It was an ordinary day in the heart of Cape Town, when I visited a bakery, Charly’s Bakery in District Six, but there was nothing ordinary about this bakery.
As you approach the pink and white striped building (representing their cake boxes, of course), you see a glimpse of really funky cake inspired street art. This gives you a little taste of the craziness you might experience inside. There is much more to this colourful building than meets the eye. Built in 1898, it is one of a few original buildings left in the historic area. Before becoming the proud home of the bakery in March 2009, it used to be the Jewish bookstore, Beinkenstadt. The building still boasts with some of its original features, and the ceiling and wooden flooring were restored to its previous glory.
Charly’s Bakery, a family-owned business, founded in 1989 by Charly and run today by his wife, Jaqueline (Jackie) Biess, their daughters and their wonderful team of 36 Oompa Loompas, as they are referred to on their tv show, “Charley’s Cake Angels”.
As you enter the bakery, you are surrounded by pops of colour and interesting items, like their chandelier made from tea cups. Their friendly staff assisted me and took me through the variety of cakes they had on offer. I sampled the wicked chocolate cake. This dense, moist brownie-style chocolate cake covered with chocolate ganache was delicious. It is their best seller, closely followed by their smooth and creamy baked cheesecakes, available in 6 different flavours. The bakery is known for their “Mucking Afazing” designer cakes, bright cupcakes and cookies. I could have easily spent hours looking at each of these creations, such is the level of detail on each.
Their portfolio speaks for itself, as they have baked for celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Sir Elton John and South Africa’s very own Archbishop Desmond Tutu to name but a few. They are very popular under the brides to be, so better order your wedding cake early to avoid disappointment.
After sampling the wicked chocolate cake, I was hooked, and I ordered a slice. If you are a chocolate lover, you will love this. They have seating inside, as well as outside the bakery, where you can get some fresh air and enjoy the mountain view while sipping on your coffee and eating their yummy goodies. If you are in a rush, they do takeaways as well, so no excuses.
Charly’s have become such a big part of their community, supporting over 30 different charities. The main charity that they adopted is the “Big Issue”, a non-profit magazine organisation assisting willing unemployed adults to make a living, selling the monthly general-interest magazine. The relationship between them goes back 16 years when Charly’s was still in their Roeland Street premises and the Big Issue was their neighbour. To this day, every Thursday, except over Christmas when they are closed, the Big Issue collects a box of assorted goodies, to enjoy at their weekly vendor meetings.
As baking is in their blood, I asked Daniella (Charly and Jackie’s daughter) to share advice for all the amateur bakers out there. Her advice is quite simply the following:
- Watch as many YouTube and craftsy demos as you can!
- Trust in your own innate creativity and play with new ideas
- Have fun!
- Innovate, don’t imitate
It was a fun place to visit, and their staff was great. It was clear that everything Charly’s baked was made with love. Their quirky cookies also make for some great gifts. Charly’s Bakery gets the DBM splash of approval.