The Prolific Oven, Santa Clara, California

3938 Rivermark Plaza, Santa Clara, California, USA

I was on a business trip to Santa Clara in California, to attend meetings at the Intel headquarters there. On the day I arrived, I checked into my hotel, and then went for a walk to find the nearest cluster of shops. This turned out to be Rivermark Village, a new looking outdoor shopping mall in the Californian style, with a bunch of shops surrounded by an expansive area of asphalt dedicated to parking the hundreds of cars that Americans use to get everywhere. I wasn’t particularly intending to get anything to eat, but I passed a bakery called The Prolific Oven, and popped my nose in for a quick peek to see what sort of things they had.

The Prolific Oven

Perusing the cakes and pastries, my eyes were stopped and riveted by what was obviously a vanilla slice, but with a bright red topping! It had the traditional wavy lines of white icing, but decorating a translucent and visually appealing red glaze. There was only one left in the counter, sitting on a large tray with a fresh raspberry next to it. I deduced that this must be a raspberry vanilla slice. I had to have it!

Vanilla slice, The Prolific Oven

I asked for the “raspberry slice”, and the server called it a “raspberry Napoleon”. I took it on a plate to a table inside the bakery/cafe, and grabbed a fork from the cutlery bench beside the counter. Examining it, it looked pretty much like a regular vanilla slice, only with this astonishing and surprising red glaze on top. It had three pastry layers, separated by two layers of custard. The pastry looked golden brown, thick, and nicely flaky. The custard was a very pale yellow, and appeared to be quite smooth. Some had oozed and obviously been pulled out by the knife as the slice was cut from a larger slab.

Being in a foreign country, I was a bit self-conscious about picking the slice up to tackle by hand, and it looked potentially quite messy, so I opted to attack it with the fork, at least at first. This was trickier than expected, as the pastry was firm and crunchy, and took some hammering with the points of the fork to break through, which forced a lot of the soft custard to ooze out of the sides. Eventually I broke off a piece and the true test began.

Vanilla slice, The Prolific Oven

The pastry is good and crunchy, with layered flakes, but the layers are a little thicker and biscuitier than I’m used too. The custard has a good, thick texture, with some hand made consistency variation that I like to see, but flavour wise it’s rather bland, with no real shot of vanilla. But that’s not entirely bad in this case as the jam-like raspberry topping adds a very different flavour profile, which compliments the custard and pastry nicely. The topping indeed tastes like, and has the sticky consistency of, raspberry jam when sampled alone. After eating about half of the slice, I finally pick up the remainder to eat in the more traditional manner. It’s a bit messy, but kept under control by judicious licking and slupring of oozing custard as the rest of the slice is consumed.

It’s an interesting variation, and not at all bad. This wins points for a nice crispy and flaky pastry and for originality with what turns out to be a surprisingly complimentary topping choice. But it loses a few points for lack of any vanilla which might have really lifted it to something special. It’s really quite good, but could have been so much more.

“Raspberry Napoleon”: 8/10

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