The cupcake craze arrived in Germany just about the same time as I did, with McDonalds advertising them on every street corner and a couple of more modern coffee shops offering a small selection of the ubiquitous American treat. But as so often is the case with many exported food fads, there was something lost in translation. German cakes are traditionally drier, less sweet and good buttercream frosting couldn't be more foreign. So as you can imagine, an American expecting an American 'cupcake' would be sorely disappointed. That is of course, until I discovered Dale's Cake. An American making American cakes is the way to go for something so iconically, well, American. His was one such cupcake that could be found in the aforementioned cafés and was soon selling pre-packaged sets in the Karstadt grocery.
So when I saw that the maker of such satisfying treats in a sea of sad attempts at American baked goods was opening his own shop right on the little side street I used to take on my way into the Stadtmitte, I couldn't be more thrilled. The location itself was just as exciting, as he was taking over one of those fantastic old German cake shops, where little old men would sit out front for hours, smoking and eating cake with other little German men. It was also the spot where during our first year in Germany, a visiting friend and I walked down the street only to be met with camera crews surrounding the shop and a recognizable actor who's name we couldn't quite remember standing outside. Well, the actor was Danny Huston and the movie was Playoff (which I finally saw last week and was only so-so) in which a big part of the plot centers around this picturesque little café and nearby parts of Wiesbaden.
Taking over such an iconic - and now immortalized in film - location meant that Dale took special care in updating and modernizing the space, without taking away from the old-world feel and details. Even the original store front and amazing rolling pin door handle remain. What did change most notably though are the offerings. Not only is there a staggering assortment of cakes, cupcakes and other baked goods (caramel-apple sticky buns or iced cinnamon rolls, anyone?), but there's also a few savory options for the makings of a proper lunch date. My German friend and I decided to do exactly this just before I left for Berlin. A recent covert to Banh Mis, this was what I had my heart set on before I'd even arrived and they very kindly whipped up one with chicken, despite only having the tofu option in the case. Vivienne bravely chose the quiche with chorizo and jalapenos (German cuisine is notoriously devoid of hot and spicy elements). The quiche was apparently pretty hot, at least by German standards, and the Banh Mi was fresh and tasty with nicely pickled vegetables, though I felt it could have used a bit more heat and flavoring in the meat, as other Banh Mis I've enjoyed before. My coffee drink was pretty on par with the rest of the coffee in town (as was referenced in the movie shot in the very same café, German coffee was jokingly referred to as 'black water'). It's no surprise that the real standout at Dale's is in the dessert department. While we enjoyed a cinnamon roll and a cupcake this trip, I've tasted many of his cakes before. One of my favorites - a Guinness and Bailey's cupcake - has gone unseen since I first ordered it at Helmut Spiegel years ago, but you can't go wrong with the chocolate-coconut cupcake or one of the very generous pieces of carrot cake.
As my friend and I left the café that day, a nice man in an apron who was headed inside stopped and smiled at us taking photos out front. He asked how we liked everything and we asked if he was Dale. He nodded, shook our hands and kind of sheepishly pointed at the silhouette in the store's logo, saying 'that's me'. And it was, down to his ribbon-tied ponytail, though it didn't quite capture his jovial nature or great baking skills. Next time I am in Wiesbaden, Dale's café will most definitely be on my places to stop.
Dale's Cake Café