The French are famous for their petit fours. My first trip to Paris left me with a camera full of friands, macarons and madelines. But Italians aren’t known for their sweets. The only sugary celebrity we can lay claim to is the almighty gelato – all hail. My man doesn’t understand my obsession with Italian cakes. He thinks pannetone tastes like bread and would rather reach for the chocolate mousse cake than enjoy a tiramisu cream Bauli (horror). Italian cakes and pastries, or ‘pasticcini’, fly under the radar. Like a spiced hot cross bun on Easter morning amongst all those chocolate bunnies. But Italian pasticcini deserve your attention. They can be crispy, they can be custard-filled and often they are heavily pregnant with liquor – tipsy tea-party anyone?
Perhaps the love of everything Frenchy is what the folks behind this Italian pasticceria were thinking when they called their little bakery ‘Eiffel Tower’. Maybe they wanted to add a bit of French flair to their Italian style sweets. Whatever it was Eiffel Tower is booming and has been for years now. Tucked away in a little industrial area in Tullamarine (but it’s not that far from the city I promise), Eiffel Tower has been serving the Italian community in the area for longer than I have been eating my Nonna’s homemade ravioli. Their enormous selection of cakes and pastries have brightened up the tables of Nonnas all across Melbourne with sweets so dainty and so delicious you would think the Queen is coming for coffee.
You might remember a couple of months ago I promised a review of the Italian petit fours I served at my Mr Earl tea party. Looking at the photos of those delectable little cakes had me salivating all over again. We had a gorgeous selection of sweets that day so I thought I would rank them in order of deliciousness. Bring on the war of the pasticcini.
1 – Pesca (or ‘The Peach’)
I can hear your gasps already, ‘The Peach’ and not the cannoli has won top dessert on my ultimate Italian sweets list. But you must understand my friends, ‘The Peach’, or ‘Pesca’ to be all Italian about it, is quite incredible. Think creamy, velvety vanilla custard sandwiched between layers of sweet sponge and rolled in cake crumbs to finish. The sponge is almost bread-like in texture, a mix between the celebratory pannetone and a classic sponge cake. Perhaps that’s why I adore it. The internal layers of cake are soaked in a liqueur syrup with just the right amount of alcoholic bite and sugary sweetness – a true delight.
The dessert of the mother country (or more precisely, the mother island – Sicily), Eiffel Tower’s cannoli are as good as any I have had. The cases are crisp and each bite releases a thick and creamy custard filling – one side vanilla and the other side chocolate. The chocolate filling is a little light on flavour but the heavy custard has enough sweetness and the cases are so crunchy and texturally satisfying that it makes up for it.
The Savare’ are all prettiness topped with slices of ruby-red strawberry, luscious green kiwi and a sweet, sticky glaze. But their dainty appearance hides a boozy secret. They offer the same vanilla custard centre as The Peach but the sponge is almost drowning in sweet rum syrup. I loved how each mouthful unleashed a burst of the heady liqueur, overwhelming the palate and flavouring the custard and fruit.
4- Italian Rum Balls
It was hard for me to choose between the Savare’ and the Italian rum ball. I had to ask myself some difficult life questions. Do I prefer chocolate fudge or vanilla sponge? Does a rich mud cake ball drenched in alcohol do it for me or am I more of a sponge with custard and fruit kind of girl.The Italian rum ball was not like any I had tasted before. Excellent little chocolate fudge balls (almost like a chocolate pudding) were soaked in a rum syrup and then rolled in dark chocolate that cracked with each bite. The flavour of the chocolate and rum together was almost too intense I needed a sip of fresh mint tea between mouthfuls to cut through the richness and balance it all out.
5- Mini cream cakes
Kind of like opera cakes, these mini chocolate and lemon cakes appear to be an attempt by Eiffel Tower to diversify their mostly Italian offerings. Whilst these cakes may look delectable, for me they were an utter disappointment. The problem mainly lay with the cream. Rather than lashings of fresh cream or a rich ganache, these cakes were laden with some sort of fluffy faux-cream (perhaps a version of butter cream). I liked the touch of lemon flavour in the mini lemon cake but overall I thought the fresh, light sponge was wasted with that the less than exciting filling.