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Welcome to The Taste Chase and our inaugural food adventure, “The Great Cake Quest”, the much anticipated sequel to “The Tuna Tour” is finally off and running!!  I am so grateful for the response I received from the wonderful people on the Hopewell-Pennington Update who encouraged me by reading and looking forward to my reviews. The feedback I received was fun, informative, funny and very, very supportive.  Now armed with a new vision, a partnership with MercerMe and a wider territory(I get the WHOLE county!!) to explore, my fork is shined up and revved to go!

It’s All About the…

Cake. Not quite the final frontier but probably one of the tastiest and creative, and is one that many of us are very familiar with. Cake shows up at most of the milestones in our lives — birthdays, weddings, graduations, anniversary, retirement, business openings…you get it. Cake is often the room temperature substitute for ice cream that we find ourselves overindulging in when things haven’t gone our way. A soft chair, a familiar blanket or afghan and our trusty index finger a.k.a icing scraper and we’re ready to administer buttercream to our tragedy du jour and float away in our stretchy pants to sugary numbness.

Sometimes in our quest to remedy any situation, or occasion, we indulge in questionable cake choices that would make both Betty Crocker and Duncan Hines burn us at the stake.  Too dry, too moist, too much icing, not enough icing, no flavor, tastes like the box and then there’s my favorite… tastes like the display case. I well understand that life has caused many of us to forsake homemade for store-bought but, even in that, we don’t have to jump off a precipice into the grocery store sheet cake abyss (shout out to Sushant!). There are people, good people, talented people who make cakes…from scratch…just like we’d like to think we would if we had the time and talent.

The Quest Begins

Usually heat doesn’t make me hungry for sweets, just thirsty for water but today, it was sweets. So I thought today, of all the 83 degree days in May, this day would be the day to begin The Great Cake Quest.  My destination was Lawrenceville and its famous “strip”.  You know “The Strip,” that ⅛ of a mile on 206, that is entirely across from the Lawrenceville School and home to a post office, a pizzeria, a few doctor/lawyer/accounting offices and … Fedora.

This gem is tucked in pretty good and, if you’re going faster than 25 mph and looking to the right, you’ll miss it. I made a left onto Phillips Avenue and drove about 150 feet and turned right into a lot that served as parking for all the stores on this portion of “The Strip.” I came in through a back entrance followed by an older woman who seemed similarly destined and quite determined to get there. When I walked in, I saw why.  As she hurried to the cashier to order what seemed like her “usual,” I was caught up by the pastry case filled with every shape and color and decoration of confection. It was almost Suessian in presentation. I was quite sure that Horton heard me gasp. There were brownies and tarts, cupcakes and squares, ganaches and icings and caramel, I swear…but there was no cake. Not a slice, not a sliver, not a hair. There was not a piece of cake here, there or anywhere.

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Fedora gals with owner Nicole Curtis in center

cupcake 1I was told by Fedora’s owner and master pastry chef, Nicole Curtis, that they do not sell cake by the slice because their “no condensation” display case removes all the moisture so the items therein stay fresher longer.  I “ahhed” in agreement at the obvious…no moisture, dry cake. She concurred and assured me that they sell their custom cakes by special order (the vanilla cake with Godiva Chocolate Mousse is a favorite…duh).  My first soiree out on The Great Cake Quest and I already tripped.  Told you all this was not going to be easy!  After a quick consult with the MercerMe publisher, I was back on track.  I picked out two “cake-like” items from the display case.  They looked at me, if you can imagine a pastry looking at you, and seemed to be turned in such a way that bid me to come closer.  We both knew their demise was imminent and I, for one, was fine with the outcome. When I got home and finally indulged with my husband, eyes rolled back in our heads and sweatpants were let out (can you imagine!!). First we had the “Ooey Gooey” a tall, chocolate indulgence topped with a homemade whipped topping and filled with a liquidy dark chocolate lava flow that makes the bottom of this cupcake so moist and buttery you want to hug someone, tight.  cupcake 2The next treat we had was the “Salted Caramel Brownie Cupcake.” This is the thing that all your daydreams on the school bus ride home were made of.  You come bursting through the door and find your mom just plating a yummy treat that is sure to spoil your appetite but she loves you and lets you eat all of it.  This cupcake is topped with all the things any 6th grader would want, caramel, marshmallow fluff, chocolate drizzle, all housed in a chewy chocolate brownie with an oreo inside.  An oreo!!!  This was sweet and chewy and so over the top yummy, I brushed my teeth for 6 full minutes and flossed.

Fedora is a magical place where the smells of the kitchen in someone’s home greet you and the wide-eyed child-like greed for treats can almost overtake you.  I saw so many things I would love to try and will definitely come again to try them…ALL.  A cafe with a breakfast and lunch menu, Fedora is also a full service caterer so, if you want it, they can probably make it for you. If you have never visited Fedora Cafe, please grab thing one and thing two and come see Nicole, Chris, Rachel and Deanna.  Have a latte, an espresso and one of their homemade pastries.  Yum it up!  Tell your friends! Fedora Cafe 2633 Main Street Lawrenceville, NJ 08648.  Check them out on Facebook.

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Renata Barnes
Renata is the author of "The Taste Chase," MercerMe's own food review column. She's a lover of all things poetic, colorful, funny and inspiring. A native New Yorker, who grew up in Hopewell Valley and spent the better part of her adulthood back in NYC, currently finds herself in a growing love relationship with “the Valley”. Latin food, Indian saris and mehndi, French perfume, African music, Middle Eastern spices, South American jewels, Asian fabrics and anything from just about any island (maybe not Riker’s Island) are things that remind her to go out and taste the world, live passionately and always wear deodorant. The mother of one rambunctious boy and the wife of a mellow fellow, Renata tries to put her too many years of university and her film and writing talents to good use here in NJ. “I’ve spent too much time trying to fit in some where when I probably belong everywhere. That slow revelation has been freeing.”

8 COMMENTS

  1. Really great start, Renata, which makes me think of that “Life is short” t-shirt saying, slightly altered to readL “so eat cake first.” I love the Suessian theme — especially Thing One and Thing Two. Thanks for a wonderful read!

  2. Thank you for sharing this gem! It sounds like a great place to take my wife when we can get around the kids. We’ll have to try it soon. We always love finding new places to go!

  3. This review reads like a good story! Your super literary descriptions are such a great advertisement for Fedora! I don’t even live in NJ, but I want to get over to this place and order a thousand things! This is what’s been missing from the world of reviewing: tapping into the things that make us love food, often tied to great memories or childhood hopes. “This is the thing that all your daydreams on the school bus ride home were made of.” Thanks, Renata!

  4. Better late than never! I was just redirected to your article since I hadn’t known you already gave this review. Love your stories and style, Renata. Keep up the good work! 🙂

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