Written by Justin Ramsay
Photographed by Lorryn Smit
Over the past year, I’ve focused mostly on restaurants and savory eateries in this segment, but with a new year upon us, I thought I would do something a bit different to kick off 2018. With a new year comes a stack of New Year resolutions for many people, which often include getting healthy, losing weight, and going on a diet. People often get so caught up in these resolutions that they rob themselves of some tasty, scrumptious goodness. If you have made no such resolutions, or even if you have, everybody enjoys and deserves a good dessert. So with that in mind I’ve decided to shine a spotlight on a little place in Gwangju that delivers wonderful cakes and desserts.
I’ve eaten cakes and desserts at quite a number of places in this city, but not too many places have really blown me away with what they have on offer. Many taste as if they were just ordered in from a factory that just pumps them out on conveyer belts, especially in the bigger chain coffee shops and bakeries. So I was happy to hear rumblings of a little place in Seo-gu that supposedly had some of the best cakes in the city. With the prospect of filling our bellies with various baked delights, my companion and I hopped on a bus and headed toward Viviana Cake.
The storefront of Viviana immediately draws you in with some delicious-looking, Instagram-worthy cakes on display in its glass display window and a blackboard displaying a list of some of the various desserts available inside, handwritten in a stylish calligraphy. It was quite icy outside, and the display cakes looked wonderful, so we headed straight in. Upon entering Viviana, one sees that it’s a smallish space, owing to the baking area that is visible from the four wooden tables and display counter. I was happy to see this as it shows me that the dessert is prepared on site and fresh. We hung our coats over a chair and walked up to the counter to peruse their selection and place our order. We were greeted with friendly smiles by the baker and her husband as we decided what to order. In the display window under the counter there were about nine different cakes, and an extensive drinks menu was on display behind the counter. Drinks on offer included a variety of coffees, teas, smoothies, fruit juices, ades, and frappaccino. We ordered strawberry juice, and cookies and cream frappaccino to drink. We also ordered carrot cake, strawberry cream cake, chocolate mousse cake, tiramisu, red velvet cake, and cheese cake.
The strawberry juice was made fresh and had a good flavor. The cookies and cream frappaccino was made with ice cream. It had a generous amount of Oreo bits in it, and it was almost like a double-thick milkshake. Delicious. The cakes arrived all at once like a decadent feast and deciding which to eat first was quite a tough decision. We decided to tuck into the red velvet first. Red velvet, in my experience, can often be a bit dry, so I didn’t have very high expectations. I was pleasantly surprised though to find that the cake was sufficiently moist and not overly sweet. The icing in particular was very good and had a lovely, creamy, slightly vanilla flavor and perfect texture. Carrot cake can also be a bit on the dry side if not baked perfectly, but again, Viviana’s offering was great with moist pieces of carrot still present in the cake and a similar icing to the red velvet. It was topped with a small carrot made of fondant, which was also a lovely touch. The tiramisu was also perfect with just the right balance of coffee and cream and a good dusting of cocoa powder on top.
Next was the strawberry cream cake, which looked amazing and had just the right ratio of sponge, cream, and strawberries. The cake itself was delightfully spongy; the cream was very fresh and highly aerated, which gave the cake a delightful texture in the mouth. Fresh strawberries are essential in a cake like this, and these were some of the juiciest, sweetest strawberries I’ve eaten, resulting in an amazing dessert. We left the richest of the cakes for last so as not to dampen the flavor of the other cakes. I am a huge lover of cheesecake but have often been disappointed by it at other cafes. Thankfully, this was not one of those times. The cheesecake was rich, smooth, and tasty without being overly sweet and left me wanting to eat another. I would have ordered another, but we were already becoming quite full, with the chocolate mousse still left to try. The chocolate mousse cake was a perfect end to our dessert outing. It delivered a perfect richness without being sickly sweet, and the texture of the mousse and caramel layers were spot on.
For those of you living in Seo-gu, you can even get home delivery if your order totals at least 30,000 won. Personalized cakes with beautiful calligraphy hand-decorated by the baker can also be ordered if you do so at least two days in advance. I highly recommend a visit to Viviana as they deliver very tasty, high-quality desserts at a reasonable price with excellent service.
Viviana Cake 비비아나케이크
- 10 Sangil-ro, Sangmu 1-dong, Seo-gu, Gwangju (광주 서구 상일로 10 (쌍촌동) 1층 102호)
- 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.
- 5,000 – 7,500 won
- hyunmee1004 (kakao), viviana_sung (Instagram)
Justin is an English teacher from South Africa who has lived in Gwangju since 2013. He is a big fan of food and the arts, and generally goes where something good can be eaten, seen, or heard. He is often involved in GPP performances and writes monthly food articles for the Gwangju News. In his free time, he’s usually playing boardgames, videogames, or just enjoying a nice stroll around Gwangju.