Beatrix: The Return of Cake Weather

Don’t get me wrong, I’m an advocate for the consumption of cake at almost any given time. As I settled into a little window spot at North Melbourne’s Beatrix last week, however, I had to agree with the lovely lass serving up a hefty piece of Coconut Shagg to a customer: it’s officially cake weather. So long to the sweaty days of an all-too-hot summer – Melbourne’s autumn has finally kicked in. And whilst I’m not a huge fan of the impending cold, it’s at least a comfort to remember that wonderful ability to warm up from the inside out. A cup of tea and a bit of cake from Beatrix is a pretty splendid way to do just that.

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Loved by locals and one of the North-side’s greatest sweet spots (though I’d venture to say all of Melbourne!), Beatrix is a tiny café on the corner of Queensberry and Lothian Streets in North Melbourne. It’s cute and quaint, though be warned that the cosy size might make for a wait to sit, particularly on Saturdays. If you’re pressed for time, however, don’t think you’ll be alone in swinging by to pick up a take-away treat or two. Speaking from delicious, passionfruit-frosted experience – the Saturday-only Vanilla Slice is cause enough to make a trip totally worth it.

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What I love about Beatrix, and what makes it the perfect chilly day comfort, is that everything is freshly homemade – in the warmest, fuzziest sense of the word. I’m talking unabashed CWA-style, Grandma’s kitchen baking. Last week I fell prey to a piece of Beatrix’s Carrot Cake (pictured above). It’s probably not winning any beauty contests, but I was at once reminded of the chocolate sponge cakes my Nana used to make for every family birthday growing up, and so couldn’t resist. Wonderfully moist and light, a divine white chocolate cream cheese buttercream frosting and a hint of wintery spice – it was just superb.

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I’m still on my way to conquering most of Beatrix’s baked fare, but I can say that the Rhubarb and Custard Crumble Tart, Ginger Crème Brûlée Tart, Potato Brioche Doughnut, Vanilla Slice and Salted Caramel Slice are all magnificent. I’ve not sampled one of Beatrix’s famous ciabattas yet, but I do believe that needs to be rectified very, very soon. The ciabattas maintain somewhat of a cult-like following – only a couple of varieties are available each day, and they disappear fast. Luckily, Beatrix updates Facebook every morning with the day’s offerings: ciabattas, cakes and cakeish things alike. So if you’re hanging out for that Sydney Road ciabatta or Devil’s Food Cake, Beatrix makes for easy stalkage.

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Beatrix is the sort of place I’d make sure to take an overseas visitor; it’s cosy, welcoming and embraces old-school Aussie baking (I was not surprised, but very impressed to find that owner Nat Paull apprenticed for Maggie Beer!) with a little vintage America and a whole lotta love. In absence of foreign callers, however, I’ll be hopping over to Beatrix to continue my own personal pilgrimage. These are the days of cake weather, my friends, and I know where I’ll be taking shelter from the cold.

Beatrix | 688 Queensberry Street, North Melbourne, VIC 3051
https://www.facebook.com/BeatrixBakes
Open | 
Tue – Sat : 9.00am – 4.00pm

Beatrix on Urbanspoon

The Chocolate Bar High Tea at The Langham

‘Twas a glorious, sunshiny Melbourne day last month when my mum, sisters and I indulged in a spot of High Tea at The Langham. As my Christmas present to the lovely ladies of my family (including myself, obviously), we fancied up for The Chocolate Bar High Tea. This is the only high tea experience available at The Langham on weekends – the Tiffin High Tea and Chocolate Indulgence High Teas are regular weekday fare – but that was by all means fine with us.

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Arriving for the first High Tea sitting at midday, we were warmly greeted and whisked to our plush seats in the glamourous Aria Lounge of The Langham’s Melba Restaurant. En route, our jaws dropped and salivary glands kicked into overdrive as we passed the most incredibly lavish chocolate bar and chocolate fountain station. It was all we could do to actually pay attention as our waiter explained that we would soon receive a three-tiered tea stand with all the regular High Tea finishings, to take advantage of the tea, coffee and hot chocolate menu and otherwise go nuts at the chocolate bar.

And so we did.

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Dominican white chocolate vanilla pannacotta with framboise coulis & mango jelly | Chewy banana & Costa Rica milk chocolate fudge top with salted caramel popcorn | The Garden – Callebaut white chocolate, coconut mousse, Kensington mango jelly dome, macaron base, green dessicated coconut and fresh edible flower

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La Ceries – Belgian dark chocolate mousse, Morelo cherries, macaron base and red glaze

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Assorted chocolate truffles and chocolate-dipped biscotti

It was a wicked and wonderful delight to raid the chocolate bar, and dip marshmallows and strawberries into a waterfall of fresh liquid chocolate. I’ll admit, though, I think I was just as captivated by the traditional High Tea tier stand and the beautiful teas on offer! Delivered to our table was a mix of little sandwiches: smoked salmon with capers and cream cheese, brie and prosciutto, cucumber and cream cheese, and egg mayonnaise and cress. We also had some little prawn pastries and of course, scones with strawberry jam, butter and clotted cream.

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This was actually my first high tea, and I think the real pleasure came in simply sitting down with some of my favourite people and indulging in a good bit of luxury. Once we’d done our first few excited sweeps of the chocolate bar it was lovely to just relax, chat and sip tea (we had an inordinate amount of fun making our way through at least half of the gorgeous tea menu!) for two hours in the most pampered of settings. We were thoroughly charmed. I intend on a good many future High Teas – and I think this was a marvelous start to that venture!

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The Chocolate Bar High Tea | $75pp
Aria Bar and Lounge, Melba Resturant | The Langham, 1 Southgate Avenue, Southbank, Melbourne, VIC 3006
www.melbarestaurant.com.au/aria
Open | Sat – Sun, 12.00pm – 2.oopm & 2.30pm – 4.30pm
Bookings | 1800 641 107, or book online here.

Aria Bar & Lounge on Urbanspoon

Cupcake Central: The Best Cupcakes in Melbourne

Cupcake Central make, hands down, my favourite cupcakes in Melbourne. And believe me, I’ve put in a lot of groundwork (read: eaten a lot of cupcakes) in supplement of this statement. I first visited a few months after the initial Hawthorn store opened in 2010, whereupon a friend and I proceeded to try every single cupcake flavour on offer that day. Yes, we were full to near bursting – but in the most gloriously happy way.

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Cupcake Central’s cupcakes are fresh, light and fluffy. Kind of like cloudy little pieces of heaven. You’ll find favourites like Salted Caramel, Vanilla Vanilla and Red Velvet on offer every day, plus a batch of exciting seasonal flavours – the current summer menu boasting the likes of Golden Gaytime, Pavlova and Baklava – baked on alternate days throughout the week. The autumn menu will be appearing next week, so you can bet I’ll be keeping a keen eye on Cupcake Central’s Facebook page and Instagram feed for a first look at the new flavours! The weekly baking schedule features on their website, making for easy scheming for cupcake conquering.

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It’s Friday, however, when I most anticipate an update from the holy cupcake deity. Fridays are Surprise Flavour Fridays, and feature a one-day-only flavour that’s usually experimental and fantastically decadent. Pictured above is the cupcake that, just this past Friday, quite literally made me leave my house and venture to Melbourne Central for the sole purpose of consuming such a baked beauty. Inspired by the French pastry ‘Paris Brest’, this is a classic vanilla bean cake filled with handmade chocolate custard and topped with a crown of choux pastry, custard and a drizzle of melted chocolate. Um. Yum. Other past creations have included a layered Oreo and Peanut Butter Brownie cupcake, Strawberry Pop-Tart, Caramel Meringue Choc-Top, and Strawberry-Lime Rekorderlig Cider.

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It’s been amazing and endearing seeing Cupcake Central grow from that first Hawthorn store. There are now stores in Melbourne Central and Highpoint (wonderfully located for me!) and owners Sheryl and Tin have maintained a really genuine, fun and actually quite inspiring level of integrity in the brand. I had the pleasure of meeting Sheryl way back in 2011 during another all-you-can-eat cupcake adventure, captured most lovingly in the heyday of my video blogging career – take a peek here for some retro Cupcake Central (and some retro Terri!)!

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The high quality of product and service across all three stores is also wonderfully consistent. I’ve been particularly impressed with the Melbourne Central and Highpoint stores, which still manage to create a really unique and welcoming space midst the craziness of a busy shopping centre. I can wholeheartedly confirm that the solace of sitting down with a cupcake and coffee during a Highpoint run is a comforting one indeed! These stores also run a variety of cupcake baking and decorating classes – details can be found here.

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Cupcake Central is fuelled by passion and innovation, and has flourished well beyond the ‘cupcake craze’. It’s come a long way over the past few years, which makes me very excited to see what’s in store next!

Cupcake Central Hawthorn | Shop 7, 672 Glenferrie Rd, Hawthorn, VIC 3122
Open | Mon – Fri : 7.30am – 6.3opm (full range of cupcakes avail. from 9.00am), Sat – Sun: 10.00am – 5.30pm

Cupcake Central on Urbanspoon

Cupcake Central Melbourne Central | Level 2 Dining Hall, Melbourne Central, Melbourne, VIC 3000
Open | Mon – Thu : 10.00am – 7.00pm, Fri : 10.00am – 9.00pm, Sat – Sun: 10.00am – 6.00pm

Cupcake Central Workshop on Urbanspoon

Cupcake Central Highpoint | Shop 2561, Level 2 Fresh Food Hall, Highpoint Shopping Centre, 100/200 Rosamond Road, Maribyrnong, VIC 3032
Open | Mon – Wed : 9.00am – 5.30pm, Thu : 9.00am – 8.00pm, Fri : 9.00am – 9.00pm, Sat : 9.00am – 6.00pm, Sun: 10.00am – 6.00pm

Cupcake Central on Urbanspoon

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