Next Up: Vanilla Slices

Vanilla slices are to Australia what chocolate chip cookies are to America, or at least that’s what I read on a promotional website sponsored by Pepperidge Farm. They’re less appealingly called “snot blocks” down under, but to me they look a lot like Napoleons (mille feuille), just with a very, VERY thick layer of pastry cream in the middle. My temptation is to make them with home-made everything, though it seems like store bought puff pastry and custard powder are part and parcel of the whole vanilla slice zeitgeist. I could be wrong, perhaps there’s an Australian reader out there who would care to speak on behalf your entire country on this issue?

I should say that other than laying out a project I shan’t be blogging as it’s Memorial Day, which means I’ll be remembering all the men and women who have given their lives for our country so unselfishly. At various points it’s almost certain that I’ll also be doing a little laying around, reading various essays. Later of course I’ll cooking out on he the grill. A note to those who have yet to purchase their grillables: the secret to fabulous burgers is to buy the beef that’s ground right there in the butcher shop or supermarket. Called “store trim”, it is as the name implies the trimmings of the various steaks and roasts that are cut and packed during the week. This meat is always more tender and flavorful than the pre-packed stuff, and contains enough fat to guarantee a juicy eating experience. So now you know.

25 thoughts on “Next Up: Vanilla Slices”

    1. I just came here to post the same link! Although the Denheath are very delicious they aren’t quite typical.
      NZers call them custard squares or custard slices, Aussies call them vanilla slices. Same thing though. Although, I see someone further down mentioned passionfruit icing, most commonly in NZ you see white (lemon) icing, or sometimes even chocolate icing.

    1. But that formula IS pastry cream, James, maybe just by another name. Thanks very much for the link! I shall study it.


      – Joe

      1. As an Aussie (dare I speak out on behalf of an entire country?) it’s meant to be hardier than pastry cream. Something that will stand up to being unrefrigerated in a lunchbox and still maintain its shape and solidity. The traditional “vanilla slice” in my experience isn’t meant to be refined or swanky. Go with the off the shelf products. This isn’t high quality French bakery stuff (comparison to the mille feuille is valid) – this is the greasy budget takeaway on the corner version. It’s not terrible, not at all, just unrefined.

        Also, dusting with icing sugar is fine, but personally it’s not a proper vanilla slice if it doesn’t have passionfruit icing.

        1. Is this, perhaps, more like the “custard” layer of a Nanaimo bar?

          Not familiar with Vanilla Slices but your description called NBs to mind.

  1. The pastry cream/custard in a vanilla slice tends to be much more firm than a standard pastry cream, perhaps with a consistency more like jello than whipped cream.
    Like most iconic pastries these days, the traditional Aussie vanilla slice you get from the local bakery with sticky passionfruit icing has been done by all the top pastry chefs in every different way, shape, and form conceivable.
    At its simplest, a vanilla slice is two bits of puff pastry sandwiching a thick, set vanilla custard, topped with a glaze/icing that is often passionfruit flavoured.

  2. Hiya! I’m not sure I can speak for the all Aussies, but I’ll share my two cents. Vanilla slice isn’t exactly like chocolate chip cookies for us. They’re not really the kind of thing that people regularly make at home. They’re more of a bakery treat. Something you might get from the shops on the way home from school. So I’d say that the standard bakery slice would have freshly made pastry (do you call it homemade, if it’s bakery made?) but that the filling would be a pastry cream/custard powder hybrid. Also, they often have a passionfruit icing on the top – complete with crunchy black seeds. They’re delicious. Can’t wait to see yours Joe!

  3. I LOVE vanilla slices. Never make one in my life but sampled plenty. The texture of the middle is never soft nor creamy, not too firm but with a slight wobble. I can’t wait to see your version.

    1. Actually, the first thing I thought about reading the description of vanilla slice, was “kremna rezina” from Slovenia
      It’s known in Latvia too, but is with much less filling than the Slovenian/Croatian/Serbian/whatever original. Probably this is one of many desserts originated in Austro-Hungarian Empire and then spread through the world together with emigrants?

  4. As soon I read you were going to make vanilla slices/custard squares I knew the comments from the antipodes would be great reading . From across the ditch (Tasman Sea between Aust. And NZ ) we always called them custard squares – and I concur with the comments above – I don’t think they were ever meant to be a mille feuille but certainly a treat from the local bakery.
    As they took on a more sophisticated form – like so many OLS fashioned baked items have – they started to be called vanilla slices and became rectangular in shape.
    A fond memory of vanilla slices is from when my mother was in frail decline in a nursing home , it was one thing she loved and would request from a particular bakery – it was no trouble to drive across town to buy a couple and take to her and enjoy for a Sunday afternoon tea.
    Looking forward to the photos 🙂

  5. Ah, Joe. You’re finally speaking my language 🙂

    These are a wonderful, wonderful thing. Also known as ‘snot-blocks’. There’s so many variations! I personally go for the style of recipe that Dan has posted above, a firm custard centred between two sheets of puff pastry… mille feuille, you say? That sounds like a crazy foreign thing, we can’t be having *that* over here!

    My mother makes an absolutely horrific version, with a product called ‘instant pudding’ comprising the majority of the custard layer. It’s unpleasant, but I haven’t the heart to tell her.

    I prefer a nice vivid pink icing, sickly sweet with about a cup of fake, who knows what, food colouring in it. But I’ve seen people who prefer passionfruit, with the seeds, as previously mentioned. Can’t understand it, I hate the seeds of passionfruit.

    Another variation is to use lattice biscuits (as seen in this recipe: – don’t go near that filling though) instead of the pastry layers.

    I think the pinnacle of the vanilla slice world is the two-tone custard, one vanilla, one chocolate custard: no fancy swirling, just spoonfuls of it blobbed down, ‘rustic’ style. But absolutely to die for. I do have a bias towards things with chocolate in though… you may have noticed 😉

    I was just thinking the other day about these, we must be on some sort of cosmic wavelength together. Can’t wait to bake your recipe 🙂


    1. Me neither, CFDU! Very interesting advice here. I’ll do my best!


      – Joe

  6. what about making a side-by-side comparison? make one batch with store-bought frozen puff pastry, another with home-made.

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