Like most baked goods, the best vanilla slices are homemade. I grew up eating French vanilla slices made by my Mum’s godfather, and while I’ve yet to taste a version that’s better, a good bakery or patisserie vanilla slice can come pretty close.
We put out the call out for Canberra’s best vanilla slice last week, and those from Dobinsons Bakery Café, Fox and Bow and Flute Bakery each received several nominations, as did those from bakeries all over Canberra and the surrounding region.
Few votes separated the top three nominations, La Sable Patisserie in Mitchell, Café D’Lish in Deakin and Erindale Cakery Bakery, so on Friday morning I recruited some willing friends and family to sample all three.
First up was La Sable Patisserie on Lysaght Street in Mitchell. La Sable has only been open for a few months now, but I’d heard good things about the food and was looking forward to my first visit. Its vanilla slice ($5.50) had three layers of crisp and delicate caramel-coloured pastry, and a higher pastry to custard and icing ratio than your average bakery equivalent.
As a patisserie, it’s not really surprising that La Sable’s vanilla slice displayed the most technical skill out of all three options. Very good pastry, very good vanilla custard. If this was a Masterchef taste off, Gary and George would have rated this one highly.
After La Sable, I headed to Café D’Lish and ordered the first vanilla slice out of the kitchen that morning for $4.50. This long, rectangle-shaped vanilla slice had two custard layers and one cream layer, and was made with very flaky pastry that we decided was probably filo.
It took every ounce of self control not to eat the whole thing before dividing among my taste testers, and I can understand why people rave about it.
The vanilla slices seem to get cheaper the further south you go, and the classic, passion fruit-iced version at Erindale Cakery Bakery was just $3.80. This one was like a really good version of the vanilla slice you used to buy for morning tea at school, with light pastry that was substantial enough to hold a block of thick (but not gelatinous) and creamy custard. I usually prefer French vanilla slice because I find icing too sweet and overpowering, but this one was subtle. This one was my favourite of the three.
Though all three nominations were strong (Canberrans know a good vanilla slice when they taste one), my taste testers agreed on one winner. My vote for Erindale Cakery Bakery was outnumbered four to one… Cafe D’Lish wins Canberra’s best vanilla slice taste off!