Remember a little while ago I was bemoaning the dearth of nice places to have coffee in Cambridge? Yesterday I discovered the Coco Belle Cake Company, a little cafe which is an oasis of cupcake calm next to the Grafton Centre. Cambridge already has its fair share of traditional bakeries and tea shops, such as Fitzbillies, and Auntie's, both popular with tourist keen to tuck into a sticky slice of England.
Coco Belle satisfies a slightly different confectionary need. Though the cupcake is a less indigenous species than the Chelsea bun, the owners of this bakery have not attempted to transform this nook of Burleigh Street into a shrine to fifties Americana. The warm pine furniture (including a dresser!) encourage you to linger and enjoy your cake with cup of tea or coffee. I did wonder whether perhaps the colour of the walls was a sly nod to the well-spring of cupcake frenzy, the Magnolia Bakery in New York, but perhaps that's reading a little bit too much into things.
The cupcakes must be among the most photogenic of baked goods, and these ones lived up to their appearance in deliciousness. They were also very reasonably priced, at only £1.85 a cake. I do have two titchy quibbles, firstly that I wish their selection were more seasonally inspired. They had a very subtle take on Hallowe'en, with chocolate spiders on their chocolate cupcakes; while I can respect the choice to spurn the violent oranges and blacks that adorn most cakes at this time of year, surely a compromise might have been achieved by a sophisticated pumpkin, or autumnal spice cupcake?
The second gripe is not so much aimed at the proprietor of Coco Belle, but at whoever it is on the local council who made the decision that what the tiny centre of Cambridge really needed was five branches of Starbucks and several more of Neros and Costa. I would love to see a more proactive policy whereby interesting, independent businesses like this are encouraged into the centre rather than forced into the periphery. It is places like Coco Belle which make Cambridge different and special, and I wish they were supported as such. A monster branch of Primark is soon to open a few doors up from the cafe, so I hope it might benefit from the increased passing trade. If you live in or are passing through Cambridge, I would heartily recommend a visit to this cute little place.