A Melbourne, London & Hong Kong dessert blog
Scrumptious dulce de leche pastries may be found at this well-kept suburban bakery secret.
Marciano’s Cakes occupies a rather inconspicuous space along a short shopping roadside strip in one of Melbourne’s quiet South-Eastern suburbs. Looking very much like an average neighbourhood bakery, the ordinary passerby is very likely to walk past it without a backward glance. However, do turn around, walk in and immerse yourself in a little gem of South America. It comes fully accessorised with bubbling crowds of local South American families flocking to purchase their daily breads, empanandas and dulce de leche sugar hits at incredibly affordable prices from friendly staff.
For the less sweeth-tooth readers, you cannot go pass the warm and toasty $3 empanadas at Marciano’s Cakes, a generous large crescent that will put a smile on your face, stomach and wallet. For the more sweet-tooths, MoMo & Coco would recommend that you bypass the European-style sweet counter and direct your beady greedy eyes to the larger counter brimming with traditional South American baked beauties. All cakes, pastries and other goodies from Marciano’s Cakes come packaged in a sturdy cake box, and they do not charge you for the box (unlike some other Mr Scrooge bakeries/patisseries around Melbourne, see here). Below is MoMo & Coco’s most recent treasure box from Marciano’s Cakes, sampling all but one of the South American irresistibles baked on-site. Putting to shame a good number of Melbourne patisseries who claim “inflation” and “innovation” as justifications for their eye-watering, pocket-wrenching price brackets, seven sweet irresistibles from Marciano’s Cake were purchased for a delectable price of $3-$4 a piece, amounting to rather affordable total of $26. We had a most scrumptious afternoon tea session at home that afternoon…and the afternoon after also.
MoMo & Coco will first show you the voluptuous round sweet irresistibles from Marciano’s Cakes. From clockwise starting at the 12 o’clock point, may we introduce the Chilentos, Empolvado, Alfajor and Alfajor de Maizena. The Alfajor is probably the most well-known of South American sweet irresistibles. There are many variations found across the South American continent. This version pictured below comprises three rather dry Marie-type biscuits balanced against two layers of velvety thick dulce de leche. Other variations available at Marciano’s Cakes include one with a more shortbread texture (see below), one encased in chocolate, and another type simply powdered with sugar.
In appearance, the Alfajor de Maizena is perhaps the more commonly-seen representative of the Alfajor. Its heavier, drier, and denser shortbread cookie components are made of cornstarch (Maizena being the name of the particular brand of cornstarch). It again sandwiches a layer of dulce de leche, its rim rolled in desiccated coconut.
The Chilentos can be likened to a layered Alfajor, with its shortbread sandwich replaced by a meringue cloak. The meringue itself is hard-baked, with a similar texture to a Swiss meringue. It does not have the airy disposition commonly associated with the French meringue, nor the soft swirl of Italian meringue. It has a very generous thick dulce de leche layer too. A MoMo & Coco favourite.
The larger-than-a-fist Empolvado is analogous to an Australian lamington. The sponge is quite airy and inclined to a slight dryness. The lamington’s jam filling is substituted for a luscious slathering of dulce de leche. Variations available at Marciano’s Cakes include the empolvado being dusted with powdered icing sugar, or entirely dipped in milk chocolate, the latter especially guaranteed to send you into a diabetic stupor.
MoMo & Coco will now introduce to you, the more angular sweet irresistibles from Marciano’s Cakes. Starting from the far left, we have the Mocha Torte, the Milhoja Manjar, and the Brazo de Reina. A South-American version of the swiss roll, the below-pictured sweet irresistible is known in Chile and Colombia as the Brazo de Reina, and as the Pionono in Argentina. Over the Atlantic in Spain, its name is Brazo di Gitano (literally, “gypsy’s arm”). A MoMo & Coco favourite, the sponge is desirably soft and airy, without a hint of dryness. Apart from its ends being dipped in dulce de leche, the additional decadence of inner swirls of dulce de leche allows the Brazo to transcend any ordinary swiss roll.
The Mocha Torta is a more European-esque cake slice, with a thin line of dulce de leche cutting through its soft cake centre. Dulce de leche is again re-layered at its surface, with a thin layer of what seemed like apricot jam, before being iced over with a lightly-favoured mocha chocolate drizzling. A MoMo & Coco favourite, the highest praise to whosoever decided to feature chocolate, dulce de leche, and cake all in one decadent sweet irresistible.
Literally translating to a “thousand sheets or layers,” the Milhoja Manjar is the South-American dessert version of the French Napoleon slice, with the multiple custard cream layers replaced by dulce de leche. It looks like a geographer’s dream of a perfectly striated cross-section of land. Not recommended for sharing, it is the definitive must-buy, must-eat for any dessert lover. Most definitely a MoMo & Coco favourite.
With all our reviews in this journal-blog, MoMo & Coco have used our travel and other experiences as a referential benchmark. It is important for our readers to note that with the exception of having sipped Caribbean-esque cocktails, studied its historical/political intrigues, and snuggled with tales by J. Ribeiro, G. Marquez, C. Zafon, and I. Allende etc, MoMo & Coco have neither set foot on the South American continent nor herald from that culture. Hence, we have negligible exposure to that region and its cuisine, and therefore are unable to comment on the authencity of such offerings in Melbourne. Notwithstanding this qualification, it cannot be doubted that Marciano’s Cakes are truly scrumptious sweet irresistibles. We love their different textures and the constant use of that exquisite condensed milk caramel of dulce de leche. At a most commendable price range, it is a most accessible sweet luxury for anyone and everyone. A true secret of suburban Melbourne.
For a similar South American bakery located in Melbourne’s North/West, MoMo & Coco recommend also: Panaderia Sud Americana, 76 Warwick Road, Sunshine North, Vic 3020.
- Dessert adventure checklist
- Dessert destination: Marciano’s Cakes, 1481 Centre Road, Clayton, Vic 3168.
- Budget: $.
- Sweet irresistibles: Cakes.
- Must-eat: Every dessert that you can fit in, but especially the “Brazo de Reina” and the “Milhojar Manjar.”
- The short and sweet story: Scrumptious dulce de leche pastries may be found at this well-kept suburban bakery secret.