Thursday, February 3, 2011

Journey Around the World (of Cake): Lamingtons

I haven't really seen the world. I've traveled throughout the United States and Canada, but have yet to leave the North America for some real Travel Channel style voyaging. For me, it's not so much a money issue - being double-income-no-kids is quite the treat. I honestly just haven't had the time. I didn't take any time off between high school and university to backpack around Europe. Nor did I leave my institute of post secondary education to "find myself" in South America. I didn't even have a time to do the Galapagos Islands between receiving my degree and getting shoved into a career. Now I'm just to damn busy to travel. 

Luckily, I can live vicariously through photos of Mr. C's travels, dusty history books, and the odd Anthony Bourdain special. But, sometimes, that's not enough. I want to see the sights. Live the night lift. And, most of all, eat all the food. I'd even forget my vegetarianism and horrible shellfish allergy to sink my teeth into some Thai/Moroccan/Peruvian street food. Hell, I wouldn't even regret the horrible dysentery that would follow. 

For now, I guess I just have to experiment with the tastes of globe. Especially the sweet tastes.  

lamington (4)
As one of this years baking goals, I'm going to force myself to take time out of my busy schedule to really experiment with international pastry. More specifically, international cakes. Thumbing through my new book, AWorld of Cake, I've just begun to realize how differently the world views it's baked goods. Cake isn't always the three layers and a blob of buttercream mess we seem to be smitten with. There's so much more out there in the world. And I intend to bake every single one.

So, here begins my adventure. I want to visit as many countries as I can - not by plane, but by recipe. I want to taste cakes I've never even heard of before.  I want to experiment with different textures, flavours, and ingredients that completely foreign to me. Maybe I'll even open a few eyes and get some people out of their red velvet slump. 

The first country I want to visit is a fellow Commonwealth member. It's a tropical nation where every animal is either poisonous and/or has a weird pouch thing attached to it. I would like to visit it someday when, you know, it isn't completely covered in water. Or a cyclone.

May I introduce you to the Australian Lamington:

lamington (9)

So, what is it? Lamingtons, or lemmingtons, are perfectly little bite-sized pieces of cake. Traditionally, they are perfectly cubed and covered in a light chocolate glaze and rolled in coconut. Lamingtons aren't afraid of getting a little crazy, however. The combination of cake/glaze can seriously be endless.

When did they first pop up? The earliest mention of these little lovelies happened in 1912, when The Kookaburra Cookery Book mentioned a cake that "cut into squares and [iced]" with "cocoanut". This recipe soon became a solution for Australian bakers who had little ingredients, but a lot of friends. The name "lamington" is a bit of a mystery - in 1981, an article in the Courier Mail mentions a story about a wild and crazy banquet held at the manor of Lord Lamington (the governor of Queensland from 1896 to 1901). When the chefs had nothing left to serve but stale sponge cake, they decided to hide the flavour and texture by cutting it into squares, dipping it in chocolate, and covering it in coconut. It was a hit with the guests and the Lord was happy enough tbequeath the little cake cubes with his own surname. 

Is it worth my time? Yes, lamingtons are as labour intensive as they look. This is not a dessert you can slap together at the last minute, for sure. But, should you try it? Yes. Oh yes yes yes. First of all, this is the cutest cake in the world (and I've done my research, I promise you). Put a plate of these out at of your next party and you will find that your friends will feel compelled to eat every single last one. The best part of lamington is that there are so many ways you can play and experiment with them. Change the cake, the icing, and the topping. Do whatever the hell you want to them. They'll still be tasty. And so damn cute

Enough talk. I need a recipe. Your wish is my command. 

lamington (11)

Australian Lamingtons
Makes about 32 mini cubed pieces
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup milk 
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg

1) Preheat the oven to 350F. Oil a 8-inch square cake pan and set aside. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl. Set aside. 

2) Cream the butter and sugar with a mixer until light and fluffy. Add the egg, beating well. Stir in the milk and vanilla. With a wooden spoon, gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture.

3) Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan. Bake for about 25 to 35 minutes, until the top is slightly golden and your cake tester comes out clean. Remove the cakes and allow to cool well in the pans. Wrap the cooled cakes in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours.

4) Remove the plastic wrap and measure the height of each cake. With a knife, lightly score a grid of squares that are as long and wide as the height of the cake. Cut the cake along those lines.

1 cup unsweetened desiccated coconut, finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. 

1) Melt the butter and stir in the cocoa powder until combined. Add the confectioners' sugar, alternating with the milk, until combined. Add the vanilla. add more milk or sugar as necessary to achieve a thin (but spreadable) consistency.

2) Spread the coconut on a large plate. Spear the cake pieces one at a time and dip into the cocoa icing to cover completely, then roll in the coconut until completely covered. Set on a rack to dry. Continue until all the pieces are covered. 


Stephanie said...

I wish I could travel more and I love the idea of baking delicious things from different countries around the world. I've never had a lamington and they sound great - cake rolled in chocolate glaze and coconut? Yum!

All That's Left Are The Crumbs said...

I grew up on lamingtons and just love them. Every time I visit Australia it is on my must-have list. Did you know that they are actually used as a fundraiser in some Australian schools and sports groups? I am a little picky and like them without any filling - sometimes they have jam and cream in the middle - but plain is the best. Your lamingtons look wonderful.

Leanne said...

Wonderful idea! I went to Australia back in the day (before children, school, jobs, food allergies, and so on) and remember lamingtons. Australia has some great desserts. Excited to see your next adventure!

Cakewhiz said...

My best friend just moved to aistralia for grad school and she told me abiut lamingtons and how insanely good they taste. By the looks of your picture, i know she must be right coz those look drool- worthy :)

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