If ever I were to be invited on Mastermind (unlikely, I know) my specialist subject would be ‘leading cake shops of the world’.
From the kings of French patisserie, Pierre Hermes and Christophe Michalak – world champion pastry chef and resident cake king at the Plaza Athenée – to the 'red velvet' cake at the Magnolia Bakery in New York, over the years I’ve done more research into the subject than is strictly required in my line of work.
But there is one pastry shop that had, until a couple of weeks ago, slipped below my radar: Pasticceria Marchesi.
I don’t know how, despite many visits to Milan for the fashion shows, I’d failed to notice this elegant, 19th-century pastry shop on Corso Magenta.
But just before going to Milan for a work meeting, I discovered that the Italian fashion label Prada had bought an 80 per cent slice of Marchesi.
Since Miuccia Prada was always my favourite designer when I worked in fashion, I figured that any pastries with the Prada stamp of approval had to be pretty good.
And so I made a special trip to Corso Magenta to investigate 'the Prada patisserie'.
And what can I say, other than that these colourful cakes, almond biscuits [left] and pastries are the last word in gateaux fabulous.
Marchesi is also said to do a marvelous panettone and the best cappuccino in Milan.
But It is the mini-pastries (€1 a piece) that are the star of the show – the bite-sized choux buns filled with zablagione and a little kick of alcohol particularly so.
And as might be expected of anything with which Prada is associated, the packaging [left] is super-elegant. The little pastries are placed on a tray, wrapped in white paper and ribbons and handed to you in a stiff white carrier bag.
Just last year the Prada Group lost out to LVMH, owners of Luis Vutton, on the purchase of another luxe patisserie in Milan – Cova café on Via Montenapoleone.
Cake, in fashionable circles, is a hot commodity.
The message from top fashion labels is: Let them eat panetone! And choux buns! And mini-meringues!
A Marchesi café has just opened in Harrods, London and it can only be a matter of time before Marchesi cake shops are rolled out around the world.
So forget macaroons from Ladurée. A beautifully wrapped package of Prada cakes or a pink box of Marchesi chocolates [shown left] will soon be the most desirable thing to take to a dinner party.
In the meantime, if you want to know the secret of eating cake without turning into an obesity statistic, I’ve written a book on the subject: The Marie Antoinette Diet: Eake Cake and Still Lose Weight. You can see the Amazon reviews here.
Marchesi Angelo, Via S. Maria alla Porta, 20123 Milan.