Discovering Violet cakes is a complicated experience; you’re desperate to start jumping up and down and screaming from the rooftops about it, but also want to keep it to yourself, preserve its serenity and not tell anyone about it for fear ‘your cake shop’ might become overrun with people.
Clair Ptak arrived in London from the USA’s West Coast five years ago. Loving the city’s market scene but longing for something to satisfy her sweet tooth she took up position at Broadway Market. Four years on and thousands of delicious cakes later, the next carnation of Violet cakes was born at 47 Wilton Way, London E8 in May. Here Clair tells of Violet’s blossoming.
I was obsessed with baking from a young age. After working as a chef in California I arrived in London five years ago when the culture of progressive cooking was still in its early stages; the whole farm-to-table thing had been around on the West Coast for a while but here it was a bit fresher. When it comes to cakes, something I fell in love with about England is that there really is a culture of cake-eating here that there isn’t in the US. Just the whole idea of having afternoon tea, we love sweet things but people here love cakes which is why I feel so at home here and Violet’s feels very English in that way too. All the while I was running the stall on the market I was cooking from home, so it still feels exciting to have the space we do at Violet. Every Friday we used to bake for twelve hours straight making thousands of cupcakes before the market on Saturday. It used to be so crazy, people would come to the house and I’d shout “just walk around the perimeter of the kitchen, don’t come in here.” At Violet’s, the kitchen is completely open and is part of the café and so when people come in and ask where things are made, I just wave in the direction of the ovens where Dree is rustling up a fresh batch of whoopie pies or some blondies. I’ve always stuck to what I believe in, using the best possible ingredients. At Violet it’s 90% organic and the only times we don’t use organic is when the alternative is better because it’s made with the attention to detail that it needs. On the weekend I’ll come in myself and bake, I’m really inspired when I’m actually using my hands and that’s when my ideas come. This year has been crazy; Violet opened its doors, I wrote my ‘Whoopie Pie’ book and have been co-authoring another book. As for the future of Violet, I like to keep busy so there will always be things in the pipeline!
Violet’s Butterscotch Blondies
Blondies have the texture and richness of brownies, but without the chocolate – hence the name. I have snuck in some chunks of milk chocolate here, but the body of the blondie tastes like treacle.
Recipe, Makes about 16 Blondies
350g unsalted butter, softened, 320g plain flour, 1½ tsp baking powder, 1½ tsp sea salt, 3 eggs, 400g dark brown sugar, 2 tsp pure vanilla extract, 200g butterscotch milk chocolate bar, chopped into small pieces.
Preheat the oven to 160°C/gas 3. Butter and line a 23cm square cake tin with parchment paper so that it comes up the sides of the tin. Gently melt the butter in a heatproof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water. Set aside to cool slightly. In another bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder, then stir in the salt and set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar and vanilla until frothy, then whisk in the melted butter. Fold in the dry ingredients until just mixed, then fold in the chocolate pieces. Pour into your prepared baking tin. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 35 minutes. A skewer inserted should come out ever so slightly gooey. Leave to cool completely in the baking tin, then cut into thick but smallish squares. These are rich!
Every Violet visitor has their favourite; a slice of the Armagnac-soaked prune cake, a violet cream cookie, a handful of coconut macaroons… You can get your Violet fix from 47 Wilton Way, Tuesday – Sunday and dose yourself with a triple shot on Saturday by visiting the stalls at Maltby Street Market and Broadway Market. And sssh! Don’t tell anyone!