Vanilla Kitchen is what I would imagine Martha Stewart’s kitchen to look like; clean cut and simple, yet warm and homey. Fresh and dried flowers can be found along the walls and on every table. Soft splashes of blues, purples and grays color the furniture and walls with a lovely feminine touch. A small library of cook books occupies one wall, tempting all who feel inspired to bake delicious creations of their own. A large window sprawls across the opposite wall, inviting soft, warm sunlight into the open space. To top it off, a display case of cakes stands at the center surrounded by an open kitchen.
I would have to say that the open kitchen is what really makes Vanilla Kitchen so welcoming. There are no walls or curtains separating the customers from the chefs. It really gives you the feeling of being in someones house, eating in their kitchen and being exposed to the sweet aroma of baking cakes. Of course this was all designed from the mind of pastry chef Hyo-rim Chung (정효림).
Having had a passion for baking from the tender age of 10, it was always Chung’s dream to open up a cake shop. Having been a self-taught baker since child hood, she only attended patisserie school for one year before opening Vanilla Kitchen in October of last year. She gathered most of her inspiration from sites like Pintrest and dozens of cookbooks, which she leaves at the cakes shop to share with customers. While some of her recipes were carefully planned and perfected, she admits that a few were, what I like to call, “happy accidents.”
Eventually, she created a menu of six house cakes: Red Velvet, Carrot, S’mores, Honey Milktea, Grapefruit Meringue and Banana Caramel. While the selection may seem limited, the selection was made with the intention of offering a little something for everyone in a quality over quantity kind of way. Chung also tries to limit the amount of butter and sugar she uses, without sacrificing flavor. So while there make be only six cakes they are all quite unique and vary in texture, size, taste and densities. Having tried almost all of them now, I can definitely say that no two are alike.
If you’re looking for something light, incredibly moist and not overbearingly sweet then the Red Velvet is an excellent choice. Here you get three thick layers of super moist red velvet layered with light, creamy cream cheese frosting and topped with dried pieces of cranberry or flakes of the red velvet cake itself. Of course if you’d like to add a fruity twist to this category, then the Grapefruit Meringue may be right up your alley.
Those with a stronger sweet tooth in search of a denser, sweeter cake need look no further than the S’mores cake. This cake is three towering layers of thick chocolate cake, stacked with layers of roasted marshmallow, dark chocolate ganache and a specially made graham cracker frosting. All of this is topped off with bits of roasted marshmallows, pretzels and mine reeses peanut butter cups. I’m not really a huge chocolate lover, but this cake blew me and my taste buds away. However, if this is a bit over the top for you, then the Caramel Banana cake is a fantastic substitute especially if you’re a caramel lover like me.
If you’re a bit on the indecisive side or plan to share a slice with someone else, then the Honey Milktea cake is a general crowd pleaser. Here you have four layers of delicately soaked milk tea cake complimented by a light fluffy milk tea infused frosting and topped off with dried cranberry bits and drizzled with honey. It’s sweet, but not too sweet, and has a lovely milk tea flavor to it. Definitely one of my favorites.
One thing I really like about this place is that its primary focus is on the cakes. Instead of making a bunch of different good items, they work on making a few exceptional ones. This of course could get a little boring, especially for frequent visitors, so every Saturday and Sunday chef Chung adds two “weekend cakes” to the menu. This gives her an opportunity to try out new and creative recipes and customers something new to look forward to.
While cakes are the primary focus here, it doesn’t mean that the drink menu has to be dull. Currently, chef Chung is sprucing up the drink selection with items such as Strawberry Latte, Rooibos Grapefruit Tea Cocktail, Orange Vanilla Ceylon Tea Cocktail, Mint Lemonade and Verona Hot Chocolate. The hot chocolate is amazing! It has just the right amount of richness and sweetness to it, plus it comes with a pile of toasted marshmallows on top. The Tea Cocktails aren’t too bad either, very refreshing and just in time for spring.
So, if you’re ever in the mood to try truly unique and delicious cakes I highly recommend visiting Vanilla Kitchen. With tasty cakes, a relaxing environment and friendly English speaking staff what more could you ask for? Once you go, I’m sure you’ll be back for more. Happy eating!
서울특별시 마포구 연남동 228-7