Wednesday, 17 April 2013


My local bakery Sheltons does the best vanilla slices. They filled so high with custard filling, higher than I’ve seen before, which messily seeps out every time you take a bite. Vanilla slices like this had always been a bit of mystery to me. How do you get the perfectly smooth blocks of filling met with the pastry, without it splodging out when sliced? When I’ve seen them being made on tele, exactly this happened, and recipes I’ve found were always filled disappointingly thin. My solution then was to remove the slice part and make my version, which are more like vanilla sandwiches. By making the custard separate and setting them in little ramekins, which are then used to cut around pastry, all you have to do is turn them out. They’re generously filled, smooth all the way round and have all the flavour and charm of the ones from Shetlons.

For the vanilla custard filling
1 sheet of leaf gelatine, soaked in water
400ml milk
2 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
 2 tbsp caster sugar
40g corn flour

For the rough puff pastry
200g flour
Pinch salt
200g fridge cold butter
About 100ml cold water

5tbsp icing sugar, mixed with 1 tbsp water.

Makes 4

Have 4 equal sized ramekins on hand for when the custard is made.
Put all the ingredients, except from the gelatine, in a pan and bring to a gentle simmer, whisking throughout. Turn up the heat and boil until the custard thickens, still whisking vigorously so lumps don’t form. Once the custard has thickened keep it boiling, whilst still whisking for about a minute, until it starts to come away from the sides of the pan. Take off the heat and mix in the soaked gelatine leaf. Pour equally into the ramekins and place in the fridge to cool and set.

While the custard sets, make the pastry. Mix the flour and salt in a bowl. Quickly grate in the butter, dipping the block into the flour to coat and stop it sticking to the grater. With a cold knife, mix the strips of butter into the flour then slowly add the water until a rough dough forms. You may need a little more, or a little less. Lay out a long piece of cling film and tip the dough onto it. Wrap the cling film around the dough, pressing together and flattening out slightly to form a rectangle. Cool in the fridge for half an hour.

Once cooled, leave the dough to warm for about 5 minutes then roll out on the cling-film (good, mess reducing tip), lengthways until tripled in size. You’ll need flour on hand because the exposed butter in the pastry tends to stick. Imagine the dough in thirds and fold the first one over the middle, and the remaining one over this. Do a quarter turn so that the layers are facing you (these are called book ends and you should always roll from these) then roll out in one, long ways direction until tripled in length again. Fold as before, wrap in the cling film then leave to cool once more for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven 200fan/200c/7.
Line a baking tray and roll out the pastry until about the thickness of a one pound coin. Take a ramekin with the custard in, place on the pastry and cut around the base. If you have pastry cutters around the same size, these would work too. Either way you want the same size lids and bases as the custard filling. Repeat until you have 8 pastry circles. Transfer each onto the baking tray, dust with icing sugar and bake for 10-12 minutes, until puffed up and golden brown. Leave to cool completely on a wire rack. Freeze any spare pastry off-cuts for another time. 

Prepare the icing ready for assembling.  To assemble the vanilla’s, take one cooled circle, press down a little and spoon on a small amount of icing to help the custard stick. Turn out the custard from the ramekin straight on to the base. You may need to tease around the edges with a knife first. Take another circle, for the lid and spoon a little icing sugar on again. Gently press this on top of the custard filling to make the vanilla sandwich. Spread over a thick layer of icing on the lid to finish.



  1. They look fabulous. What a clever idea, making the custard in a mold. They actually look like the fat ice cream sandwiches we used to have in the States.

    Great post! Thanks.

  2. What a good idea, these look amazing. I too have had trouble in the past with making these, like you said they looked more like vanilla custard sandwiches. I'm definitely going to be using your idea next time I make these. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Very nice post..These look yummy

  4. thanks everyone, glad you all like