While Melbourne is a relatively young city, it’s got plenty of longstanding institutions, such as Pellegrini’s and Jimmy Watson’s. Yet Monarch Cakes pre-dates them all. Polish and Jewish migrant Pearl Levine, who had a cake shop in Poland in the 1920s, opened the south-side shop with her family in 1934. In the generations since, Monarch has welcomed those with a taste for history to try traditional baked goods from one of Melbourne’s prominent migrant communities.

Today, the nostalgic bakery is under the stewardship of Gideon Markham and his family, who took over prepping, proofing and piping duties in 1996. And they still follow the same recipes that Levine brought over from Poland in the early 20th century.

The reigning fan-favourite is Levine’s Polish cheesecake, which uses fermented quark cheese instead of cream cheese. And chocolate lovers will delight in the marbled swirls that define its signature chocolate kooglhoupf (also known as gugelhupf), a sweet ring-shaped cake-like bread with dark chocolate and almond meal swirled through pastry.

In the front window, Monarch’s iconic Victorian-era signage sits proudly above a display of lemon tarts, French vanilla slices, slices of apple crumble and sachertorte. Inside, the eclectic interiors embody the history behind every recipe. Old box shelves line the walls, jammed with old photos and magazines, art deco pendant lights hang overhead and a mint-green set of 20th-century scales sit on the glass countertop.

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Updated: May 23rd, 2024

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