Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Caketown @ Newtown

I’ve been mulling over this post for a few days now. The pressure of the first time I guess but also because of what can only be described as my conversation with a pastry artisan.

In the spirit of the blogosphere I thought I’d get some facts to pad out my post, make me sound like I know my shit! Don’t want to let my mate Meredith down with some lame post about some shop my waist line and I frequent. So as one thing leads to another and in true backyard journalistic style I found myself speaking with Paul. A somewhat intense, full throttle, occasionally dark, never fully satisfied creative genius. I’m not sure what I expected, but I should have known it could never have been mediocre – there’s nothing mediocre about Caketown.

Now I’ve lived in Newtown (King St south) and of course Marrickville for a decade now and I have watched shops come and go…mostly go. Still there’s one shop that has been around for 4-5 years now called Caketown. Paul (44) and wife Carmel are both chefs (hmmm, note the facts – good ah?) and have lived in the area for 15 years and also have a young son. Carmel, who used to run the kitchen at the Greenwood Hotel in Nth Sydney, does the savouries off site so the smell of the onions etc doesn’t affect the pastries.

“Pastry making is very demanding”, says Paul “you have to be accurate in what you do – everything is timed, measured and chilled very carefully.”

Paul starts his day at 4am and goes 100% all day. When I spoke with him at 8pm he was like a whirlwind. I realised quickly that the mind of a true artisan could be an amazing and colourful place.

“I use all natural ingredients – just butter, cream and eggs. No premix anything used – some others’ cakes are made with hardly anything natural and taste like soap! If I can’t put it in my mouth I won’t sell it. The chocolate is a blend of French and Belgium – no compound chocolate that has vegetable oil in it and it coats the tongue, I won’t use anything that masks the pallet!”

Trained by a French Chef for 7 years in Rosebay. Paul sees what he does as a craft as a journeyman trade. “This is our first business. Prior to 9/11 I was a product development officer, for a company making sweets and desserts for Ansett but was later retrenched. I started doing small wholesale from home but Carmel prompted me into opening up Caketown. Being quite reserved I resisted, but Carmel persisted!”

In all the years I’ve been going to Caketown I’ve only ever seen Carmel and occasionally other people behind the counter. Who is this person making all this amazing food? Yes of course, this is a post about food and a “shop of the week” no less. I once glimpsed the elusive Paul but too quick he was. “I’m a frustrated artist I guess, I like to let the work speak for itself. I hate showy chefs.”

I had to ask Paul about the hot cross buns. Apparently the fruit is macerated for 3 weeks prior to Easter in French Brandy and French Rum. Who does that now, I ask you? My mum does for one, maybe your mum too, but fewer and fewer these days.

With the rise of the franchise cake store (and coffee for that matter), locally made and locally run shops like Caketown are a rare find and should be celebrated.
My own blessed Mother soaks her xmas pudding fruit for 3-4 weeks in a special jar she has just for that purpose. She fills the jar with dried fruit and will turn it twice every day until is it ready. This amount of detail, love, and effort has real resonance with me. It’s more than just cooking its food alchemy.

When I told Paul this, he laughed, “Yep, all the love is done in the morning!”

Over the years I’ve sampled and can highly recommend the following:

• Almond croissants – yum
• Chocolate croissants – rich yet light
• Chocolate and almond croissants – for when you just cant decide
• Meat pies – for when you want actual meat in your pies
• Quiche – for real men ;)
• Xmas fruit mince pies – dare I say, almost as good as Mum’s
• Florentines – the best I’ve every tasted
• Fruit Danish – again with real fruit – nectarine Danish is the best
• Kougloff – a eastern European cake with chocolate inside
• Caramel tarts – superb
• “Throw downs” - mouthful size morsels of pure joys, the perfect treat as you’re walking home from work or on a Sunday afternoon with friends if you’re like me and can’t turn up empty handed.
• They also bake fresh a full range of breads and long fermented doughs – no yeast in the sour doughs here!

Caketown is located at 569 King Street Newtown and open Wed to Sun, but get in early on the weekends or you’ll be disappointed.


Meredith Jones said...

Oh god, now I'm salivating & it's not pretty

ooijj said...

are there any photos (no, not of meredith salivating...)

Pants said...

Hi Meredith

Now I'm hungry too! Lucky you to have Caketown. Happy Christmas.



Y said...

What a find! .. and I love the name of their shop. This isn't quite in my neighbourhood but I'll have to keep it in mind to visit in the near future.

sexy said...


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Victoria84 said...

Boykot: Caketown in Newtown
I have never been to a shop who had worse customer service than Caketown in Newtown. One of the first times I went in to the shop I got shouted at because of of my dog, even though my dog wasn't even in the shop but outside. The second time I went in there they couldn't reserve or hold two cakes they were paid for in advance. Usually shops will do anything to get your money, but not caketown. The customer service is bad!

Geeezzz said...

I agree: Boycott CAKETOWN!

I've heard about delicious stories about this place and how it only opens on certain days because they could afford to do so due to their popularity. However I'm a firm believe in good customer service, not just that - treat people how you'd like to be treated.

I was happy to find that they were actually open as I walked past today only to be disgusted in the poor attitude of whom I believe was the actual owner of this small bakery. My friends and I walked in, being true cake fanatics we were all very excited pointing at all the pretty looking scrumptious cakes - only to be served by the baker a rudely asked to leave the store because we 'touched' the glass. So we missed the sign where it stated do not touch glass as the beauty of the cakes will be 'filtered' (yes - the sign said filtered). However a simple kind warning would suffice - we are not children. He literally would not serve us after our 'pointing' at the glass because he said it annoyed him.

No matter how good the cakes are, I am more than happy to go elsewhere. Save your trip to somewhere like CreAsion at surry hills or Bourke St bakery, where both the food AND quality of service is beyond amazing.