In Zuckerhaus you are transported to a fantasy world. You’ll find Manuela at her tiny shop in Parlament Street. Originally from Germany, she carefully prepares delicious homemade cakes and tarts.
Manuela, how did Zuckerhaus begin?
Zuckerhaus started by chance. I was living in Poblesec and everyday and I used to walk in front of this shop on my way to Raval. The beautiful façade of the shop always caught my attention every time I walked by. It used to be a hair salon, but had been closed for 38 years. Suddenly one day the space was available for rent. I didn’t have to think about it: I called and rented it right away. The funny thing is, I had no idea what I was going to do with the shop. It was a completely impulsive decision.
Why did you choose to open a cake shop?
I studied translation and interpretation, and I´ve worked in hotels for a long time. At the same time, I have always baked cakes at home. Sweets are very traditional from where I come from. When I was a child, we used to bake cakes every weekend. I learned from my mother over the years, and it felt natural to open my own cake shop.
What sets this little cake shop apart from others in Barcelona?
I believe the classical German recipes I use to bake really differentiate my bakery. Every German family has its own recipes. Some bake with butter and others without eggs… I make my family recipes, and some others that I have found along the way.
At the same time in my shop, I have introduced the concept of selling slices of cake. It was not common to buy a piece of cake to take home in Barcelona. People have loved the idea and it has been a great success.
What have you learned through running Zuckerhaus?
The most important thing is to bake cakes with love. Another lesson learned is that planning ahead is key! At the beginning I spent almost 24 hours a day in the kitchen. Last year, I changed the setting of the shop to better accommodate my process. I moved the kitchen outside which allows me to prepare the baking while I’m selling.
Where do you source the fruits for your cakes and tarts? Do you have a specific philosophy about sourcing?
I always go to the market and try to buy seasonal fruit. Back in Germany, we used to have a garden with apples, plums and apricots depending on the time of the year. We always baked with the fruit we had available in the garden. That’s my philosophy and that’s why I don’t always offer the same cakes.
I had to adapt some recipes because it’s difficult to find the same fruit as in Germany. For example, there are a lot of berries in Germany however here, they’re hard to find. It’s sad because I have delicious red currant recipes!
“Contrary to popular belief, people here are used to eating sweeter than in Germany.”
Do you find different taste preferences between people from Spain and Germany?
At the beginning, I was surprised because people in Spain told me my cakes were not too sweet. Contrary to popular belief, people here are used to eating sweeter than in Germany. Many clients tell me that they are not fond of sweet things but they love my cakes and tarts. If you look at a German recipe book and compare it to a Spanish one, you’ll notice big differences in sugar quantities.
Do you have a favorite cake?
I love mixing acidic and sweet flavors. I like rhubarb and in general, I enjoy any cake with that ingredient. For example, I love rhubarb jam with an almond meringue tart.
Your shop looks like a fairy tale…
Thank you. I took the time to decorate it without thinking too much about it. My clients brought many of the details you see on the walls. My parents also have brought things from their neighbors or markets when they visit me. This place just happened by itself.
Sant Antoni neighborhood is at its peak with many new businesses opening. Could you describe what is daily life like in the neighborhood?
Sant Antoni is changing a lot. When I signed the rental contract there were only a few shops open. Now it’s getting trendy and many new business are opening. We all get along. Sometimes we even go out for drinks after work all together. The neighbors are also very nice. Several clients have brought me fruit from their farms and exchange it for cakes. This creates a beautiful sense of community.
C/Parlament 17, 08015 Barcelona