Portofino Pasticceria e Caffé, Port Melbourne

•December 14, 2007 • 5 Comments


It towers – like the apartment block above the shop – and is intimidating to look at, but the striped Vanilla Slice from Portofino has all the right elements. This is a substantial concoction to appease the ravenous sweet tooth. Individually, the three layers are potently rich, but eaten as one mouthful the combination strikes the right balance. The pastry, a thin delicately layered Puff, is a suitably architectural frame for the custard. Pale, rich and smooth, it has a melt in the mouth urbanity. The icing is thick but soft enough to cut through cleanly with a fork. Too tall to eat with the hands, the necessary cake fork came through cleanly, without bringing down the house like a ton of bricks. Eat a bit and run around the block. Repeat until finished.

¦ Icing ♥♥♥½¦ Pastry ♥♥½ ¦ Custard ♥♥♥½ ¦ Degree of difficulty ♥♥♥♥¦ 14.5/20

Portofino Pasticceria  63 Bay Street, Port Melbourne, Vic. Australia. Ph +613 9681 8699


Old Western Hot Bread Shop, Mordialloc

•December 9, 2007 • 1 Comment

There was a standoff at The Old Western Hot Bread Shop. POW! Stickyfingers, facing four other Custard Crusaders – cake fork held loosely at the hip – was shot down, but took the scores with her as she fell. This old style vanilla slice is one which rekindles memories of Australian childhood treats. For Stickyfingers, the Patissier pedant, the pastry was tough and raw on one side, not flaky. When the top came off in one piece on contact with a fork, showering the plate with sugar and completely dismembering the unit, the band stopped playing. The custard with a gelatinous and gluey mouth-feel, seemed as awkward as an entrance by Calamity Jane. But for the others this was a perfectly acceptable example of a vanilla slice – like a rosy trip down memory lane, to a place where tumbleweeds now roll across the horizon, it was a hands down winner.

¦ Icing ♥♥♥½¦ Pastry ♥½ ¦ Custard ♥♥♥½ ¦ Degree of difficulty ♥♥♥½¦ 13/20

Old Western Hot Bread Shop 75 Warren Rd, Mordiallic, Vic. Australia. Ph +613 9587 1952

Modern Day Bakery, Daylesford

•November 23, 2007 • 6 Comments

In a provincial Spa Town, two bakeries vie for trade. One is saucy looking, like a French maid bending over a tray of delicacies. The other is large and frumpy, like a mustachioed great aunt, whose house has been furnished with Bingo prizes. The frumpy matron, deceptively named Modern Day Bakery, offered two Vanilla Slices: Passionfruit (with seeds) and French Vanilla. We chose to rate the latter for consistency, but the icing on the former was excellent in flavour and texture. The Custard was a revelation, the best so far – thick, sweet and eggy, yellow from bright fresh yolks and sliceable with a fork. The thicker than average pastry was slightly savoury, balancing the flavours. It held the lot together when consumed with the hands and the thick layer of icing sugar complemented the satisfied patron with a rakish white mustache. No bells and whistles required, for this is a traditional Aussie Vanilla Slice.

¦ Icing ♥♥♥♥¦ Pastry ♥♥♥½ ¦ Custard ♥♥♥♥½ ¦ Degree of difficulty ♥♥♥♥¦ 17/20

ModernDay Bakery  69 Vincent Street, Daylesford, Vic.Australia. Ph +613 5348 2714


Convent Bakery, Abbotsford

•November 18, 2007 • 2 Comments

The Convent Bakery boasts two impressive woodfired ovens built in 1902 to service the nuns of The Sister’s of Good Shepherd. The vestal virgins are long gone and the space now occupied by a cafe and commercial bakery. We sought heavenly inspiration but instead found the vanilla slices cowering in a corner guiltily. With three layers of dark pastry and not being traditional in form, they were easily overlooked. Happily easily to handle, the pastry although brown, was not at all burnt. The custard blew our socks off. Naughty slices. Revealed was a parsimonious amount of intensely creamy, adults only, brandy flavoured custard reminiscent of a cold, thickened Christmas pudding custard. Topped with icing sugar and pastry crumbs, the filling kept things sweet. Say three ‘Hail Mary’s’, taken with a cup of ‘Sweet Jesus’ tea and a nice little lie down.

¦ Icing ♥♥♥ ¦ Pastry ¦ Custard ♥♥♥½ ¦ Degree of difficulty ♥♥♥♥¦ TOTAL 12.5/20

Convent Bakery  Abbotsford Convent, 1 Saint Heliers St, Abbotsford, Vic. Australia. Ph +613 9421 9426


San Sebastian, Hampton

•November 11, 2007 • 5 Comments

Once described by The Age newspaper as ‘Melbourne’s Dirty Little Secret’ this monster lay like a dormant giant in foot long slabs behind glass at the counter. Nearly two inches high this was a sight that would either arouse or menace depending on your disposition. A square was cut from one of the mother slices and we sat in awe of San Sebastian’s famous Vanilla Slice. This is not a sweet fancy to tackle with the hands but is manageable with a cake fork. The filling is a sugary whipped vanilla cream with a faint flavour of egg, the pastry a buttery puff. Icing is redundant. The thick dusting of icing sugar is more than adequate. As light as air, the beast disappears quickly. Not so menancing now, though if you’ve been counting calories you’re likely to leave feeling slightly ‘dirty’.

¦ Icing ♥♥♥♥ ¦ Pastry ♥♥♥♥ ¦ Custard ♥♥♥♥ ¦ Degree of difficulty ♥♥♥♥ ¦ TOTAL 16/20

San Sebastian, 303 Hampton Street, Hampton, Victoria, Australia. Ph +613 9533 4755


Orange Spot Bakery, Glenelg

•November 10, 2007 • 3 Comments

We were tired at the end of our journey and so were the vanilla slices. Coming a long way in search of the second prize winner of the professional section of the 2007 Great Australian Vanilla Slice Triumph to find that there were only just enough to go around and they – like us – were weary looking specimens, naturally dampened the enthusiasm.  Once we got a fork to them, the icing was firm though tasty and there was quite a splat as we broke through the top, but they held together reasonably well. The custard was the highlight, tasting creamy and of fresh eggs, but the pastry was dry not buttery. On a table there was a visitors book – unusual, but perhaps they like to revel in praise here. With thoughts of our next sampling we left our URL in the book and dragged ourselves homewards.

¦ Icing ♥♥♥ ¦ Pastry ♥½ ¦ Custard ♥♥♥½ ¦ Degree of difficulty ♥♥♥½ ¦ TOTAL 12.5/20

Orange Spot Bakery. 752 Anzac Highway, Glenelg, South Australia. Ph +618 8295 5799


Malmsbury Bakery, Malmsbury

•October 31, 2007 • 2 Comments

At the edge of the Victorian Goldfields, the throng crushing the counter at the Malmsbury Bakery was an encouraging sign. The 15 staff were doing a roaring trade in pies, sandwiches and cakes – promising. But the tray of vanilla slices was not moving – not promising. This $3.50 double layered ensemble was creamy like a French Mille Feuille, but left an awful, greasy, lard-like feel lingering on the lips. Topped unnecessarily with both icing sugar and vanilla icing, the tasty top layer was hard enough to chisel off, letting down the points earned for the immaculate, thin layers of puff pastry. For us there was no gold in this here town.

¦ Icing ♥♥½ ¦ Pastry ♥♥½ ¦ Custard ♥♥½ ¦ Degree of difficulty ♥♥♥½ ¦ TOTAL 12/20

Malmsbury Bakery. 73-77 Mollison Street, Malmsbury, Vic. Australia. Ph +613 5423 2369