1) 咖啡爱蔓饼 (kāfēi ài màn bǐng—”Coffee Love Tendrils Cake”)
RMB 1.4 per cookie sandwich
This cookie would be so much better if it were a moon pie or if the almond cookies at least had some more luxurious, silky texture. Instead, the thin cream filling is a tease and all I taste is brittle. I was attracted by the “kāfēi” aspect promised in this cookie’s name, hoping for some aromatic coffee flavor and energy zing. However, if there was coffee infused into this treat, it was overpowered by the potent taste of almond extract and an undertone of fortune cookie flavor. All in all, I’m very disappointed. This cookie failed to ensnare me in its “coffee love tendrils.”
Overall rating: Thanks, but no thanks.
2) 乌梅酥 (wūméi sū—smoked plum shortbread cake)
RMB 1.7 per cake
My expectations for this cake surged after looking up the meanings for both 乌 (wū—sparrow) and 乌梅 (wūméi—smoked plum). I imagined my first bite would transport me to into some fanciful world created by the Brothers Grimm. Then, I split the cake in two and my dreams ruptured. The cake revealed the same gummy cohesion as the disappointing honeydew cake I consumed on a previous Daoxiangcun occasion. Going in for my first bite of this smoked plum shortbread, I bitterly prepared for mediocrity. But, no! I might not have been thrust into some Bavarian forest and overcome in some fairy tale of flavor but the smoky plum jelly confidently seized my taste buds and dared me not to enjoy its voluptuous flavor.
Overall rating: Love it.
With the stylish characters emblazoned on its pastry, the smoked plum gives off an aura of mystery, of enticement, like hieroglyphics upon an ancient tomb. Indeed, like tomb-raiders, we desired to delve deeper into this fruity snack. Doing so reaped great rewards, and unleashed a thoroughly flavorsome treasure trove. Daoxingcun’s best product yet, without a doubt.
3) 枣花酥 （zǎo huā sū—jujube flower shortbread cake）
RMB 1.7 per daisy
Freddie came with me on this trip to Daoxiangcun to supervise my selection of “the prettiest” sweet in the shop. I was pleasantly surprised when I broke into this jujube flower and it didn’t shatter and flake like shortbread is known to do. Beautiful and durable—looks like we’re headed on a good track. The taste? Very jujube. I enjoyed the familiar taste; however, the shortbread actually detracted from my enjoyment of this cake’s pasty petals. Unfortunately, the overall taste sensation falls short of the sweet’s visual appeal. Perhaps this jujube cake is better purchased for the sake of playing “He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not” with the flower petals…
Overall rating: Meh, it’s all right.
Well, when Caroline presented me with this cake, I instantly had a flashback from our previous tasting session. The stylish characters, the chewy filling (somewhat reminiscent of Christmas cake as it happens), it all seemed too familiar. Indeed, a single bite was all it took for me to deduce that Caroline had, indeed, bought the same snack twice. Clearly a victim to linguistic difficulties, or temporary amnesia, those cruel Daoxingcun staff took advantage of her, selling her the same cake 2 days in a row. The cake itself wasn’t too unpleasant, but neither is it something I would make a habit of eating. Should I look forward to trying the same cake again tomorrow, Caroline, or might you consider purchasing a different snack?
Note: The other cake Freddie is referring to here is the 状元饼 (zhuàngyuan bǐng—”Number One Scholar Cake”) we tried earlier. Somehow the review of this Daoxiangcun original got lost in the shuffle and never made it online. I think Freddie is onto something—I am apparently growing senile at the ripe age of 23. This is a sad fact to face. I reckon the only remedy to counter my depression is to eat more Daoxiangcun cakes… As for the “Number One Scholar Cake,” I love the name. Alas, the catchy moniker is the only awesome part of this cake. The flavor is unoriginal. Similar to other Daoxiangcun treats I have soaked my taste buds in, this Scholar Cake was basically a date fruit Fig Newton. The only other noteworthy feature of this sweet is the ornate design imprinted on top, including the characters “状元饼”. Incidentally, the title, “Number One Scholar,” was given to those who came first in the highest imperial examination, back in the day. Now the title has retired to be a cake. Good move.
Key to ratings from highest satisfaction to lowest:
- “Love it.”
- “Meh, it’s all right.”
- “Thanks, but no thanks.”