Lantern Penguin book launch party

Author: Maggie Scardifield

"Welcome to the pleasure dome," announced Christine Manfield to a full house at her book launch on Monday night at Sydney's Café Paci. And she wasn't kidding, either.

The dessert dégustation, hosted by the Sydney chef and author and presided over by Blackheath-based artist and designer Jenny Kee, was hosted in celebration of Manfield's latest book, Dessert Divas (Penguin, $79.99, hbk). Sharing the evening with Manfield and Kee were fellow Lantern Penguin Australia authors Vince Frost (Design Your Life, Penguin, $49.99, hbk), Karen McCartney (Superhouse, Penguin, $79.99, hbk) and Richard Unsworth (Garden Life, Penguin, $49.99, hbk), who also launched new titles on the night to a room full of media, publishing, design and hospitality folk.

Manfield says her desserts are her "showgirls". "Dessert is all about pleasure and fantasy; they should make you want to dive right into that plate."

We didn't need to be told twice. Manfield's signature Gaytime Goes Nuts dessert (made famous during her days at Universal) was reimagined, this time combining the caramel ice-cream with salted hazelnut caramel, hazelnut chocolate mousse and honeycomb nougat dust, in bite-sized form on a stick.

The book launch concludes Manfield's national tour of pop-up dessert bars at top restaurants around the country, which so far have included Nomad, Tonka, Aria Brisbane and The Source, among others.

"Each dessert diva is big on personality," says Manfield. "The book is a spectacular finale and a lasting memoir of my life as restaurateur of Universal."

The Food Guests happily skipped straight to dessert canapés that included delicate raspberry ripple meringues with vanilla yoghurt cream and raspberry sorbet; Roquefort mousse, walnut nougatine and roasted figs; caramelised choc mousse and passionfruit curd tarts with caramel popcorn; and yes, the Gaytime Goes Nuts.

The Drink 2013 Espelt Lledoner grenache rosé, 2011 Espelt Vailet Macabeu grenache blanc and Crystal Head Ginger Martinis.

We Loved As an enthusiastic home cook, Jenny Kee was an apt choice of host to introduce the four books. "These are super-desserts in every way," announced Kee. "The humble pav just won't cut it in quite the same way anymore."

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