lamingtons6The lamington is probably the most authentic Australian baked good.  Its origin is not challenged (unlike the Pavlova) and it is firmly established as one of our nation’s treasures – a bit of a culinary icon, in fact.  You cannot attend a school fete without seeing stalls and tables piled up with these coconut covered gems.  It is also not uncommon for fundraising to be supported by ‘lamington drives’.

I have not met an Australian yet who does not like the lamington – Vegemite, yes, lamington no.  It is probably not a surprise though that most people enjoy a fluffy sponge cake coated in chocolate.  But more of a surprise that most people also like that chocolate coated sponge cake encrusted with coconut.  Seems most Australians are partial to the coconut.

They say the Lamington was named after Lord Lamington who was the elected Governor of Queensland in 1986 through to 1901.  Evidently, the lamington was created purely by accident – like the brownie – with a stale sponge cake coated with melted chocolate and then dipped into coconut to create a make-shift dessert.

Lamingtons are incredibly easy to make, and the recipe I use for Lamingtons is so very simple.  Just bake a basic sponge, cut into squares, coat with a layer of chocolate and then a layer of coconut.

Enjoy these to celebrate Australia Day or any other time of year.  If you are in the Northern Hemisphere (and experiencing a bitter winter), hopefully the coconut brings you a little sunshine with every bite.  Enjoy!

{ Lamingtons } (recipe by the Australian Women’s Weekly)

* Ingredients *

6 eggs
¾ cup castor sugar
1 cup self raising flour (all purpose + 2 tsp of baking powder)
1/3 cup cornflour (cornstarch)
1/3 cup hot water
15g (about ½ oz) butter, melted

4 cups (500g / 16 oz) icing sugar (powdered sugar)
1/3 cup cocoa
15g (about ½ oz) butter, melted
½ cup milk

3 cups (250g / 8 oz) desiccated coconut

* Directions *

1. Preheat oven to 190 C / 375 F.
2. Grease a 23cm (about 9 inch) square slab pan.
3. Beat eggs in medium bowl with electric mixer until thick and creamy.  Gradually add sugar, beat until dissolved between each addition.
4. Transfer mixture to large bowl.  Fold in sifted flours, then combined water and butter.
5. Pour into prepared pan, bake for about 30-35 minutes.   Stand 5 minutes before turning onto wire rack to cool.
6. Trim crusts from cake, cut into 25 squares.  Dip each piece in icing toss in coconut, and stand on wire rack to set.
7. For the chocolate icing, sift icing sugar and cocoa into a heatproof bowl.  Stir in butter and milk, stir over hot water until icing is smooth.

{ A few tips … }

1. It is best to make the sponge the day before and refrigerate.  It will be easier to cut and handle during the coating process.
2. When you are ready to coat the lamingtons, line a baking tray with parchment and then top with a cooling rack.  This will be perfect for your little coated cakes to rest.
3. For variation, you can split the sponge and fill with jam before coating.  You also do not have to stick with a plain sponge.  Chocolate or even strawberry is a nice variation – like the sponge layers of my Rainbow Cake.   Some lovely examples of variation are pretty pink lamingtons and berry ripple lamingtons.

pavlovaAustralia Day is just around the corner.  I always enjoy celebrating a holiday with baking, so for this holiday nothing would be more appropriate than to whip up some national goodies.  Unfortunately, there are only a small handful of baked treats that Australia can claim (and some really are ‘owned’ by our friendly neighbours to the east).  Nonetheless, when I think of Australia, I think of:

1. Pavlova
2. Lamingtons
3. Pumpkin Scones

These will adorn any of my national holiday celebrations.

{ Pavlova }

It is said that the Pavlova was invented to commemorate visiting Russian Ballerina, Anna Pavlova, to Australia and New Zealand in the 1920s.

While Australia often lays claim to this marshmallow-ey light dessert, recipes for Pavlova can be found in New Zealand a few years ahead of Australia.  Whichever way, this light meringue base, topped with fresh tropical fruit and cream, is a wonderful dessert and perfect end to any meal – in particular, an Australia Day BBQ! 

{ Pavlova ‘how to’ }

The key to the right consistency of the Pavlova meringue is vinegar and cornflour.  This ensures that the outside is lovely and crisp, while the centre has a creamy marshmallow texture.  The meringue base is made by beating egg whites to firm, stiff peaks then adding sugar very gradually to create a glossy texture.  Vinegar and cornflour is then added as the final step.  The mixture is piled high and baked in a slow oven. 

* Ingredients *

4 egg whites, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
Pinch salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons corn flour
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

* Directions *

Preheat oven to 150 C (300 F).  Line a baking tray with parchment paper.  Trace out a circle around 20cm (8 inches) in diameter.  Turn the paper over so the pencil mark is on the underside.  Set aside.

Whip the egg whites together with cream of tartar and salt until foamy.  Gradually add the sugar and whip until mixture reaches stiff peaks.  Then add the cornstarch, vinegar, and vanilla and continue whipping until smooth and glossy.  This should take about 10 minutes in total.

Mound the meringue into the centre of the prepared circle.  Using a silicon spatula, smooth out the mixture to fill the circle.  Leave a slight dent in the centre so the cream and fruit can be piled up.

Bake for around 1 hour 30 to 1 hour 40 minutes. Turn off oven and leave the meringue to cool.  You can leave overnight.

When ready to serve the Pavlova, top with whipped cream and fresh fruit as desired.  Enjoy!

{ A few tips … }

1. Whenever working with egg whites, ensure all your equipment is completely spotless – bowls, beaters, silicon scrapers etc.  Any fat or yolk trace will inhibit the egg whites reaching full volume and impact the outcome of the recipe – trust me, I have been there before!
2. Pavlova is traditionally served as a single serving.  This is perfect to end an informal meal. However, consider creating smaller, individual sized portions are ideal to finish a more elegant dinner party.  Or you can create multiple layers of Pavlova and fill each layer with fruit and cream to make a multi-layer cake.
3. Also consider flavours other than the traditional vanilla for your Pavlova.  For example, add cocoa to the finished meringue for a chocolate Pavlova.  You do not have to limit your toppings to cream and fresh fruit.  Play around with flavours such as chocolate and caramel as well as crushed nuts for a totally different dessert experience.