Floral pastry. That’s what defines Cokoa. In this modern patisserie shop, the architecture of taste meets the beauty of flowers. In her unique Ixelles-based concept, just south of Brussels, founder Anaïs Gaudemer (30) combines her two passions: landscape architecture and cake making. The results are marvellous: breath-taking cakes, biscuits and desserts that look like wonders of nature.
A landscape architect baking cakes
Anaïs blends design and nature in all her work. “I’m a trained landscape architect, so I see nature as a raw ingredient. I used to work for a large architectural firm, where I did a lot of horticultural design for parks and gardens. The idea of combining my two professions, my two passions, to form one unique vocation just felt right.”
And it works. Cokoa is popular, especially – but not only – with women aged 25 to 45. “The floral look appeals more to women. However, I do see a lot of men buying biscuits and macaroons. Half my customers are professionals (restaurants, grocery shops, local supermarkets, et cetera) and the other half are private individuals (especially wedding cakes are very popular). Recently, people travelled two hours to order a cake from me, “because they simply wouldn’t offer anything but Cokoa for their dessert”. It was without a doubt the best compliment ever!”
No classic patisserie
“I didn’t want a classic patisserie with a refrigerated show counter and a seating area. That would have been restrictive with regard to opening hours and financially, as I would have needed a shop assistant and cake presentation materials. So I decided to make Cokoa an atelier where customers can come and collect their orders or buy biscuits on the spot.”
Rustic or sophisticated
Cokoa offers two ranges of patisserie. A rustic range, consisting of biscuits, cakes and macaroons with rather simple flavours that are reminiscent of those of our childhood: caramel, chocolate, lemon and the like. The other range is more sophisticated, featuring floral desserts, delicate cakes with beautiful floral designs, decorated with edible flowers, crumbles or meringue. Each season, 6 different flavours are available. Everything is homemade, the raw ingredients are carefully selected and the products follow the seasons. Her customers’ favourites? “There’s no doubt about it”, she radiates. “The dark chocolate shortbread biscuit with fleur de sel when it comes to biscuits! I have to bake them nearly every day and some customers come in specially to stock up on this type of biscuit. And as for dessert, the Lilipink is the most popular. This dessert consists of a raspberry mousse, vanilla mousse, violet-scented fresh raspberry purée and kaffir lime biscuit.”
Passing on knowledge
To pass on her knowledge, Anaïs started giving workshops in her shop. She currently offers two courses: one on macaroons and ganache truffles and another on floral desserts. “Passing on knowledge is an important part of craft professions. And meeting my customers is essential, because it enables me to stay close to them.”
On trend with natural products
By using natural products like fruits and flowers as important ingredients, Cokoa is completely on trend. “I certainly do not follow every trend. For example, I don’t particularly like cakes made with sponge, butter cream or sugar paste, although they allow great freedom when it comes to decorating. But the current trend is fairly focused on nature. The seasons are increasingly dictating the creations of pastry chefs: they try to choose their products according to the seasons, to make sure they get the best quality. I love this trend, as fruits and flowers are great in both appearance and flavour. I spend a lot of time working on the fruits for my products. Everything is homemade and it takes time and patience to preserve the fruit’s purity. I also like to incorporate flowers into my cakes, sometimes using infusions, essential oils or floral waters.”
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