Ahh Toots -St Nicholas Market, Old City, Bristol

Cake, when I was growing up, was never made at home. After an attempt at making a birthday cake in our temperamental oven ended with a large sink hole (in the cake, not the kitchen), my mother was thoroughly discouraged from baking. From then on, amongst the Mr Kipling, I remember fairy cakes from the corner shop, thick with royal icing and decorated with diamonds of angelica or silver balls. There were also bakery trips for pink iced buns and margarine whipped 'buttercream' slices covered in brightly coloured hundreds and thousands, lurid as a Martin Parr photograph.

Cake rarely strays from my mind these days, and  now having learnt how to home-bake and eaten the good stuff, when I do go out for cake, only the best will do. Although, (whisper it) I can still be swayed by a Country Slice or a mini Battenburg, now and again.

In the glass arcade of St Nicholas Market, amongst the fantastic array of food kiosks, is Ahh Toots Cakery and Biscuitier. Run by Tamarind Galliford, who used to bake for Papa Deli, before running away to London  to hone her skills further; it has been there for almost a year.

The cakes and savouries, artfully displayed on an old wrought iron cart, are all baked on site in the tiniest of kitchens. Whilst next door in the Snug or the Pantry, there is room to sit languidly, eating and watching the lunchtime rush pass by.

Adorned with blowsy flowers, sparkling glitter dipped berries and gilded pecans; the cakes remind me of  pre-Raphaelite muses. Pleasingly, they are not style over substance, and taste sublime too.

Choosing can be difficult, but banana and salted caramel is always a contender. Volatile ripe fruit and tender crumb, has impastoed cream cheese icing that balances out the salty sweet caramel nicely. Perfect with an espresso.

Chocolate truffle cake is another favourite. Drip painted with ganache, it is rich and moist without being as dense as a black hole. Time pressed last Christmas, a two tier version pierced with shards of dark chocolate, maraschino cherries and a scattering of jewel like pomegranate made it to the table instead of Christmas cake: there is no looking back now.

For something to go alongside a cup of Darjeeling; the orange and Earl Grey, thinly spread with buttercream and edged with dried roses is the right side of citrus and floral. As is the lemon, pistachio and rose and, the friands and fancies, whose flavours are seasonal and decorated with a beautiful muss of fruit, herbs and burnished dragees.

Those without a sweet tooth are also catered for, with a quiche or savoury tart of the day and, soft Marmite rolls, oozing with mozzarella. If you happen to be in the Hate Marmite camp, paprika spiked chorizo rolls or the more traditional pork and rosemary make for an excellent lunch, alongside the daily changing salads. In fact vegan or gluten free, there will be something there for you too.

For exceedingly good cakes, and more, Ahh Toots awaits.


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