Australian Food Revelations: Kugelhopf and Monarch Cakes / by Amy Thibodeau

Kuglehopf Cake One of my favorite things about travel is the eating part. I'm admittedly not very adventurous when it comes to trying meat things - I've yet to have kangaroo or any of the other critters that are eaten almost exclusively in Australia - but I'll try almost anything else - especially if sweets are involved.

We've been in Australia for nearly two weeks and although it's more expensive than I would have thought, the food here is good. Really good. There is such a delectable range of different kinds of foods that are readily available and there seems to be genuinely vibrant ethnic communities working to maintain the old recipes and traditions that serve as a cultural binding agent. We're staying in the St. Kilda area of Melbourne and the high street near our house is brimming with wonderful Jewish bakeries and delis. I am overwhelmed and enamored with the process of going into a Jewish bakery first thing in the morning, grabbing a number and still needing to elbow my way forward when its called because the person with the number directly following mine is just waiting for me to miss a beat and jump into my place. It feels like winning the lottery when your number is called and you manage to successfully walk away with something wonderful to nibble on. Thank goodness for the numbers though. If there wasn't any system in place, I would never get a boiled bagel or a mushroom and potato strudel.

One of the best things I've found in Melbourne is Monarch Cakes on Acland Street in St. Kilda. They've been around since the 1930s, when the original owners immigrated to Australia from Poland, where the family owned another cake shop. According to their website:

In the past, a cake was made from fresh, raw ingredients such as butter, flour, eggs, and sugar. Today many have sacrificed that old fashioned flavour in order to bake more quickly and cheaply. At Monarch Cakes we would never dream of doing that! We bake the same way our grandmothers did, using the ingredients in their most natural form. Our cakes are made with the highest grade butter and sugar and we never use substitutes or premixes. This is evident in the way the cakes taste.

Amen!

Their specialty is a cake I'd never heard of called Kuglehopf, also sometimes spelled Kooglhoupf or Gugelhupf. A traditional cake that probably originated in Austria or Slovenia, it is circular in shape, kind of like an Angle Food or bundt cake. According to legend, Marie Antoinette brought the recipe with her to France when she married, though this is highly disputed by the French who claim they were the original inventors of this desert. When countries are fighting about the origin of a cake, you know it has to be good!

Apparently the cake is often laced with raisins soaked in brandy but at Monarch Cakes, they lace theirs with beautiful, rich chocolate. The cake was dense but also a bit flaky like a pastry and out of every fold flowed chocolate. Rivers of chocolate. Seriously. I cannot over-emphasize the chocolate here. We picked our piece up after dinner the other night and intended to eat it on our walk home but this cake genuinely requires a utensil and somewhere comfortable to sit where each bite can be savored.

It was transcendent. If you are in Melbourne or plan to visit, Monarch Cakes and the chocolate Kugelhopf is something you must make time for. Acland Street alone is a great place to visit with lots of independent cafes and shops, but don't miss the cake. You will remember it forever.

If anyone has other must-eat recommendations for Melbourne or Sydney, I'd love to hear them. We're here until 17th of October so there's lots of time!

Photo Credit: Flick River because I was too busy easting to take an image.