February 15, 2019

Review: 41366 Olivia's Cupcake Café

It’s a new year, which means new adventures for Olivia in Heartlake City. Let’s see what she’s up to! … Wait. A cupcake café? Are you sure this isn’t a Stephanie set? … Nope. That’s Olivia and Zobo all right. Well, this should be interesting! How will Olivia apply her technical wizardry to the challenge of running a boutique bakery?

This set was provided by the AFOL Engagement of The LEGO Group for the purpose of sharing set details with fans. Opinions provided here solely reflect those of our reviewer. Photographs are property of FriendsBricks and are not directed by TLG in any fashion.

Actually, I believe mixing up the girls’ roles is a great idea. After many sets (see end of review) with Stephanie doing the baking, why not give Olivia a try, right? Actually, Emma was given her own café too, last year; so I shouldn't be surprised. But long ago, I had read that Stephanie's favorite food was cupcakes, and it got stuck in my mind that she's the Cupcake Queen. (I even built a MOC about it!) Anyway, taking our characters outside their comfort zones is refreshing and could even be an opportunity for some humor! Well, as it turns out, LEGO does not disappoint, and they’ve inserted a funny play scenario here which proves that our Heartlake City characters are certainly not perfect. More on that later.

First, let’s have a look at this straight-from-Denmark copy of the set. It’s in a sturdy and colorful corrugated cardboard box. The text and warnings are Europe-style, so they may vary a bit from what you find on your local shelf. 

The inviting cover shot depicts an open-front shop in an evening urban setting. It almost looks like a kiosk, placed on a sidewalk island, amid neon lights in a big city. LEGO tells us that we are in the Heartlake City’s “tech district” which, for me, is conjuring up happy memories of gorgeous sweet treats bought on the streets of Tokyo. The set’s color palette is distinctively Olivia’s: light yellow, dark azure, dark pink, and white, with a touch of dark blue and magenta. The giant berry atop the cupcake-shaped shop is a cute touch! My son thinks this is a strawberry, but I thought maybe a raspberry? An inset photo demonstrates the functioning gears, rotating a selection of cupcakes. We also can see that two minidolls are included, Emma and Olivia.

The box-back includes depictions of many fun set highlights. We can see: the rear view of the building and its main features, suggested play scenarios, and more mechanical functionality. The surrounding decorative frames and doodles give a scrapbook feel to the imagery. A portrait of Olivia at top-right reminds us that she’s the featured character.

Lots of safety warnings and other fine print here. I love the whimsical collages of elements on some sides. As usual, the super-inviting vertical scene-slice would make a great bookmark. 

Inside the box are three numbered bags of parts, a thick perfect-bound instruction book, one large plate, and a sticker sheet.

This sticker sheet is unusual in that it’s printed on shimmery holographic foil. The metallic effect is appealing and I’m sure the fancy/flashy feel will be a hit with kids. You can even reflect light off these stickers to project rainbows onto a piece of paper! Take extra care when applying these, however, because I found them to be less forgiving when repositioning. (Any bends or creases will be super-noticeable.)

New in 2019, instruction books are including graphics that encourage us to try building from digital files. A QR code appears on the booklet’s cover. And before I even get to step #1 in building, I’ve been prompted twice to check out this feature. So, “Ok, LEGO! I’ll try it…”

If I use my phone or tablet to take a photo of the code, my device asks if I’d like to visit the LEGO website. When I approve, it takes me to info about the LEGO Life app. Downloading and opening that, I next need to tap an icon at the bottom and select the symbol to seek a set. Then I rescan that same code again. Now I have access to electronic instructions, a bonus building idea, and a .pdf. I can also add the set to my virtual collection. So, basically, the code is dual-purpose, depending which app you scan it from. Electronic instructions are certainly usable (assuming you own an appropriate device), and more eco-friendly, but I personally would miss the paper booklets if they went away!

Flipping to the very back of my book, there’s an inventory of all parts. Viewing it, I’m noticing what’s new. I like the heart pastry tile! It seems versatile, in fact it gets used as a doorknob in this set. Here’s a cheat-sheet of newest parts:

Opening just bag #1 and its sub-bag, these are the contents:

The baker’s hat/hair element and the whisk were first seen with the Gourmet Chef in series 17 of the Collectable Minifigure sets, two years ago. I’m so glad to see these parts return! Let’s look at the assembled figures...

Emma is a supporting character in this set. Perhaps she’s stopping by to grab a snack before returning to work in her art studio! She wears a denim vest over a sleeveless top, patterned with flying white birds. This is a new torso. Above the neckline, her chest appears to be covered with a sort of white modesty-mesh. Accessorizing her outfit is a double string of asymmetric beads. She looks artsy and casual in her signature colors of lavender, purple and light aqua.

I adore this version of Olivia. She still wears her glasses (same head as last year), but her hair is tucked up into a poofy chef’s hat and she wears a baker’s coat and sweater with her store logo. The symbol is a sort of “cosmic cupcake” that combines themes of “bakery” and “outer-space.” Her leggings sport a fabulous starry/planetary pattern, although only on the front. Olivia may be in a kitchen, but rest assured—this is still our science-loving inventrix!

Our first construction is an outdoor dining area, where patrons may eat, standing under the shelter of a translucent pink umbrella. This umbrella also appears in Emma’s Art Studio [41365

Next up, we build a fun little vending machine that actually works. We can feed cupcakes into the top and then pull/push a tab at the back to dispense contents. Admittedly, I had to tip my machine forward to get my cupcakes out, but considering how few bricks are used, it’s nice. You can even use your set’s spare elements to build an additional cupcake, which fits perfectly inside! 

I like the idea of Olivia’s shop providing off-hours service via this machine. I’m sure Heartlake City’s tech workforce has some late-night programmers who could use a sugar boost. Did you know that 24/7 robotic cupcake machines are a real-life thing? I wonder if the LEGO designers were inspired by these converted ATM machines

A small 3-wheeled delivery vehicle is included. Olivia can load a tray of fresh sweets in the back and speed off to wherever they’re needed. Zobo can ride back there too, for their commute home. While I’m glad there is a vehicle for the shop, the design here seems a bit simple. The seating is merely a big flat bench and there’s no steering or other cockpit controls. The dark azure cargo area leads me to believe the designers had wished that corner panels were available in that color. Now I want them too. Hahaha.

Here’s the first round of building completed. I have plenty of material here to spark imaginative play.

Here’s bag #2 opened up. These donut tiles have been available for a while. They were recently in the Snow Resort Hot Chocolate Van [41319]. I've never seen a donut-topped cupcake, but the thought of one is now making me hungry!

Last year, I got a hint of LEGO's new “plate gear” system and I’ve been eagerly anticipating its arrival. I’m delighted to see the company adding approachable entry-level mechanics into Friends and other sets. If you haven’t seen them yet, three different sized toothed plates fit nicely into existing system grid geometry and can work together to power large circular movements. As we’d expect from LEGO, these new elements have been carefully designed to integrate with other parts. Each plate has connection points on its top and bottom faces, plus round holes for axles or pegs to pass through. If you prefer your gears with axle (“+”-shaped) holes instead, just add a 2x2 round plate or brick over the round hole.

Each gear can snap onto a turntable base for low-profile action. If you own a TECHNIC knob wheel (available in affordable sets), you can easily use it to power your gears from a 90-degree angle. So, be sure to experiment with these and see what you can do! Currently, you can find more gears in: the LEGO Movie 2’s Pop-up Party Bus [70828], Andrea’s Talent Show [41368], and a Ninjago set. But I’m sure they will appear in many more soon.

With the bag #2 parts ready, we can begin building Olivia’s brick & mortar (or, should we say “cake and icing”?) shop. The girls help with assembly by getting a turntable base into place. This is where those fancy gears will live. 

Friendly reminder: Round tiles have a rigid orientation, thanks to their underside, so heed the advice of your LEGO instructions and attach your tile to a studded surface before applying a sticker. I love the winking smiley gear on this sticker!

Once this table surface is in place, the action of turning the small purple gear with your finger will transfer to the larger gear and send a selection of cupcakes spinning out to customers. The Heartlake Cupcake Café [41119] also had a rotating feature. But that was a twirling display case. Here, it’s more of a sushi-conveyor feel. If you’ve ever assembled the huge Ninjago City set [70620], you’ve built a fancy one of those on the top floor.

And now we’ve come to my favorite part of this set, by far. I laughed out loud when I spotted this scene on the back of the box. Apparently Olivia’s had a bit of an accident in the kitchen. She’s dropped some things on the floor and even burned a cupcake! Poor Olivia. But any good baker will learn from their mistakes and I’m very glad to see she wields the positivity to laugh it off and carry on. “You got this, girlfriend!”

Olivia’s robotic sidekick is back! Incidentally, while attending a talk by one of the LEGO Friends designers in September, I was reminded that the Danish way of pronouncing his name is, “Sobo.” [That’s right, “Z’s” in Denmark sound like “S’s.” So LEGO Znap is actually called “Snap”—because that’s the sound it makes. But I digress…] As usual, Zobo has some slight modifications. This version has light gray binoculars for eyes, instead of the usual dark gray. He also lacks wheels to scoot about on, which is slightly disappointing, but we can always pretend he has new Roomba-like mobility!

Zobo perches atop the shop’s moving conveyor, and I can imagine him there, discussing flavor options with customers or tossing samples their way. The set’s cover art actually shows him hurling cupcakes out of the shop! Do you think there was a bug in his programming? Hopefully nobody was hurt in this act of sweet mayhem. (Hmmm, where have I heard that phrase before? Ah, wrong LEGO theme!) 

I thought it was a nice touch that Zobo continues to face forward while the cupcakes rotate. This is achieved by mounting him on a single stud which, like a nail, is driven through holes in the independently spinning plates. He looks good there, at center stage, like a shop mascot. And while he may not be wheeling about the entire kitchen, Zobo could potentially help Olivia later by piloting the delivery vehicle or icing some cakes.

Here we have bag 2 complete. The shop is taking shape! You can now see that seating will be available both inside and outside the shop, on sprinkle-decor stools in two different colors. Some lovely floral plants border the threshold.

Here’s a closer view of the four cupcake varieties built in the set plus an assortment of their ingredients. Don’t they look delicious? I see great possibility to mix and match these later, for fresh culinary inventions. Is that a lime meringue tart? Or, wasabi soft serve in a crunchy shell? Strawberry shortcake? Or, sakura cupcakes for celebrating the cherry blossom festival? You decide!

After opening bag #3, this kitchen island gets built and added to raised studs on the shop floor. It includes important features you’d expect like a sink, stovetop and microwave. There’s even a wrench, ready for making mechanical tweaks to Zobo or the conveyor. I love the mixer. Its blades can lift, like on a Kitchen Aid, to add ingredients or pour out batter; and the inverted clear dome makes a great glass bowl. 

However, one obvious missing kitchen feature is an opening oven! Early product description text from LEGO had said there would be one. (it’s since been updated); and certainly Olivia’s tray with burned cupcake feels like it should belong somewhere. I wonder if this feature was left out from final design at the last minute. Thankfully, it’s an easy thing to add with parts from your own collection. The Sunshine Catamaran [41317], for example, had a nice oven which could be “borrowed.”

While assembling the roofline, I became aware for the second time during my build, of what I’d call “plate bowing.” I don’t know if LEGO plates are more flexible recently, or if I’m just slow to notice (I should really do some testing), but I can see that putting bricks on plates is creating enough tension on the stud-layer to slightly warp the underlying plate. This results in some arcing, bowing and gaps between parts. Now, your LEGO elements do need to have some “give” or else they could shatter and rigid models would be hard to take apart. But let this drive home the importance of covering your seams as you build your own creations. The more you overlap layers and lock your joins together, the better for retaining your intended structure.

Color consistency in light yellow is always a challenge and this set had some slight variation. Even in the same brick shape, the color is very close, but not perfectly matched. Most people would never notice, I'm sure. :-) 

Here again is the completed set...

There have been many different Friends cafés and bakeries over the years, so it makes sense to give this one some context. Way back in 2012, there was the City Park Café [3061]. The following year, we got the Downtown Bakery [41006].  Stephanie appeared in a slew of baking sets, including Friendship Cakes [41308], her Outdoor Bakery [3903], Bakery Stand [30113], and 2016's grand Heartlake Cupcake Café [41119]. Unfortunately, I don't own those to compare extensively, but there is certainly a strong stylistic and thematic difference with this new release, when putting it next to the Heartlake Cupcake Café. Emma’s Art Café [41336], released last year, is still a current set and hopefully the girls have set up shop in different parts of the city. (Emma sells cupcakes too!) Maybe she is actually visiting to check out her competition!

But getting back to the set at hand, let's play around with it a bit. There’s plenty for Olivia to do in her kitchen. A shelf contains tools and ingredients. She grabs a pastry bag and tops some newly-cooled cupcakes.

Outside, Emma is hungry and a digital-looking readout atop the café says it is “O-P-E-N.”

After hearing about the day’s special offerings from Zobo, Emma is ready to order. She makes selections with a touch-screen display. It looks like she can choose from various toppings, frostings, and cakes. Concept-wise, this sidewalk ordering reminds me again of Japan, where pedestrians can buy an entire hot dinner from the street. 

I assume she could have a seat here and her cakes would come around. There’s even a milk dispenser too—handy for thirsty patrons to wash down their baked goods. LEGO’s official product description said there would be an additional coffee maker but, unless this is it (multi-functional?), I don’t see one. 

Emma saw her $2 total on-screen and heads inside to pay with cash. A sign with funky arrow points the way.

Ooo, more menu options in here. Those all look so… sprinklicious! 

After chatting with Olivia and chuckling about the burned cupcake fiasco and other learning experiences, Emma pays for and receives her order.

The girls decide to sit down and use their snack-time to brainstorm potential creative modifications to the shop. Olivia says that business here is good, but she is always looking for ways to improve efficiency! Perhaps a new robotic vending vehicle? Or a bigger oven with cooking conveyor? (I’d love to see what our readers would come up with!)

In conclusion, I’d certainly recommend this set. It was fun to build and play with. My favorite part is seeing a new twist on something that’s been done before. As you can see, other baking sets have been available. Although they were nice, I’d describe them as “expected.” I personally more enjoy the surprise and whimsy of Olivia’s shop. I feel invited to modify it and make it even more innovative and quirky.

Now that Emma and Olivia have their own cafés, who will be next? Will Mia open a kitten café? Will Andrea run a coffeehouse with live music? Time will tell... What are some other mash-ups you’d like to see from the Friends? Stephanie in a chemistry lab? Olivia running a farm? Post your ideas!

Note: All exclusive parts mentioned in the colors noted were applicable at the time this review was posted. Parts may be available in other colors and sets after the post of this review. Brickset and BrickLink were use to verify this information.


Blondwave said...

I love the holographic foil, it's so cool!!! And the vending machine too. The funny thing is that I haven't noticed that burned cupcake before, hilarious xD. Also, I love all those yummy cupcake possibilities!!! I'm lucky I was eating while reading this review :,D.

Xyra Silverleaf said...

Question? Do the rounded and cut corner pieces help when one wants to build something on an angle?

There are times during my calendar rebuilds when I'd like to put something on an angle, but can't quite figure it out so I revert to the regular position. Do you have any suggestions or links to blog posts that could help?

Thank you! I appreciate your reviews and experience.

SuzEaton said...

@Xyra Silverleaf: I'm so sorry I missed your question until now. The rounded plates unfortunately don't do much for angled building because the studs on them still adhere to the normal rectangular layout. A good way to get walls on a diagonal is to use hinged plates or bricks at the joints. Play around with the angles and lengths to find where the endpoints anchor well. For a great demonstration of this, check out this video with LEGO Designer Jamie Berard. Good luck!

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