A few years ago, my friend Roulla had a craving for a favorite childhood treat, a classic Australian cake known as a lamington. It’s simple fare—just a cube of sponge cake dipped in chocolate and coconut, usually eaten with your hands—and one of the few culinary inventions that Australia can claim as its own.
In decades past, almost every Australian grew up eating lamingtons. They were a mainstay of children’s birthday parties and the antipodean answer to Girl Scout cookies; schools and clubs baked and sold them for fund-raising drives. The best were homemade and filled with jam or cream or both. But at some point lamingtons fell out of fashion, and prepackaged supermarket versions took over.
How to Make Panna Cotta Lamingtons
(MAKES 25 LAMINGTONS)
- 10 ½ ounces butter
- 10 ½ ounces superfine sugar
- 5 eggs, beaten
- 10 ½ ounces self-rising cake flour, sifted twice
- 5 fl ounces milk
- 4 leaves of gelatin
- 4 ¼ cups pure cream
- 7 ounces sugar
- 1 vanilla pod, scraped
- 1 pound frozen raspberries or strawberries
- 10 ounces sugar
- Juice of one lemon
- 14 ounces good-quality chocolate (don’t skimp on this)
- 3 ½ tbsp butter
- ½ pound icing sugar
- 3 ⅓ fl ounces milk
- 7 ounces each of desiccated, shredded, and chipped coconut (or
- 21 ounces of any one)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 8 x 12 inch cake pans and line them with greaseproof baking paper.
- Cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy.
- Add the beaten eggs gradually until fully blended.
- Fold in the flour and milk alternately until the batter is smooth. (This can be done with a mixer on low speed.)
- Pour the batter into the cake pans.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, until the middle of the cake bounces back when pressed with your index finger.
- Remove from the oven and cool.
- Soak the gelatin leaves in cold water to soften.
- Place the cream, sugar, and scraped vanilla pod in a saucepan. Stir and warm over low heat until sugar is dissolved.
- Remove the gelatin leaves from the water and squeeze any excess water from them with your hands.
- Remove the cream mixture from the heat and add the gelatin leaves. Whisk well until all the gelatin leaves have melted.
- Strain through a fine sieve and leave at room temperature for an hour.
- Place the berries and sugar in a saucepan and stir on low heat until sugar is dissolved.
- Add lemon juice and increase heat until mixture reaches a rapid boil. Stir occasionally to ensure it does not stick to the bottom of the pan. This takes about half an hour.
- To test the jam for setting, place a small amount on a saucer and put it in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
- Check consistency, and turn off the heat once the jam is set.
- Once the sponge cakes have cooled, pour equal portions of the panna cotta over the cakes.
- Refrigerate overnight.
- The next day, spread the jam over one of the cakes and layer the other cake on top.
- Cut the sandwiched cakes into 2½ x 1½ inch pieces.
- Put the lamingtons back in the fridge while you prepare the chocolate icing.
- Place all icing ingredients except coconut in a bowl over a pan of boiling water and stir until smooth and all sugar has melted.
- Pour one-third of the chocolate onto a flat tray.
- Remove the lamington pieces from the fridge, place them on the flat surface of chocolate, and spoon chocolate over the top and down the sides.
- After letting the chocolate set slightly, press the lamingtons into the coconut bits.
- Keep refrigerated in a sealed container until ready to serve.