Before I went to New Zealand, I talked to friends who had visited before and they all said it was incredible — truly one of their favorite places on earth — but there was a catch. “Don’t expect too much of the food” was something I heard over and over again. So I went without high culinary expectations. Maybe that was good because I was pleasantly surprised. I’m not sure if things have changed dramatically since my friends visited but I was blown away by the fresh seafood, the craft beer, the coffee scene (that rivals the one in my hometown of Portland, Oregon), and the bakeries. New Zealand is full of Europeans who left the hustle and bustle of the EU in search of a simpler way of life, and they’ve brought the tradition of excellent baking with them.

Baker Jordan Rondel.
Baker Jordan Rondel.
Outside the Caker.
Outside The Caker.

On the North Island in Auckland, The Caker, aka Jordan Rondel, makes delicious and even healthy cakes, cookies and pies. Rondel’s great-grandfather was a pastry chef who ran a patisserie in Paris so baking is in her blood. She certainly puts her own spin on things– many of her pastries are gluten-free or vegan like the triple coconut and raspberry cake with berry coulis. Everything Rondel does is loaded with yummy ingredients like fresh fruits and nuts and I really appreciate the rustic presentation where nothing is too perfect. The blueberry, rhubarb and white chocolate cake decorated with a splattering of berry coulis and freeze-dried rhubarb is reminiscent of a Jackson Pollock painting. One thing to keep in mind, this is a made to order bakery (not a retail space) so cakes and cookies must be ordered online at least 24 hours in advance.

Rustic cakes at the Caker.
Rustic cakes at The Caker.
The Baker's gets very busy.
The Baker’s is very busy in the morning.

On the South Island in the outdoorsy community of Nelson a Hungarian couple has opened The Baker’s Coffee Shop, a bakery that from the outside doesn’t seem like anything too special — it’s located in a medical office building — but inside it feels like a dream. The walls are covered with crisp white subway tiles, daily specials are written on kraft paper, and the gorgeous pastries are displayed on a wooden butcher-block table.

Almond croissant and chocolate snail.
Almond croissant and chocolate snail.

Greta Vagujhelyi and her husband Zoltan — who look more like models than bakers — wear aprons they made themselves with suspenders from Seoul, South Korea. They say their croissants, chocolate tarts and Danishes are made in the Viennese style (many believe croissants originated in Vienna). The chocolate snail, a traditional Hungarian specialty, is a pastry I’d gladly hop on a flight for: The flaky dough is rolled with a layer of Valrhona chocolate. It’s deeply flavored but not too sweet.

Greta and her husband Zoltan look more like models than bakers.
Greta and her husband Zoltan look more like models than bakers.

The Caker

452 K’Rd (where you pick up your cake)

Aukland, New Zealand

+64 021 883 595

The Baker’s Coffee Shop

105 Collingwood Street

Nelson, New Zealand

+64 3-545 9136

2 Comments

  1. Origin stories of the croissant
    Fanciful stories of how the Kipferl — and so, ultimately, the croissant — was created are widespread and persistent culinary legends, going back to the 19th century.[12] However, there are no contemporary sources for any of these stories, nor does an aristocratic writer, writing in 1799, mention the Kipferl in a long and extensive list of breakfast foods.[13]

    The legends include tales that it was invented in Europe to celebrate the defeat of the Umayyad forces at the Battle of Tours by the Franks in 732, with the shape representing the Islamic crescent;[14] that it was invented in Buda; or, according to other sources in Vienna, in 1683 to celebrate the defeat of the Ottomans by Christian forces in the siege of the city, as a reference to the crescents on the Ottoman flags, when bakers staying up all night heard the tunneling operation and gave the alarm.[12] This has led to croissants being banned by some Islamic fundamentalists.[15]..So before saying anything in your article ,you better study the History

    • Casey Hatfield-Chiotti

      Thank you for your comment. I’m very interested in the history of pastry and realize much is up for debate. As you mention some do believe, including Greta and Zoltan, that it was invented in Vienna and that’s what I’ve tried to make reference to here.

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