This time last year Victorian Premier Dan Andrews was posting about mask mandates on his Instagram account.
Now he’s sharing details of the bakery that just took out the number 1 spot in a national search for Australia’s best vanilla slice.
“The experts have called it and reckon Sharp’s Bakery in Birchip make the best vanilla slice in the country,” Andrews wrote in his Instagram post.
“But there’s only one way to be sure. Time for a road trip.”
The winners of ‘The Great Australian Vanilla Slice Triumph 2022‘ were announced last week in Merbein (a town just north of Mildura in Victoria). Sharp’s Bakery was named the best in Australia for the fifth time – they won the prestigious title in 2009, 2012, 2014, 2016, and now in 2022.
Baker Brad Sharp, one of the owners of the bakery in northwest Victoria, says they make 35,000 vanilla slices each year and send them to customers all over Australia.
So what makes a winning vanilla slice? According to the Great Australian Vanilla Slice Triumph website, “when tasted, the slice should reveal custard with a creamy smooth texture and a balance of vanilla taste with a crisp, crunchy pastry topped with a smooth and shiny glaze/fondant.”
Sharp told the ABC that he used the past couple of years (when the competition didn’t run due to Covid) to tweak the bakery’s vanilla slice formula. He says he is keeping the winning recipe close to his chest.
“The key is … you’ve gotta have a smooth and creamy custard, a melt-in-your-mouth pastry that snaps off when you bite into it, and a nice glossy shine to your icing, says Sharp.
“And most importantly, it’s got to taste great.”
It’s been a big year for the Victorian bakery – in February this year, they also won the first ever Baking Association award for their vanilla slice.
The bakery was purchased by Brad’s parents, Kevin and Gail in 1977 when they were newlyweds. Kevin taught Brad the tricks of the baking trade and passed on the baton (and the 3 am starts) to his son.
Gail says their first win came after many years of hard work.
“Every time we have entered the competition, he [Kevin] quizzed the judges as to why he has scored poorly or scored well, and what the difference was between him and his competitors,” she said.
“And finally we got to a first prize, after a third and a second.”
It’s not only the judges who are fans of Sharp’s Bakery. The reviews online confirm that the vanilla slice is worth the road trip.
“I would recommend to any traveler or fellow caravanner to put the town of Birchip on your itinerary to sample the famous Sharp’s Bakery vanilla slices,” writes Geoff O from Adelaide.
“Buy as many vanillas slices for taking away as you can – you won’t regret it!!” writes Anna F from Sydney.
A competition with a history
The Great Vanilla Slice Triumph began in 1998 after then-Victorian premier Jeff Kennett claimed the vanilla slice from Victoria’s Mallee Bakery was the best he had ever tasted.
Locals challenged Kennett to give them an event to boost the local economy and put the tiny Mildura town on the map. They suggested the Formula 1 Grand Prix, and he countered with the Vanilla Slice competition.
Kennett personally supported the Triumph, acting as a guest judge until 2005.
This article originally appeared on Escape and do not necessarily represent the views of australiaexploring.com