i have spoken before about the therapeutic effect that baking has on me. for this reason i like to balance new recipes with old favourites. its 8:30 on a sunday morning. i’ve just woken up and i head straight to the kitchen to get started on my favourite favourite…lamingtons.
with lamingtons its best to bake the cake the day before or at the very least several hours before you want to serve these little treats. the sponge is a straight forward mix of sugar, butter, eggs, flour, milk and baking powder. i add vanilla and salt as a personal preference. i use the recipe from the snowflake book of baking which is one of my first real cake recipe books. that book was the start of my adventures in baking. i tried everything from venetian cake (a custard layer cake) to calzone. it is the source of many of my favourite recipes.
i take the time to beat the sugar and butter well and add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. the result is a mousse like mixture that you can then fold the flour (and baking powder and salt) into. i add about two thirds of the flour before i start adding the milk (which i have added the vanilla to). the wet to dry ratio is low resulting in a dense batter. lola does most of the work here and i love her for it.
i place the batter in a prepared baking pan. in the last few weeks i have gotten really good at preparing the pan before hand. normally i would only start greasing cake pans once the batter was ready.
i find that having the pan prepped just makes the flow easier. anyhooo i scraped the batter into the pan and evened it out. because the batter is so thick it takes some doing. but don’t worry too much about getting it perfect. lamington cake is the most forgiving cake to make. it could flop, rise unevenly, decide to morph into godzilla and it wouldn’t matter at all. you’re going to cut the cake up into squares and believe me, no-one will know that it was not a perfect cake to start off with.
i set my timer for 50 minutes but ended up pulling out the cake after about 43 minutes. the nose knows. you are looking for a deep golden brown with a crack-free surface. crack is so bad!
i left the cake to cool in the pan. i had a shower and then went out for a bit of shopping and a lazy lunch with the sweet lady who is my neighbour. i started making the chocolate syrup at around 4pm. i add extra cocoa like always. as a child i always hated chocolate sponge that didn’t taste chocolatey. i mean what the heck is the point of brown sponge. and then to add insult to injury they’d cover the poor thing in sickly sweet icing…and sprinkles!! oh the humanity!
i seem to have digressed…again. in short if its chocolate make it CHOCOLATE!!
i let the syrup cool down a bit. now there are lots of schools of thought here. warm syrup, warm cake or hot syrup, cold cake or some other combination of temperature differences. since you want the cake to be slightly stale (easier to cut and better absorption) i think definitely cold cake. for reasons mostly centred around extreme impatience i then go with hot syrup (well as hot as my fingertips can manage). on some days i will heat up the syrup along the way if i feel that it has cooled too much but recently i just keep going and in truth i don’t see a crazy difference in the degree of absorption. do with this information as you will.
when i first started baking lamingtons i always needed help with the syrup/coconut phase of the prep. then one afternoon there was no-one to help and i quickly realised that i did in fact have two hands and being a woman i was perfectly capable of multi-tasking. and so the the one-woman lamington factory was born.
it requires some room and plenty of pre-planning. i cut up the cake into squares. it is customary to try a square for quality control purposes.
i then line the final-product containers with baking paper and a sprinkling of coconut. i line up the cake, syrup and coconut (piled on a plate or some more baking paper) in that order. picking up a square with your left hand, submerge into the syrup until all sides are covered. you can do this quickly with hot syrup and slightly slower with warm syrup. transfer the coated square onto the coconut and use your right hand to cover in coconut. this way you don’t get coconut/syrup contamination which can prove messy and will ruin the overall look of your lamingtons.
my niece was with me so we put on a movie to help us pass the time while i finished off the lamingtons.
i leave the finished lamingtons out for a bit before sealing them up in airtight containers. its best to leave them to rest for a while which allows the syrup to set. this gives you an almost fudgy feeling as you bite into them. i love that!
the thing i love most about lamingtons though is how much they please people. that for me is the greatest joy of baking. the happy contented faces of the people you love the most.
lessons learnt: it’s nice to be in the company of old friends.
ps. don’t tell anyone about that soppy last paragraph. it will totally ruin my street cred.