Lamingtons are a true blue Aussie delicacy, popularly referred to as the 'national cake of Australia'. Despite claims from New Zealand, these dainty treats were first created here and named after Charles Wallace Baillie, Lord Lamington (Governor of Queensland from 1896 to 1901).
They are a staple of bake sales and fund raising events around Australia and synonyms with our country's name (not unlike Vegemite and Pavlova) around the world. They consist of sponge cake dipped in melted chocolate and covered with desiccated coconut.
Try this basic yet authentic recipe to create a batch at home; you'll be surprised how simple they are to prepare.
For the sponge cake you need:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar (granulated)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
For the chocolate icing: 4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1/3 cup cocoa powder
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup milk
For the coating: 2 cups unsweetened desiccated coconut, finely ground
Method: In a large bowl sift together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter until soft. Add the sugar and beat for 2-3 minutes or until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Add the vanilla essence and mix thoroughly. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture and milk alternately; mix well.
Pour the batter in a greased 8-inch (20 cm) square cake pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake in a preheated oven at 180 C (350 F) for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
Allow the cake to cool in its pan for at least 10 minutes. Place a wire rack on the top of the pan and invert (holding the wire rack); lift off the pan. Once cooled completely, cut the cake into 16 5-cm (about 2-inch) squares.
Wrap the squares in a plastic wrap and refrigerate for 8 hours or even overnight. However, this is optional, if you want instant gratification, you can skip this step and coat the cake with icing directly. Though refrigeration helps the cake to hold well and prevents crumbing as you coat.
To prepare the chocolate icing: Put the 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.
To assemble the lamingtons: There are two ways of doing it – you can either dip each square into the bowl of icing individually before rolling them in coconut, or pour the icing over them.
For the latter, you must spread a baking sheet (to collect the drips) on a flat surface and put a wire rack over it. Place the cake squares on it (a few at a time). Using a ladle, pour the icing over each square, ensuring that it covers all the sides of the cake.
Gently transfer the chocolate covered cakes to a plate of desiccated coconut, rolling them carefully to cover all sides. Now place the lamingtons on a wire rack to set. Once ready, the lamingtons will keep in an airtight container for several days.
Tips: The icing has a tendency to thicken at room temperature and if you feel it's too thick to pour, just place it back over the saucepan of simmering water and reheat until you obtain a running consistency. Add a little milk if necessary.