Yummy Lummy’s vanilla slice review

Over a five day road trip I enjoyed 5 types of vanilla slice

This post is dedicated to one of my favourite pastries, i.e., the vanilla slice. I’m not talking about the pooncy Mille-feulle that the French make. I’m talking about a good old fashioned vanilla slice that you find at school fetes, an Australian classic. An Australian legend. 

This post is not about the story of the vanilla slice and its iconic position in modern Australian history. This is my opinion (only) on what makes a good vanilla slice.

As I was driving home yesterday, I was chatting with Mum on the telephone. I was describing my holiday experience and the vanilla slices I’d eaten. We discussed how we remember vanilla slices from the time I was a young boy when you get them at the school tuck shop and at school fetes. 

In my mind a good vanilla slice isn’t too tall, that is, the layer of custard only needs to be a centimetre or so not the two or more centimetres you see in most shops. The custard should also be rich and creamy without too much gelatin. I’ve had some vanilla slices which I’m sure I could bounce off a wall because the custard was like a squash ball. You don’t want your tongue to slide off the custard, the custard needs to be soft enough that you can manipulate the custard with the tip of your tongue. You want to be able to savour and taste the custard, it needs to coat your tongue so that all the amazing flavour of the custard can give you that amazing rush. The pastry should be thin but not so flaky and hard that when you bite into it it cracks and creates a flaky snow storm. I don’t mean soggy, soggy pastry isn’t good, but soft to firm. This goes for both the bottom layer of pastry and the top layer. The icing is contentious. I’m a fan of both the passionfruit and pink icing variations. I’m not a fan of the white icing with chocolate swirls. That sort of fanciness has no place in vanilla slice making (IMHO). The icing needs to be subtle, sweet, but not sickly sweet. It also needs to be thin, not thick, thick makes it too sweet. The icing also needs to be soft so that when you bite into the slice your maxillary incisors can slice cleanly through the icing into the custard and the mandibular incisors cleanly slice through the pastry and into the custard. You don’t want to make a mess. You don’t want your fingers to be too sticky. You want to be able to eat a vanilla slice with your hands or if you’re with polite company with a fork. Modern day vanilla slices often have icing that is too thick or too ‘tempered’ so it snaps or embeds into the custard as you push down with a fork. 

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In terms of shape and size, rectangles or squares are fine but not too big. Everything in moderation people, you want to have that feeling of wanting more but knowing you’ve had enough with just one slice. 

Okay here’s the lineup of vanilla slices from my recent holiday. 

Holbrook Bakery (central)

This was the first vanilla slice of the trip. It’s from the (central) Holbrook Bakery (there are two, viz., central and southern). You can see the icing has been dusted with icing sugar. I believe this is superfluous. If the pastry is too stiff when you bite in or when you use a fork the icing sugar goes all over the place, not a good thing if you’re wearing a black shirt. I made the mistake of going for the French vanilla slice which has a layer of cream. The cream was good but because the pastry was too hard you basically squirt the cream all over the place making for a messy experience. If I was eating this over my kitchen sink or in the bath tub with my hands that would be fine but not in a bakery or cafe. 

Vanilla slice from the central Holbrook bakery Apple iPhone 6 with iPhone 6 Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 at 4mm and f/2.2, 1/30sec, ISO 40
Vanilla slice from the central Holbrook bakery Apple iPhone 6 with iPhone 6 Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 at 4mm and f/2.2, 1/30sec, ISO 40

Henri’s Wodonga Bakery

Henri’s is a big bakery in the Coles car park in Wodonga. There’s a lot of tables and chairs and a great selection of cakes. The pastry and custard in this vanilla slice was good. The icing though was too thick. Way too thick. I lifted it off when I couldn’t get my fork through it. I ate the icing separately. I really enjoyed the custard and the pastry but the icing was too sweet. 

Vanilla slice from Henri's bakery in Wodonga Apple iPhone 6 with iPhone 6 Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 at 4mm and f/2.2, 1/30sec, ISO 50
Vanilla slice from Henri’s bakery in Wodonga Apple iPhone 6 with iPhone 6 Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 at 4mm and f/2.2, 1/30sec, ISO 50

Hides Bakery Benalla

So this was the only passionfruit icing I came across on my trip. It was really nice and the flavour was subtle. The tang of the passionfruit was there and contrasted nicely with the sweetness of the soft and light icing. The custard though was a little too gelatinous. 

Passionfruit vanilla slice from Hides Bakery in Benalla Apple iPhone 6 with iPhone 6 Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 at 4mm and f/2.2, 1/30sec, ISO 40
Passionfruit vanilla slice from Hides Bakery in Benalla Apple iPhone 6 with iPhone 6 Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 at 4mm and f/2.2, 1/30sec, ISO 40

Kemp’s Bakery in Kilmore

Before I describe the vanilla slice let me say this is a really good bakery/cafe. The staff are friendly and helpful. The tables and chairs are great and not too close together. The best part of the bakery is the toilets. Best, cleanest well lit toilets I came across on this trip. I’d happily read a newspaper in the toilets in Kemp’s Bakery in Kilmore. Now the icing on this vanilla is this pink. Can it be too pink? Who knows! What I found odd was the strawberry flavour in the icing. The custard was set a little too high and was a bit gelatinous too. 

Vanilla slice from Kemp's Bakery in Kilmore Apple iPhone 6 with iPhone 6 Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 at 4mm and f/2.2, 1/120sec, ISO 32
Vanilla slice from Kemp’s Bakery in Kilmore Apple iPhone 6 with iPhone 6 Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2 at 4mm and f/2.2, 1/120sec, ISO 32

Beechworth Bakery in Beechworth

I didn’t have Beechworth in my original itinerary. That said, quite a few friends told me they thought the Beechworth vanilla slice was the best. One friend in particular who I know to be a connoisseur of vanilla slices thought Beechworth was the place to go. Given I was driving at a leisurely pace on this holiday, I took a detour from Wangaratta to Beechworth and then headed on to Holbrook. The Beechworth Bakery is impressive and if you check out yesterday’s post you’ll see why in the display case photograph I posted. This vanilla slice was certainly good. The custard wasn’t too high. The custard wasn’t too gelatinous. The pastry was softish. The icing though was thick. That said, the Beechworth Bakery Vanilla slice was probably the best of this trip and I’m glad I took some time out to visit. The better reason though to visit Beechworth Bakery is their beesting. OMG the best beesting ever. Custard in light sweet pastry. It was amazing. 

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Vanilla slice from Beechworth Bakery

 

So have these vanilla slices been better than my all time favourite of recent years? NO The vanilla slice from the Gumnut Patisserie at Bowral (or Mittagong or Moss Vale) still ranks as the best even though it does have pooncy white icing with chocolate swirls. 

Sunday morning tea. Vanilla slices from Gumnut Patisserie in Bowral. The best vanilla slice in the world I reckon. | SONY ILCE-7S with E 35mm F1.8 OSS at 35mm and f/4, 1/1000sec, ISO 100
Sunday morning tea. Vanilla slices from Gumnut Patisserie in Bowral. The best vanilla slice in the world I reckon. | SONY ILCE-7S with E 35mm F1.8 OSS at 35mm and f/4, 1/1000sec, ISO 100

The last word on my vanilla slice journey comes from my Mum. “Gary you know the only way you’re going to enjoy the perfect vanilla slice is if you practice and make it yourself”.
 

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I also want to mention that one of the enjoyable parts of my driving holiday wasn’t just listening to podcasts on Star Trek and photography, but the book The Crossroad by Mark Donaldson, VC. It’s an open account of what made the man. I’d recommend the book to anyone interested in defending human rights, being Australian and loving life.  

So no more bakeries for me (for a week or two anyway) Do you have a vanilla slice story you’d like to share? Please leave a comment.  

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32 Responses

  1. Great post, Gary! I think a roadtrip is made all the more fun (and delicious) by adding in little challenges like this.

    My mother adores vanila slice and a friend of hers used to make it for her birthday every year. Not too tall, good custard consistency, no icing. I might have to write to her friend for the recipe.

    1. Thank you Kate. That vanilla slice you describe sounds perfect. Please share the recipe if you get it. πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

  2. Braidwood and Goulburn have bakeries that I believe might be owned by the same family.
    Their vanilla slice is HEAVEN! Looks a bit like your pooncy one and the custard is creamy and amazing.
    I NEED one of these right now.

    1. Sounds like I need to do another road trip (when I return to my usual weight) πŸ™‚

      Thank you so much for the information.

  3. I have never had a vanilla slice before. These photos are making me want to try one so bad. Just not sure which bakery in Canberra has the best one!

  4. I don’t think that I’ve ever had a Vanilla Slice, but I grew up in Sydney and therefore must must have had a deprived childhood.
    However, I sense that passionfruit icing should be de rigueur, not this bright pink (strawberry!!!?) rubbish!
    Thanks for the dedicated research Gary.

    1. The Zouki cafe at The Canberra Hospital often has vanilla slice. Come visit πŸ™‚ Sadly usually no pink icing.

  5. This is my favourite post of yours Gary! I love vanilla slices and the perfect one is a balancing act with many elements. I once had nine of them together to form a pre sliced birthday cake. It was awesome πŸ™‚

    1. Wow Lorraine I’m touched. The idea of a vanilla slice birthday cake is perfect. I’m going to dream about that tonight I reckon πŸ™‚

  6. ‘Tis a brave man who goes on a five day road trip tasting vanilla slices before Christmas! The Henri’s custard looks great… and I like the look of the Gumnut, but my mouth is puckering at the sweetness of the icing just from the photo. Now the challenge of making a good one at home, Gary!

    PS left a comment because there’s no map on this post causing my page to freeze.

    1. Hello Liz
      Sorry about the map plug in freezing your page. I’m still trying to find a better one.
      Yes, I’m not a fan of an overly sweet icing top to anything really. I’m not sure when I’ll embark on the mission to make my own. I know it won’t be anytime soon, but you never know πŸ™‚

  7. No dramas… it happens on both computers, which are macs, hence I don’t tend to stay long enough to comment… you should try making vanilla slice at home… it’s amazing!

    1. One day I will Liz. Many years ago I did a lot of baking and sweet making. I’ll get back there eventually.

  8. This is a great post Garry! What fun! I’m in agreement with your Mum though, the only way to get it how you like it is to make it yourself! I’m keen to give it a go now that you’ve given this much detail.

    1. Thank you very much Susan. Yes, you’re right and so is Liz, I really should get into the kitchen and do this πŸ™‚

  9. Hi Gary, I totally agree when the pastry is too hard, its just not enjoyable. I laughed at your ‘kitchen sink’ comment. I can totally relate! Have you tried the ‘cheats’ version of the vanilla slice (aka snot block!), using Lattice biscuits top and bottom, and a vanilla pudding mix for the middle?

    1. Hi Kirsty
      Yes, I’ve enjoyed many a lattice biscuit version and even a SAO biscuit version.
      It’s only been living in Canberra that I’ve come across the term snot block. I’ve heard it’s a particularly Victorian thing to say, I’m just glad the Victorian country vanilla slices I enjoyed didn’t remind me of snot πŸ˜‰

  10. Found you through A Mommy’s View. Sitting here reading this before bed, you just made me incredibly hungry. Those pictures are mouth watering. Thanks for sharing this!

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