Written by Colin Fraser
With National Cake Day just behind us, I’ve been craving all things that fit into the sweet variety. Icing topped sponges, sticky cinnamon buns, elegant cupcakes and picture-perfect patisserie, there’s plenty to fill your boots in the city and the shire.
To quote the infamous Marie Annetoinnette, “Let them eat cake” and lots of it too, I say. If you’re starved of inspiration, I have a few recommendations up my sleeve this week.
Braemar is right up there as one of my favourite places in the North-east. Right on the cusp of the Aberdeenshire border, this charming little town has gained even more allure with the addition of the Hazelnut Patisserie.
Forming their friendship while working at neighbouring hotel The Fife Arms, owners Mathilde and Ros set out to live out their passion of owning their own patisserie to create stunning artisan delicacies. Royal berry tartlets, elegant cheesecakes and hazelnut choux are just a few of its selection with plenty more wonders in store and believe me, these are almost too beautiful to eat – that’s a small ‘almost’ mind you.
And I’ve got to note the light lunch options too with plenty of pies, cheese crusted quiches and stuffed croissants to choose from.
Reflecting on the journey so far, Mathilde said: “Ros and I opened the patisserie back in April this year and have been overwhelmed by the welcome we received.
“The patisseries are inspired by the Scottish seasons and executed with a French flair. We make the most of the wonderful berries which we are lucky to find close by, use our gardens (and our neighbours’) for rhubarb, herbs and plums and forage as much as we can for wild berries and mushrooms. September is my favourite time of year and I had the most fun on the hills looking for the little sweet gems.
“We work closely with businesses who share our values such as Wark Farm in Cushnie for their wonderful pies, Wild Hearth Bakery in Comrie for their delicious bread, our fabulous Braemar Butcher for its ham and Crathie eggs, Royal Deeside Honey and Figment in Aberdeen for their fragrant coffee.
“We’ve had a fantastic first season and hope to carry on next year when we re-open after our Winter break.”
The patisserie is now closed for the winter and if my words have done the trick, you can get this place ticked off your list when it reopens in spring.
America is known as the home for supersized fast food and in Aberdeen, we’re the home of monstrously sized cookies thanks to the Cookie Cult making one big hefty dent in appetites with NYC style cookies.
Nailing presentation with a range of impeccably presented half-baked wonders, these boulder sized cookies are to die for. Take your pick of seven cookie flavours featuring red velvet, Biscoff, birthday cake and a vegan oreo cookie. The favourite for me has to be the Nutella cookie packed with nutty chocolatey goodness, glittered with hazelnut chunks and bursting at the seams with an inner hazelnut spread.
Make sure to double up on the bicep curls, you’re going to need all the strength you can when you hold a box of these cookies – imagine a toddler getting passed a heavy suitcase, that was pretty much me receiving my box.
With a cult of followers growing day by day, the Cookie Cult delivers not only locally but all around the UK, posing the perfect gift option for any birthday, anniversary, farewell or just treat yo’ self!
Creating 100% vegan craft baking from its base in Newburgh, the Vegan Bay Baker produces a catalogue of bakery goods all using hand-crafted recipes by head baker Steve Buchan.
Yum yums, doughrings and battenburg are just some of the sensational eats to its name and I’m eager to try its chocolate mud pie which is just asking for my face to plough through.
Taking on local domination with the supply of baked goods to cafes and restaurants across the region and sellout stalls at farmers markets, demand is something the Vegan Bay Baker is definitely not free from.
With a broad portfolio of best-sellers under his belt, Steve shared his go to bake: “My favourite product is definitely the butteries. Honestly – nothing beats a fresh buttery straight out the oven. They are always consistently a top seller at markets we go to.
“I’d also recommend those with a sweet tooth try our yum yums and doughnuts. We always get great feedback on these and again are huge sellers!”
Fluttering onto the scene in the midst of the pandemic, The Fat Sparrow Bakery brought luxury cupcakes of true artistry to the people of Aberdeen. Known for its range of season specific cupcake boxes, this small batch bakery has a flavour for every occasion (or should I say forecast?). Of course I’ve tasted my way through the boxes and my favourite has to be the lemon meringue with its moreish lemon curd and sensational Italian meringue top.
A crowd pleaser is its signature cinnamon rolls huddled together in one big doughy bear hug all topped with a velvety cream cheese top. These are much favoured in my circle, so much so that these buns have even featured as a birthday cake – some say I cut corners, I say ingenious.
I should mention too that all the frosting, creams, curds and fillings used throughout the range are all handmade, making every hand crafted item truly special.
The talent perched behind The Fat Sparrow is master baker Graeme McKay. I was keen to learn where his baking bug started and Graeme reflected, “The Fat Sparrow Bakery was born from watching my own family making home bakes to bring the family together to enjoy a traditional piece over a great conversation. “I’ve always felt the importance of bringing people together and appreciated a delicious home bake.
“I’m influenced by my travels around America and Canada and strive to deliver the best quality flavour, visual appeal and consistent quality through my range. As the business grows I want the brand to be recognised for quality and the ‘go-to-treat’ for a family gathering. The business has evolved with my customers and they are at the core of everything I do.”
Taking the city by storm over the past few months is The Bread Guy’s Bakery fleet plotting around Aberdeen. After many years learning the trade and getting his rolls in a row, owner Gary opened his first shop in Torry and since then has expanded to have two more bakeries on Great Northern Road and most recently, Rose Street.
Think of your classic Scottish bakery but with extra heart. Stocked to the brim with freshly baked breads, cakes, tarts, butteries, doughnuts, sausage rolls – you name it – this place has it all.
Now for a guy that hoovers up food in seconds, you can understand my glee when portions are generous and The Bread Guy’s Bakery fits the bill (or should I say belly?). Bagging a French Fancy during my last visit, this sizeable – strike that, ginormous – take on a classic was sensationally fluffy as well as delicious.
“The Bread Guy has grown quickly over the last few years, and we have opened 3 new shops over the last 18 months alone.” shares Director Donna McAllister.
“Part of this success I believe is down to shoppers looking to shop and support local during the pandemic. During lockdown, we saw a lot of new customers coming through the door, who then quickly became regulars!
“Speaking to our customers, they come to support a local family business, see the friendly welcoming staff and taste a great selection of products. I personally love, and highly recommend, our Nutella Biscoff Tiffin!”
If house guests are dropping by, La Gourmandise is the perfect place to grab your stand out bakes to blow the socks off your visitors. Nestled on Thistle Street, this unassuming patisserie sits peacefully with french signage like its been teleported from a quaint French village. Stepping through the front door you’re hit with smells of freshly made baguettes, pastries and tempting tarts, all before being captivated by instagrammable items.
It’s been a while since I last visited but the memory of the cherry tart and custard slice lives rent free in my mind.