The area of Jongno in central Seoul is sprawling and crawling with Koreans and tourists alike. It’s a busy soup of tradition and modernity and Korean culture. But amongst all the Korea-ness, at the bottom of the Bukchon Hanok Village area, is a little garnish in the form of a British-style cafe and bakery – Layered.
Located inside a hanok – a traditional Korean building – Layered is a very popular bakery serving all sorts of British-style cakes. It’s most popular for its large range of scones of all sorts of flavours, but they also have a fantastic selection of traditional British cakes and other baked desserts. Their drinks menu comprises coffee, juices, and other wet things, but most importantly, as a British-inspired place they have a wide selection of teas.
The feel of the café is quite charming, having been built inside a hanok. It offers both natural lighting and warm, cosy areas tucked around the back in in corners. The pale yellow-painted exterior is hard to miss and quite striking, being surrounded by darker wood and grey buildings. Although the décor isn’t exactly British-themed, it does nod its head towards Europe with French posters on the walls. Besides, it’s quite nice that they don’t run with the British thing too much, as it could very quickly have become tacky.
Anyway, onto what we ate! I went with Fii (who else?!) around 11am – early on enough in the day that neither of us had eaten anything yet – and we decided to create a sampler platter, of sorts. Without saying anything, we picked up the carrot cake (yes, I’m still on my quest to find the best in Seoul), and then settled on a slice of the ‘Victoria cake’ and the ‘salty’ caramel scone. For drinks, I ordered a flat white and Fii had the apple tea.
The carrot cake immediately slipped into second place in my ranking of the carrot cakes that I’ve eaten in Korea. Although it was sadly light on the very good cream cheese icing, and it wasn’t a sandwich cake (my favourite part about sandwich cakes is that you get the icing in the middle as well!), the cake itself was delicious – moist, well-spiced and heavy but not too heavy. It was a real, stand-up carrot cake that I would serve my nanny.
The so-named ‘Victoria cake’ was also, cake-wise, very good. It was a really nice moist vanilla sponge but, again, not too heavy, and the jam layer in the middle was perfect. However, it got a little confusing when it came to the topping. Normally a Victoria sponge will just be dusted with sugar, though I was far from unhappy that this one had jam and fruit on top. What was most bizarre was the fact that instead of buttercream icing (make from creaming butter and icing sugar together), instead it seemed as though the baker had taken the name ‘buttercream’ a little too literally, and simply put creamed butter on the top. It didn’t detract too much from our Victoria cake experience, and it even added some entertainment value to our feast, but it was definitely a lost-in-translation and a should-we-tell-them moment.
As for the scone, it was just fine. Unconventionally-shaped by British standards, as we tend to make them circular, and a little dry for my liking, but then most scones are. The caramel was lovely however, and I didn’t even mind the little square of butter on the top. I’d like to go back and try their plain scone sometime, as they had small jars of Bonne Maman (the best!) jam and even some real Cornish clotted cream for sale as an accompaniment.
Layered is incredibly popular these days, and a queue starts to form from the late morning. It’s not ideal for large groups either, so I’d suggest going in a smaller group earlier in the morning if you can help it. The Bukchon location is situated 100 metres directly out of Anguk Station exit 2 (line 3), and is open 8am-10pm on weekdays, and 10am-10pm on the weekends.
Read about more cafes in Seoul here.