There is no bakery treat more recognized or relished on the streets of Cambridge than the Chelsea bun, and the best of these doughy delights are available at Fitzbillies.
For the past 90 years, Fitzbillies has been the cake shop of choice for Cambridge elites, university students and visiting tourists like me.
The art nouveau style-shop front wasn’t what caught my eye the first time I walked by the cafe. I was captivated instead by a gleaming tray of syrupy Chelsea buns I saw through the window.
At the time, the cafe and street were so crowded that I bought a bun and coffee and took them away to enjoy in a nearby alley.
Hiding there in a ravenous state, I balanced the coffee in one hand and tore away at the bun like an animal.
I thought I was alone until a British woman walked by and exclaimed, “Ooh, Chelsea bun!”
She didn’t seem surprised by a strange American hunched over a torn bun with syrup all over his face. Rather, she appreciated the wise choice of a traditional treat.
Chelsea buns are not to be confused with the cloyingly sweet American cinnamon rolls, even though they look very similar.
These buns are made from a rich yeast dough, flavored with lemon peel, cinnamon or mixed spices, and then spread with a mixture of currants, brown sugar and butter instead of frosting.
For the past two years, whenever I go to Cambridge for a day trip I always do three things:
• I shop at the Forbidden Planet comic book shop. • I buy cheese at the Cambridge Cheese Company. • I get a Chelsea bun from one of two Fitzbillies locations.
Only now I save the bun for later to enjoy in private once I get home.
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Location: 52 Trumpington Street, Cambridge, CB2 1RG. The easiest way to visit Cambridge from RAF Mildenhall is to park for free at the Newmarket Road Park and Ride and ride a shuttle bus into the city center. After a 30-minute drive following the A11 (which becomes the A14), take exit 35 to the parking lot. Purchase a shuttle bus ticket onsite and ride to the Emmanuel Street stop. Then walk 11 minutes along Downing Street, which turns into Pembroke Street, and then turn right on Trumpington Street.
Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Saturdays, 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Sundays.
Prices: Breakfast is served from opening to 4 p.m., with prices from 7.50 to 12 pounds ($10.07 to $16.12); lunch is served from noon to 4 p.m., with prices from 6.75 to 12. Cakes and tarts range from 1.80 to 4 pounds, ice cream from 4 to 5.50 pounds and afternoon tea service ranges from 19 to 26 pounds.