It was clear we were going to get along. On the bus ride from Incheon Airport to the centre of Seoul I’d seen the word cake no less than 20 times. The first scent that entered my eager nostrils was a whiff of freshly baked sweet buns that a lady was selling outside the subway station. On the crossroads the bus had deposited us at I spun in happy circles. I could see the words ‘dessert café’ on all 4 corners of the junction, confirming my suspicions that Seoul has an obsession with sweet treats to rival my own. In short: I’d found my spiritual home.
I was to spot those names I saw on the crossroads near our hotel many times during our stay in Seoul. South Korea’s major café chains are all about cake – sometimes to the exclusion of all other food groups. (Cake is a food group right?!)
On a Monday morning in hipster Hongdae we wandered fruitlessly in the search for breakfast. Our Western bellies were on the hunt for some form of bacon and bread combination (ok I admit it, and some avocado toast) and as we approached one coffee shop after the other we were offered freshly baked scones, brownies and cheesecakes – but there was not a savoury bite in sight.
Eventually we stumbled upon a Parisian Baguette café where I clutched at a cheese and ham croissant hangrily. We took our goods upstairs to eat and I quickly noticed how we were the odd ones out. To my right a pair of elderly gentlemen tucked into a shared cheesecake, on the left a lady was digging into a hunk of bread filled with unidentified sweet stuff. It was 10.30am.
The cake consumption extends well into the night in Seoul though. On Gangnam’s Eating Street – a self-explanatory laneway filled with eateries – the only place more popular than the karaoke joints was Billy Angel Cake Company. Far from being a gimmick for tourists, this late night cake café was filled with couples and groups of friends, both sexes and all ages represented. I’d dragged hubby into the Parisian style joint to share a slice of Red Velvet on the proviso that next we’d head to the beer joint he really wanted to spend the evening in. But all around me were couples and businessmen who looked like this was where they chose to spend their Saturday nights – without any negotiating/arm-bending/nagging!
Seoul’s cake cafes cater to specific cravings as well as general cakeness. On Hapjeong-Dong in Hongdae you can choose between cupcake, scone or tart specialists. In the Dongdaemun Design Plaza we were delighted to discover a café dedicated to tiramisu – cake, pot and ice cream varieties – while the subway station had a stand of the most beautifully decorated muffins I’ve ever seen (a company apparently established in London but it was the first I’d heard of them!).
Seoul has so many sweet treats it’s impossible to try them all on a short break. But I assure you I tried my hardest. Here’s my round up of the best.
Seoul’s Best Cake Cafes
Billy Angel Cake Company – Elegant French-style cake cafés found throughout the city. We visited the one on Gangnam’s eating street. Take exit 12 from Gangnam Station and follow the crowds.
Tarr Tarr – Make every type of tart imaginable but you can’t beat the classic egg if you ask me. Address: 412-31 Hapjeong-dong.
Tiraremisu – Scrumptious pots of Tiramisu as well as Tiramisu ice cream sundaes. We visited the one at the DPP but you can also find them in Hongdae at 345-17 Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu.
Banana Tree – These guys are famous for making Flowerpot Cakes – yes that’s a cake that looks just like a fledgling plant in a pot. (You can’t make this stuff up!) Sadly we didn’t make it here but you know I’ll be back. Banana Tree has two outlets in Seoul, one in Sinsa (526 Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu) and one in Itaewon (739-5 Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu).
Mr Holmes Bakehouse – If it’s a good cruffin you’re after then the Seoul outpost of this San Franciscan bakery is the place to be. Famous for their Hot Chocolate Cruffins and cream filled Brioche Donuts, Mr Holmes Bakehouse it as tasty as it’s Insta-worthy. This is another place we didn’t get to sadly but like Arnie says ‘I’ll be back’. Address: 34 Apgujeong-ro 10-gil, Gangnam-gu.
Thanks to Seoul Searching for the featured image of Mr Holmes Bakehouse. She has more beautiful pics and tips on her review I Got Baked In Seoul: Mr Holmes Bakehouse.