Lavender lattes and mousse at Seoul cafe 'Little and Much'

Lavender lattes and mousse at Seoul cafe  'Little and Much'

At Little and Much, a dessert cafe that opened on Sept 1 in Seoul, mousse cake is the treat to order, robed in dark chocolate or filled with passion fruit.

"The first thing we learned to make was mousse and we continued to make it," coowner and pastry chef Lee Hwa-young, who runs Little and Much with her husband, said.

"So we naturally came to do mousse."

Lee and her husband both studied baking and pastry arts at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts in Vancouver, Canada, before returning to South Korea to open their own cafe.

After settling on a spot in Samseong-dong near Gangnam-gu Office Station, the husband-and-wife team spent months developing the menu for their first store.

Mousse, which Lee considers a good base for crafting flavor-packed sweets, became the main ingredient of a repertoire that focuses on "individual cakes" for one.

"One can tuck a lot of hidden flavors into mousse," Lee, 35, said, explaining how jam or cream or some other unexpected delight can be put in the middle of the pudding-like dessert.

As for the somewhat long-winded name of the shop, Lee divulged the dessert duo's creed - "little sweets, much flavor" - as the inspiration behind it all.

"Little," however, is not the first word that comes to mind when working through one of the shop's mousse cakes.

Rich, decadent and texturally sumptuous, it might be wise to actually share one over a couple of the establishment's espresso-based drinks.

For the moment, Little and Much serves three flavors, including a particularly toothsome dark chocolate and a beautiful passion fruit-white chocolate rendition.

Lee and her husband truly understand the tart allure of passion fruit, amping up the slight mouth-puckering punch by making it into a curd-like filling that is layered over a creme brulee cream and a crispy layer of crushed feuilletine crepe wafers that have been embedded in hazelnut chocolate.

One bite unleashes a winning combination of silken, buttery and eggy white chocolate mousse, fragrant passion fruit and that final crunch of praline and cookies.

With the dark chocolate mousse, Lee explained how she and her husband focused on a single-origin Venezuelan cacao that possesses a "sour flavor."

What emerges is a mousse that delivers a rich, round prune-like note punctuated by a bitter endnote.

That mild tart note that emerges from the cacao in the mousse is elevated by the housemade sour cherry compote in the centre and by the bitter, crunchy cocoa nibs rimming the base of this unabashedly elegant treat.

Mousse, however, is not the only dessert on the menu. An uber-moist banana bread and gorgeous pistachio cake are both available as well.

With the pistachio cake, the baking duo prove their mastery of the biscuit joconde, a moist and dense French almond sponge that, at Little and Much, is infused with pistachio paste and then sandwiched between alternating layers of mango-pineapple and coconut cream.

Topped with berries, the juxtaposition of nutty, soft suede-like sponge cake with pina colada-like layers of cream makes for a light yet decadent dessert.

Though cake is clearly the main act, the coffee at Little and Much is no backseat affair.

Equal amounts of love were put into the caffeinated elixirs like the cafe's lavender latte, a fragrant drink usually crafted with tea or coffee that seems to be popping up with increasing frequency throughout the world.

Added to the menu as a dessert-in-a-drink alternative, Little and Much barista Park Jae-won explained how a twofold infusion of lavender, first in the milk and then in a housemade syrup, is employed at the shop to achieve the team's idea of an ideal espresso-based lavender latte.

"Just enough to get its aromas," said Park, 27, of the amount of lavender used to infuse the syrup.

The lavender syrup is added to a clear glass, with one shot of espresso. Lavender milk foam, very fine in texture and moist, is added to create "coffee that is as fragrant as tea."

The final product tastes like a chai latte-coffee hybrid, with spicy notes of ginger and a lingering floral aroma at the end.

Then there is the cafe doux, a foam-centric affair that features a shot of espresso topped with wet foam basically crafted from espresso, ice and housemade syrup.

"You get the sweet and soft foam on top, the blend of foam and espresso in the middle and then the straight espresso at the bottom," said Park.

With all the care that goes into both the desserts and drinks at Little and Much, the artisanal-minded shop looks poised to attract caffeine and sweet fiends alike.

Little and Much

1F, 10-8 Samseong-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul.

(02) 545-1023.

Open from 11 am to 8 pm daily, closed Sundays.

Cakes and tarts cost 4,000 won (S$4.70) to 9,000 won, banana bread costs 1,800 won per slice, coffee-based drinks and tea cost 3,500 won to 7,500 won.

This website is best viewed using the latest versions of web browsers.