Beginning this piece by identifying Sunday’s trip to Chinatown as a quest for sponge cake may very well be detrimental to Untapped Cities’ ever growing readership. In fact, many of you may already be gone, negating the need for this sentence. If you made it this far, though, there’s still a chance for you. Truth is, if you claim to dislike sponge cake, you are wrong. As long as New Kam Hing Coffee Shop keeps its doors open, you are wrong.
I’d heard of New Kam Hing Coffee Shop before; it’s one of those names that’s whispered often around Chinatown. Each and every time it was mentioned, talk of its sponge cake never failed to follow. Knowing that countless people couldn’t stop thinking about something so ordinary and simple was enough for me. I had to go discover it.
The shop itself is tiny, perhaps fitting three people inside comfortably. Even at the crack of dawn, you’ll find its bakers turning out untold amounts of the cake, packing them into huge plastic tubs to ready themselves for the day’s inevitable influx of patrons. If there’s a line, wait patiently and pray you didn’t visit during one of the hottest summers on record.
As for the sponge cake, the rule thumb is this: take the number of cakes you think you can eat, multiply that by two, and place your order. At $.70 each, you can afford to order yourself a veritable buffet of the stuff. They’re light, fluffy and airy, and each offers an understated level of sweetness that’s impossibly addicting. They also never seem to lose their moistness, a pure magic trick if I know anything about it If you’re planning on ordering less than 4 or 5, plan to loathe yourself later. These are the best of their kind.
New Kam Hing is not a one trick horse, however. Simply ordering the sponge cake will surely leave you at the pinnacle of your day, but why not go for the week’s? Try the thai iced tea, just $2.50 for a sizable cup of the stuff. A black tea turned orange thanks to orange blossom water, tamarind and star anise, it’s got the perfect blend of spice and sweetness, and goes perfectly with your army of sponge cakes.
If you’re looking to expand your baking horizons, order the coconut custard pie, also just $.70. Packed with dessicated coconut, egg and what appears to be a hint of peanut, they’re a welcome respite from your greater task at hand – manning up and finishing all those sponge cakes I convinced you to order.
It seems unfathomable that something as plain and ordinary as a sponge cake could draw so many people to New Kam Hing’s humble bakery on Baxter street. But these bakers must have a carefully guarded secret, an anomaly in the recipe that makes Kam Hing’s sponge cakes rise far, far above the rest of Chinatown’s. Though I’d normally ask you to shy away from anything so close to Canal and so Little Italy, New Kam Hing has deservedly found a spot near the top of my list.