The first time Vincent Uso tried canelés was at his cousin’s wedding. His uncle Alain, a pastry chef in Bordeaux, had made them, among other sweets. And the young Uso was hooked from his first bite. “I fell in love with the canelé and I wouldn’t even try any of the other pastries,” Uso says. “I was just focused on the canelé and eating all of them.”

It was a lasting love. After the wedding, Uso asked his uncle for canelés as often as he could. “I had canelé cravings all the time,” he says. And when he was a teenager, Uso’s family moved to the other side of France, near Lyon, so he asked his uncle to send parcels full of the treats. “He would send 80 canelés by express post, and we would put them in the fridge. He would say they should last maybe a month, but they only lasted two days. I told my uncle it wasn’t cutting it and asked him to teach me the recipe.”

Canelés are little scalloped cakes – chewy and custardy on the inside and sealed with a crisp, caramelised shell – that originate from the French region of Bordeaux. Legend has it that they first came about in the 16th century at the convent of the Sisters of the Annunciation. The nuns were said to collect spilled flour from the docks and egg yolks leftover from the winemaking process to make canelés and give them to the poor.

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Uso’s uncle’s recipe is simple but specific. “It has seven ingredients and 10 steps, and it is still on the fridge at my parents’ home,” Uso says. “The piece of paper is very old now, but it is where it all started.” Uso’s uncle gave him the ribbed copper moulds as well – and he started to experiment. “It was quite hard to get the hang of it because the dough sticks to the mould very easily. You have to grease them with a brush and a liquid that is specially designed to enhance the caramelisation, but at the same time makes it easy to remove them from the mould. Eventually, I worked it out.”

When Uso moved to Australia, his dream was to share his love of canelés with the country, but first he had to focus on getting a visa so he could stay. It took him seven years to become a citizen. In the meantime, he would bake for friends.

With the arrival of Covid – and everything grinding to a halt – came the perfect opportunity. “I had nothing else to do but be at home and start something,” he says. And so online bakery Canelé Alain was born.

“It started very humbly. It is still very small, but people really like it, and I am very pleased with it. I want to pay tribute to Alain. He passed away several years ago, and that’s why I created the company and named it after him as a tribute. It all comes from him.”

Uso bakes canelés to order in both Melbourne and Perth (and he ships nationwide by express post, with heating instructions). Melburnians can pick up their canelés from Hikari Cafe on Swanston Street, and Western Australians can pick them up directly from Uso’s house in Morley. Delivery is available within a 40-kilometre radius of Morley or Melbourne CBD. You can order boxes of six or three “grande”, eight or four medium, or 15 petit canelés, or get a mixed pack.

The cakes come in traditional vanilla and rum flavours, as well as orange and Cointreau, and pandan and Malibu rum, plus vegan and low-gluten renditions. Perth locals can also get decadent lemon myrtle, white chocolate and limoncello canelés.

Order canelés for Victorian pick-up and inter-state delivery or for Perth delivery. Prices start from $17.

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With additional reporting by Lucy Bell Bird.