Okay people. Before I embark on my 10-day celebration of the lamington proper, I think it would be a good idea to clear up a few issues that have presented themselves since I first introduced the idea of this series and contest.
Some readers have emailed me asking what exactly a lamington is, and what makes it a lamington, as opposed to anything else. It would appear that the Australian cake is not as famous as it deserves to be. I can only hope that the Global Bake Off that seems to be taking place currently is going to put paid to that.
Lamingtons are essentially cake sandwiches. Not like whoopie pies (although lamington whoopie pies really would be something special), but actually sandwiches of (usually génoise) cake, put together with a filling (traditionally jam), before being dipped in a chocolate icing and dessicated coconut. They were apparently first made in Toowoomba, Queensland, by the 2nd Baron Lamington's chef, an Armand Gallad, who, when called upon at the last minute to provide something to feed unexpected guests (hey - we've all been there, Armand), cut some cubes of the previous day's cake, and coated them with chocolate and coconut. Ms. Humble has written a hilarious account of the man who gave the lamington its name, as well as entering my contest no less than four times (you've got to love a woman with dedication!) here, so I suggest you go and take a look if you have further questions. Be sure to leave a tip in her basket.
Now. I have also had emails and comments disagreeing with my lamington definition; that lamingtons are only true lamingtons if they are plain cake, with chocolate and coconut, but no filling. No jam, no cream, no nothing. I am not deliberately setting out to court controversy, but, for the purpose of this competition and challenge (which are mine, after all) I am throwing these suggestions out of the window. In my challenge, the lamingtons do not have to use cake, and they can be filled or unfilled. I prefer a little something in mine - the best one I had in Oz was sandwiched with cool, thick whipped cream, and got more than a little sandy as I ate it on Manly Beach in Sydney).
What is important for me is that the lamingtons must be dipped in something (chocolate, frosting, jam, sugar glaze etc. etc.) and then rolled in or sprinkled with something else (coconut, sugar, hundreds and thousands, peppercorns etc).
Well, maybe not peppercorns.
I am not trying to damage Australian food culture. I actually think the opposite is true - I want more people to know about these simple cakes, that are so much fun to make and to eat.
With that cleared up, I can move on. The WORST thing about most of the bad lamingtons I ate in Australia (and I did have one in most places we stopped at - with coffee. Australian coffee puts ours to shame.) was either that the cake was dry, or that the chocolate coating tasted cheap and nasty. These flaws are, in my eyes at least, unforgivable. Actually, no. Poor quality chocolate I can just about handle. But biting into a dry cake is like treading ankle-deep into a puddle whilst wearing your best shoes. It just ruins your day.
Thus in all my lamington recipes, I'll be using only good quality chocolate, and have tinkered with my usual cake recipe to ensure a moist cake that is as fluffy and light as can be. Normally, I would get around the dryness issue by soaking the baked cakes in a sugar syrup. But the process of making lamingtons is already rather hands-on, and I didn't want to make it any more involved. The key change is to add potato starch, or fecola di patate, which I get from the Italian section of my local deli. Corn flour does the same job, mind you.
These amounts make two 20cm square sponges, which will make 32 lamingtons if you cut them into 4cm squares. (Promise - you can check my maths if you like!) But since half the fun of re-inventing the lamington is making them different shapes, I think we can ignore that. You'll just get a few more, or a few less.
And so, without further ado...
To the lamington - the greatest cake in the Southern Hemisphere!
Mr. P's Lamington Base
You will need:
6 eggs (large)
375g butter, room temperature
375g granulated white sugar
325g plain flour, sifted
75g potato starch, or corn flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbinate of soda
- Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Grease two 20cm square cake tins with butter. I didn't bother to line them as well, since I trim the edges of my lamingtons anyway and was in a flippant mood. You must decide for yourself if you are feeling brave enough not to line either.
- In a large bowl, mix everything together on a slow speed with an electric hand mixer, until combined. You may need to add a splash of milk. This takes a bit longer than for a normal cake; this is a lot of mixture we're making.
- When combined, transfer half of the mixture to each tin. Smooth the tops and bake for 25 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes in the tins, and then turn out onto a wrack. When cool slice as needed.
Don't forget to Re-Invent the Lamington! Deadline 26 January.