As British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says, “my policy on cake is pro having it, and pro eating it”. Cakes are great. Of course, anything’s great when it’s created for no other reason than to make you feel good.
And so our chefs have turned to chocolate and marshmallow, cupcakes and pavlova, in order to keep up our spirits. Luke Mangan of Glass Brasserie has dusted off his classics, while Federico Zanellato of LuMi Dining seizes the zeitgeist with a burnt Basque cheesecake. Next-gen pastry chef Ben Treloar of In Lieu uses Instagram as his shopfront, packaging up a Sunday high tea of cakes and pastries as clickbait.
Never before have we been able to get so many sweet, sticky, creamy riches delivered to our homes. Could it be that some of us will look back at these crazy times, and think just how lucky we were?
Gooey chocolate tart with custard, $44.95
Luke Mangan pivoted straight into classic comfort food for his Luke At Home menu, offering family-size chicken pies, charcuterie and excellent mashed potato. The raspberry and pear crumble is a charmer, but the chocolate tart – half cake and half soft-centred dessert – takes the cake.
First created in 2000 for Salt in Darlinghurst, it’s the signature dessert on Mangan’s P&O cruise ship restaurants, and currently sells 1400 a week.
Instructions are specific, but not arduous: warm it for 10 minutes at 180C, and rest it for five minutes. “If you follow the reheating process correctly, you will have a three-hat chocolate dessert,” says Mangan. (Note that he is putting the onus for success on you there, and not him.) Cleverly designed with a strong chocolate tart base, it’s a great big deeply chocolate hit that goes down rich and smooth. Clearly, I didn’t stuff up the instructions.
Aw, sweet A tub of creme anglaise is included, a nice cheffy touch.
Lode’s cheesecake has a lushly smooth, almost mousse-like cream-cheese filling. Photo: Supplied
Basque cheesecake, $30
Consider this a sneak preview of Surry Hills’ yet-to-open Lode, the much-anticipated patisserie from Federico Zanellato of LuMi Dining with chef Lorenzo Librino.
The Basque cheesecake’s dramatically (and deliberately) burnt crust hides a lushly smooth, almost mousse-like cream-cheese filling; something that seems perfectly reasonable to eat for breakfast or lunch and not just save for after dinner.
Unusually, his version has a base of crunchy streusel, toasty with hazelnut and beurre noisette. “Every time I made Basque cheesecake at home, I felt as if something was missing,” he says. “The base gives it an extra layer of flavour and the textural contrast it needed.”
Aw, sweet They do a green matcha version as well.
Weekly pastry box, $35
“Everyone knows butter and sugar cures almost everything,” says Ben Treloar. The former Lume Melbourne pastry chef has launched a weekly box of pastries in lieu of taking up his new position at the much-delayed Clare Smyth’s Oncore restaurant at Barangaroo. In fact, he’s called his work-from-home business In Lieu, and takes orders only through Instagram’s direct messaging service.
This week, the selection is strong on nostalgia, with two almond and raspberry wagon wheels sandwiched with fluffy pink marshmallow under dark Messina chocolate, and an olive oil genoise sponge layered with strawberry jam and cream with a real high-tea vibe. His vanilla and nutmeg “croissant-tart” is like a kouign-amman that slept with a Portuguese custard tart and never went home, and there’s a divine burnt honey choux craquelin with a crunchy, sugary crust and lightly honeyed creme pat. Opening the box is not quite the same thrill as standing in front of a cake counter, but it’s close.