For many, cilantro is an ingredient that you either love or hate. Love it or hate it, a dessert cafe in Seoul is offering up irresistibly sweet, vividly colored cakes – with cilantro as the main ingredient.
Located in an old, narrow alley in Euljiro in Jung-gu, Seoul, dessert cafe Wonhyeongdeul turns unlikely ingredients into fancy, delectable and aesthetically pleasing cakes.
Opened in July 2021, Wonhyeongdeul is a second brand of Seomgwang, a cafe and wine bar located in the same building. Seomgwang is already well-known for its unique mood and a wide variety of natural wines. Both are run by a couple and their friends with various backgrounds including arts, stage production, music, food and beverage operations, online malls, design and baking.
Wonhyeongdeul, which means original forms, serves desserts with whole natural ingredients.
“We named the cafe to refer to a group of things that are in their original form, to also mean it as a group of us who find joy in the pure taste that desserts offer,” Kim Ji-na, a co-owner of Wonhyeongdeul, told The Korea Herald, adding that the cafe’s customers are also a part of an “original forms” group because their tastes and preferences are respected here.
Kim, who ran an online mall selling women’s clothes for a decade, has applied her taste – vintage lamps and unique objects -- to Wonhyeongdeul. Having studied visual design at university, she is responsible for deciding the dessert concepts and overall designs.
The idea for the cilantro cake began with making a unique birthday cake for a friend who loves growing plants. After tasting it with friends, it became clear to Kim to serve it at the cafe, as she knew that it would be loved by cilantro lovers.
“We have zero bias in doing different dessert projects, trying out various ingredients and materials each time. It’s not that we have a specific intention or reason for making them. We just find it interesting to work with unique baked goods and find it even more interesting when customers enjoy them as much as we do,” Kim said.
Cilantro and lemon are combined to make the cream for the cake, so those who are not accustomed to the taste of cilantro on its own can still try it without hesitation.
In addition to cilantro, Wonhyeongdeul uses unlikely ingredient combinations for cakes, such as asparagus, sea trumpet, stem of garlic and more.
Stem of garlic is mixed with cream cheese for a sweet and crispy Kouign-amann, -- a sweet Breton cake -- decorated with toppings like anchovy, sea trumpet and romaine lettuce.
Wonhyeongdeul’s bold attempts to create a fresh combination of ingredients and artwork-like design of desserts have also grabbed the industry’s attention.
The cafe has collaborated with various brands to create limited edition cakes. It recently opened a pop-up store at Seoul’s largest department store The Hyundai Seoul in Yeouido.
“We are looking for more collaborations not just in the F&B sector but beyond. We will soon launch another brand at a new place, which features our signature mood and dessert concepts,” Kim said.
“I hope customers can remember Wonhyeongdeul as a place where its unique and cute cakes give joy,” she added.
Wonhyeongdeul is open every day except Sunday from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m.