When I started my blog I thought I was going to write a lot more about cakes and pastries because I’m always trying new ones out and reviewing them in my mind. The problem has been that I quite often wolf the cake or pastry down before taking a photo! And a review of a cake is no review at all if it doesn’t have a photo.
So my first cake review in a year is the magnificent Opera Cake that I purchased from Sweet Infinity in the Strand Arcade, Sydney. It’s a cute little shop that fits in with the look and feel of the surrounding old-fashioned shops of the Strand Arcade. I stood outside for a while to see who was going in, who was just looking in the window and who just didn’t care. My completely non-scientific assessment is this: Lots of women passing by look in the window while almost no men do and men only enter the shop when accompanied by a woman (except me). What does this mean? I don’t really know, but I reckon it’d probably have something do with most men viewing food as fuel whereas many women view it differently. Good on me for the massive generalisations!
OK, the cake. An Opera Cake is essentially a layered cake containing almond sponge, ganache and cream topped with a chocolate glaze. The Sweet Infinity opera cake has all of these elements: a couple of sponge, a couple of ganache and a couple of cream layers with a spinkling of cocoa on top.
Firstly, the cake was NOT overly sweet. I really hate sweet desserts as they take away the subtlety of any flavours. And this cake tasted chocolatey, very slight nutty and a maybe even a hint of…something else. On top of these fantastic flavours was a fantastic texture which was delivered through the fudgy ganache, quite stiff cream and soft sponge. Eaten all together, the mind is just racing with flavours and textures and it’s just about enough to send you over the edge.
Anyway, without getting too scientific and too foodie-like, I can summarise by saying it gets a big thumbs up. I will be returning to try other tasty treats in the future!
As I’ve stated previously, I love cakes but I rarely eat one at a cafe that I can rave about. Continuing my quest for cafe cake and pastry perfection, I headed to Three Bags Full in Abbotsford, a few kilometres from the centre of Melbourne. On offer was a Raspberry, White Chocolate and Coconut cake. Exactly the sort of cake that promises the world because of the mouth-watering possibilities of the flavours, but then so often disappoints due to flavour imbalance!
This cake was moist. This cake was pleasantly chewy because of the coconut! (as well as a subtle tropical flavour that only coconut can give). This cake was also slightly tart on account of the raspberries which also provided the odd pop of sweetness.
OK, so the part of this flavour combination that almost always fails is the white chocolate component. The main reason being is that people often try and make the white chocolate the dominant flavour like one might do in a normal chocolate cake. But really, white chocolate is usually so sweet and so sickly that it ruins your palate after one mouthful. So it was with great trepidation that I took my first bite of this Three Bags Full cake… The white chocolate was only slightly there! Great! It was actually just enough for me to realise that it was contained within, so it just sort of buzzed along in the background without jumping out and becoming a nuisance. It did its job just nicely.
The star of the show for this cake is the raspberry flavour – playing a decent second fiddle is the coconut texture. An all round satisfying cake that I’d be happy to go for again.
Three Bags Full is on Nicholson St, just up the road from Viet restaurant central, Victoria St Richmond.
OK, so for my first Melbourne Cake/Pastry review, I failed to note down the details of what exactly I was eating such was my desperation to get stuck in. Nevertheless, I do suspect I was eating a rugelach despite its non-traditonal appearance. A rugelach is a Jewish pastry that is usually rolled into a crescent shape and is filled with such items as walnuts, raisins and cinnamon – like a cinnamon scroll in many ways.
My own strict rules for reviewing pastries was to only review those that were made in-house at a particular establishment. Perhaps this was a silly rule as my primary motivation for going to a cafe is for its coffee and accordingly cakes and pastries are usually secondary items on the menu. So what this means is that many top cafes buy in their cakes from boutique wholesalers – this was the case at Market Lane in Prahran. And these boutique bakers still do a sensational job despite them not always being a retailer. I guess my initial fear of bought-in cakes was that they would be of the mass-produced one-dimensional kind. My suspicion is that Market Lane purchase their rugelach from Little Bertha in Richmond.
First of all, the rugelach was delicious. As I’ve said before, I like my cakes to not be overly sweet and my rugelach managed to give a good account of itself on this front. The walnuts gave a solid, crunchy texture, the dried fruit some chewiness and the pastry a nice amount of crumble. It was cinnamonny (?), nutty and ever so slightly cakey. A perfect accompaniment to the TOP coffee at Market Lane. Yes, I do love a good cake/pastry and this one lived up to expectations.
I’ve been told that cakes and pastries from Little Bertha can be found at some of the best cafes in and around Melbourne and I will surely be seeking out more of these delectable morsels over the coming months.
I love cakes and pastries. I really, really love them. They bring me so much joy when I munch on those little morsels – chocolate melting, almond meal crumbling, pastry fading away on the tongue to nothing… So from this day forth, I think I will try to review a cake or pastry once every fortnight and perhaps get a sense of whether there really is a BEST baked good. For me, I think the important aspects need to be:
Not too big – A large cake or pastry ruins itself. It just goes on and on and on and doesn’t know when to stop. It’s like getting a great masseuse who finds a knot in your shoulder, but then continues to kneed it for 10 minutes when 3 would have been ample.
Not too sweet – Really sweet cakes and pastries don’t do it for me unless they are absolutely minuscule. I quickly find them cloying and no longer satisfying! Add some sweetened herbaceous flavours and I’m anyone’s.
Something away from the norm – Unless something is made spectacularly in its traditional form (like an unbeatable croissant), I look for something a little different from the norm. So none of this bulk-buying from a central factory business that so many cafes lazily do – that just doesn’t cut it because the lowest common denominator is catered for. I want something with a twist to allow me to pause for thought and appreciate this new sensation.
So, given I’m living in Melbourne at the moment, are there any suggestions as to where I might find some nice cakes and pastries to try out?