Cakexpedition in South Yarra!

So about a month ago, my friend R and I got into this conversation about CAKE, and more particularly, the proliferation of cake shops in the Toorak / Punt Road area of South Yarra.  R is a huge fan of Burch and Purchese, and always buys Zumbarons when she is in Sydney.  I have become very attached to LuxBite (the shop from which this cake originated), oddly enough for their brunches as much as for their cakes, and also to the Tivoli Road Bakery.  And, when randomly Googling ‘cake shops South Yarra’ a few weeks earlier (everyone needs a hobby), I had run across a very appealing-looking macaron shop called A La Folie.

This suggested a fact-finding mission to discover the best cakes in South Yarra.  And possibly just how much cake two people could eat in one day.

Today was the day.

(This will be the first of at least two posts, because on the one hand, I’m really excited – and also a bit sugared-up – and want to write about all this RIGHT NOW, but on the other hand, in addition to eating Far Too Much Cake, I also bought a number of goodies to bring home which I want to review – and I have definitely exceeded my sugar requirements for one day, so investigating them all tonight, or even this weekend, is not an option.)

We began our morning with brunch at LuxBite. No wise explorer of all things sugar wants to start a cakexpedition without proper fortification, after all.  Fortunately, LuxBite, despite their motto ‘Life is uncertain – eat dessert first’, also provides satisfying and savoury brunches for $12 – $15 that fill you up nicely while leaving plenty of room for the all-important cake. A very shrewd move, I have to say, and one I definitely appreciate.

I ordered the lamb sausages which come with 60/60 eggs (very Mastercheffy, but actually worth it in this instance), really good toast, a home-made chutney and a bit of feta and avocado and microherby randomness that really is mostly a garnish for the eggs and sausages.  It was gorgeous.  It’s difficult to describe what makes this dish so amazing – but for me the gooiness of the eggs, the beautiful chewy crunch of the toast, and the richness of the sausages and chutney are all just fabulous and perfectly complement each other.

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R had the steamed sticky rice with ginger marinated chicken, shiitake mushroom, and salad, which made her very happy indeed.  Incidentally, the breakfast and brunch menu, while brief, does have several appealing vegetarian and gluten-free options, though the vegans are pretty much out of luck, and the cakes all mention whether they have nuts or gluten in them.  So it’s not a bad choice, allergy-wise, for a nice lunch out.

We then moved on to our first cakes of the day – I tried a new special, which I keep on wanting to call the Apple of the Hesperides, but was actually called something else appley, and R had the Meringue Monster, which is filled with watermelon and sour strawberry mousse, with a pistachio base.

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My magic apple had a white chocolate and chamomile mousse (the chamomile was very mild indeed), a plain cakey layer, and a core made of apples stewed with a very sharp ginger sauce.  It was lovely and very nearly not too rich for breakfast.  Definitely a good cake.

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The meringue monster was light and refreshing – also a good starting choice (neither R nor I are foolish enough to make the rookie mistake of dense chocolate so early in a cakexpedition).

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We then went for a wander down Toorak Rd, where R persuaded me to give Adriano Zumbo’s a try.  I actually visited Zumbo’s before Easter and was bitterly disappointed by the cakes – they all look absolutely beautiful, but the one I tried was kind of ordinary, and whenever I took a bite of something that tasted particularly wonderful, it would turn out to be an actual fresh strawberry.  But on the other hand, the Easter rabbit-soldiers I bought at the same time were exuberant and crazy and full of popping candy and freeze dried fruit, so I was willing to give the confectionery another go.  And I’ve never tried a Zumbaron (a Zumbo macaron – his term, not mine), so this seemed necessary, even though the flavours were far less weird than I’d hoped!

Since breakfast was a very recent memory, we opted to simply ogle the cakes, and then get some Zumbarons to take away for later.  On principle, I chose the silliest flavours I could – caramel on toast, malted milkshake (mostly because it was blue), finger bun (made from real fingers) (no, probably not), trifle, berry brulée, and chocolate brownie.  I have high hopes.  Especially of the caramel on toast.

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Our next stop was Burch & Purchese, a new shop to me.  I have to say, it’s something of a wonderland and I over-reacted accordingly.  The shelves are full of the most amazing-looking chocolate lollipops, giant meringues and marshmallows, chocolate slabs laced with things like freeze-dried blackberries or caramel popcorn, giant gourmet Wagon Wheel biscuits, fascinating toppings for ice-cream or tarts, and piles of the Purchese cookbook, which I narrowly escaped buying.

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I didn’t escape buying much else, though.

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In the glass cases were beautiful, elaborate cakes of both small and large sizes – very difficult to select from.  We eventually promised ourselves that we would come back later for take-away cakes, and selected a raspberry, champagne, lemon curd and peach THING in a cup for me, and a lamington éclair for R.

My raspberry and champagne thing turned out to be exceptionally rich, but very full of flavour, and also fairly alcoholic, which might explain why I was so overwhelmingly full of enthusiasm about everything for the next three hours (though R did tell the woman at the Tivoli bakery that this wasn’t a sugar high, I’m actually like this all the time, so it’s possible that I don’t get to blame the champagne after all).  To be fair, there was *much* to be enthusiastic about.

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R was a bit disappointed by the lamington éclair, which was apparently the first thing she has ever had there that wasn’t phenomenal.  Maybe just a bad day?

I’d definitely go back to B&P, as there are more cakes I’d like to try and some really interesting flavour combinations, but so far, I still slightly prefer Luxbite for cakes.  Having said that, though, the B&P confectionery section really is to die for.  I see myself spending far too much at their online store in the future.

We weren’t all that sure that we needed any more cake after that, but A La Folie was just up the road, and we had promised ourselves a look at their macarons, at the very least.  To take away.  Because we seriously did not need any more cake, possibly ever.

Not even these ones?

Not even these ones?

Oh, but the macarons were so pretty!  And just the sort of flavours I prefer – lots of light, fruity goodness.  I bought rose, raspberry, blueberry, passionfruit, green tea with red currant, and praline with lemon, and also fairy floss, orange and chocolate, plain chocolate, and salted caramel.  I am very, very excited about these macarons.

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And of course, once we had bought the macarons, we were seduced by the gorgeous French accents of the two patissiers into trying the petits choux.

Oh, my.

They look so plain and homely but WOW.

They look so plain and homely, but they may possibly be the most delicious things I’ve ever put in my mouth.  So, so, so good!

I don’t even like crème patissière all that much, but these were *amazing*.  Easily the best thing we tried all day.  The chou pastry was unlike any chou pastry I’ve tried before – softer and darker and more cracked (I wonder if they use brown sugar in it?), but it did have enough crispness to enfold and contain the fillings, which were smooth and just bursting with flavour – I tried a passionfruit mango one, that was zingy and refreshing, and a chocolate one that was rich and deeply flavoured.  R tried the passionfruit, and also the raspberry, which she immediately tried to get me to buy, too.

So then, obviously, we had to buy some petits choux to take home, only we got distracted by the Gateaux Saint Honorés (aargh, which end of that do I pluralise? Both?  What language am I going with, here?) which had petits choux on top, and were clearly a Sign From Heaven that we had to take those home for dessert.  And you can’t argue with a sign from heaven.

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I made a point of thanking both the patissiers in French, and saying how amazing I found their food and how it was the best thing we had tried in our entire cake-obsessed day, which was absolutely true and seemed to make them very happy, and we generally bonded over the fact that it is *so nice* when people are enthusiastic about your food (oh, it is!  Also, I’m actually *quite good* at being enthusiastic about food, which is nice for everyone concerned, don’t you think?), as making people happy when they eat is basically the whole point of cooking.

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(and yes, it’s possible that I was showing off my French a tiny bit, because I am a great big show-off and I have a terrible, shameful love of French accents and thus feel the need to show off, which probably says terrible things about my psychology in general, BUT IT WAS FUN, and no grammar was harmed in the making of this conversation, which is what counts.)

I will definitely be going back there.  Every chance I get.  And it really isn’t for the French accents.  Or, not very much, anyway.  After all, I can listen to pretty French accents at work, too.  (The combination of French accents and glorious patisserie, however, really is irresistible…)

By this point, we realised that the Tivoli Road Bakery would be almost ready to close for the day, and doughnuts were not strictly speaking among the things we needed at that point, but we strolled down to check it out anyway, both because we really needed a bit of a stroll at that point, and because R needed to know where the Tivoli Road Bakery was for future doughnut purposes.  The bakery was, indeed, just about to close, and entirely out of doughnuts, which was almost certainly a good thing, so we ended our afternoon of frivolity by buying nice, sensible loaves of bread to take home for dinner.

Because we are sensible.  Yes.

And home on the tram, which conveniently goes right past all the cake shops and then back to Moreland Road, for a sensible dinner and an evening of letter writing (bad) and overseas trip planning (good).

And so to bed.  Though not quite yet.  I have writing to do, vegetables and cheese on toast to make, and above all, dessert to revel in.  Because poor Andrew doesn’t get to try any of the stuff I brought home until I do…

It’s a tough life, being married to a food blogger.

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