Cristina Jiménez is a former computer engineer turned pastry chef, and the sole force behind La Colmena, a traditional Spanish pastelería. Jiménez, who comes from a family of chefs, was inspired to open it during lockdown – after noticing a lack of authentic Spanish desserts in Australia. For Jiménez, serving traditional regional pastries is about providing Melburnians with a piece of Spanish cuisine that few outside the expat community are familiar with.

Jiménez turns out a rotating array of pastries, all inspired by her upbringing across Spain. There are piononos, which originated in Granada and consist of rolled syrupy sponge cake with a custard filling and a caramelised cream topping; doblegats, originally from the Balearic Islands and characterised by multiple layers of extremely crisp puff pastry filled with chocolate cream; and glaseados, a luscious cake featuring layers of puff pastry, patisserie cream, meringue and toasted yolk.

Also on the menu: xuixos, a viennoiserie originally from Girona in Catalonia, with a deep-fried and sugar-coated cylindrical sourdough shell filled with crema catalana (similar to creme brûlée). Plus, one of the oldest documented sweets in Spain – the tocino de cielo. Similar to a crème caramel, it’s made with egg yolks, water and sugar, and is thought to have originated in the Andalusian city of Jerez de la Frontera in the 14th century.

Most of the pastries take two or more days to make – prepared and baked in Jiménez’s home (which was converted into a council-approved commercial kitchen) before being brought to the market stall and laid out on a beautifully restored cabinet built in 1930s Ukraine.

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Updated: December 4th, 2023

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