For the May challenge Marcellina from Marcellina in Cucina dared us to make Lamingtons, an Australian delicacy that is as tasty as it is elegant. The classic Australian Lamington is a cube of vanilla sponge cake dipped in chocolate icing then coated with desiccated coconut. It is said that the cakes were named after Lord Lamington who was the Governor of Queensland, Australia from 1896 to 1901. Stories abound as to why the cakes came about. There is one that tells of Lord Lamington’s maid-servant accidentally dropping a freshly baked sponge cake into some melted chocolate. Apparently Lord Lamington disliked wastage so he suggested coating the chocolate coated cake in desiccated coconut to avoid messy fingers. However the Lamington came to be, it is now firmly embedded in the Australian culture.
Usually the cake within the Lamington is a vanilla genoise sponge made by whipping eggs and sugar until very thick and pale. Flour is sifted well with baking powder and is very carefully and delicately but thoroughly folded into the eggs and sugar. The sponge is a little difficult to master but the key is a light hand, accurate measuring, room temperature eggs, and knowing just how long to bake it. The Lamington is sometimes seen split and filled with strawberry jam and whipped cream. Like the Parisian Macaron, the Australian Lamington lends itself to a myriad of flavor possibilities. Think of a chocolate, coffee or nutty sponge… maybe citrus? Chocolate icing is great but imagine almond, orange, lemon, coffee or dipped in partly set jelly. Maybe split your Lamington and fill with crème patisserie or dulce de leche? What about finely chopped hazelnuts or macadamias?
For the Sponge Base
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup (240 ml) (225 gm) (8 oz) castor (superfine) sugar
Pinch of kitchen salt
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
1 ¼ cups (300 ml) (200 gm) (7 oz) corn flour (cornstarch)
1 ½ teaspoons (8 gm) baking powder
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (15 gm) (½ oz) butter, melted (optional)
2¾ cups (660 ml) (250 gm) (9 oz) unsweetened desiccated coconut
For the Chocolate Icing
3 ¼ cups (780 ml) (400 gm) (14 oz) icing (powdered) sugar
1/3 cup (80 ml) (40 gm) (1-1/3 oz) cocoa powder
1 tablespoon (15 gm) (15 gm) (½ oz) butter, melted
½ to ¾ cup (120 ml to 180 ml) milk
- Preheat oven to moderate 180°C/350°F. Prepare a 4 ½ cm (1¾ inch) deep, 23cm x 33cm (9”x 13”) pan.
- Line with non-stick paper. In a stand mixer bowl fitted with whisk attachment place eggs, sugar and salt.
- Beat on high for 15 minutes. Sift the corn flour and baking powder together in a bowl for at least 3 times.
- After 15 minutes, add the vanilla extract to the egg mixture and beat on high speed for another 5 minutes.
- After 5 minutes, the mixture should by now have at least tripled in size, be light in colour and very foamy.
- Sift the flour mixture over the egg mixture with a whisk or a large metal spoon to lightly fold the flour in.
- If using butter, thoroughly fold it in but lightly. Spread mixture into prepared pan and smooth out evenly.
- Bake in preheated moderate oven for 22-25 minutes. The sponge will rise a lot but then settle back down.
- Do not be tempted to open the oven. When baked the sponge will have shrunk very slightly from the sides.
- It should feel springy when it is pressed. Turn the sponge out immediately onto a wire rack. Allow to cool.
- It is best to keep the cake for a day before making the lamingtons so that the cake will be easier to handle.
- For the icing, sift the icing sugar and cocoa into a heatproof bowl. Stir in melted butter and ½ cup milk.
- Set the bowl over a pan of hot water. Stir till icing is smooth adding more milk to thin the icing if needed.
- Before assembling the lamingtons, cut the sponge cake with a serrated knife into 24 rectangular pieces.
- Keep chocolate icing over the hot water to keep it melted. Place the desiccated coconut in a shallow bowl.
- Dip each piece into the chocolate icing. Allow the excess icing to drip off then toss gently into the coconut.
- Stand cakes on a wire rack to set about 2 hours. Store lamingtons in a sealed container in the refrigerator.
- Lamingtons last in freezer for at least 2 months. Defrost to room temperature and serve. Makes 24 pieces.