Vanilla Slice

Vanilla Slice

The name is unassuming, but the Vanilla Slice is an almost iconic dessert in Australia. Much like the chocolate chip cookie in the US, you can find it just about anywhere that pastries are sold, from coffee shops to bakeries. There is even a big competition held every year to find the best slice in the country! Much like chocolate chip cookies, there are just about as many ways to make vanilla slices as there are people to eat them. The standard slice has some sort of pastry bottom and top, and a thick, vanilla custard filling.

I like to keep things simple and a basic version of the slice is very easy to make. It may not win a national bake-off against a dozen other vanilla slice recipes (although that depends on the competition!), but it tastes great if you’re a fan of vanilla and custard. I used some sheets of puff pastry to make the top and bottom of the slice. The puff pastry is baked and cooled, the used to line the bottom of the pan before adding the custard. It is pretty much the easiest use of puff pastry I can think of!

The custard is purposely made very thick so that the slices are easy to slice. It uses a lot of cornstarch to thicken it, as well as custard powder to add a bit of extra flavor and color. You can use the same amount of instant pudding mix if you don’t have custard powder. Some butter is added to the custard at the end of cooking to give it an extra rich flavor and make sure that the thick filling stays very tender. The custard isn’t too sweet, although it seems like there is a fair amount of sugar in it, and you really need to finish off the dessert with a sprinkle of confectioners sugar to make the whole thing come together. When finished, the vanilla slices taste like a Napoleon with a whole lot of filling.

Speaking of puff pastry, the technique I used here would be great for other flavor combinations. You could use a chocolate or coconut filling instead of the vanilla custard, or even cook up a thick batch of apple pie filling on the stovetop and sandwich it between sheets pastry for a quick, pie-like slice! The 1,2,3 Puff! Contest that Pepperidge Farm is holding is still accepting entries and any of these would be great jumping off points. Just be sure to send me a post card if you win! The grand prize is an all-expenses paid trip to New York (along with some foodie bonuses, like a tour of NYC pastry shops and bakeries!),but that’s just the bonus of experimenting with new recipes in the kitchen.

Vanilla Slice
2 sheets puff pastry (1 package Pepperidge Farm), defrosted
2 cups milk
1 vanilla bean
2 cups half n’ half
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup custard powder or instant vanilla pudding
3 large egg yolks
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
4 tbsp butter, room temperature
confectioners’ sugar

Preheat oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place defrosted puff pastry sheets (use two trays, if necessary) on baking sheet and bake for 15-18 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool completely on a wire rack.
While pastry is cooling, line a 9-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil or saran wrap, making sure the foil or wrap comes up over the sides.
Place one sheet of pasty at the bottom of the pan, trimming the corners if necessary to make it fit. Press down gently until pastry is relatively flat.
Pour the milk into a medium saucepan. Cut the vanilla bean in half and add it to the milk. Bring milk up to a simmer, then remove from heat. Scrap the seeds from the vanilla bean into the milk.
In a medium bowl, whisk together half n’ half, sugar, cornstarch, custard powder or instant pudding and egg yolks until very smooth. Pour into the saucepan with vanilla milk, whisking to combine.
Turn up heat to medium and, whisking frequently, cook until mixture comes to a boil and is very thick. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla extract and butter. Pour into prepared pan on top of the sheet of pastry and smooth into an even layer.
Gently press remaining sheet of pastry – corners trimmed if necessary – on top of the custard layer.
Refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight.
Slice in the pan with a sharp knife, then use the overhanging foil or saran wrap to easily lift the dessert from the pan.
Dust generously with confectioners sugar before serving.

Serves 12

Note: This post is sponsored by Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry, who wants to encourage you to come up with your own puff pastry creations (in addition to trying mine!) and enter them in their 1, 2, 3 Puff! Recipe Contest. If your recipe is selected as a winner, you could receive an all-expense paid trip to New York City for a taste of the sweet life! Find more great recipes and enter to win at 123puffpastry.com.

38 comments

  1. I’ve never heard of them, but they look really good!

  2. Wow, these look absolutely amazing! I can’t wait to make them!

  3. So you put the seeds from the vanilla bean into the milk?? Im not sure if im reading this right, please help!!

  4. Nicole, have you noticed that you can’t get the Trader Joe’s puff pastry anymore? Any other recommendations for an all-butter puff pastry?

  5. Hi, if I don’t have any vanilla beans, how much vanilla essence should I use to replace it?

  6. Jami – Yes, you scrape the seeds of the vanilla bean into the milk.

    Amanda – I would just double the amount of vanilla called for, so use 1 tbsp for the whole recipe. That will add quite a lot of vanilla flavor.

  7. I love Vanilla Slices but they are so easily made horrible. A good vanilla slice is one of life’s joys!

  8. These look incredible! However did you manage to slice them up so neatly?

  9. thecoffeesnob – the custard in these is quite sturdy. All I used was a sharp knife to get through the pastry cleanly!

  10. this looks like a terrific tradition that I would like to try!

  11. I love puff pastry and vanilla cream. These look amazing!!!!

  12. Oh! This is a favorite Polish dessert! Not sure the crust is exactly puff pastry, but at least approximately and the custard is sometimes more creamy (airier) but this is exactly how it looks. YUM!

  13. I’m not sure whether its a case of me always looking at your lovely recipes when I’m hungry or whether I end up feeling hungry after looking at them! Either way they are so delicious. I’ve made a list of loads I want to try now!

  14. It looks like the variation of a Napoleon / French mille feuille and gorgeous :)

  15. Even yummier with a simple passion fruit icing over the top. Which is a very common topper most of the time.

  16. I’m an avid baker, but hadn’t come across a vanilla slice recipe in the US. I studied in Australia in 2007 (can’t believe it was 2 years ago!!). My mom came to visit and we traveled all over the country. She had a vanilla slice at the University of Melbourne at this chic little cafe, and has raved about it since. It is truly a wonderful Australian dessert. I wish I would have tried different variations while I was there… I’m going to make this for my in-laws for Thanksgiving to give them a “slice” of my trip abroad. THANKS!!!

  17. How fun to learn this is so popular in Australia! I think I would want to try it in coconut, since I love rich custard-like coconut cream pies made with sweetened condensed milk.

  18. Excuse me.I don’t know ” half n’half ” What ‘s it? Please tell me

  19. dee – Half n’ half, or half and half, is also known as light cream.

  20. This looks wonderful! I love dessert pastries – once I moved to NY, I realized that there was a whole world of desserts out there that I had never experienced! Sooo tasty!

  21. I have a recipe for this bookmarked for soooooo long. I would buy puff pastry and use it for something else. I even bought a can of Bird’s Custard Powder and now, after seeing yours I HAVE got to make these. Yours looks fantastic!!!!!

  22. I didn’t realize this was so popular in Australia. (love learning something new!) They look incredible! Must try.

  23. Oh I LOOOOOOOOOVE vanilla slice and so does my mom!! Thanks for posting this!

  24. This recipes was so good! My family loved it.

    Thank you Australia for such are great treat.

  25. Found the Birds Custard powder and will give this a try. Wondering if using coconut milk would give it enough coconut flavor?

  26. Wow, this looks absolutely delicious. With such an enticing recipe in front of me, how could I not try to make it myself. Thanks!

  27. wow.. great, A good vanilla slice is one of life’s joys!

  28. It may not win a national bake-off against a dozen other vanilla slice recipes (although that depends on the competition!), but it tastes great if you’re a fan of vanilla and custard.

  29. These look incredible! However did you manage to slice them up so neatlys?

  30. These are a favorite of many years however does anyone know what I can use instead of the frozen puff pastry? I live in the Philippines and puff pastry seems to allude me over here. I think it is very time consuming to make from scratch so if there is something I can use in it’s place that keeps the quality and works I woulb be very appreciative.

  31. We have them in England, too. Done well, they’re delicious.

  32. One of the great things about traveling to Australia is having vanilla slices. Fortunately my Australian friends are coming for a visit soon, and I’m hoping she will offer to make vanilla slices.

  33. I was just reading this website’s recipes and came across this recipe! It is Australia’s favourite dessert (apart from the pavlova of course) and there is a competition in New South Wales on the border with Victoria (Google it) called the Great Australian Vanilla Slice bake off. It was at a town called Ouyen (pronounced O-yen) but is now at Merbein (pronounced Mer-Been).
    Typically it is a very yellow custard, very thick so it holds it’s shape. Between two layers of puff pastry and then topped off with a thin white icing with passionfruit pulp (including the seeds) in it.
    However, if you don’t have puff pastry (I read one of the last comments) you can substitute a square type biscuit. In Australia we have Arnotts (Australian biscuit manufacturer). They make a biscuit called a lattice biscuit. It’s a square biscuit – you can check it out here http://chillikebab.wordpress.com/2009/06/08/arnotts-lattice/lattice_opened/
    Perhaps in your country there may be something similar.
    You put a layer of these in a cake tray, pour in the custard and then put the lattice biscuits on the top as well. Then you can neatly cut between the biscuits and you have perfect square vanilla slices!
    That is how I make mine. In true Aussie style :)
    By the way – I love your website, such interesting recipes!

  34. I’m from Australia and these are my favourite things! They are particularly popular in Victoria. My Dad calls them ‘snot blocks’ haha.

    PS. The Polish version is called Karpatka and is made with choux pastry instead of puff pastry.

  35. Hi, I am an Australian living in Denver Colorado. I love to cook and I have been looking for a good Vanilla Slice recipe for a long time. My Mom used to make these and I loved them. Thanks for posting this recipe. I found it this morning and will give it a shot this afternoon. I will let you know how it turns out. Thanks again. Barry

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