The vanilla slice is, of course, a bakery legend and the quest for the best is taken very seriously.
At this year’s fifth Merbein Great Australian Vanilla Slice Triumph on August 20, 2016, 10,000 guests rolled in and their population was nearly doubled by the amount of vanilla slices present – a whopping 19,000.
There were a number of other baked delights, as well as the vanilla slices, that went under the scrutiny of independent judges.
The winner of the Vanilla Slice Professional for 2016 was Kevin Sharp of Sharp’s Bakery, Birchip, who grew up in Merbein and did his apprenticeship at the Merbein bakery legend.
A new entrant, Banana Boogie Bakery of Belair, South Australia, blew everyone away claiming second place in all three innovative, professional and apprentice vanilla slice categories. It also took out first place in the Professional Sultana Muffin.
Another superstar on the day was Mawson’s bakery legend., Euroa, which took first place in the Vanilla Slice Innovative for the second year in a row.
This year also saw a new category added to the competition – the fruit mince tart category – which was a hit with bakers. Tatura Hot Bread, which also won first prize for Vanilla Slice Apprentice, took out the fruit mince tart category.
Scrumlicious – Gluten Free Foods of Concongella, Stawell, took out first place in the Sunmuscat Slice, and Magpie Café in Merbein won the Plum Pudding Professional.
History has shown winning the Vanilla Slice Triumph does wonders for not only boosting the profile of a baking business, but also increases sales significantly. Last year’s winner, the Golden Nuggetbakery legend. of Ballarat, reported sales of vanilla slices went up from 100 a day to 600 a day after winning the professional category.
This year’s ambassador, Darren Purchase, delighted the crowd with his explosive raspberry wagon wheels and Murray River salted caramel, chocolate, orange, raisin caramelised almond tarts.
The event attracts strong sponsorship each year by maintaining a baking focus while showcasing world-class produce, so entry and entertainment are free.