What do you do to mark the 90th birthday occasion of the world’s favourite mouse? If you’re Gelato Messina, the answer is an incredible gelato cake version of Mickey Mouse.
The cake features layers of gelato encased in carefully tempered chocolate in classic Mickey colours: black for his ears and head, red for his body, yellow for his shoes, and white for his hands and face, emblazoned with his trademark grin.
Creating the chocolate for the custom cake was a painstaking process. All Messina’s chocolate is now made in-house in a bespoke machine imported from Italy. “We import cocoa butter and cocoa mass from Ecuador, which is mixed with sugar, milk and nuts – depending on the type of chocolate,” says Siân Bishop, Gelato Messina’s content and brand ambassador.
Bishop says Messina chocolatier Kevin Lui worked for days to get the chocolate perfect. “We had to work on the colours to make sure they were true to life,” says Bishop. “Plus Mickey has some very fiddly bits, like his eyes, that we had to get just right.”
Bishop says Messina executive chef Tom Mitchell, who led the project, has a unique connection to Mickey Mouse. “When he was first starting out as a chef, Tom won a trip to Hong Kong to cook in some of the best kitchens in the city,” she says. “One of the experiences was going behind the scenes at Disneyland there to see how they produced everything for the park. There were so many amazing Mickey creations.”
Like Mickey Mouse, Gelato Messina is a pioneer in its field. When Nick Palumbo moved from Adelaide to Sydney to start the business in 2002, “everyone thought he was mad for opening the first store in Darlinghurst,” says Bishop. It was back when “Kings Cross was crazy. There were loads of people in the street all the time.”
But the lively street culture was suited to Messina – with its dark wood, low lighting and loud music it almost had a nightclub vibe. People strolling the neighbourhood after dinner were drawn to the after-hours atmosphere. A rotating roster of weekly specials proved to be a huge hit on social media – and in real life – with flamboyant flavours such as the perennially popular Robert Brownie Jnr (milk-chocolate gelato with chocolate brownie and chocolate fudge), Just Like A Milkshake (chocolate-cereal-milk gelato with chocolate-cereal clusters) and Hodor (peanut and milk chocolate gelato with caramel brownie and caramel fudge). “Every week we make sure there’s a peanut-butter special,” says Bishop. “They’re always really popular.”
Messina has since expanded to 17 stores in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, the Gold Coast and soon Canberra. Everything it produces – gelato bases, brownies, cookies, sauces and more – is still made from scratch in the Messina factory in Rosebery, Sydney. Alongside the new chocolate machine, another recent acquisition is the dulce leche machine to make the famous Argentinian caramel in-house. “We’re getting to the point where we are producing our own milk from our own farm in country Victoria,” says Bishop.
Keeping the business in-house is a core feature of the brand says Bishop – especially on special projects dedicated to a cultural icon like Mickey. “He’s a character we’ve all grown up with,” she says. “So to create him out of gelato was a fun project.”
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Disney.