Heston Blumenthal’s latest centrepiece dessert for Waitrose is this Strawberry and Lychee Gateau. It’s not very Christmassy, but it’s absolutely delicious.
Heston Blumenthal obsessive that I am, I thought I’d devoured all the pre-Christmas Waitrose press releases looking for this year’s Christmas dessert products. There didn’t seem to be many new ones to look forward to, apart from a twenty-quid bowling ball of chocolate cake and a supposedly Earl Grey-flavoured Stollen that we hope Michelin Microwave will be reviewing.
Then, on a purely coincidental trip round Altrincham Waitrose (where luckily they’re still not stocking the Heston from Waitrose Ham Hock and Piccalilli Terrine), I stumbled across this in the section of the freezers where the Black Forest Buches ought to have been.
Two days later the papers were filled promos for it. (Typical, as some of these products are everywhere you look, other times they’re more elusive than Keyser Soze). Everyone picked up on the quilted appearance and it’s become known as the “handbag cake”. There’s even a swish advert for it:
A surprise Heston from Waitrose dessert?!? With an introductory price that’s three quid lower than the RRP?!?! Once the store’s appointed first aider had revived me from my faint I hefted one in my basket and headed for the checkout. Thence a week later to Durham and the in-laws for critical analysis
Availability: Very good (for now)
The now familiar glossy black packaging is almost identical to the Black Forest Buche, except the card feels a little bit thicker. Which hopefully means each cake will be better protected on its journey from the factory it’s made in to your house.
Like the Mighty Buche it comes in this semi-opaque protective sleeve to ensure it looks good when served. I had a moment of terror before we lifted this off, worried at what it’d look like after the checkout lady had roughly spun the thing on every axis in search of a barcode.
We needn’t have worried. Save for a few minor scuffs it looked fantastic. I haven’t a clue how they get that quilted effect but combined with the chocolate flocking it looks amazing.
We like the shorn-off sides exposing all the layers as well, though it does make us wonder if this is manufactured as one monstrous 25 metre-long cake that’s then chopped up into individual 495g portions.
Well, this is awkward.
Personally we don’t like heaping unreserved praise on all of Heston’s products – it makes us look like paid stooges, or biased at the very least. Please remember we pay for every last one of these products out of our own pockets (thanks for nothing, Waitrose!).
So please bear that in mind (and the fact that we think the Heston Mince Pies and Marmalade Ice Cream are utter garbage) when we tell you that the Heston from Waitrose Strawberry and Lychee Gateau is the finest supermarket dessert we’ve ever tasted.
This might be on account of our love of heaps of dairy, or the fact that our four assembled taste-testers have a particular love of both strawberry and lychee. But this really is bloody great.
It’s stupendously light, fantastically delicate and there’s an incredible array of contrasting textures and harmonious flavours.
For such a small cake it’s satisfying, too. We got 8 acceptable servings out of ours (that’s 4 people all having seconds). Ling pointed out that this worked out at £2.50 per person –or £3.75 at full price. That seems expensive until you work out what it’d cost get the same number of servings of crappy Taste the Difference Millionaires Salted Cheesecake Mousse Pots, or whatever.
We also like the description on the box which names each of the 7 or 8 layers, so you can work out which bits are your favourites as you chomp your way through it.
Criticism? Well, there’s a phenomenal amount of rosewater in the cream surrounding the cake, so if that’s not your thing you might think it tastes like a mouthful of cheap air freshener (which is nothing new for a Heston Christmas dessert).
And it might serve eight but those would all be modest portions. Heston’s Handbag Cake almost crosses the line between dainty and insultingly small. Quality and intricacy issues aside you’d be justified in feeling a bit ripped off if you don’t like as much cream as we do. You could maybe argue it looks as if they’ve used the cream to bulk it out.
And, as stunning as all those layers are, the thing does look a bit lonely when you just slap it onto an empty plate.
Heston has been on a bit of a roll lately with his from Waitrose products. We’ve certainly come a long way since that gritty salt, pointless mayonnaise and woeful Passionfruit tart.
The Heston Blumenthal Strawberry and Lychee Layered Gateau “handbag cake” is absolutely magnificent. And the only thing that makes us pause before saying that is that you lot might all go and buy them before we get a chance to pick up another one.
Michelin Microwave – Essential reading for definitive (and hilarious) reviews of Heston Blumenthal and other Celebrity-endorsed ready meals. The sooner the Observer picks this up as a regular column the better.
Have you tried this dessert? And do you think it;s worth the money. If you’ll be serving it up as your centerpiece dessert (or scoffing the whole thing yourself like I dream of doing) then please tell us in the comments section below.