Before this food adventure, I’d never heard of lamingtons before. Just as with the pavlova, it appears that New Zealanders and Australians argue about the ownership of the dessert—a spongey butter cake dipped in chocolate and rolled in coconut that is ubiquitous at bake sales. New varieties are popping up, but a popular special one is raspberry jam and whipped cream sandwiched between two lamingtons.
Today, January 26th, is Australia Day. When I first found out about the occasion on Pinterest through pictures of lovely, celebratory desserts, I was excited that the occasion fell in the Escapist Plate’s time in Australia. After reading about the holiday, though, which commemorates the colonization of Australia, something about it didn’t sit right with me. I guess because I’m from the States, and the northeast in the States, where we’re taught about the horrible effects colonization had on the original inhabitants here. Paying attention just one side of the story didn’t make sense to me.
My time in Australia has been so slanted towards the foods of British settlers anyway because, aside from macadamia nuts, there’s no real easy way to access native Australian foods here. I’d love to try witchetty grub, though, and I’ve learned that Australia is just one of those places you actually have to go to experience some of the food.
Since I’ve learned that aboriginal Australians and many other Australians consider this Invasion Day, I’ve been debating whether or not to post about it because I want to respect and represent the diversity of views within each place.
Tonight, the entire northeast US is expecting a blizzard that is forecasted to rival the infamous Blizzard of ’78, in which Bostonians were stranded without food and power for about a week. In fact, New York city is shutting down their public transit system for the storm, which is unprecedented. Yesterday, my cousin was telling me her grocery shopping plans to prep—she’s going to make a vegetable minestrone soup because she realized that if she has good food to look forward to, blizzards don’t seem that bad.
That made sense to me. We still haven’t covered all of the basic Aussie desserts yet, and there’s still the lamington, I thought. Then I looked at my phone to find a recipe and realized that it was, in fact, Australia Day. Guess I’ll be making them for Blizzard Day.
I went to the grocery store for dry goods and lamington ingredients. I was not surprised that the milk had nearly been cleared out, but I was surprised to see the whipped cream completely gone. Whipped cream in a snow storm? I’d never thought of it, but I saw a lot of people buying ice cream so maybe everyone wanted desserts. I asked a store associate if they had any left in the back and they didn’t, but they had one tub of whipped dessert cream left. Okay. I’ll take it.
I took different parts of recipes that made sense to me. Jamie Oliver uses a recipe for the cake that’s still spongy but a little sturdier than full-on sponge cake so it can better withstand the frosting and cutting. I also used this site as a reference. Recipes called for a “lamington-sized” tray. I decided to halve the recipe and use a large cupcake tray instead, which would eliminate the step of cutting the cake into squares. I’d never adapted a cake recipe to a cupcake recipe, so I searched how to do that and it looked like most recipes add some milk to the batter, so I added 1/4 cup to the halved recipe. I also found this recipe for cupcake lamingtons and borrowed the frosting from that one.
I’m also not a huge coconut fan—I like the flavor, but not the texture so much. I wasn’t sure I wanted all the lamingtons covered in coconut, so my plan was to start with just one coconut one. Usually, lamingtons are dipped in a light layer of a chocolate syrup that’s mixed with boiling water to produce a thin coating that soaks into the outer layer of the cake. That sounded good, but it also seemed like it might be lacking something if I decided to make most of them without the coconut. I opted for the thicker chocolate frosting because of this, but I’m still curious about the other method— it sounds great (especially because the coconut actually ended up working really, really well, despite my initial reluctance). The thick frosting made with heavy cream, cocoa, and confectioner’s sugar tasted chocolately and amazing, like ice cream, but also really rich, so I recommend using a smaller cupcake pan with a thicker frosting.
I’d seen an Australia Day cake that I really liked because the cake was shaped like the continent and was decorated with an indigenous design. Since I wasn’t decorating most of the lamingtons with coconut, I planned on using confectioner’s sugar instead to give it a similar appearance. I thought I’d include a similarly inspired pattern with the sugar (I used a cut sticky note like a stencil). It didn’t do the designs justice, though—check out this art directory for some really nice examples of art by indigenous artists.
Tomorrow will be the day to try the lammies (hey, Aussies seem to abbreviate everything, so why not?) with the cream and raspberry jam. I am excited.