What kind of cake does a restaurant critic want for her birthday? You’re probably thinking of something as expensive as it is forbiddingly gourmet. But that’s not me. While I did toy with having my favorite New Orleans bakery’s Doberge cake shipped up to Virginia, ultimately, I am too cheap. I couldn’t let my other half waste his money on dessert just after tax season.
So I requested one of my favorite locally made cakes, one that I’d only enjoyed in slices before. I’m talking about the ras malai cake at Pastry Corner. I frequent the location inside Ashburn’s Lotte Plaza, but there’s a full-size storefront in Chantilly, too.
What is ras malai? Balls of chhena, the curds that are processed into paneer, are served in cardamom-flavored clotted cream. Think of it as a cool, milky cousin to gulab jamun, another Indian dessert that finds its way into cakes at Pastry Corner.
The aromatic flavors of ras malai are what bring me to the dance with this cake, but it’s the dairy-based moisture that keeps me eating. The thin layer of chhena in the cake bleeds into the pastry itself, resulting in something like a less-wet tres leches, only flavored with spices and flowers. The fluffy cream between the layers and surrounding the cake is airy enough to almost evade attention, but I’ve eaten too many fondant or overly sugary buttercream-bedecked birthday sweets not to appreciate it.
I haven’t tried the savory food at Pastry Corner yet, but it’s on my mind to give some hakka noodles and paneer 65 a whirl. But whatever I order, it will reliably end with a creamy bite, or twelve, of ras malai cake.
14027 Lee Jackson Memorial Hwy., Chantilly; 43930 Farmwell Hunt Plaza #100, Ashburn (inside Lotte Plaza)
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