Word of mouth: Caroline Stacey meets Mr Pastry - Gerhard Jenne
Once, not so long ago, there was a cake shop on the corner of the quaintest street of Victorian terrace houses and gas lamps behind Waterloo station. But the buns and cakes that looked so convincing in the window seemed to turn to synthetic, sugary dust at the first bite.

The cake shop changed hands in 1993, became Konditor & Cook, and now the cakes on display deliver sticky, fruity, chocolatey, dense flavours, not empty promises.

Over in Borough, beside the market, where railway arches and warehouses, coaching inns, steamy caffs and shabby shops make up an urban landscape that's on the brink of becoming fashionable, there is another cake shop, glass and chrome and sparkling new. This is Konditor & Cook, too.

Konditor is German for a pastry chef and that's what Gerhard Jenne is. He trained formally in his home country, then spent 10 years working in London at the Justin de Blank bakery. There, he introduced croissants, dinner rolls, walnut bread and muesli slices and much more, before setting up on his own, determined to use the best ingredients for the best results and to let himself loose on the cake decorating which is his forte.

Although he maintains the rigorous standards instilled by his apprenticeship, he didn't set up a traditional German-style pastry shop, with its stodgy associations. Munich and other cities are stuck in a pastry timewarp - you can guarantee that at 4pm people will go out, or send out, for cakes and coffee, he says, and nobody dares change a recipe for fear of disappointing the regulars.

Even in London, customers are sentimental about cakes in a way they are not about savoury pastries. "Cakes bring back memories," Gerhard muses, and his are the stuff they are made of. The whisky and orange chocolate bombe, a marbled orange and chocolate sponge with an undulating velvety drape of chocolate marzipan thickly dusted with cocoa; an old-fashioned treacle tart; Russian apple cake; raspberry, chocolate and hazelnut cake; impossible choices. And each year around now, stollen, fruit cakes, nutty shortbread stars and a daily batch of mince pies are sold warm from the oven, creating a good-natured stampede.

Christmas, he admits, is when his shops seem at their most middle-European. Even so, the distinctively spiced biscuits, crescent-shaped kipferl cookies, mince pies, gingerbread people, bite-size Christmas puddings and silver dragees are still some way short of the full Hansel and Gretel house. "German women take great pride in their Christmas cookies. My mother used to bake about 16 varieties."

Vanilla kipferl cookies

"These cookies were always included in the large selection of cookies and lebkuchen that my mother baked for Christmas," says Gerhard. "They are easy to shape with your hands without special tools."

100g icing sugar

200g unsalted butter (at room temperature)

300g plain flour, sieved

125g (toasted) fine ground hazelnuts

1 egg yolk

1/2 tsp vanilla essence

vanilla sugar

Place the ground hazelnuts in an ovenproof dish or tray and dust with one tablespoon of the icing sugar. Carefully toast them in the oven or under the grill. Set aside to cool. Place icing sugar, cubed butter, egg yolk and vanilla in the bowl of the food processor, blend for a few seconds, then add hazelnuts and the sieved plain flour. Mix for about 20 to 30 seconds or until pastry forms a lump. Remove from food processor and roll into 2cm-diameter log shapes. Chill for about 30 minutes. When set, divide into small 2cm-long portions. Roll between your palms into pieces about 1cm thick and 5cm long. Give the tips a slightly pointed end. Place on a baking tray in a crescent shape. Bake at 180C/350F/gas mark 4 for about 12 to 15 minutes or until tips are turning golden brown. Remove from oven and while still warm roll them in the vanilla sugar. Leave to cool. Just before serving, sprinkle with a fine dusting of icing sugar. Instead of crescent shapes, try dainty little swirls or letters. But beware - the thinner the pastry, the shorter the cooking time

Konditor & Cook, 22 Cornwall Road, London SE1 (0171-261 0456); 10 Stoney Street, London SE1 (0171-407 5100)