Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Theme cafes in Daehagno

I've already blogged about cat cafes and dog cafes in Seoul, but that is hardly a complete picture of the theme cafe scene in this hyper-caffeinated capital. In the Daehangno area alone you can find a variety of cafes to suit all imaginable tastes. One that I have been particularly eager to try is the "cupcake cafe," where customers can wile away a rainy afternoon creating cupcakes, cookies, and cakes of various flavors.

I first spotted the "cakeimade" cafe several months ago, around the corner from my favorite kitty cafe in Daehangno. I had high expectations, having heard hilarious stories from a co-worker who had been to a similar theme cafe with her boyfriend. "The place was full of couples," she said, "and not one of the guys looked happy to be there." I figured this would make for some amusing photos, so I talked my cousin into going along last Sunday.

Disappointingly, there were no unhappy males in attendance; in fact, we were the only customers. But the shopkeeper was very energetic and pleased as punch to see us. She set us up right away in the big windowseat with some books of samples to get inspired.

We had a choice of making cookies, cupcakes or a cake; we opted to make four cupcakes each. First we had to choose what flavors dough to use; choices included vanilla-almond, chocolate chip, green tea and cheese.

After choosing our flavors, we were given trays and directed to the stacks of goodies with which to decorate our cupcakes.

We both ended up piling way too much stuff into our trays.

Then our hostess brought over our cupcakes: four each, ready-made. Judging from the texture, these cupcakes were at least a day old.

Cousin Katherine immediately set about decorating her cupcakes like she'd been doing this all her life:

My cupcakes were somewhat less aesthetically pleasing. These were the sort of cupcakes that would get picked last for a pick-up baseball team. The sort of cupcakes that would win the "best effort" award at a latin dance competition. In short, they were losers, and I felt a certain affinity for them. After putting the finishing touches on her masterpieces, Katherine glanced over at my work and charitably remarked, "I like yours. They're so... colorful."

So the cupcake cafe turned out to be much more of an art-intensive than a baking-intensive experience, to my chagrin. I had envisioned us mixing the batter ourselves and then sitting and sipping capucchinos while waiting for them to cook. Baking is an area where I feel I could perform with enough authority to at least give the appearance of imparting the wisdom of age and experience upon my younger cousin. But art is quite another matter. Even if I had a basic appreciation of aesthetics, my hands are just not steady enough to realize my artistic vision. My poor cupcakes were doomed to fail from the start.

Unni showed up as we were putting the finishing touches on our creations. My artistically talented housemate surveyed the pastel-colored interior with an inscrutable expression as we went about loading our cupcakes into cartons and paying our bill. The cost for my four cupcakes with all their accoutrements came to about 25,000 won. Before we left, the shopkeeper was particularly keen to get a photo of Katherine and I holding our cupcake boxes. I wouldn't be surprised if I see our smiling faces on the posterboard the next time I walk by.

After that Unni and Katherine humored me for a brief visit to another theme cafe in the neighborhood:

Here at last I was able to observe some of the couples that had been absent at the cupcake cafe. I couldn't tell if the guys were happy to be there or not. They seemed too engrossed in their smartphones to display any emotion.
 (identities have been tastefully obscured)
I made sure to check out the restrooms before we left: 

Update (2011-10-26): We made the cakeimade bulletin board!

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