Who doesn’t love pastries, cakes and sweet treats? I, for one, certainly do. But after putting on that infamous “Dubai Stone” since moving to the UAE a year ago, I’ve made a decision to avoid carbs and sugar until further notice. So the fact that La Brioche has invited me over to its headquarters to make pastries and cakes is not helping at all. I’m more than happy to learn the skill, but I won’t be eating any of it myself (we’ll see). Instead, I’ll do it for the benefit of my always-hungry team back at the office, who can indulge in my handywork afterwards.
La Brioche has 30 branches across the UAE, however, I’ve come to the headquarters in Mussafah, Abu Dhabi, to put my skills to the test. In order to keep the quality of its pastries and cakes consistent throughout the country, everything is baked and prepared here in Mussafah and then transported to all the outlets daily. So basically, I’m at the Capital of Cake, surrounded by enough sugary treats to supply all seven emirates.
Before entering the work zone, I’m handed a chef’s jacket and compulsory hairnet. The latter doesn't quite scream glamour and Michelin-starred glory, so I opt for a proper chef’s hat instead. Now that I’ve nailed the look (save for a Hannibal Lecter-style muzzle to keep me from demolishing the marzipan) I'm ready for action.
I meet La Brioche’s chef Franck, who will be teaching and guiding me. I’m told we’ll be preparing black forest gâteau and chocolate éclairs, two of my all-time favourites. Luckily, this is more of a demonstration than a test, because the kitchen's pros have very kindly baked and sliced the sponge cake ahead of my arrival, along with the base of the éclairs. I can’t help but notice how sterile and clean the kitchen is. You could perform open heart surgery in here (though I'm not sure how far you'd get with a cake slice instead of a scalpel).
My first patient is the black forest gâteau. Three layers of sponge are lightly sprinkled with a watery syrup, turning the boring essential into sweetened, moist cake. I then pile on the fresh cream and layer each, sprinkling them with fresh cherries afterwards. Finally, I have to layer the top and the sides with cream. This may all sound simple, but I struggle to get my edges as smooth as chef Franck’s, and, as someone with almost compulsive perfectionism, I insist he fixes mine. It turns out the trick is to add lavish spatulas of cream – La Brioche, it seems, does not do dairy by halves.
I then sprinkle the top and the sides of the cake with chocolate flakes, add generous swirls of cream (oh yes, there's more) and last but not least, plop the cherries on top. Tah dah! My first black forest gâteau is done and it looks professional enough to lure even more customers into La Brioche. Understandably, I’m tempted to sample my work of art, but I hold back (a fingerful of icing doesn’t count).
Next up are my four chocolate éclairs, which are slightly simpler to create. The baked shells are hollow inside, so filling them without ruining them aesthetically is a breeze. The éclairs are then dipped into a darker chocolate sauce, sprinkled with chocolate chips and neatly presented on a gold platter. And they’re perfect.
Chef Franck agrees that I’ve got the pastry factor, and boxes my goods up to take back with me. I’m still insistent that I won’t devour them myself, and head back to the office with treats for all.
The conclusion? Everyone loves them, including me. And yes, I have caved in and I’m devouring both a slice of cake and an éclair. Besides, we had a birthday in the office, so that’s surely a good enough excuse to cheat. However, I’d rather not talk about the caramel cheesecake off-cuts that I scoffed in the kitchen while the chef was boxing up my goods. Oops…
La Brioche has 30 outlets nationwide, including Jumeirah Beach Road, www.labriocheuae.com (04 338 7110).
Four to try Cool cake shops
Sukar House of Desserts
Beloved of many for its Middle East-meets-West kunafa cheesecake and banoffee pie, this small Jumeirah Lakes Towers shop bakes fresh cupcakes, pies, cheesecakes and more. You can also place orders for special occasions.
Dubai Gate 1, Cluster Q, JLT,
www.facebook.com/sukardesserts (04 454 7805).
Gossip Café & Desserts
This Emirati-owned spot is as popular for its breakfasts, lunches and afternoon teas as it is for the quirky, colourful array of cupcake blends and flavours that brighten up the display. You’ll also find the secretive, “Ultimate Dessert” here.
BoxPark, Al Wasl Road, www.gossipthebrand.com (04 343 0181).
the cake bar
A sweet spot on Jumeirah Beach Road, The Cake Bar is home to some funky, fusion blends with creative names. The Toasted Coconut Dutch Baby is similar to a Yorkshire pudding, filled with fruit and served with ice-cream.
Jumeirah Beach Road, Jumeirah 3, www.thecakebar.ae (04 395 6655).
Dum Dum Donutterie
Head to this UK import for artisan doughnuts and croissant-doughnuts. Of the former, flavours include raspberry jam, banoffee and strawberry with white chocolate, and of the latter try peach melba and salted caramel.
Jumeirah Beach Road, Jumeirah 2, www.dumdums.ae (04 261 1601).