Monday, December 5, 2011

Can't find cake at Giovane

Giovane on Urbanspoon
Well, it's not exactly true that I couldn't find *any* cake at Giovane. But the offerings had so much cream and chocolate. Many pieces were basically just layers of different types of chocolate cream.
But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Late Sunday afternoon I went out with some foodies and food bloggers to Giovane café and winebar (1038 Canada Place), which was basically at the end of the 8th Annual Rogers Santa Claus Parade. Because of the parade, there was a lot of spillover traffic for Giovane and many patrons looked wistfully at the tables and chairs set aside for us in the packed restaurant.

I think at some point or other, all of the attendees at our table had been there before, but just not so focussed on desserts and as a gathering of bloggers. Still, it seemed no one had heard of Sugar Buns at Giovane ($4 - a Giovane signature – sugared sweet bun filled with vanilla pastry cream) and that was one of the things our organizer, Jenny, had set up for us to try. The cafe supervisor, Mark, had set aside a dozen of the huge buns (about the size of a Kaiser, but more rounded) for us, in case we all wanted one.
Initial reception was cold with our group. I think basically no one knew what they were about and were hesitant to order one. To end the waffling, I bought one and had it cut up into four to share.

The Sugar Bun is very light and heavily dusted with sugar on the outside. It is mostly hollow on the inside, with just a thin crust to hold the very light white cream inside -- kudos to the Giovane staff who expertly cut it into four without squashing it or otherwise mashing it up.
First thing I tried was the cream, and for me it was light (good) but strangely bland (bad). Did I get a fluke bad bun? Did it sit out too long waiting for our group to show up? I dunno. A second bun was ordered to share a little later as some of our group of 12 didn't get to try my bun. When we left the café, half that bun was still sitting on the table.
Maybe the attraction of the Sugar Bun is that it could be fun to eat. It's a light snack, and you get to squish the cream out? I dunno. But for $4, it just seemed a bit steep.
Or maybe we just didn't understand what it was about. I spoke briefly with the supervisor just before we left and he said he'd sold the rest of the (~10) Sugar Buns already.

In addition to the bun, as a group we also tried one of their seasonal-only log cakes. There are two service counters at Giovane -- One near the street entrance, and another deeper in to the right, where the display case has savories on the left (pizzas, sandwiches, buns) and what appear to be small cakes and whole cakes on the right. Cakes are $30 for the very smallest ones (like the log cakes) but typically $34 to $39. And some of them are daunting in size, like the tall dome-shaped Peanut Butter Hedgehoge (some beautiful pictures can be seen at the bottom of their page, here).
There are smaller versions of various cakes, but even those are a fairly large portion, about the size of a mug of Tim Hortons coffee.

You have to look carefully and ask if you want actual cake, because many of the offerings, like the Peanut Butter Hedgehog (whole cake or mini version), or the seasonal log cakes, are basically all chocolate.
Yup -- ALL chocolate. Different types of chocolatey cream assembled into a cake shape. But no actual cake. You're getting a straight shot of chocolate with varying hardness and flavour. Imagine eating a full mug of chocolate. If you're going to get tired halfway through, it's best to grab a buddy or two before you go. Honestly, the portion you get plus the chocolate fatigue you may be hit with means each cake or slice is probably good enough for two persons. I saw so many plates with leftover chocolate cake that started out delicious, but basically exhausted the eater.

The hazelnut log cake ($30), unlike a "proper" log cake, had no cake in it. There was an outer shell (bark?) of deep brown chocolate, and a khaki coloured core of lighter chocolatey cream mixed with chopped up hazelnuts. The whole thing sat on a thing base of what seemed like sugar and chopped up hazelnut. Decorations on the outside were quite beautiful, including two macarons and a round, thin, plate of chocolate with festive wording and decoration. There was also a milk chocolate reindeer!

Another interesting offering was a cake with layers of some cake (yes, some actual cake this time), cream, and hard cherry jelly. On top was a red dust, cherries in syrup, and just a little bit of gold leaf. The overall taste was, surprisingly, dead-on as Black Forest Cake despite the rectangle of cake looking nothing like a traditional Black Forest Cake or the typical versions you get in supermarkets.

The Peanut Butter Hedgehog was also very nice. Basically like a soft Reese's Peanut Butter Cup (and a heck of a lot of it), even with the personal-sized mini cake version.

There are non-chocolate offerings as well, but not as many, such as a strawberry cake with lemon cream on the inside and a rubbery cream over on the outside. I'm not a fan of sugary rubbery cream coats, so this one really didn't agree with me too well, though the fruity taste and lemony core was a nice contrast against all the chocolate at the table.

I got my usual peppermint tea (Chamomille-Peppermint blend) -- $3, and a large bag of it in a very large cup, good for one or two refills (but there was, sadly, no busser to bring hot water). Not available in a pot, alas. I think we could have done much better with forcing down the chocolate slices with tea instead of the coffees or hot chocolates many people bought.

2011-Dec-7 UPDATE: There are some gorgeous pictures of the Sugar Bun, Log Cake, and Black Forest Cake at Caroline L's beautiful blog, Food Persuasion.

2011-Dec-13 UPDATE: More belated pictures, this time at Eat With Jenny.


  1. Hi Simon,

    Thanks for adding me to your blogroll. Sounds like you had as much fun at Giovane as I did. You're right about the cakes not being "cake". Everything was super indulgent too. Too bad about the sugar buns :(

  2. It was very nice to meet you at Giovane! Looking forward to your take on the cafe on your food blog.