps and bottle of pop. A Ginster’s Brunch Bar is a particularly evil thing. Like an elongated scotch egg filled with egg mayo and coleslaw. V good for hangovers!

Posted by douglasjmeyer OP
40 posts

So we understand I enjoy baking and as such I am looking for GOOD baking not bad.

For the US Hostess Tweankies May be common but I would not recommend them to visitors.

Think more along the lines of Mary Berry then plastic wrapped gas station.

Posted by Grier
Lake Oswego, Oregon
1214 posts

I love this post!

I second Gerard Mulot and Eric Kayser in Paris and recommend asking for one of everything. :-) If you like chocolate, try La Maison du Chocolat. The hot chocolate at Angelina is the stuff of legends. A baguette, a couple of fragrant cheeses, and a pastry or two is a classic picnic supper.

Please report back on your favorites in each country!

Posted by emma
London
4013 posts

Just because something is 'wrapped in plastic' doesn't mean it is bad baking, and I'm saying this as a very keen baker.
Traditional "old school" bakeries are few and far between. Many that look like the real thing won't be baking on site and will be using factory style facilities serving a number of branches. Nothing wrong with that.

You really are as likely to get a good range of quality baked products in one of the better supermarkets. The products in Marks and Spencer and Waitrose are both excellent. In a supermarket you will also be able to buy products that are traditional and delicious but unlikely to be available in a stand alone bakers, for example crumpets. Nothing more British and traditional but I don't think I have ever seen a bakers selling them.