The blue, cloud-spotted sky illuminated the city sky scrapers as they wove in and out of view on a late Monday morning. Dale and I were on a train from the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne and the city was to be our playground for the day. The announcer’s voice could be heard over the PA system at every station that dotted our journey, “Toorak, Hawksburn, South Yarra…” As our train rumbled closer to the city it became apparent we would miss breakfast at Cumulus, Inc and that the coffee and gourmet donuts at Shortstop would have to suffice as an alternative food adventure. Life can be so unfair.
Our train slowed to a stop at Melbourne Central and we set out west down La Trobe street once we left the station. The map indicated we needed to turn south on Sutherland but what we beheld seemed like it was little more than an alleyway where the backs of corporate buildings and parking garages met. Nevertheless, we obliged and were met by a navy blue sign with a white “S” and dot. Shortstop donuts. We had arrived.
Patrons were sitting outside on the wooden bench seats in front of the roof-high windows. Their chatter grew louder and louder as we approached but the scent of espresso was the first to say hello. Inside, we found a clean, white-tiled interior, ambient music intermingled with laughter, and a man seated at the bar with his laptop open. Had it not been for the gleaming, fresh donuts sitting in the glass display case, the room would have been typical of any cafe in Melbourne.
Like bees to a flower, we were immediately drawn to the bright colors and fun shapes of the donuts that, until that moment, had only existed on my Instagram feed and in my dreams. “There’s the Matcha one, and the Australian Honey and sea salt cruller!” I pointed out to Dale, as if they were old friends I hadn’t seen in a while. An employee explained that they had a display case next to the register showcasing their current selection but we had already eyed what we had come for – the Boston Cream donut, made with a Heilala vanilla creme patisserie filling and 80% dark Callebaut chocolate ganache topping. The stuff of Instagram legend.
There was a certain giddiness in my voice as I said “I’ll have a Boston Cream, please” to the cashier. As our order was being processed we salivated over the other varieties on offer that day – lemon sugar and blueberry, peanut butter and jam, iced coffee… We took a newly vacated seat next to the window in the corner and waited with anticipation similar to that of being six years-old on Christmas morning. Not five minutes later, we had two Boston Creams and a cappuccino sitting on our small round table.
The day I found out about Shortstop’s Boston Cream donuts, months prior, was to be the last day they were going to serve them, as it was a Hanukkah special. The vision of the vanilla seeds in the creme patisserie and gobs of dark chocolate perfection would not leave my imagination until I finally accepted that this variation on the Boston Cream – my favorite type of donut in all donutdom – was the one that got away. Fortunately, they brought them back by popular demand and now the Boston Cream was in my hand, heavy from the creamy vanilla filling. The sheen of fresh ganache reflected the light from the window behind me. The first bite into the fried doughy, chocolatey, vanilla goodness was ecstasy. The kind of bite where everything else in the world stops for just a moment and you could cry from being so happy that you’re alive. It was the rare moment where the world of black and white, good and evil, chocolate and vanilla, exist in perfect harmony.
The world began moving again. Ganache, before it has cooled and set, often has a mind of its own and soon the thick chocolate topping was all over my face and fingers, as if I had been a two year-old trying to finger paint. One look at Dale and it was obvious he was no better off. There was a basket of napkins across the room and as I got up to get some I was awkwardly licking my fingers and attempting to cover my face where I was sure the chocolate made me look like I had a beard.
The next ten minutes were spent finishing our Boston Creams, obsessively wiping our faces, and sipping the wonderfully bitter cappuccino, which had been topped with some beautiful latte art. The complimentary sparkling water was a refreshing contrast from the cream-laden fried ball of goodness we had just consumed. Shortstop’s elusive Boston Cream was no longer a slightly unhealthy obsession. It was a new love affair. The box was ticked. As we left Shortstop in favor of more adventures that day, I began to wonder if we would ever bother to try breakfast at Cumulus, Inc. next time we were in the city.
What: Shortstop Donuts
Where: 12 Sutherland Street, Melbourne, Victoria, 3000