There’s nothing subtle about New Zealand. The scenery is smack-in-your-face stunning. New Zealanders are, in all their shapes and sizes, a quirky, likeable bunch (leaving aside a few whackos I’ve had dealings with in the South Island). When the Shaky Isles rattle with an earthquake, a whole city is taken down. And….when it comes to cakes and slices, Kiwi bakers sure know what they’re doing.

Way back in the mists of time, after school I always visited the local cake shop in St.Ives, which is where I lived in New South Wales. I remember Neenish tarts (an Aussie original) and apple turnovers stuffed with real cream, not that mock-shock rubbish they’re filled with these days. Oh and that other wonderful Aussie invention – the lamington (or lamo for my Australian readers).

Sadly though, over the years, commercial bakeries took over and Coles and Woolies started to sell cakes in the supermarkets. Busy working mums lost the art of baking. The humble local cake shop either closed or just didn’t offer the old-time favourites any more.

But New Zealand, well the Kiwis have yet to give up on the old classics. Kiwis know how to indulge in a good cake or two. Any cake shop I go into – whether it be in Darfield or Belfast – boasts plenty of Neenish tarts or fat apple turnovers filled with REAL cream. Naturally, for the sake of research and to let the people of the world know about this beautiful country, I am slowing eating my way through the cake shops of the South Island.

I have to admit though that even I was stopped in my tracks by a puzzling cake called a Marzipano. Never seen it in Oz nor have I seen it before in NZ. But there it was the other day, sitting on the cake racks of a bakery just out of Christchurch, temptingly iced with decadent chocolate and the size of a small brick.

With a name like Marzipano, it’s a dead give-away that one of my favourite ingredients – marzipan – was going to be heavily involved and so I ordered one (at the same time, trying not to look like a huge pig for ordering such a huge cake). The lady behind the counter told me they’d just been baked and were filled with buttercream. Bonus! I must say that buttercream seems to be big here in the South Island and there’s no argument on this from me.

I settled down with my chai latte and cut the Marzipano into slices. Inside? Soft sponge cake layered with buttercream and a touch of jam. The sponge was wrapped in a thin layer of marzipan and dark, velvety chocolate. Yummo! Delish! A cake with attitude!

I have to report dear reader that I scoffed the lot. And pretty quickly too. I hope that no-one was looking and I certainly hope that I won’t be recognised because I intend to return for another round of Marzipano delight.

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