New York’s famed mille crêpes layer cake arrives in Hong Kong.
Text by Mandy Li, selected photos by Mike Ho
*Featured in Crave’s August 2015 issue
Long queues form daily at cake boutique Lady M’s first Hong Kong outlet: the one on the left is for the take-away service; the one on the right is for the legendary mille crêpes cake. Diners wait an average 45 minutes for a seat and can be seen visibly fretting about the mille crêpes being sold out. The branch managing director, Stephen Yeung, is thrilled by Hong Kong’s response to the New York import.
“We knew it would be a big hit, but it still takes me by surprise that it is so popular – we didn’t anticipate this,” he says.
Yeung was living in New York City, working in fashion and realty, when Lady M opened on Madison Avenue in 2004.
“Lady M rocked New York’s cake scene,” he recalls. “Back then, cake choices were dominated by very sweet and straightforward cupcakes and cheesecakes, so when Lady M’s mille crêpes cake made its debut, people were amused by how delicate the layers were and the way it combined French and Japanese pastry skills. And its popularity has remained ever since. When I moved back to Hong Kong a few years ago, I wanted to bring with me a piece of New York, so I contacted the founder, Ken Romaniszyn, to check the possibility of opening Lady M in Hong Kong.”
Romaniszyn’s biggest concern was Yeung’s commitment to the mille crêpes cake.
“The layered cake is not something that can be quickly produced. We have to hand-make the crêpes one by one and make sure they are all paper-thin. We also have to put cream between each layer. It requires almost 30 hours to make one crêpes cake.”
Lady M Hong Kong produces only 100 cakes a day, including other best-selling varieties such as banana mille feuilles, strawberry shortcake and gâteau aux marrons. The cakes are displayed on semi-open glass shelves in a nod to Lady M’s style.
“Lady M has always wanted to convey an upscale feeling as in the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s. So we have kept the iconic cake shelf, and complemented it with a chandelier and a clean, sophisticated backdrop. Although it’s a roadside location, it still feels very elegant, like the branch at The Plaza Food Hall on 59th Street. It’s our aim not to dilute the brand and it’s very important we bring the same experience to Hong Kong,” Yeung says.
Green Tea Mille Crêpes
Lady M’s legendary mille crêpes cake is made by stacking 22 to 24 paper-thin crêpes each brushed with a fine layer of cream. Green tea is our favourite. Soft and moist, the green tea powder from Kyoto imparts a sophisticated sweetness to the cake, making it aromatic, light and irresistible.
Citron Mille Crêpes
A seasonal special, the citron mille crêpes is a celebration of summer in Hong Kong. While the crêpes are in original taste, the cream is scented with fresh lemon juice. It’s refreshing and pleasantly acidic, however, we’d love to have more sweetness in the cake to support the tartness and create a more rounded and substantial flavour. We liked the candied lemon zest on top that added a dimension of mouth feel and taste to the lemony cake.
Gâteau aux Marrons
We were drawn to this cake by the beautiful crosshatched layers of chestnut cream on the top. The structure of the cake is simple: two layers of almond cake with a thick filling of soft whipped cream. We have tried this cake before and found it rather dry, however, this time it had greatly improved and was moist and loaded with almond aroma. The chestnut cream was smooth, light and delightfully sweet, and we liked the nutty touch from the roasted walnuts sprinkled on the top.
Influenced greatly by Japanese cake- making techniques, this strawberry shortcake tasted as pure and simple as it looked. The vanilla sponge is made from extremely fine Japanese flour that creates an airy and delicate cake. The whipped cream was smooth and light, enhanced by strawberry dice that added colour and fruit to every bite. It’s Yeung’s second favourite cake after the mille crêpes and we agree that it is a must-try item.
Voted the best cheesecake in the Big Apple by New York Magazine, the Gâteau Nuage differs from more traditional cheesecake by the addition of a good layer of sour cream on top that makes it lighter and less filling. While we appreciated the attempt, we found the cheesecake still rich and filling and almost impossible to finish alone. We liked the cinnamon flavour of the base, which perfectly complemented the US cream cheese.
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