one vanilla slice and a small serving of copyright please…

 The humble vanilla slice is one of those bakery treats that I’ve always found hard to walk past. I’ve written before of my love for all things custard, with the peak of the custard love sitting right in wedged between two lots of pastry.

This recipe had sat for four years in my ‘folder’, awaiting the day when I would finally give it a crack. I know the day I ripped it out of the magazine, as the date is on the bottom. Torn out from The Good Weekend, a magazine insert from the weekend paper The Sydney Morning Herald. Also, it’s a recipe from Matthew Evans. It seems I’ve been unknowingly drawn to his cooking long before I pushed him up on to my gourmet farmer pedestal.

So there the recipe sat. Waiting for the right moment. I had posted about custard biscuits and a reader commented on snot blocks. Snotblocks were otherwise known as the  vanilla slice in certain parts of 70’s Australia. With the mere mention of the snot block, I was drawn back to the torn out folded recipe, wedged between the caramel mudcake and profiterole recipe.

What exactly was holding me back from giving it a go? Right, get cracking girl. So I did. I even followed the recipe to the letter, every little step of it. I didn’t stray, not even a tiny tweak, (well almost). Which was very unlike me.

So did it turn out? Ohhh, yes. Yes it did. It actually exceeded my expectations as the recipe didn’t have an accompanying picture. I just crossed my fingers that it was going to work out, and kept visualising my snot block, I mean vanilla slice.

So I made it, it was delicious, now where’s the recipe?

This was where I came a little undone. I had followed the recipe to the T. No adaptations, no deviations, no tweaking and definitely no hack. There was no evidence of the recipe online, the magazine isn’t even on line, so I couldn’t really give credit where it was due. I didn’t want rip off the magazine I’d been reading for the past 20+ years and I didn’t want to rip off Matthew Evans.

I ended up asking a Good Weekend editor what to do, and some emails were sent back and forth without any conclusion being made. Maybe I was too small of a blog to be bothered with and maybe they just weren’t sure either of what to do? I read David Lebovitz’s post on recipe attribution, then I read it again.

Just when I had decided to let it all go, approval came through. The recipe was given the nod as long as it had all the appropriate acknowledgements.

Vanilla Slice 

from Matthew Evans- Good Weekend December 1st, 2007

2x 25cm square pieces butter puff pastry

80g 2/3 cup cornflour

1 litre milk

40g butter

6 eggs

200g (1 cup) sugar

3 tsp vanilla essence

130g (1 cup) icing sugar

1 tbls extra milk

Oven on to 220C. Pop the pastry on to baking trays and prick all over with a fork. Use something with some weight and it can go on top of the pastry to stop it from rising, just use some baking paper to prevent sticking between it, (I just used a spatula to flatten it half way through cooking). Bake 15 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through.  Cool and trim pastry to fit 22cm square cake tin (or something similar). Line the tin with a strip of baking paper to lift the slice out once it is set. Pop one piece of the pastry in the bottom.

For the custard, add a little of the milk with the cornflour to dissolve. In a pot, heat the remainder of the litre of milk with the butter. While it come to the boil, crack the eggs into the cornflour paste, tip in the sugar and whisk until smoooth. Whisk in the milk, and then return to the heat in a clean pan.

Whisk continuously until the mixture comes to the boil and simmer for 1 minute. Remove from the heat, add the vanilla, then tip the custard into cake tin. Top with the other piece of pastry, turning it over- smooth side up. Press down and allow to cool.

Next either make a barely runny icing with the icing sugar and extra milk or simply dust with icing sugar. Pop in to the fridge until cold. Remove from tin and cut into squares, wiping blade between cuts.

Should make about 16 squares, (unless you do monster sized ones.)


One other little thing I did do differently, was the pastry. Mathew Evans reccommends the Careme butter puff pastry or as second choice Pampas, (likening all others to ear wax). I did get the Careme, but didn’t pay attention to how many grams there were in there, so fell short of the amount of pastry I needed. I baked it as per instructions but then really carefully halved it. Because the pastry was lovely and obliging, it was pretty easy to do, and it was still enough pastry to withhold all the custard.

So what did I learn from all this?

Waiting, and making sure I felt comfortable with the whole re-publishing process definitely paid off. Getting approval to use the recipe on my blog without all the lip biting and frowning that was going on before, felt right.

And I still love vanilla slice.

It’s delicious.


Good Weekend is a weekly magazine insert within the Sydney Morning Herald. 

Matthew Evans is Gourmet Farmer, author of The Real Food Companion and sells via Rare Food.

If you are not sure about posting a recipe, this is a really good place to start.

Vanilla slice sounds much nicer than snot block.


52 thoughts on “one vanilla slice and a small serving of copyright please…

  1. Perfect looking slice, Brydie, we haven’t had a good vanilla slice in yonks! I think David Lebovitz’s piece on recipe attribution is a very good one, and I adhere to it – even if I list the ingredients exactly, I always rewrite the prose in my own words – not difficult to do, since I almost always change the process a little as well! 🙂


  2. Snot block?!!!
    That is disgusting- because of the color? Consistency? Age of it’s eaters?
    I looks wonderful!
    I’m not sure I can follow the directions as faithfully- corn flour is what we call corn starch. Basically it is a pudding between puff pastry. Right?


    • Actually I’m not sure Heidi why they are named so, consistency I’m thinking though.
      I think I’ve had this conversation with Dr Fugawe (?) about the cornflour before. It is the same, but I can’t say the same for the pudding as for me a pudding is more a cake like thing. Not sure Heidi?!!


      • Heidi and Brydie

        Brit English cornflour is corn starch in US English, maize flour/meal in Brit English is corn flour in US English. I am guessing Aus English follows Brit English on this one? And we don’t get that special treated corn flour you get for making tortillas with unless we bribe someone….

        My friend Hazel would have become your best friend on the spot had you offered her a home made custard slice as pretty as that! I might have a go for him indoors, but cold custard is not really my favourite. Him indoors will eat it by the tubful though…..


      • Thanks for that Joanna. Aus English would be the same as Brit. It all gets a bit confusing with the differences!
        I would have happily invited Hazel over for afternoon tea, any custard slice fan is a friend of mine, (tell Brian he can come too 🙂


  3. You’re very good to be so concerned about copyright. I was told years ago (and seems to be backed up by the recipe attribution post) that if you re-write the method personally you are ok, but you should give a credit to the original recipe owner.

    Quite surprised to see CHFG using vanilla essence (made in a factory) and not vanilla extract (from the plant)!


    • Richard have you been talking to my brother? 😉 He’s always on my case about using vanilla bean pods instead of essence. I do use them, and I do use an organic extract essence for everything else vanillery. So it is still an extract, and not man made- phew!!


      • I very rarely bother with the actual pods any more. They go dry and aren’t always the best quality in my experience. Some good quality extract or paste sitting in the cupboard is much more convenient.


  4. Delicious looking slice Brydie – looks yum. – well done!

    That’s interested what David has said about publishing a recipe and changing the wording. I’ve published recipes from cookbooks word for word on my blog before and acknowledged the source with a link to the where to buy the book. My feeling is that by crediting the author and publishing the recipe as it appears in the book you’re actually promoting it and maybe your post would encourage readers to buy the book. Changing it seems a bit odd to me….anyway good to read about the process you went through…

    Anyway I came here for your recipe for honey biscuits and got sidetracked.


    • I think that’s where I was a bit stumped though with the process. I couldn’t credit Good Weekend as it would have only been a general Sydney Morning Herald link, and if I just linked M.Evans with his Real Food Companion Book- the recipe wasn’t in there… I was happy to get the go ahead from the magazine though, and also helps me remember why it’s just easier to make stuff up!
      Hope the honey biscuits worked out.


  5. These look divine – and it was nice to read your approach to getting copyright permission. I often wonder how to manage that issue when I adapt recipes from books. I tend to adapt quite a lot, but I still feel a twinge of guilt. I like that you got permission.


  6. Snotblocks, I love it!!! Almost as much as I love Vanilla Slices, its a weakness of mine, what can I say but you know…., I’ve never made them before. I admire your work in recipe attribution, I’ve got so many recipes hand written I’ve no idea where some of them come from, I mean who in the hell is Grody???? (who apparently let me write out some of his recipes while working in London), I always seem to tweek recipes so much & (to me) each recipe represents mostly an idea, like you I play around with the methods a lot (usually read what is written & think.)… ‘Oh please.., what’s the point of that, your just making this sound difficult’ (we all know I may run into trouble in the baking arena with this sort of attitude now don’t we). So, well done for going to all that trouble to attribute credit to its original owner, point taken, its important.
    Now…, onto these Snot Blocks…., I do believe I’ll be making these.


  7. Whilst the name snotblock would definitely put me off, your photos save the day! The slices look so delicious, I’m practically salivating (and this is the morning I promised myself I would give up sweet things as I’ve been eating far too many treats.) We used to buy similar slices in the UK when we were children but the filling was bright yellow, probably with lots of colouring added. Yours look really delicate and beautiful. Lovely blog.


  8. I used to love vanilla slices but am less keen on them now – enjoy them as an occasional treat and laugh when I hear them called snot blocks – takes me back to the school yard!

    I confess that I am less courteous about reproducing recipes because though I usually change them and rewrite the method in my own style, which I understand is quite legit. In fact I made your olive oil bread on the weekend so I hope you wont mind me giving my version on my blog if I can get around to writing it up – loved it!


  9. you are a fab chicky! thanks for going to all that effort and I’ll definitely be making this one! I’ve been eating a lot of meille feuille and looking for recipes for that too…


  10. Pleasse…no SB’s! The mental image is making me nauseous! Gorgeous vanilla slices, Brydie..they look absolutely delish.

    I remember reading this article the first time I wanted to post a recipe from a book. I struggled and struggled with it and I still feel uncomfortable ‘sharing’ it – even if it is just the ingredients that are being posted and we are still acknowledging the source. I don’t know…it’s a tricky one. The best thing in my opinion is to jump back on that hack baking/kitchen experiment horse and go forth and post without fear. Frustrating though for those times like this when there is a cracker of a recipe that is just begging to be shared! You did the right thing, girl 🙂


    • Thanks Christine. I really appreciate that. Back to hack baking it is.

      The little dish is pretty isn’t it. I’ve got a little collection of one off saucers bought from opshops for usually a $1. I sometimes give them as gifts with something on them and a ribbon, but then there are the ones I can’t part with. I’m sure things taste better when eaten off them.


  11. Until I read your post, I loved vanilla slices – now I know about snot blocks and I’m not sure I could bring myself to eat another one 😦

    Really, great looking slices. This whole copyright thing is such an issue. Everyone seems to tackle it differently and there is lots of conflicting advice. All recipes are built on or inspired by others that have gone before. So my policy is if I change the recipe (which I pretty much always do) and put it in my own words, then it’s fine to post it as long as I acknowledge the source – which I try and do. I’ll have a look at your link though.


  12. I love that there is ‘French Vanilla Slice’ for fancy days and then the regular vanilla slice with hard pink icing for other days!! This looks scrumptious, and I’m so impressed that you went to all the trouble with attribution, it’s so important to give credit where credit is due 🙂


  13. This one will now sit iin my ‘to bake’ folder, but hopefully for less than four years. Suspect will be making this within the next few weeks, such is the allure. Thanks for sharing the custardy goodness.


  14. Ahh, I just made this, the custard is still cooling, but I think I did something wrong. That would be pouring the still hot custard over the pastry on the bottom. The custard went in underneath the pastry and now the pastry is floating about in the tin. I will try making it again one day, although I will let the custard cool a little bit before I pour it in the tin.


  15. Beautiful looking Vanilla slice, thank you for sharing!
    I am wondering, is it correct that you use the whole egg, or is it meant to be just the yolks?
    I haven’t seen a recipe with the whole eggs yet, so hoping to clarify before I try these little delicious things!


  16. Hello.
    I stumbled upon your blog and of course subscribed immediately. I too was interested in whether whole eggs are used as the vanilla slice I make uses egg yolks. I wonder whether the whole egg actually makes it a firmer custard. Yours seemed to slice well and hold its shape. I usually have to cut mine so carefully and even then it is always a fingers-crossed experience. Is your slice difficult to cut? And do you think the slice can be frozen?
    Thank you,


    • HI Angela, I haven’t made this for awhile but from memory it was quite easy to cut, so maybe the whole eggs do contribute to a more stable vanilla slice. Frozen I’m not sure…they never lasted that long around here 🙂


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