I know what you’re thinking… You just had a “whoa, she’s actually alive and it’s a new blog post!” thought and it is completely warranted. For the last four months I have fallen off the face of the earth. Obviously I don’t mean this in a literal sense, but in the online world, I’ve been pretty non existent. No blog posts, hardly any tweets, minimal lame Facebook status updates and don’t even get me started with my Instagram where I think I’ve posted 5 photos in the last 90 days. That’s an average of 1 every two weeks! Anyway…
I’m not going to go on and on about my recent hiatus because I think we all do it every now and then. Sometimes you just need some space to think and reflect to just slow down and breathe. Some people take a few minutes of their day to do this, some go for weeks on a mind-clearing holiday. I just decided to go offline for a while but now I am back!
What better recipe to share for my comeback then the good old lamington? I know a lot of my readers (and friends who read this) are not Australian, so let me explain what the hell they are if you have no idea what I am talking about. Lamingtons are squares of light airy sponge cake, dipped in a chocolate icing then rolled in coconut. Sometimes they are cut in half before being iced and filled with jam (and sometimes even cream!!). They are as Aussie as Aussie can be!
I grew up on lamingtons but before you have visions of me running around as a kid eating freshly baked lamingtons, think again. My mum is a truly amazing cook, but she is pretty crap in the baking stakes so all the lamingtons I used to eat were the packet ones at the supermarket. Now before you judge my mum, these little supermarket cakes were quite good but they never really ever tasted like fresh homemade ones.
I have tried making lamingtons many times over the years and I always failed. Why? Because of the damn sponge cake!! All my sponge cakes have turned out dense, heavy and not very nice. I can bake a mean loaf of bread, a birthday cake or a batch of cookies, but I could never master the sponge no matter how many recipes I would try and no matter how light handed I would be when mixing. I came across this recipe from Nat Paull, the pastry chef/owner of an awesome North Melbourne cafe called Beatrix and I knew i just had to give it one more go. I’ve had lamingtons at Beatrix before and they are freaking yum (italics and underline very necessary).
So, after an afternoon of trying one more time to get lamingtons right, I finally did. The recipe worked perfectly for me and I now know why: ingredients are to be weighed, not measured using cups. Baking really is a precise art yet we still use cup measurements which are so inaccurate! Weighing out ingredients in exact quantities has resulted in super light yet firm squares of sponge cake which were sandwiched with strawberry jam, then dipped in a rich chocolate icing and finished off with a very generous enveloping of roasted shredded coconut. AMAZING! It is a little bit fiddly to make lamingtons but the time and effort really is worth it!
Happy baking! :)
Chocolate Lamingtons with Roasted Coconut
400g egg (about 7 to 8)
270g castor sugar
270g plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
150g unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
400g icing sugar mixture
50g good Dutch or baking cocoa
150g thickened cream
350g shredded coconut
1. Line a 10” square tin with baking paper and preheat the oven to 170°C.
2. Over a pot of barely simmering water, heat the sugar and the eggs in the mixer bowl until they are hot to the touch. Put the mixer bowl into your stand processor and whisk for 8 minutes on a medium/high speed until the egg mix is pale, fluffy and can hold a peak. The mixture will have quadrupled in volume and it should be lovely and light.
3. Heat the butter in a saucepan over a low heat until the butter starts to turn a dark toasty brown. Remove from heat, add vanilla extract and set aside.
4. Gently scrape the egg mix into a large wide mixing bowl. Sift over half the flour/salt mix and gently fold in with a whisk, turning the mix over while spinning the bowl slowly. Fold in the remaining sifted flour until it has been fully incorporated. Slowly pour in the warm melted butter mix and fold in. Scrape the mix into the prepared tin and smooth the top.
5. Bake until slightly bouncy in the centre and golden brown. This should take about 35 minutes.
6. Cool the cake and cut into desired dimensions. I just cut my big square cake into half, then each half again, then in half again and half again (basically I just explained a really long winded way to say 16 equal squares, haha). Split each in half like a sandwich and spread a generous dollop of jam in the middle. Sandwich the halves together and place on a tray and put them into the freezer for around 30 minutes. This will help them stay together when they are being iced.
7. For the icing, stir the icing mix and cocoa together in a bowl. Heat the water, butter and cream until boiling and pour into the bowl. Whisk well to make a smooth icing.
8. To ice, heat the icing over a bowl of barely simmering water. To check the consistency, dip your finger in. It should coat your finger so you can’t see your finger but adheres easily. If it is too thick, add a little extra water.
9. For the coconut, toast at about 150°C) for 10 – 15 minutes until it’s lovely and amber brown. This happens quite quickly, so stir the coconut every few minutes to get an even colouring.
10. Time for assembly! Place the following in a row on your bench in this order: sponge squares, chocolate icing (kept on top of the pot of water on the bench so it stays hot, toasted coconut in a generously sized tray, a little bowl of cold water (this is for cleaning off your hands before putting them in the coconut. It also helps if you dip your fingers in the water before picking up a dipped lamington and transferring it to the coconut as the icing will not tear off the lamington and stick to your fingers), another tray scattered with a little coconut for resting. You will also need a cooling rack to allow excess icing to drip off into the bowl and a spatula.
11. Take a sponge square and roll it in the icing until coated on all sides. Pop it onto the cooling rack, cut side down, and lightly ‘brush’ off any excess icing on top with your fingers. Do a couple at a time. Dip your fingers in the cold water and pick up the lamington and place in the coconut. Scatter lots of coconut on top and then press some coconut onto each iced side. Put the finished lamington onto your tray and continue until you are done!
* A good tip if you run out of icing towards the end: scrape the excess icing back into the bowl and pop it back over a pot of simmering water. The heat will melt the icing again and you should have enough icing to keep going :)