January 26th. I’m not sure what it means for you, but for me, it’s a legitimate excuse to bake. I think baking is the only way I celebrate holidays really. Maybe you noticed my (almost) excessive baking over Christmas? Food is a great way to celebrate a holiday and bring people together. And most of the time, holiday baking means making something you only make at that time of year. Which seems to make the whole process more special.
For Australia Day, I think Lamingtons are the best choice. Pavlova comes a close second, though I couldn’t bare only making a Pav once a year, so it happily sits as my go-to dessert all year round. Here are a couple of Pavlova recipes I have made in the past year that would be great to celebrate Australia Day - My Grandma’s Pavlova & My Epic Christmas Pavlova.
For those reading who don’t live in Australia, a lamington is made using sponge cake and coating it in chocolate icing and coconut. I think they came about at some point to use up day old sponge. They are definitely worth a try! Sometimes they are sold with a layer of jam and/or cream in the middle as well. I like my lamingtons simple, with no cream or jam. Just made with good ingredients, and probably fresh sponge! Day old sponge is great to use, I just find fresh sponge easier to work with when coating them in the icing.
This particular recipe comes from my favourite Aussie cook, Bill Granger. I have made them a couple of times before and they have been very popular. I have altered the quantities of chocolate in the icing recipe, as I like the combination of milk and dark chocolate together better than just dark chocolate on its own. You can use whatever you like or have at home, just keep the total chocolate quantity the same.
Any type of coconut can be used to cover the lamingtons. I really like using coconut chips, however if you can’t find them just use shredded, desiccated or flaked coconut. Also, make sure you have more coconut ready than the recipe indicates. I always find I am grabbing more handfuls of it out the bag when I am decorating the lamingtons. It’s probably just because it’s quite messy and I end up with lots of coconut all over the bench!
I try to work quite fast when decorating the lamingtons, as the chocolate will start to set before you have used it all up. You also need to get the coconut on each one straight after it has been coated in chocolate so it will stick. Keep stirring the icing to prevent it from setting, and if you need to thin it out a little to make it more liquid, you could a little more milk or some hot water (1 tsp at a time). The icing should be a little thick however, as it will coat the lamington better than a thin icing.
What will you be baking for Australia Day? Let me know in the comments below!
Ingredients for the Sponge Cake:
150 g caster sugar
200 g self-raising flour
30 g unsalted butter, melted
3 tbsp hot water
Ingredients for the Icing:
500 g icing sugar
100 g dark chocolate melts
100 g milk chocolate melts
15 g unsalted butter
125 ml milk
375 g coconut chips
Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius and grease and line a lamington tin (rectangle tin with dimensions approx. 18 x 28 cm and about 4 cm deep).
Beat the eggs in the bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed for about 5 minutes. The eggs should become light and fluffy in this time. Gradually add the sugar and beat until the mixture is thick and the sugar has dissolved.
Sift in the flour and gently fold into the egg mixture with a metal spoon. Add the melted butter and hot water and gently stir to combine.
Pour the mixture evenly into the prepared tin and bake for 30 mins, or until the sponge is golden and springs back when lightly touched.
Once cooked, turn the sponge out onto a baking paper lined cooling rack, and allow to cool completely.
Once the sponge has cooled, cut into squares (about 15-16). Place the coconut in a large shallow bowl, and have four forks ready. You will also need another baking paper lined cooling rack to place the freshly iced lamingtons on to dry.
To make the icing, heat a sauce pan with a little water until it is simmering. Place all the icing ingredients (not the coconut), in to a heatproof bowl or saucepan that will fit on top of the saucepan of simmering water. Place the bowl with the ingredients over the simmering water and stir continuously until all the ingredients have melted and combined to form a smooth thick icing. Do not allow the simmering water below to touch the base of the bowl above, as the chocolate may burn.
Remove the icing from the heat. Using two of the forks, dip one of the sponge squares into the icing. Using the remaining two forks, toss the chocolate coated sponge in the coconut, and place on the prepared rack to set. Continue with the remaining sponge squares, stirring the icing occasionally to stop it setting.
Leave the lamingtons on the baking paper lined rack until the icing dries. They are best eaten the same day they have been made, however will store in an airtight container for a couple of days (in the fridge if the weather is particularly humid or hot).
Recipe originally from Bill Granger ‘Everyday’ (Murdoch Books, 2006), p.192.