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

N2 Extreme Gelato: Liquid Nitrogen Love

Here’s the thing. I love N2 Extreme Gelato. I lined up to have my first cup of gelato frozen before my very eyes when it opened in August last year (the middle of winter; I was rather keen) – and I’ve been a doting customer ever since. After visiting to sample the Valentine’s Day menu this weekend, I thought: what better time than to publically confess my feelings?

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I’ll admit it was the novelty that attracted me at first. Fresh off Heston Blumenthal’s week guesting on Australia’s Masterchef, I was mesmerised by the apparent magic of liquid nitrogen and its conjury in the kitchen. The promise of watching my ice-cream frozen to-order was new and exciting. Not to mention, the Brunswick Street location is an all-too tempting hop, skip and a jump from my house.

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What made me fall in love was more than just novelty, though. The nitrogen vapours that billow from the bowls of N2’s KitchenAid stand mixers are stunning to behold, yes. Even all these months later I still like to stand and watch as those clouds creep along the workbench, swallowing beakers of ingredients soon to join their freshly-churned counterparts. But there are brains behind the beauty, and a cheeky character that hints at N2’s genuine spirit for experimentation and fun with the science of gelato.

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The gelato itself seduces with a magnificently smooth, creamy texture. The rapid liquid nitrogen freezing process – taking just a couple of minutes – means that larger ice crystals don’t have time to develop, and so an incredible silky consistency is achieved. The method also means N2’s gelato can be served at a slightly warmer temperature (a balmy -6°C), which gives an outrageously perfect mouthfeel.

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N2 sure knows how to keep the spark alive, too. The menu changes weekly; an Instagram update of the gelateria’s blackboard-wall illustrations every Friday has often seen me make an instant beeline for Brunswick Street. Whilst devouring new spoils in the simple seating area out back – wooden pallets, astro turf and graffiti opens out to the alleyway beyond – it’s fun to reminisce over another blackboard-wall that lists flavours of N2 past. Notches on my belt include Crème Brûlée (complete with torched top), French Earl Grey Infused Dulce de Leche, Deconstructed Kaya Toast and Lavender and Almond Fed White Chocolate Fudge.

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From the Valentine’s Day inspired menu: ‘My Cherry’s Ripe’ – sour cream chocolate gelato with glacé cherries and coconut, cocoa dusting, dried cherry powder and a warm chocolate syringe | ‘Tira-Miss-You’ – mild coffee custard gelato with a tea and marsala soaked sponge centre topped with a  swirl of mascarpone cream and chocolate flakes.

From the truly experimental (Beer Gelato, or Spam and Mustard?) and the playful, tongue-in-cheek (2 Girls 1 Cup, Your Black Cherry Bush) – N2 is fun, adventurous and downright delicious. It’s an infatuation I’ve surrendered to and I’m ready to shout it from the rooftops. If you’re tempted yourself, just know I’m not the only one vying for N2’s affections! During busy evening periods and warm days, expect to wait 10-15 minutes as the N2 crew fresh-freeze every single customer’s order. It’s worth the wait, and the atmosphere is vibrant and fun. You can get lucky too – this past Sunday afternoon saw a stroll in off the street and straight to the counter. You’ll pay $6 for each gelato, or $8 for the one or two premium creations on offer each week (always a good place to start).

And so ends my ode to N2 Extreme Gelato: may you find love at first lick as well!

N2 Extreme Gelato | 329 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, VIC 3065
Open | Mon – Sun : 1.00pm – 11.00pm
Cash only.

N2 Extreme Gelato on Urbanspoon

Raspberry & Innocent Bystander Moscato Sorbet

Last summer Mat introduced me to the wonderful world of homemade ice-cream. With the help of his little Sunbeam ice-cream machine, we happily snacked our way through flavours like chai choc-chip, peppermint, espresso choc-flake and cinnamon frozen yoghurt. Despite the soaring temperatures this year, however, we’ve been very lax in pulling out the ol’ Sunbeam bowl from the freezer. Well, no more! I’ve decided I’m determined to churn out some delicious new creations before the season ends. To kick-start it all off, Mat suggested a delicious twist on a Raspberry-Rosé Sorbet favourite from last summer – and so it was. Introducing: the Raspberry-Moscato Sorbet, using our much-beloved Innocent Bystander Moscato.

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David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop is a veritable bible for home-made ice-cream makers, and his Raspberry-Rosé Sorbet was a smash hit in our line-up last summer. The whole thing became particularly memorable when I Instagrammed the latest batch one night and the man himself chipped in with his endorsement:

 

 

On the other hand, this year Innocent Bystander’s famous moscato has become a delightfully refreshing go-to for hot summer nights. If you’re ever in Healesville in the Yarra Valley, you seriously must go to the Innocent Bystander winery and restaurant. It’s a big, beautiful warehouse-style dining hall that feels industrial yet wonderfully warm and cosy – and most importantly, the food and wine is stunning. We visited again over the New Year’s period and finished off a night of indulgence with a glass of the signature moscato – and so the love affair began. It’s sweet (but not so much to set the teeth on edge) and smooth and packs a candy pink punch – and incorporating it into a favourite sorbet recipe was an exciting prospect indeed.

I actually ended up using Lebovitz’s Raspberry-Champagne recipe – it’s very similar, but makes a smaller batch and includes a little water. Being a bubbly wine, I thought the usage of moscato might need to follow this method too. I could be wrong, but I was very happy with the results – so I suppose that’s all that matters! Lebovitz actually encourages experimentation with the sparkling wine used in this recipe – so definitely have a go at subbing in your own favourite bubbly!

This Raspberry-Moscato Sorbet is an excellent expression of Innocent Bystander Moscato – wonderfully fresh and sweet, with a little hint of tartness that tickles the whole mouth.

Raspberry & Innocent Bystander Moscato Sorbet
Adapted from: David Lebovitz’s ‘Raspberry-Champagne Sorbet’, The Perfect Scoop

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Makes approx. 500ml (about 3 little bowls of sorbet). Cup measurements according to American standards.

  • 310ml (1 1/4 cups) Innocent Bystander Moscato
  • 60ml (1/4 cup) water
  • 100g (1/2 cup) sugar
  • 220g (2 cups) raspberries, fresh or frozen (I used frozen!)
  1. Add the moscato, water and sugar to a medium, nonreactive saucepan (I used a stainless steel Scanpan saucepan; anything made of stainless steel or lined with stainless steel is fine!). Bring to a boil.
  2. Remove from heat and add the raspberries to the mixture. Cover saucepan with lid and let sit for at least 10 minutes. This allows the raspberries to soften so that you can…
  3. Pour the mixture through a fine-meshed sieve into a bowl. Use a flexible spatula to press the raspberries through the sieve. This is my favourite part! Keep at it until you’ve pressed through as much juice as you can. Discard the pink lumpy mass of seeds left behind. Give the mixture a little stir to make sure everything is combined well.
  4. Cover the mixture and pop into the fridge until chilled. I left mine for a couple of hours.
  5. Freeze the chilled mixture in your ice-cream machine as per instructions. I use a basic freezer-bowl Sunbeam Snowy machine, and churned the mixture for a good 20 minutes. Because of the alcohol content, it takes on more of a slushie-like consistency – so don’t be too worried if it doesn’t look like it’s freezing enough in this type of machine! It will firm up in the freezer.
  6. Pour sorbet into a container, close and pop into the freezer. I left mine to freeze overnight – though if you’re super keen I’m sure a few hours would do!
  7. Before serving, take out of freezer and let stand for 5-10 minutes (depending on how long it’s been in freezer). Home-made ice-cream and sorbet generally appears to set quite hard, but it softens up quickly and still has an amazing texture.
  8. Enjoy!

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Innocent Bystander Winery on Urbanspoon

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