My younger sister and her friends have recently been talking a lot about Taiwanese handmade cakes. This is not just because of how great they are but also because of how hard they are to buy. After she gave up after waiting in line for half an hour to buy some, I decided to go and check out what all the fuss was about.
The source of the excitement is the Taiwanese shop Guzaowei on Jintai Road, tucked away between some small restaurants and a quiet grocery store. If you walk 300 meters south from Exit D of Jintailu on Line 6 you can’t miss it – there is always a long queue outside the shop.
The poster in the shop’s display states (in English) that the cakes are only made from natural ingredients and contain no preservatives, food additives or flavor enhancers. The line, which features elderly women and young people alike, moved very slowly and at 4pm on a weekday it took an hour before I got my chance to see the menu.
But was it worth the wait?
The products are simple: five flavors of cake – original, chocolate, cheese, cream and green tea – all sold in pieces in large bricks. Usually, when a tray of hot cake (which can only be cut into 14 pieces) emerges,customers will just buy whichever type comes out.
Of the three flavors I was able to purchase on my two visits to the shop, the chocolate cake was the most impressive and also appeared to be the most popular. The 500g or so slice, which was cut and put in a paper box right away, was still hot when I arrived home one hour later.
Smooth chocolate beans were scattered atop the surface and hot melted chocolate flew out along the knife when cuttingsmaller pieces. It was like a big lava cake but with a soft, elastic and moist body. It is awfully satisfying when eaten hot.
The cheese cake is similar in texture but much lower in sugar. To my surprise, it containedhard and salty cheese cubes that don’t melt during the process of baking. Impressive!
It is not necessarily a cake to blow your mind but it is certainly down-to-earth, decent quality, simple and just satisfying, as implied by the name guzaowei (古早味) which means “the good old days” in Taiwanese. On top of that, it is a bargain at only RMB 24 for a 500g slice.
Later I found that the tiny shop was only able to provide two trays of cakes every half an hour. There are only four people working there: the mid-age Taiwanese owner who cuts the cake, his cashier wife, one woman wrapping the cake and the baker. I can’t imagine they expected the cakes to be so popular when they opened the shop two months ago. So if you go, try to join the queue early!
Daily 9am-8pm (closes early if cakes are sold out). Room 6-104, Block 20, Hongmiao North Lane, Jintailu, Chaoyang District(6506 1320)朝阳区红庙北里20号楼6-104室
Photos by Clemence Jiang