My Mum is one of the most thoughtful and kind humans I know, and one of my favourite people to bake for. She has a sweet tooth (it must be genetic) so I love making desserts for her. She is always sending me links to recipes I might like to try. One of her favourite desserts ever is the Vanilla Slice and I realised it has been quite a few years since I indulged her. She still remembered the passionfruit version I made her… in 2012!
If you aren’t familiar, a Vanilla Slice is a famous Australian bakery dessert. It’s our Australian version of the mille feuille. I love when one food concept has so many different versions from all around the world, from France, the Philippines, Greece and South America (umm the dulce de leche sounds like an amazing addition).
You can get a Vanilla Slice at almost every bakery here, but most of the time they aren’t my bag of tea. They are often solid as a brick with stodgy custard and a too-sweet glaze. I don’t even want to tell you the affectionate but gross nicknames that some Aussies have for this dessert! A fresh, homemade one is a true thing of beauty.
Originally, I had wanted to make it as a recipe coming up to Mother’s Day, but I wasn’t going to be seeing my Mum until the day itself. I wanted to actually make it for her, and she was sooo happy when she saw it. Her reaction really warmed my heart and re-affirmed why I love baking so much. I absolutely love making people happy with homemade treats.
I made a bright and vibrant pomegranate glaze to go on top. It looks super pretty and has only two ingredients – just the juice (squeezed out of the pomegranate seeds in a sieve) and icing sugar. If you can’t tell, I’ve been really into pomegranates lately. In my last post I used them in a savoury recipe that turned out beautifully.
Pomegranates are in season right now and just gorgeous. I’ve been using them in salads and on top of smoothie bowls. They remind me of my Nanna, who still has a healthy pomegranate tree in her backyard. As kids, we spent countless afternoons picking out the arils one by one. It kept us entertained for hours. Nanna is also one of my earliest influences for cooking and baking. I remember spending a lot of time in the kitchen with her as a kid, when I wasn’t having a piano lesson, but that’s a story for another day!
I decided to stick very closely to Donna Hay’s recipe. The flavour of the custard was out-of-this-world good. Imagine vanilla bean flecked custard encased in a lovely flaky puff pastry. In the recipe notes, they didn’t recommend using thickened cream, which is all I had on hand this time. They recommended a single pouring cream that didn’t contain gelatine, so I will try this next time. The texture of mine was just set which I much preferred to most of the thick and solid set bakery versions I’ve had in the past.
So this dessert is my belated Mother’s Day tribute to my gorgeous Mum and Nanna. Two amazing women that I have been so blessed to be raised by and learn from all my life. It was such a pleasure to make it and for Mum to be so happy when she saw it. Making this felt like a walk down baking memory lane. It had been so long since I had made a vanilla slice, or a custard at all. It reminded me of how my love of baking started and developed in those early years of blogging and how much I still love to bake for the people I love.
Related Post: Mulled Wine Glazed Doughnuts
Vanilla Slice with Pomegranate Glaze
A delicious and vibrant take on an Aussie bakery classic – the Vanilla Slice. I served mine with a bright pomegranate glaze.
- 2 sheets puff pastry, thawed
- 1½ cups full cream milk
- 1½ cups cream *see note
- 60 g unsalted butter, chopped
- 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
- ⅔ cup caster sugar
- ⅓ cup cornflour
- ½ cup water
- 6 egg yolks
- 1/4 cup pomegranate arils
- 1 cup icing sugar
- Extra pomegranate, to serve
Preheat oven to 180ºC (350ºF). Place the pastry sheets on baking trays lined with non-stick baking paper. Top each pastry sheet with non-stick baking paper and place an additional baking tray on each pastry sheet as a weight. Bake for 20–25 minutes or until golden and puffed. Cool completely and then trim to size using a serrated knife. I used a 22cm-square cake tin.
To make the custard, place the milk, cream, butter, vanilla bean paste and sugar into a medium saucepan and cook until just coming to the boil. Remove from the heat.
Combine the cornflour and water and whisk into the hot milk mixture with the egg yolks. Return to the heat, whisking, and bring to the boil. Cook, whisking, until thickened (1-2 minutes).
Place 1 pastry sheet in the base of a lightly greased 22cm-square cake tin lined with non-stick baking paper. Ensure you have enough baking paper hanging over the sides of the tin so you can lift the slice from the tin after it has chilled.
Top with the custard and the remaining pastry sheet and press down gently. Refrigerate for 3–4 hours or overnight, until set.
To make the glaze, put the pomegranate into a sieve over a small bowl. Press down on the seeds to release the juice. Sift in the icing sugar and stir until fully combined. Add more icing sugar if you want a thicker glaze.
Pour the glaze over the vanilla slice, top with extra pomegranate and return to the fridge for 20-30 minutes or until set. Cut the vanilla slice with a serrated knife. You could also cut the slice first and then glaze if you prefer.
This recipe is adapted from Donna Hay. Her version said to use a single (pouring) cream which doesn’t have any additives such as gelatine. I used thickened cream and this slice was set but not a ‘hard’ set custard.