Shop 5A, 23-25 Burns Bay Rd, Lane Cove NSW
Looking up a local bakery to go for lunch, I had originally intended to go to The Pottery Green bakery at Lane Cove. Upon arriving, they didn’t have any vanilla slices, so I went for a walk and found The Cake Man instead. This is a place occupying both sides of an entire arcade between the pedestrian mall and the parking lot at Lane Cove, a locality in the northern suburbs of Sydney. They have a take-away cafe with a few dining tables, a separate fancy cake shop, a restaurant and wine bar, plus their actual bakery and kitchens at this location.
The sausage roll and vanilla slice were described exactly thus by little plaques in the display cabinet and pie warmer – although there was also a “caramelised mille feuille” which looked tempting. The server requested I took a seat at the tables outside, and the items were bought out to me on little plates with serviettes and cutlery.
My first reaction was to notice how burnt the sausage roll was. I almost called the server back to ask for another one, but I recalled that this was the last sausage roll on display and I’d be left without the product to review. The outer layer of the pastry was dark in colour, cracked down the entire length of the roll, and had turned into a tough outer shell, which resonated hollowly when tapped. The filling protruding from the end of the pastry was similarly parched – burnt to the point of being black crispy carbon in places. I wasn’t going to put that in my mouth burnt-end-first, so I cut the whole thing in half, resulting in a cascade of flaky dark pastry shards all over the place. Just millimeters inside the outer burnt layer, the pastry and filling were quite normal-looking. The filling was rather generous in fact. There’s not a huge meaty taste present, but it’s moist. A fair bit of breadcrumb/filler material has been used, reducing the “meat” to a smooth pale paste. It’s augmented with a variety of nice flavouring ingredients – this one seems to have green peppercorns and onion in the mix. It probably would have resulted in a nice sausage roll if it wasn’t for bitter burnt taste permeating the whole thing. I suspect it came out of the kitchen in good condition, but got burnt in the too-hot pie warmer.
Now onto the vanilla slice. It too was served on a small plate, and a serviette and a dainty cake fork was provided. The slice was generous in portion, and comprised of three thick layers of dark brown pastry, two thin custard layers, and powdered sugar on top. I was concerned that this too was burnt, but I think it was just the style of pastry used that goes a darker golden shade when baked. It’s evidently the more artisan type of vanilla slice where the pastry sheets are baked separately and the whole thing assembled after. Each layer was about 1cm thick, and made up of a dozen or more ply of delicately rolled pastry. The construction is more pastry than custard though, disappointingly. Sneaking a peek inside, the custard looks like it has been piped onto the pastry layers in neat parallel lines. The custard looks a bit gelatinous, and lacking vibrancy – just, well, dull and grey instead. Like the way an overcast day lacks sunshine. Now onto actually eating the vanilla slice! It squishes when I bite it, and flaky pastry bits get smooshed into the custard as I take a bite. The custard tastes fresh and a bit lemony, not overly sweet. I devour the whole thing quickly.
Sausage Roll: 2/10
Vanilla Slice: 6/10