37 Murray Street, Angaston, South Australia
This is really a cafe doing breakfasts and light meals throughout the day, not a bakery. However they had a very interesting looking vanilla slice sitting in the cake counter, so I took the plunge and added one to my breakfast order of muesli with fruit and milk.
I was attracted by the different appearance. This slice had three layers of pastry, with custard filling the gap between the lower two, and an equally thick layer of what looked like whipped cream or buttercream between the upper two. The whole was topped with a thick glossy layer of light brown icing decorated with white and darker brown diagonal lines.
Picking up the slice was relatively easy as it held together well, but my fingers sank into the top layer of icing like a gumboot sinking into particularly deep and sticky mud. On taking a bite, the pastry gave way readily, leaving the custard intact, but squeezing the softer cream layer out the sides considerably. The cream layer provided little friction, and the top iced pastry layer slid around a fair bit, following the motion of my fingers which were stuck in the muddy icing.
The flavour was dominated by sweetness from the icing and the cream layer. The cream was a light brown colour and strongly flavoured with what I later determined to be coffee, though any bitterness was effectively masked by the huge amount of sugar. Not being a coffee drinker at all, I actually had trouble recognising the flavour, thinking it might have been hazelnut, until I asked the staff and they confirmed it was coffee. At any rate, this sweet coffee flavour totally dominated, overpowering any subtle vanilla hints that may have been in the custard layer. Halfway through I simply slid the upper cream and icing layers off and discarded them, to leave me with a single custard layer sandwich.
Once I could concentrate on the custard, it performed reasonably well. It was pale straw yellow in colour, and had the very slight textural inconsistency that indicates it was hand made. The flavour was subtle and not too sweet, which would have been great if it hadn’t been matched with the unfortunate upper layers. The pastry however was a let down, as each layer was a rather soggy, cardboardy, and limp affair that did nothing but provide a border for the custard and cream layers. There was very little evidence of flakiness or crispness.
Overall this was disappointing in the extreme, and virtually not like a vanilla slice at all, as any vanilla taste was completely lost. The custard was the high point, but could not save this from a dreadful score.
[In full disclosure, the slice was actually labelled in the display counter as “continental vanilla slice” – a descriptive distinction which I paid no heed to until after leaving the cafe and researching on the Internet. It turns out that a “continental slice” is a known thing in South Australia, being specifically a coffee flavoured slice. I suppose on those terms this might have been okay (had I been a fan of such a thing), but your humble vanilla slice reviewer was completely taken in by this cruel deception at the time and my review stands on the principle that it was honestly thought to be a “vanilla slice” at the time.]
Vanilla slice: 2/10