During my formative years, I watched a lot of Simpsons episodes. In one such episode, Bart learns about the Coriolis Effect (in which water in the southern hemisphere goes down the drain clockwise, instead of counter-clockwise in the northern hemisphere). I'm sure this was also my first time learning this fact. Bart refuses to believe it, saying "No way! Water doesn't obey your 'rules.' It goes where it wants! Like me, babe." To refute Lisa's claims, Bart starts making a lot of collect calls to countries in the southern hemisphere, including Australia. He gets a child on the phone, pretending to be from the International Drainage Commission (or something like that), and asks him to check which way their toilets are draining. The adorable Aussie child says, "They're all draining clockwise, sir!" Bart says one of my favorite lines, "D'oh! She was right. Stupid Lisa, science queen!" Bart makes the poor kid go check with his neighbors--who are clearly hours down the road--while he waits on the line. Since it's a collect call, Bart gets in trouble with Australia, and gets sentenced to a "booting." Hilarity ensues.
Obviously, I just like to talk about the Simpsons. ANYWAY. The point is that there were a lot of stereotypes about Australians thrown around. For instance, a teenager shop keeper talking to Marge says that "Bull Frogs" is a funny name for them, and instead, he would've called them "Chazzwuzzers." I remembered that quote in particular when finding an Australian recipe to make. It seems that many Australian recipes are either too similar to American cuisine to be worth my while for this challenge, or they involve ingredients which I would *never* find here. I'm talkin' things like Wattleseed. Or Barramundi. Or Vegemite.
Lamingtons do not have such a crazy-sounding name. I find the name adorable....probably because it sounds like a sweet baby lamb with big doe eyes. But really, these snack cakes are pretty damn precious, too. All fluffy coconut and sponge cake with sweet, sweet chocolate. If you tilt your head and squint, they vaguely resemble the lamb in my head. Awww.
And one more bit of trivia before I give you the recipe! Apparently, these were named after Lord Lamington, the Governor of Queensland from 1896-1901. There are many stories about its origin in relation to him, but they all involve making these for fancy parties and the guests loving the results. The BEST part of the trivia is the following: Ironically, Lord Lamington was believed to have hated the dessert that had been named in his honour, referring to them as "those bloody poofy woolly biscuits." (from Wikipedia)
Lamingtons (from the Joy of Baking)
-2 cups (280 grams) all-purpose flour
-2 teaspoons baking powder
-1/4 teaspoon salt
-1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
-3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated white sugar
-2 large eggs
-1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
-1/2 cup (120 ml) milk
-4 cups (1 lb.) (454 grams) confectioners' (powdered or icing) sugar, sifted
-1/3 cup (30 grams) cocoa powder (I like to use Dutch-processed)
-3 tablespoons (42 grams) unsalted butter
1/2 cup (120 ml) milk
-2 cups unsweetened desiccated coconut, finely ground
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) and place oven rack to middle position. Butter, or spray with a nonstick cooking spray, the bottom and sides of an 8 inch (20 cm) square cake pan. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl sift or whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In bowl of electric mixer, beat the butter until soft. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy (about 2-3 minutes). Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the vanilla extract and beat until combined.
3. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and milk, in three additions, beginning and ending with flour.
4. Spread the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with an offset spatula. Bake in a preheated oven for approximately 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
5. Cool the cake in its pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Place a wire rack on top of the cake pan and invert, lifting off the pan. Re-invert. Once the cake has completely cooled cut it into 16 two-inch (5 cm) squares. Wrap the cake in plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours or even overnight. The reason for doing this is that it is much easier (less crumbs) to coat a cold cake with frosting.
6. Chocolate Frosting: Place the confectioners' sugar, cocoa powder, butter and milk in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir the mixture until it becomes smooth and of pouring consistency.
7. To assemble Lamingtons: Make a production line; put the 16 squares of cakes on a wire rack that is placed over a baking sheet (to catch the drips). Have ready the coconut on a large plate and the chocolate frosting. Spoon or ladle the chocolate frosting over each square of cake, making sure you cover all sides. (It is best to do a few squares at a time.) With a small offset spatula or knife transfer the chocolate covered cake to the plate of coconut and roll the cake in the coconut, covering all sides. Gently transfer the lamington to a clean wire rack to set. Repeat with the rest of the cake squares. Once the Lamingtons have set, store in an airtight container for several days.
Note: When you ladle the frosting over the cake, some of the frosting will drip onto the baking pan. Pour this frosting back in your bowl and reuse (strain if necessary). If the icing becomes too thick to pour, simply place the frosting back over the saucepan of simmering water and reheat until it is of pouring consistency. (You may have to do this a few times as the frosting has a tendency to thicken over time. Add a little more milk to frosting if necessary to get pouring consistency.)
-Makes 16 2-inch (5 cm) squares.
Verdict: A very tasty homemade snack cake, indeed! Way to go, Australia! The brilliance of this is that neither the coconut or cake is too sweet, so it helps compensate for the uber-sweetness of the chocolate frosting. Mmm... Having one is making it difficult not to have another.
A few notes of my own:
1) The author says that typically lamingtons are dipped into the chocolate, but she prefers to ladle. Since I trust Joy of Baking, I went with this approach. I wouldn't recommend it. I think dipping is the way to go. It won't matter if your fingers smudge the chocolate, because you're coating it with coconut anyway. The ladling approach is good in theory, not so much in practice. I got chocolate literally everywhere, but then had to keep stopping to scrape all the excess back into the double boiler and wait for it to get melty again. If I'd had to do more than 16, I would've gone nuts!
2) I hope I didn't offend my Aussie friends. I love you and your country, really. I loved learning all about your country's history by reading "In a Sunburned Country" by Bill Bryson. I so seriously want to visit you some day. Kisses!