Laura-Ximena Villanueva Guerra - Berlin's Vegan Pastry 'Sweety-Tooth'
A year ago, I met my cake soulmate. Or, at least, I think I did, but our conversation lasted 15 minutes and we’ve never seen each other again since. A lost bakers love story, I know.
It was my last day in Berlin, on holiday from the DR Congo. I strolled into Bikini Village shopping centre in Charlottenburg, as a friend had told me about the Berlin food festival. It was 9 am and I was clearly early, as all the vendors were still arriving to set up their stalls in the main atrium. I wandered through to see what was on offer. Loads of smoked meats, cheeses and sweets filled the tables. As a healthy eater, I was curious to see what, if any, raw or vegan products would be there,
Then I saw a table filled with the most delicious-looking cakes, pies and other treats - all vegan!
I wandered over and there was Laura-Ximena Villanueva Guerra, greeting me with a shy smile. Her company is Tausendsuend - meaning “a thousand sins” in German. I must be honest, I googled to try to figure this out and it came back with “thousand south”. When I asked my German friend Nadja, she smiled and said “no no, a thousand sins, she must be a sweety-tooth”.
‘Sweety-Tooth' she certainly is! I looked across the table, fixating on every last treat on display. Laura waited patiently, likely trying to assess if I knew about raw, vegan food, or not. I looked up excitedly and proclaimed “I live in the DR Congo and we never get treats like these! Where do I even start?”
Her response said it all - “chocolate. You must start with chocolate - I get my unrefined cacao beans from Indonesia through a friend. You’ve never had chocolate until you try the chocolate torte.”
I was hooked - that chocolate ganache torte was sitting there crying out to me. It was topped with gooseberries - I love gooseberries! I scanned the table, realising that I wanted to try everything - the blueberry cheesecake looked so fresh, cut into perfectly little squares, with 9 blueberries neatly aligned on top like a diamond. I imagined that if so much care went into the finish, the flavours must surely be just as perfect.
Just before I could order, a man walked up, scanned the signs and started speaking to Laura in German. He seemed to be grilling her with questions. I watched, unable to understand the conversation. She smiled and in a soft voice seemed to be agreeing with him. He stuck out a few euros, bought a piece of what looked like carrot cake, and left.
Laura turned to me and said “he asked me if raw food is healthy, and if he eats raw cake, will he be healthy too? Some people are new to this way of living, there are Berliners who embrace trying new things and others who remain with their traditions.”
From there, we just got chatting. I told her about myself and how I work and live in the DR Congo, providing access to education for young children, cooking vegan on the side. We laughed about how in some of the remote places of Congo villagers couldn't possibly comprehend why someone wouldn’t want to eat meat, yet the same is true in Germany.
“I think of Germany and I think of bratwurst, yet Berlin is full of vegetarian and vegan restaurants. How has the raw food movement spread?”, I asked.
“Slowly. It’s been really difficult. I started making cakes and it just kind expanded. Now I’m the pastry chef at the new Soho House, for ‘The Stores’. I just did the food for the Deliciously Ella book launch, so that was fun. There is a movement, but it’s still difficult to grow your business. It takes a lot of passion and energy.”
She had me, I had to try everything. I bought the chocolate torte, blueberry cheesecake, and some energy balls. And my god, that was the BEST CHOCOLATE GANACHE TORTE I HAVE EVER EATEN....EVER!
Clearly, Laura has passion. The photos on her instagram feed radiate talent and a love for her craft. She’s been featured in loads of media recently - from Berlin-based food blogs, to Vogue and their partner sites, to Marie Claire Brazil. She’s also a regular at Bite Club Berlin, an open street food market held in summer months. And she’s popping up all over the city with other events. When reading more about her for this feature, I found a perfect quote from the WeTreat blog:
“Laura is at least as beautiful as her pies. I know Laura Ximena Guerra Villanueva only fleetingly, but she has left a lasting impression on every encounter. Just as it is with her art. The art of baking. I envy so people who have a passion and focus on perfection, down to the last detail.”
I couldn’t agree more - not only does Laura share part of my name (us first-name hyphenated gals gotta stick together!), but she loves baking cakes and going out of her way to please her customers. I wish I lived in Berlin to see her again and cook together - one day!
If you’re in Berlin, check out Laura’s amazing food. Laura it was great meeting you, if only briefly! I’m moving to Glasgow in July so will have to come visit you again one day soon. Love from Kinshasa!