Pastry layering, or lamination, and its resulting delicate crunch, is critical to competition success, as is the consistency of the custard and the balance of its vanilla flavour. “Some people go over the top with the vanilla,” chief judge Corey Howard of sponsor EOI Peerless Foods says.
The third element is the fondant, or icing. It must be even, shiny and smooth. There are extra points for overall mouthfeel, too.
‘We’ve had flavours including pina colada, pumpkin, beetroot, peppermint, mocha and cherry ripe.’
“There’s been a step up in quality,” Corey says. “The innovation section is becoming popular. We’ve had flavours including pina colada, pumpkin, beetroot, peppermint, mocha and cherry ripe.”
The Vanilla Slice Triumph began in Ouyen in 1998 after then Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett declared a local vanilla slice the best he had tasted. Merbein held the event from 2012 and Mildura took it over last year. Jeff Kennett has been named event patron for 2018.
The competition attracts more than 50 entries in three categories: professional, apprentice and innovative. This year there are new amateur categories.
‘There’s a huge commercial benefit to winning, our sales increased to four times what they were.’
Recipes are closely guarded. Hudaks Bakery in Mildura took out last year’s professional prize. Melissa Hudak says only her husband, baker Michael Hudak, and pastry chef, Rebecca Whitney, know theirs. “Bec has been with our family bakery for 18 years. If she told the secret we’d have to do something terrible to her,” Melissa says.
But a good recipe is no guarantee. Hudaks was runner-up twice before taking out the competition in 2013. “But then we couldn’t do it for the next three years,” Melissa says.