Han’s Cafe & Cake House head-to-head: An unexpected winner in a sea of cakes

When we talk about institutions in Singapore, there are few that are as iconic as Han’s Singapore. The familiar red of their signboard has become synonymous with moderately priced cakes, pastries and an array of Western delights. The port in the storm of burgeoning dessert cafes, there is just something about seeing the glowing red beacon that instantly settles and grounds you.

After the last head-to-head with Da Paolo Gastronomia, it’s clear that when it comes to cakes, the essential ingredient is nostalgia (and chocolate, of course). On that Friday afternoon, at one of the larger outfits, Hanis Cafe, located at the futuristic National Library, I took a deep dive at their cakes with another supporter of Han’s, Zat, our Editor-in-Chief.

For those in tune with all things Han’s, you’ll know that Hanis Cafe is one of halal-certified of the four outlets currently on the island. We are told that all the cakes that go to Han’s and Hanis cafes come from a halal-certified central bakery so whatever cakes you can find at Han’s you can find in Hanis Cafe as well.

Will nostalgia prevail? Have we, all along, had one of the best cakes in Singapore sitting right under our noses? Stay tuned.

1. Coffee Cake 

Hans Cakes Head To Head (4 Of 9)

Nicole: Coffee Cake (S$3.80) is the staple of most cafes and usually the most disappointing. As we unwrapped the plastic film, I could see just how parched the crumb was. An uneven layer of coffee cream in between thirsty mahogany sponges, this was not going well. A bite was all I needed to write this cake off.

There were cacao nibs, though. A nice touch but not enough to save the cake.

Rating: 2/10

Zat: I’ve never had a coffee cake that wasn’t lacking in some way or the other. And here, it’s no different. It’s a dry, crumbly, and such a sorry excuse for cake. Nicole said the back has more moisture and she’s not wrong. But no one eats cake from the back.

Coffee should remain in the cup, and this cake just proves that point.

Rating: Get a new recipe/10

2. Chocolate truffle 

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Nicole: A forkful of the Chocolate Truffle (S$4.90) and I gave a sigh of relief. Han’s didn’t ruin chocolate, a common culinary faux pas that so many cafes make with their chocolate iteration. A dark and better-than-average looking slice with an appropriate ratio of dark chocolate mousse to sponge cake.

The chocolate was so rich, your eyes will light up and a ‘Quelle surprise’ will escape your lips—and in a terrible French accent I might add.

The cake was light and airy, which was such a surprise. There was a weird little square of vanilla sponge at the back, which frankly looks like a lousy patch job but I  can easily overlook that.

Rating: 5.75/10

Zat: This was such a stand out after the Coffee Cake which doesn’t do itself any favours by being first. This one, though, is luscious, creamy, and the very definition of what sinful is.

There’s a clear 50-50 proportion of sponge and mousse and has pleasant chocolatey darkness to the entire presentation. I imagine having this with iced lemon tea at 3 pm because I’m a Queen that way.

Rating: 8/10 (and this comes from someone who thinks chocolate desserts are lazy)

3. Chocolate Raspberry 

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Nicole: Oooooh. We love the Chocolate Raspberry (S$3.80). While most people laud the orange peel and dark chocolate combination, a.k.a Jaffa Cake, that pairing that doesn’t hold a candle to the dark chocolate raspberry power couple.

Also, this is a shoutout to the discontinued Dark & White Chocolate Chunk With Raspberry Biscuits from Crabtree & Evelyn—those biscuits were so good, I’m sure there was some crack in them. A muted scarlet hue from the cake informs me that perhaps raspberry has been baked into the batter with a razor-thin raspberry jam layer.

It’s sweet and bright from the raspberries and decadent from the dark chocolate. The slightly tacky decorations belie how good the cake is for the price. I’m all for it.

Rating: 7/10 

Zat: Well, now I know for sure that looks can be deceiving because this is a surprisingly heroic flavour pairing. There are two layers of raspberry jam between a relatively moist chocolate sponge. I reckon they made this as a segue from the chocolate truffle.

Rating: 8.5/10

4. Chocolate Gateau 

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Nicole: A French name for a cake but entirely pedestrian with this execution. A blanched almond on this Chocolate Gateau (S$2.40) did make it look a little fancy but entirely disappointing and forgettable. Moreover, the chocolate distribution was dismal and uninspired. We were all rooting for you!

Rating: 4/ 10 

Zat: The cake is very generic and appropriate for its price. It feels like someone had some excess chocolate and needed to put it somewhere. Cannot, lah. Cakes need more love than this.

Rating: 4.5/10

5. Black Forest 

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Nicole: There is something old-school and endearing about Han’s Black Forest (S$4.30). The trademark sticky and ultra-sweet glazed cherry crown this slice along with an almost too-white whipped cream.

I appreciate the nostalgia, the taste not so much. The slice is reminiscent of those dependable HDB bakery cakes that marked special occasions and birthday celebrations. Not so much for the taste but for the significance they hold.

Rating: Sepia-toned memories/10

Zat: Average. Fiercely average, actually. There’s a very subtle cherry tartness which is expected and whipped cream which is also expected. I badly want this slice to have a more pronounced bitterness that will pair more beautifully with the sweetness of the cake.

Rating: 4/10

6. Rainbow Cake 

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Nicole: Before the crazy rainbow craze of the early 2000s, the somewhat garish coloured rainbow cake was just part of the ensemble of HDB bakery cakes. A time capsule to the 90s, the sugary rainbow sprinkles takes me back to a time where cakes like more than satisfied wide-eyed tween me.

The twenty-something me still loves rainbow sprinkles albeit the more refined taste palate (I’d like to think so anyway). The sponge is light and scarily vibrant, but I wouldn’t expect anything less.

Rating: 5.5/10

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Zat: It’s a slice of nostalgia that harkens back to a time before speciality cake shops like Sinpopo, Awfully Chocolate, and Bengawan Solo. There’s really nothing to shout off the rooftop for but will suffice for a touch of reminiscing on a rainy afternoon with a cup of earl grey.

After all, what is a rainbow cake if not simply food colouring in sponge and a whole dose of memory?

Rating: 5/10

7. Swiss Roll 

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Nicole: The Swiss Roll (S$1.50) just about completes this nostalgia trifecta. The almost fluorescent quality of this Swiss roll does incite a reaction in the ‘food writer’ me but one that I instantly dismiss. After all, if you haven’t eaten Swiss rolls that were the colour of a highlighter, did you really have a childhood?

The filling was a sweet blueberry jam kind of thing and though ill-matched with the pandan scented cake, I’ll still take a second bite at this Han’s creation.

Rating: 5/ 10

Zat: Nicole wants to pit this against Polar Puffs & Cakes. But I don’t, as much as I’m tempted. So here’s an independent opinion. The cake is very green with a subtle whiff of pandan. Within the roll, is blueberry jam and cream which rightfully should be kaya since it pairs much better. Do I like it? It will do in a pinch.

Rating: 5/10

8. Pecan Pie

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Nicole: Whenever I see Pecan Pie (S$4.50), I can’t help but pretend I’m a Southern Belle and order it with a Southern drawl (quite badly I might add)—very Scarlet O’ Hara. A generous amount of pecans and a sticky sweet centre that’s balanced and quite scrumptious. I’m pretty impressed with the calibre of the tart and at this price—it’s a steal.

Rating: 7.5/ 10

Zat: I honestly have not found any place that does pecan pie this dependable. Its sweetness is beautifully balanced and at the price you’re paying, consider it a bargain. I mean, this is, after all, expensive pecans. I would buy this for home, heat it up, and have it after a light lunch.

Rating: 8/10


Verdict: This is what you should order

– Nicole

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🏆 Chocolate Raspberry 🏆

I say go for the Chocolate Raspberry purely because this cake is now in my archive for when those sudden and desperate cravings strike. The tartness and brightness of raspberry pairs exceptionally well with the dark chocolate which makes it all the more worthwhile.

Any dark chocolate and berry paring will always be in remembrance of those Crabtree & Evelyn biscuits, may you return to the shelves once again.

– Zat

Hans Cakes Head To Head (1 Of 9)

🏆 Chocolate Raspberry 🏆

In most head-to-heads, it’s rare that Nicole and I agree on one thing, but on this, we are clearly in sync. When it comes to cakes, it is not simply sufficient for it to be average. These are calories we’re talking about, and it needs to be worth the guilt.

Han’s Chocolate Raspberry almost ticks all the boxes of what I want good cake to be. Almost, because for what they have on offer, Han’s is obviously a place that leans a lot on nostalgia. And it’s hard to fight nostalgia—creativity be damned. So if you’re peckish at 3pm, and have a craving for tea, the Chocolate Raspberry is a respectable option.

Price: $

Hanis Cafe & Bakery

100 Victoria Street, National Library Building, #01-01, Singapore 188064

Price

Hanis Cafe & Bakery

100 Victoria Street, National Library Building, #01-01, Singapore 188064

Telephone: +65 67086769
Operating Hours: 10am - 9pm (Daily)
Telephone: +65 67086769

Operating Hours: 10am - 9pm (Daily)
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