Saturday, 15 September 2012

In Search for the Best ‘Vanilla Slice’ Ever!

Over the last few years, friends and family have been under the misguided impression that we have spent our time away from Australia purely sightseeing. I must confess that this is not entirely true, as in fact we have been undertaking some quite serious research by scouring the world to find the perfect ‘Vanilla Slice’! Well, in all fairness to Jules, I have to state that it has been my quest really, as I have tended to eat most of these delicious custard filled slices of heaven in the various places we have visited.

The strange thing is that as I child, I wasn’t particularly fond of this particular cake, which is still colloquially referred to in Australia as a ‘snot block’. They would sell them in the school canteen and more often than not, they would sit in an open tray in a warm room for several hours, attracting the flies and ensuring that the over-yellowed custard filling would stiffen to become a coagulated block of jelly. However, my impression was to dramatically change several years later when what was referred to as ‘Bavarian Slice’ was served to me at a Christmas function in Adelaide. Apart from the name change, it was essentially the same cake, but this time the vanilla custard was smooth and creamy, the puff pastry was crisp yet not too dry and it was topped with a perfect coating of white icing…absolutely delicious! I asked where the cake had come from, but nobody knew anything other than the name, which was assumed had some sort of Germanic connection. I guess that is where the search began and over the next few years, when ever we passed a local bakery we would pop in, in the hope that I might re-discover that delicious custard slice, whatever it’s name might be.

I wouldn’t like to call it a fixation, but this ‘interest’ of mine has seen Jules and I exploring many bakeries from all over Australia and in more recent times worldwide. We have tasted all kinds of variations over the years including different types of custards, consistency of pastry or subtlties of icing and in some cases, the inclusion of jam. Recently we finally made it to the region of Bavaria, not that we came here especially to look for the elusive slice, but it was certainly on my ‘things to do’ list in both Germany and Austria. Here we discovered that what we knew as a ‘Vanilla Slice’ in Australia was referred to in these parts as a ‘Cream Slice’ or a ‘Creme Schnitte’. It turns out that the term ‘Bavarian Slice’ was actually a term given to the slice in England, where it remains as popular as in Australia and as a result of immigration, it may explain why it sometimes goes by that name.

No matter what name the slice goes by, it’s certainly not a pretty cake to eat, with custard oozing out the sides with every bite, eventually leaving you with cream all over your face and sticky hands from the icing. I must admit that I probably indulged in far too many ‘Cream Schnittes’ on our recent trip, but it’s a thankless task and in the name of research somebody has to do it! So at this stage I think I can reveal my current list of the top six standouts in my quest for the perfect ‘Vanilla Slice’…

 1. Dulwich Bakery Adelaide, Australia – This is our favorite local bakery and still delivers the best ‘Vanilla Slice’ in South Australia and possibly the world!

 2. Cafe Hanselmann St Moritz, Switzerland – Here they refer to it as a ‘Vanilla Cream’ and serve the slice with a layer of puff pastry in the centre and a thin layer of jam…very tasty!

 3. Greenhaigh’s Bakery Wigan, United Kingdom – I must admit that I ate a ‘Bavarian Slice’ here a few years ago, but I fondly remember the vanilla custard being deliciously creamy.

 4. Café Diglas Vienna, Austria – Again served with the puff pastry in the middle, allowing the slice to stand particularly tall, with just a hint of jam.

 5. Schatz-Konditorei Salzburg, Austria – They served a nice ‘Cremeschnitte’ that came with an additional layer of regular cream (although quite unnecessary in my opinion) and very creamy custard.

 6. Demel Pastry Shop, Vienna Austria – Once the purveyor of cakes to the Imperial and Royal court of Austria-Hungary, their ‘Crème Schnitte’ still remains fit for a king despite their preference for a dusting of icing sugar rather than sticky icing!

While I can’t say that I have found the best Vanilla slice in the world quite yet, there have been some pretty impressive contenders. Still the memory of that definitive slice tasted over twenty years ago lingers on and with the passing of time, it seems to get better and better. So the search will continue and by all means if you know of any challengers for the title, please let me know, I would love to put them to the test!

Look here for update.


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    1. Thanks Paul for both the feedback and the recipe. I'm rubbish in the kitchen, but Jules is a master chef and is keen to give your Vanilla Slice a go. You may be interested in her recipe also…

  2. Hi Chris & Jules,

    I share your passion for this cake and whilst you are looking to find the perfect Bavarian/Vanilla slice, I am searching to find the perfect recipe to bake it!

    I have a recipe that is a French classic that either of you may wish to try and bake for yourself, so that you have this delicacy to hand, in addition to when you travel the world.

    You can either use a shop bought puff pastry or make your own (there are plenty of examples on the internet on how to do this)
    The important thing is when the puff pastry is rolled out, ensure that every area of the pastry is forked to prevent the pastry overly rising. An other tip is once the pastry is rolled and put onto a lined baking tray, place another piece of parchment paper over the pastry and weigh down with another baking tray and some baking weights (or some ramekin dishes) and bake at 175oc for 15 minutes. Remove the weights and baking tray and coat the pastry with a corn-syrup or glucose syrup glaze to help seal the pastry and prevent it from becoming soggy - put back into the over for 5 minutes to finish off baking. As soon as the pastry is baked cut into slices, as the pastry is far easier to cut whilst still warm.

    Now for the vanilla filling:
    250 ml whipping cream
    250 ml full fat milk
    3 egg yolks
    60 g caster sugar
    2 1/2 gelatin leaves
    1 tbsp vanilla extract


    Whisk the whipping cream until peaks form and cover with cling film and place into the fridge

    Place the milk and half (30g) of the caster sugar into a pan and bring to the boil (until the milk begins to raise up the side of the pan)

    Whilst you wait for the milk to boil, whisk the egg yolks with the remainder of the sugar, and the vanilla extract, until light in colour.

    Then soak your gelatin leaves in some cold water until they are soft (around 5 minutes)

    Once the milk is boiled pour a third of the milk directly onto the eggs, ensuring that you constantly whisk, otherwise the eggs will scramble.

    Place the egg mixture back into the pan with the remainder of the milk and gradually heat through until the mixture coats the back of a metal spoon, and you can draw your finger through the mixture and a line remains. Remove from the heat

    Squeeze the water out of the gelatin leaves and place into the custard mix, stirring to incorporate. It is important to do this whilst the mixture is still warm/hot to ensure the gelatin dissolves completely.

    Pour the custard mix through a sieve, into a separate bowl, to ensure that there are no lumps remaining and you have a smooth consistency. Place this bowl over an ice bath to stop the cooking process. Continue to stir until the mixture is fully cool.

    Remove the whipping cream from the fridge and fold into the custard mixture.

    To prepare the slice:

    Optional: Spread a thin layer of raspberry conserve over the base layer of pastry.

    Pipe the custard cream on top of the jam layered base and top with the second layer of pastry.

    Make a fondant icing and spread over the top layer.

    Place into the fridge to set and slice into squares with a very sharp knife (let the knife do the work as if you put to much pressure on the cake it will cause the filling to ooze out)


    Paul (England)