Oh the irony: I scheduled to help a friend bake a chocolate birthday cake last Friday and check out the Mandarin Oriental seasonal Chocolate Afternoon Tea Buffet, I came down with a stomach flu and fever the Thursday prior. Marvelous, isn’t it? So I had to cancel the baking session and ate crackers and congee and drank water.
But no flu was going to get between me and my chocolate, so in short my fever broke after eleven hours of sleep, I baked the cake the day after and still got to go to the Chocolate Buffet the Sunday.
Take that, Hong Kong! On to more important things such as chocolate:
I consider this cake the ultimate chocolate birthday cake. There’s no romance in the story of how I found this recipe: someone wanted me to do chocolate and judging by its 300+ five star ratings on All Recipes in addition to its blue-ribbon award at a fair, I decided that three hundred ‘amateurs’ couldn’t be wrong:
Sandy’s Chocolate Cake Recipe
The beauty of this cake lies somewhere in the airy moistness of the body with brief intermissions of stiff chocolate frosting that crackles to reveal a velvety underlayer. Due to the sheer size this recipe calls for, I dubbed it the ‘Middle America Cake.’ As you can see, my goal was not to make to pretty, thus after having made it about five times this past year, I decided to change it up a bit: swap my round springform for a square jelly roll pan, and instead of hiding all the layers, exposing them as its visual beauty. My conclusion is that it was a pseudo-fail. Due to my lack of time and skill, I wasn’t able to prepare the ganache well (turned out like a paste and not liquid chocolate) so I had to opt for a piped frosted top and sliced strawberries with layers of whipped cream as a contrast to all that brown. My friend promptly whisked it off to Disney for the birthday girl, so I as of yet, have no idea what they thought of it. Strangely enough, most of my coworkers like the cake sans frosting: a favourite right after the pear tart. Oh Chinese people, I will never understand your love for the absence of taste.
The Mandarin Oriental Chocolate Afternoon Tea Buffet.
I don’t know many children who didn’t grow up reading ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.’
Roald Dahl basically legitimized chocolate as a worthy subject for a great piece of literary work.
I wanted to dip my finger in that chocolate waterfall, hear the sound of the foil crinkling when unwrapping some marshmallow Wonka bar to reveal my gold ticket and most of all, I wanted lickable wallpaper installed on my drywalls.
Although Willy Wonka will remain in our dreams, I think this chocolate afternoon tea comes pretty much close to what a grown-up Charlie would have if he resided in Hong Kong.
Due to my diet of congee and room temperature water, my shriveled stomach was only able to hold one and a half rounds. On a normal day, I could probably do at least three or four so I’m quite disappointed that my review will be less than well-rounded since I wasn’t able to sample everything.
In short, it was really good: 8.5/10
As soon as 3pm hit, people swarmed up to the tables to photograph. Being the nosy photographer with a huge SLR, it really was a visual feast for the lens. And my rule is always “eat with the eyes first and then the stomach.” Really, if you are a dessert freak like I am, this is the route to go. The concept seemed to revolve around the origins of chocolate with a generous dose of sprinkled cacao, cacao ‘beans’ and a chocolate centerpiece with industrial mechanisms. I really loved the plates for the buffet: teardrop-shaped (cacao bean perhaps?) china which seemed to really suit the mood for ‘chocolate dessert’ and not simply round plates like your average dinner buffet.
From DIY spicy hot chocolate with chocolate spoons, whipped cream, mini pineapple fondue to wedges of layered chocolate cakes to truffles to fruit-accompanied mousses to slivers of creamy tarts and artfully skewered chocolates, the chocolate category was definitely not lacking. All the richer items were divided into bite-sized portions so you could sample as many items as you wished without overdosing. Most of the items were bitter/dark chocolate based to fit Chinese taste and their ‘phobia’ of all things American sweet, as well as chocolate fanatics alike so you didn’t feel like you were just eating sugar. Included in our Afternoon Tea set were their signature scones (plain/raisin) with rose jam and cubed inside-out sandwiches: cucumber or salmon wrapped around the body of a cube of bread and filling.
I went with my colleagues so with the four of us it came out to $208 HKD per person service charge included. It is definitely the less expensive ones compared to other place I have seen or tried around town. That set includes:
the chocolate buffet, scones, sandwiches AND a tea or coffee of your choice even the pretty display floral teas (I got blooming jasmine). Not bad eh? That convert to around $26 USD.
My prune of a stomach told me to take it easy so I consumed a few slices of cake and a macaroon, but here is what I really liked:
-Sea Salt Chocolate Tart: a sprinkling of savoury brings out the warm creaminess of the ganache body.
-Ganache covered American Cheesecake: I normally demand for a crumb crust but this was divine with the layer of chocolate draped over the body of cheesecake.
-Orange Compote with Bitter Chocolate Mousse: orange with bitter chocolate? My favourite.
Overall, taste-wise, it was pretty good BECAUSE the desserts actually had flavour and not just pure sugar. The chocolate served as a base to introduce you to their partners in flavour: caramel, sea salt, orange, almond, chili.
-Definitely more savoury items to offset the sweetness. Grand Hyatt served a beef consomme that worked really well. The Mandarin Oriental served us cubed sandwiches which were just plain salty with little flavour. I walked by a table eating spaghetti and I started craving tomato-based noodles in the midst of all that chocolate. T-T
-Hot Chocolate: Thanks to having lived in NYC for four years I have experienced real hot chocolate- the thick and creamy kind. They served DIY hot chocolate out of these elegant silver ‘cannisters’ where you could top with cream, dust it with more cocoa and stir up your concoction with a chocolate spoon (mine melted after few minutes). But, the taste and texture was like any normal powdered hot chocolate so I’d skip out on that next time. Then again, what psycho eats AND drinks chocolate at a chocolate buffet? Me.