It was my birthday and what better way to celebrate than to visit my favorite London cupcake and chocolate shops in Soho for a day of sugar treats? My travel writer friend, Kristen, who I met at the NY Times Travel Show earlier this year, met me for lunch at Café Deco on Store Street in Bloomsbury (not far from the British Museum) and for £5.50 I had a massive entrée of spaghetti and meatballs with a bottle of water (great lunch deal!). The weather was nice enough to sit outside in London, a rarity in November so we took advantage. Kristen surprised me with a cupcake from Waitrose which was surprisingly good and thus began our day of sugar exploration in Soho and Marylebone.
Warning: This post contains a plethora of sugar temptation. I am not responsible for weight gained from cravings. Just remember that there are no calories in photos!
Carnaby – Crumbs & Doilies (C&D Bakery)
With the Waitrose cupcake a quick and tasty memory, I asked Kristen to join me on my DIY London cupcake and chocolate walking tour after my site visit of Z Hotel Soho (we did a walkby of Hotel Chocolat Soho saving it for later). She suggested Carnaby, a pedestrian area of shops, cafes and streets. I’ve visited many times but she showed me a new laneway of cafés and restaurants in Kingly Court and it was here that we found a new bakery, Crumbs & Doilies (C&D).
For a small shop, the temptations were plentiful – with brownies at eye level, confetti cake in the case and a plethora of mini cupcakes, I was overwhelmed by sugar.
Unsure where to start, regular size or mini versions of creative flavors, we opted for two minicupcakes each – we each had a malted mini, I then chose the sea salted caramel pretzel and she the mint chocolate. Each bite sized cupcake was popped into our mouths and our taste buds were happy.
While in the shop, we saw a man with a pastry bag that I instantly recognized from my summer Paris visit. La Patisserie des Reves is now in London with its artistic creations on display in Marylebone so we added it on our list for later.
Paul A Young Fine Chocolates Wardour Street (Soho)
Our next stop was the Paul A Young chocolate shop on Wardour Street in Soho (if you follow me on Twitter you’ll know I’m addicted). Welcomed into the store, we wandered about looking at the truffle options on the table and viewing the plethora of choices on the shelves and tables. Too much decadent choice.
I mentioned we were on a birthday dessert tour and we were surprised with a sea salted caramel truffle each to taste. I already knew that the caramel truffle was fantastic but watching Kristen’s face was priceless. We were then given a taste of the sea salted caramel popcorn pave in either milk (my favorite) or dark as we mulled over the liquid hot chocolate that was warming in the corner with add your own spice option. Kristen was given a sample and added chili spices while I bought enough chocolate for my week’s stay (I’d be back for my “bring home to the U.S.” order). A new doughnut shop has opened next door but I’m saving that for my next trip.
Hummingbird Bakery, Wardour Street (Soho)
We reluctantly left the chocolate store and walked a few doors down to Hummingbird Bakery for the famous red velvet cupcakes that I discovered years ago staying at The Soho Hotel across the street. This was my initial birthday celebratory cake plan, thinking I was solo, but my day morphed into a pure sugar high. One cupcake, two mini cupcakes, a sea salted caramel chocolate truffle and chocolate popcorn pave it was time to continue my sugar celebration with a red velvet treat.
Oxford Street – Lots of London Cupcakes and Chocolate Options
Needing a bit of a break and a walk we decided to go in search of the French patisserie in Marylebone. It was quite a bit of a walk from Soho and a good opportunity to explore the side streets of Soho, Fitzrovia and Marylebone. We crossed Oxford Street seeing the holiday lights strung ready for the night and tried to out walk the rain which had just started.
Note: You could at this point, walk up Oxford Street, stopping at Ben’s Cookies, Lola’s Cupcakes (inside Topshop) or walk a bit further to Selfridge’s for posh chocolate and desserts. It’s all up to you what you desire on your walk. For us, we were determined for French pastries.
Marylebone – La Patisserie des Reves & The Prince Regent Pub
As we walked down the Marylebone high street toward the patisserie, we came across the Christmas Lighting celebration (a block party of sorts) with stalls of mulled wine, crafts and foods. A stage was set up with live music and many folks were out and about enjoying the entertainment across the two roads.
When we reached La Patisserie des Reves, I chose a pain au chocolat (chocolate croissant) and Kristen chose the madeleine (French butter cake). As we ate our french treats inside, we watched the festivities outside. We each noticed the guy with the blinking snowflake wands and before I could say “aren’t they cool”, Kristen was already out of her seat and into the street. Returning with two blinking snowflake wands we were quickly playing like the children on the road, eating treats and having fun laughing with our toys (the wands were raising money for charity by donation).
I was posting the sweet treat photos on Facebook and my friends kept asking “what tour is that?” – It’s my dessert obsessed DIY tour of London. No tour group or cost to it (it may add a pound or two to your waistline – not my fault!) just need good walking shoes and an insatiable sweet tooth.
After our tour of cupcakes and chocolates, it was time to get a grown up treat so we walked across the road to the local pub, The Prince Regent. The interior had chandeliers, plush seating and fun design. Neither the cider nor mulled wine was ready so we ordered two glasses of wine and toasted a great day – not only my birthday but a fun day of cake and chocolate between friends, it really doesn’t get better than that!
My Birthday Day of Sugar in London
As we walked back, me to the Great Northern Hotel to get ready for my birthday dinner, Kristen announced that we had walked over 10,000 steps, which didn’t quite negate the calories but made me feel a tad better. On your next visit to London, divorce your food journal, double up on those gym classes before your leave home and indulge with abandon! My London cupcake and chocolate tour will definitely satisfy your sweet tooth – it does mine!
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What’s your favorite London cupcake or chocolate? Let me know where to go next time!