Lamingtons

Confession: I’ve never been a massive fan of lamingtons. I feel a bit un-Australian saying that, but I’ve always felt they were nothing special. Despite that, I decided that I still needed to try making them! And what better time to make lamingtons than Australia Day?

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I knew that the cake should be a light and basic type of cake, and also one that cuts up well rather than crumbling everywhere, so I decided to go with the vanilla butter cake that I used for my daughter’s first birthday cake. It’s super easy, it works, it tastes good. You make it the night before and keep it in the fridge and it cuts up even better. I cut the square cake into 20 pieces (5×4) and they wouldn’t want to be any bigger – could probably even cut the square cake into 5×5 and they’d be perfect.

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Because one of my issues with lamingtons is that they can be dry and a bit boring, I added a layer of jam in the middle of each one. I had actually made my own strawberry jam the previous weekend, so I used that, but you could use anything really. Raspberry would be good, but a layer of extra chocolate would also be pretty decadent.

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Which brings me to the part that I had no idea about, not being a lamington connoisseur, and that was whether the chocolate that the cake is covered in was icing or ganache. I looked up a few recipes but some were ganache and some were icing, and I remained confused, so I made both! They were both very simple: ganache was melted dark chocolate and cream, and the icing was icing sugar, cocoa and milk. I didn’t measure the ingredients for either of them, I just mixed until the consistencies seemed right.

I hadn’t thought about how messy it would be to actually assemble the lamingtons, and I tried to keep it to a minimum but it’s really hard to not get desiccated coconut and chocolate everywhere! First I cut up all the cake, then spread all the jam and sandwiched the pieces back together so they were ready to go. Then I made the ganache and the icing, set up a big dish of desiccated coconut, and set to work!

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I learned that even though the ganache/icing part might look pretty messy, once you roll the whole thing in coconut it looks totally fine. The assembly did take longer and was more fiddly than I expected, but the end result looked and tasted really good. Most people who tried them seemed to like the ganache the most, and I tend to agree – while the icing ones were loved by those with a super sweet tooth, the ganache helped make an already very sweet treat just a little bit less sugary. And they weren’t dry at all!

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Chocolate Crackles and Fairy Bread

If you grew up in Australia, chances are that you have attended a children’s birthday party which involved chocolate crackles and/or fairy bread. They are such childhood party staples that I only realised recently, when a friend of mine who is Scottish looked at me quizzically when these foods were mentioned, that perhaps they weren’t exactly a worldwide thing! Neither item requires baking at all – they are quick, easy, and well-loved – so I decided to make them for my own birthday!

For the uninitiated, fairy bread is just slices of fresh white bread (and it HAS to be white bread) spread with butter, and sprinkled liberally with 100’s & 1000’s. Then cut into quarters, preferably triangles. Sounds like you can’t go wrong, right? Well, there was actually some serious debate in our house about the ‘right’ way to make fairy bread, and it resulted in me being kicked out of the kitchen by my husband, and being called a communist for leaving the crusts on. I say the crusts have to stay on so that it gives you something to hold while you eat it, and is a barrier for holding the sprinkles in, on one side at least. Like pizza. Apparently the purists insist on cutting the crusts off. I think that is just unnecessary fanciness. My father then called and weighed in on the debate by agreeing about keeping the crusts on, but thinking the bread only needs to be cut in half. He was fairly well shot down for that one.

Crust or not crusts, they go down well. On this occasion the adults appreciated the fairy bread more than 11.5-month-old James, who mostly liked sticking his hands in the buttery sprinkle topping and then wiping it in my hair.

Chocolate crackles require slightly more effort, but not much. This recipe makes about 24. Remember to make them in advance so that they have time to set.

250g copha
1 cup icing sugar
4 cups rice bubbles
5 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 cup desiccated coconut 

Line cupcake trays with paper liners. Melt the copha. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Add the copha and mix thoroughly. Spoon into the cupcake liners and refrigerate until set.

Again there was some debate about the making of the chocolate crackles – if you want to get fancy you can drizzle melted chocolate over the top, or decorate the tops with silver cachous or sprinkles or something. My mum used to attempt to make them healthier by adding sultanas to the mix. She once tried to make fairy bread with wholemeal bread though…