Pastry chef Audrey Allard has refashioned her online cake box business, Holy Sugar, into a bricks-and-mortar destination in Northcote.
Allard, previously at Pt Leo Estate and Lune, launched weekly treat menus during Melbourne's first lockdown. Her crullers, sponge cakes, flans and crumble tarts helped many people sugar-rush their way through the pandemic.
"After doing boxes for almost two years, it's time to do things differently," she says. "I feel like I have so much more freedom in opening a shop. There are a lot of things I couldn't put in boxes because they are too hard to deliver or I couldn't make enough."
The shape of her crullers (deep-fried doughnuts) has changed from a box-friendly ring to a flower. "I couldn't do that in a box because it filled too much space," she says. And her citrus tart – with lime, lemon and mandarin – will now be topped with delicate quenelles of cream.
Superfans can rest assured that Allard's pecan tart will be available, made with a dark-baked base, dulce de leche and an almond-pecan frangipane. "People tell me it's the best tart they've ever had," she says.
Allard took over the premises that housed Macedonian restaurant LeLee, painting the walls a buttery cream. "The whole vibe was darker. Now it's super light and bright with stained glass windows. After 12pm, the light shines through and pink, yellow and green aura-like shapes move around the room. It's like a fairyland."
"They are such beautiful cakes and tarts, you don't want a plain white plate."
Colourful works by local artist Eugene Von Nang decorate the space. "I love art," she says. "I had a hard time choosing between visual art or a pastry apprenticeship but I decided to put my art in my food."
Diners are welcome to sit down at a long table to enjoy Holy Sugar wares, now served on vintage china rather than cardboard. "I have beautiful floral plates from my great grandmother," says Allard. "They are such beautiful cakes and tarts, you don't want a plain white plate."
For the first time, Allard will make sandwiches, baking the focaccia herself and filling it with feta and roast vegetables, or mortadella, roasted capsicum and pepper romano cheese made by her mother, artisan cheesemaker Debra Allard, in northern New South Wales.
She hopes people coming for a Holy Sugar experience will feel nostalgia and joy. "It's a shock for me to watch people come into this space that I've spent so much time creating," she says. "And it's definitely emotional to see people eat what I make, rather than taking it away in boxes."
Open Wed-Fri 7am-3pm, Sat-Sun 8am-3pm (or until sold out).
236 High Street, Northcote, holysugar.com.au.