Elwood 5566

Fake Cake at ‘Pathetically Bland’

Posted in Entertainment, Food and Drink by 노강호 on July 3, 2012

It’s Friday evening at the end of what is one of the most stressful weeks in Korean education: it’s the end of semester exams. Stress in my school, has been high amongst both staff and students. At the end of the evening, after a few beers with friends, and slightly inebriated, I decide I needed a cake and visited my local Paris Baguette. There’s a PB on every corner in Korea.  It was an exercise destined to disappoint.

Paris Baguette – Pathetically Bland – but it looks great!

5000 miles from Paris and Paris Baguette is about as French as you can get. The franchise, the largest bakery franchise in Korea, has a little picture of the Eifel Tower on its logo and at that point anything French stops. There are only two things I ever buy in PB: one is a choux pastry cake filled with syntho-cream and the other is cheese cake. The choux pastry’s synthetic cream is second best compared to fresh cream and the cheese cake is somewhat of a lottery, I think it depends on the temperature but sometimes it seems to contain cheese cake and at others, simply sponge.

There is no doubt that in terms of visual stimulation, PB is alluring. The array of cakes in the display cabinet is stunning but they’re all totally shit and totally syntho! The cake is a fake, a fraud but I should have known because I’ve written two former posts on exactly the same topic! Fake cream, fake cheese, chocolateless chocolate, the type Americans love and mock essence additives of everything from coffee to blueberry.

The beer has washed away all recollection of former disappointments and swished aside any powers of discernment. At 11.50pm, the choux pastry tray is empty and in the display cabinet there is an absence of cheesecake. However, I’m tempted by a rather delicious looking mascarpone tiramisu.

don’t be fooled – it’s as much a tiramisu as a Big Mac is a burger

From somewhere on the periphery of my awareness, currently dulled by a few too many bottles of Korea’s shitiest beer (was it Cass or was it Hite?), something is telling me to forgo the tiramisu and go and pig out on some fried chicken but the layers of sponge between that thick, yellowy, cheesy cream filling are overwhelming.  I concede.

the art of syntho-cream, bland sponge, chocolate-less chocolate, tasteless coloured powders and bits of fruit

Picking up the boxed cake, which isn’t cheap at around W21.000 (11 UK pounds), I’m struck by how light it is. And once home, with the tiramisu exposed and ready for consumption, I notice how the creamy cheese filling has a spongy texture to it. PB excel at disappointment and even the crappiest fancies of Mr Kipling exceed the tasteless experience of the tiramisu. There was nothing creamy in the cream and certainly nothing cheesy, even mildly mascarpone cheesy. In all, a totally tasteless experience and even the ‘mouth-feel,’ something MacDonald’s excel at, failed. After eating the entire cake, I didn’t even feel as if I’d broken my regular eating pattern: the sponge was airy and light and the cream filling – simply nothing – no taste with a cream-less texture.

Paris Baguette (PB), aka Pathetically Bland

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©Amongst Other Things… 努江虎 – 노강호 2012 Creative Commons Licence.

Related Posts on Paris Baguette fake cake:

Castrated Cake and Bollockless Beer (April 1st, 2011)

Chu-Sok Cheesecake (September 26th, 2010)

Castrated Cake and Bollockless Beer

Posted in bathhouse Ballads, Comparative, Food and Drink, podcasts by 노강호 on April 1, 2011

podcast 78

Recently, a blogger whose posts I regularly read (The Supplanter), has been condemning Korean cake and ridiculing its ersatz quality (Happy Spam Day). The Supplanter has made similar accusations against Korean beer (cASS and sHITE) but he is not a member of the substantial army of westerners that live here, some of them for decades, who continually berate Korean society. And I have to agree with him; Korean beer is shite and their cake, as scrumptious as it looks, is not much better.

Real beer! Beer with bollocks! From one of the many British micro-breweries.

I’m not much of a beer drink and if anything prefer what we Brits refer to as ‘real ale’ and I was also spoilt by ten years living in Germany where there is a vast range of decent pils-type lager. Korean lager never quite satisfies and drinking it tends to make me yearn for the real thing. Not only is it weak, watery and blatantly bland, but in every sip is the constant reminder of a chemical process and a factory production line.

Ss-Hite

Korean cake, at least in appearance, is certainly comparable with the fabulous creations of German torte and such delights as Schwarzwälder Kirchetorte, Sachertorte and kaβekuchen. In terms of taste however, you can expect a tragic disappointment.

German torten

Several weeks ago, I had a coffee in one of the numerous Sleepless in Seattle cafés to be found around Song-So, in Daegu. Having learnt not to coax disappointment, I rarely buy anything other than a coffee bun but when I noticed Camembert cheesecake on the menu, I couldn’t resist. Quite a strange concoction, Camembert, chocolate and cream, I thought, especially if you’ve experienced the almost putrefied, overripe Camembert which exudes the slightly pungent pong of ammonia. And Camembert in Korea is also strange as decent cheese is one of the hardest products to buy. I had heard that certain cheeses could not be imported because there were restrictions on foods with certain bacteriological properties.  Then there is the theory that Koreans, like the Chinese, haven’t developed a taste for cheese  or many other milk products as the climate and pastures for rearing cattle don’t exist as they do, for example, in Europe. Korean cheeses are usually always mild, stretchy and in terms of cheese, totally synthetic.

the Vienese Sacher torte

Well, the Camembert was quite delicious and there certainly was a tinge of Camembert flavour; present but not pronounced and as distant almost as Europe itself. The combination worked but the cheesecake was really just mildly cheesy syntho-cream.  And then, last week, when I had some spare cash in my pocket, I noticed a complete Camembert cheesecake sitting in a Paris Baguette bakery. It was certainly very vocal and for a good ten minutes I stood outside the shop deliberating whether or not to buy it and apart from the calories with which I knew it would be loaded, I don’t usually spend 16.000 Won (£8) on a cake. Well, it was Friday and my boss had given me a bonus, so I bought it!

Camembert cheese

However, my reasoning wasn’t purely gluttonous as I’d hoped to salvage the reputation of Korean cake after reading the Supplanter’s condemnation. I was going to pen a response basically agreeing with his observations but  forwarding the Camembert cheesecake as an exception and as soon as I got home took a few photos to help secure my intended argument.

Looks fantastic!

Korean bakeries are certainly adept at creating visual feasts and cakes covered in cream, chocolate and fruit, in a fascinating and artistically inspired range of designs, mesmerize and tempt the viewer. Unfortunately, visual creativity far outweighs culinary inspiration and innovation. My beautiful cheesecake, which looked like an entire mould encrusted round of Camembert, was nothing other than a boring sponge with a lick of creamy substance providing the filling and a thin painting of Camembert forming the facade, and a facade was exactly what it was! As far as sponge cake went it was delicious but cheesecake – it was not!

exposed as a sponge centered fraud

a real Camembert cheesecake – not sponge, not aerated cream, but Camembert!

I have now come to the conclusion there is more value and taste in a humble coffee bun than the entire gamut of glamorous gateaux where a thin wall of creamless-cream, coffeeless-coffee and chocolateless-chocolate hide a either a basic sponge cake or simply more aerated syntho-cream.

The simple coffee bun, nothing more, nothing less

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© 林東哲 2011 Creative Commons Licence.