Australia’s Most Photographed Cake: The Strawberry Watermelon Layer Cake @ Blackstar Pastry

Like a sweet but fleeting dream, famed Sydney-based patisserie Black Star Pastry swooped into Melbourne… and made its exit just as quickly after a short stint as a pop-up store in the hipster neighbourhood of Carlton. The famous patisserie, which opened its first outlet in 2008, is the brainchild of Sydney chap Christopher The, whose philosophy on food design is for customers to taste fresh, wholesome ingredients through creative and innovative flavours.

I was fortunate enough to be in town in April to check out their Melbourne gig, and their signature Strawberry and Watermelon Layer Cake, dubbed ‘Australia’s most photographed cake’. Our little excursion led us down a quiet alleyway along University Street, where they were sharing a space with Cafe Italia. It was near closing time, but there were still lots of customers popping in and out for sweet treats.

The space was airy and well ventilated; despite the enclosed space the plants gave it an alfresco dining feel.

Glorious pastries and cakes on display, each seemingly better than the last. Their Chocolate Eclairs (centre), a classic item on the menu, looked beautifully coated in a shiny chocolate glaze, its insides filled with Valrhona chocolate creme.

We watched from behind a glass counter as one of the staff members laid out a huge slab of their signature – the Strawberry Watermelon Layer Cake – onto the stainless steel countertop, before proceeding to trim the edges into perfect, neat lines. The vivid colours, the richness, the visual appeal of the contrasting layers of red and cream was enough to send my mouth watering with anticipation.

We got a plate of their bestselling desserts to try. Of course, their signature Strawberry Watermelon Layer Cake was not to be missed. The cake was made up of two layers of almond dacquoise, with rose-scented cream and a sweet refreshing slice of watermelon in the centre. This was then topped with strawberries and garnished with pistachios and dried rose petals. Not your typical combo, but it worked surprisingly well together. There’s varied textures and flavours: crunchy pistachios, lightly creamy dacquoise, tart strawberries and sweet, crisp watermelon, all carrying the faint smell of roses which complimented the flavours rather than overpower them. A wonderful dessert – proving that it’s not just looks that make it popular among fans.

Other cakes also held their own. On the right: Raspberry Lychee Cake, which consisted of layers of raspberry marshmallow and vanilla cream atop a rich chocolate biscuit foundation. The lychee has a clear sweetness which contrasted well with the slight sourness of raspberries, the creaminess of the vanilla and the solid, decadent flavours of chocolate.

It’s hard to pick a favourite because they’re all so good! (Foreground – left) The Orange Cake with Persian Figs had an equally beautiful aesthetic, its circular shape distinguishing it from its square and rectangular cousins. Made from whole boiled oranges and almond meal, the lovely colour comes from it being doused with orange blossom syrup right out of the oven, giving it a deep, honey-like shade. The cake was then garnished with dried Persian figs, cranberries, rose petals, pistachios and candied coriander. I liked the texture, which was firmer and more solid, and the flavours were a nice balance of sweet, sour and tangy.

Meanwhile, the Black Sesame and Yuzu (foreground, right) was an awesome marriage of Western and Eastern flavours: a base of black sesame butter cake was  inlaid with creamy coconut mousse and topped with yuzu jelly and dai dai peel for a burst of citrusy flavours.

Another absolute must get at any Black Pastry Star outlet – their Custard Flan; reminiscent of the egg tarts one finds in former Portuguese colonies like Macau and Hong Kong. The baked pastry had layers that flaked off with each bite, filled in the centre with soft, bouncy vanilla custard and baked for a caramelised crust on top. A bit on the sweet side but being a sweet-tooth, the level was just perfect for me.

I was really impressed with the cakes and pastries at Black Star Pastry: no wonder they have such a good reputation among foodies, both inside and outside of Sydney! The pop up in Melbourne may have been temporary, but since it did so well during its stint, perhaps Melburnians can look forward to a proper expansion and store in the city soon? Fingers crossed. 🙂

In the meantime, drop by their (three!) outlets in Sydney at Rosebery, Sydney CBD and Newtown if you’re ever in the city!

blackstarpastry.com.au 

 

 

 

Creative Cakes, Bread and Pastries @ Moonlight Cake House, Bandar Puchong Jaya

It’s not often my mum beats me to finding out about new eateries in the neighbourhood, so when she suggested Moonlight Cake House in Bandar Puchong Jaya to get some sweets and bakes, I was curious (apparently she found out about the shop through a special cake her friends ordered.. but we’ll get to that in a bit.) 🙂

20160125_141052-tile

The outlet was massive, spanning across three units and separated into two floors. The ground floor was a bakery, and upstairs was a cafe serving Western food. The smell of warm, freshly baked bread filled the air, causing my stomach to rumble the instant I walked into its cool, air conditioned interior. The beautiful pastries on display were like something out of the Japanese anime Yakitate. There were so many varieties!

20160125_141124-tile

20160125_141156-tile

Cutesy fondant dolls. I like the shitty one badumtsh

20160125_141212-tile

Colourful macarons – a box of nine costs RM27+.

20160125_141239-tile

So many varieties of bread and ingredient pairings, both savoury and sweet. Idk what ‘Saha’ is, but it looked like it had some sweet, custardy filling.

20160125_141250-tile

Wolfberry walnut and ‘Europe bun’. 

In this part of Asia, people rarely eat bread but it’s a trend that is slowly changing, especially with cafes and bakeries like these that are bringing in fancy breads – not the everyday brown, white or wheat loaves.

20160125_141300-tile

Honey walnut.

20160125_141305-tile

Black Sesame Cream Cheese Walnut buns – they looked so fluffy. Who knew bread could be this attractive?

20160125_141628-tile

20160125_141609-tile

There was also a section for pastries – croissants, curry chicken puffs, spring onion pizza (below), blueberry danishes, chocolate and egg tarts, etc.

20160125_141728-tile

20160125_141546-tile

Not to mention cookies, sweets, biscuits and chocolates.

20160125_141329-tile

Pretty cakes of all shapes and sizes entice visitors near the cashier. They were a bit on the pricey side though (RM60 and above).

20160125_141352-tile

“Snow White”, shaped like a red apple.

20160125_141357-tile

Individual cakes going for RM9.50 ++

20160125_141407-tile 20160125_141413-tile  20160125_141452-tile

….and this is the special cake I mentioned earlier! Durian cake, shaped like the king of fruits itself – it looked so lifelike! My mum’s friends bought one for a birthday celebration and she saw photos of it on Whatsapp, which was why she knew about the place. I’d love to try this for my birthday, but it’s a long ways away and there aren’t any occasions to celebrate lol.

20160125_141504-tile

More pretty cakes. I’d imagine the kids (and even adults) would love the colourful and fun designs. Reminds me of that TV show I loved to watch in high school called Cake Boss, where they make customised cakes for special occasions. Baking is truly an art of its own. 🙂

20160125_141514-tile

A cake of a Chinese deity, Guan Dai, riding a horse. Yes, it is a cake. Impressive, no?

20160125_141521-tile

Rilakumma Star Wars Cake is adorbs.

20160125_141059-tile

The shop also sells stuff like homemade kaya (coconut jam)…

20160125_141105-tile

Fruit, coffee, cheese and vanilla rolls…

20160125_141121-tile

As well as freshly sandwiches and wraps for those on the go.

20160125_145248-tile

With so many varieties to choose from, we agonised over the display counters trying to decide what to buy. In the end I got a Marble Cake (above) (RM5.80). The squares of bread were fluffy and soft, sweet with a hint of chocolate. Tasty bread, by all means.

Would love to come back for more bread and cakes, although they are on the pricier side (prices average RM3+ and above, usual bakeries sell for RM2+) and maybe try out their cafe someday. 🙂

*The original Moonlight Cake House opened in Johor and has several cafes in the state. KL has two in Sri Petaling and Damansara and now,Puchong. 

MOONLIGHT CAKE HOUSE

G02, G03, G04, Kompleks Kenari,

Jalan Kenari 19, Bandar Puchong Jaya,

47100 Puchong, Selangor, Malaysia

Hours: 8AM–2AM

Ming Xiang Tai Bakery, Penang

 

SITTING on a corner of Victoria Street on Penang Island is Ming Xiang Tai, a famous bakery and pastry shop with over 30+ years of history. The original shop is along Burmah Road, and though this one is a branch outlet, it is no less popular. Just outside is a quaint mural of a boy and a girl reaching out of a window as they attempt to get some goodies from a wicker basket at the back of a (real)bicycle.

SAM_5761-tile

The shop is housed in an old double storey shoplot. The wooden decor gives it a rustic, old-world charm.

SAM_5766-tile

We entered to the lovely smells of pastries fresh out of the oven – enough to send us into an uncontrollable mouthwatering, even though we just had breakfast! Cute little baked goodies sat on a tin tray, their glossy, glazed surfaces shiny and golden, radiating heat.

SAM_5769-tile

Chinese pastries sat behind glass displays, and a long line of customers was already snaking to the front counter as people pointed out the morsels they wanted. In the background, boxes of packed goodies lined the wooden shelves, while proud posters proclaimed the house specialties.

SAM_5771-tile

One of the staff delicately brushing the pastries to give it a golden sheen.

SAM_5772-tile

Unbaked goods waiting for the furnace to roar them to life.

SAM_5775-tile

There is a cramped space behind with wooden chairs and tables, where patrons can sit and rest.

SAM_5776-tile

Fluffy white pau (buns) waiting to be put into the steamer.

SAM_5777-tile SAM_5783-tile

Bamboo shutters painted over with promotional wordings and pictures provide shade from the glaring Penang sun, keeping the interior of the shoplot cool.

SAM_5788-tile

The place is famous for its egg tarts. They also carry crispy yam puffs, siewpau (barbecued pork buns), pandan salted egg pastry and wedding cookies (lou por beng). The egg tart was absolutely delicious, with a nice, flaky outer pastry and soft, gooey egg custard center. The custard had just the right sweetness to go along with the slightly salty pastry, which, as you can see, was delicately done in many layers. Quite messy to eat, but oh-so-good.They used to be called  ‘Trishaw Egg Tarts’ because back in the days, they were peddled on trishaws.

SAM_5785-tile

Keep an eye out for some cute landmarks around the area, such as the pink tank replica with cats on it directly across the street from Ming Xiang Tai.

Ming Xiang Tai Pastry Shop
26 Gat Lebuh Armenian
10200 Georgetown,
Penang, Malaysia

Original shop:
133 Jalan Burma
10050 Georgetown
Penang

Tel: 04-227 9880
Opening Hours: 8am-11pm