Vanilla Slice Recipe (Downtown Version)

So alright, after a lot of fiddling I have a formula for the simple, day-to-day, down n’ dirty, semi-homemade, express version of the vanilla slice. It’s taken me three tries since there’s no American equivalent for Australian custard powder (who knew?). But this is should approximate the real deal as defined by several readers and a recent visiting Kiwi (note to non-experts, they call vanilla slices “custard squares” in New Zealand). Anyway, here’s what you need:

1 package store-bought puff pastry
2 boxes JELL-O vanilla pudding/pie filling (4.6-ounces each)
5 cups milk
1 ounce (1/4 cup) cornstarch (alternately two well-beaten whole eggs)
1/2 recipe simple icing made with passion fruit purée instead of water

Procure an 8″ (8 inch) square cake layer pan (one with a removable bottom is ideal). Line it with baking parchment. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Roll out the puff pastry to a layer 1/8 inch thick or less, into a sheet measuring roughly 20″ x 10″. Cut it into two pieces roughly 10″ x 10″ (precision is not necessary at this point). Place the sheets on separate baking sheets and poke holes all over them with a fork to prevent much rising. Lay another sheet pan on top of each. Bake the dough sheets about 20 minutes. Remove the top pans and bake another 8-15 minutes until the pastry pieces are golden brown. When the pastry is cool, trim the pieces to 8″ square (the original pieces will have shrunk up some in the oven). Place one square in the bottom of the cake pan.

Next, prepare the filling. In a small bowl combine the cornstarch with about 1/4 cup of the cold milk. Or, for a smoother, more custard-like texture, beat two whole eggs well in a small bowl. Pour the milk into a medium saucepan. Whisk in the cornstarch mixture (or eggs) followed by the JELL-O mix. Whisk over medium-high heat until the filling mixture comes to a boil. Set the pudding mixture aside for 5-10 minutes to allow it to cool and thicken. Pour the filling into the layer pan. Allow the filling to sit in the pan a further 20 minutes to cool a bit more, then top with the second sheet of puff pastry. Cool the pan for an hour at room temperature, then place it in the refrigerator to chill, about another 2-3 hours.

When the pan is fully chilled, mix together the passion fruit purée and the powdered sugar. Spread the icing thinly on the top of the pastry sheet and let it set up a further 10-15 minutes. Slice and serve!

6 thoughts on “Vanilla Slice Recipe (Downtown Version)”

  1. I’m a bit confused by the instructions regarding the icing . The linked recipe calls for a pound of powdered sugar and 3 ounces of water. Does that mean replace the water with the passion fruit puree ounce for ounce?

    Also, I have been banned from purchasing new baking gear for the moment and do not have a square cake pan with removable bottom. Would it be better to let the filling set in a round springform or just line a square pan with parchment to lift it out?

    I have passion fruit puree sitting in my freezer and a request to bring dessert to an upcoming dinner party so I’m excited to find out I can make this!

    1. Hi Alex!

      I corrected the problem, thanks for pointing it out! And yes, though it’s not traditional you certainly can make these in a round springform pan and just cut them into wedges. Don’t tell any Aussies or Kiwis that I said it was OK, alright? That’s just between us. But really they’re so sturdy you can just make them in a regular square pan and pry them out with a spatula. The first one may come out a little worse for wear, but the rest will be great.

      Cheers and have fun!

      – Joe

  2. Heresy! You can compromise a custard square by making it rectangular, but on no account could it ever be wedge. It wouldn’t taste right.

    1. And here I asked Alex not to tell anyone about that! Rats.

      Notice though that I suggested retaining the square shape at the end of the comment. Do I get any points for that? What does the line judge say?

      – J

  3. From the Edmonds Cookbook, which is in 99% of New Zealand homes

    Pastry, as you have, Flaky or Puff, the book calls for Flaky. Cooked flat in rough squares.


    4 Tablespoons Edmonds Custard Powder
    3 Tablespoons icing sugar ( I believe you call it confectioners sugar there)
    2 cups Milk
    50 gm butter (2oz)
    1 egg (beaten)

    In a saucepan mix custard powder, sugar and 1/4 cup milk to a smooth paste
    Add remaining milk, butter and egg.
    Cook until mixture is very thick, stirring constantly (it doesn’t take long to thicken )

    Cover with damp tea towel or plastic wrap pressed onto surface to prevent skin forming

    When cold sandwich between cold pastry sheets.

    With that amount of custard powder, it can stand up to having small children stand on it without squashing 🙂

    You’ve done well Joe 🙂

    1. Wonderful!

      Actually a little butter and egg would incorporate easily into my formula here. You could substitute two beaten eggs and 4 ounces butter for the cornstarch and carry on. Why didn’t I think of that? Thanks again, Warren!

      – Joe

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