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!

Oaty choc-chip cookies of goodness

Amongst the many things I’ve learned over the last 12 months is that being a new mum can be tough and hungry work sometimes, and having decent snacks on hand is an excellent plan. So, I came up with these. These are choc-chip cookies. But they are not your average choc-chip cookies! Apart from being soft, chewy and delicious, these guys are packed with extra goodies that make them perfect for breastfeeding mamas. They are a great snack to grab when you haven’t got much time or free hands, they’re wholesome and milk-boosting, and you can freeze them for later. What more could you want?

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Now, some people find that the brewers yeast really helps boost their milk supply, but some don’t – I know there are differing opinions out there. My theory: if it works for you then keep it in, if not then leave it out. If you haven’t tried it then give it a go – you never know what might work for you. Either way the rolled oats, flaxseed and chia still make these a wholesome and delicious snack for everyone, and will help keep you going after a sleepless night.

On the off chance that you’re one of those strange people who doesn’t like chocolate, then you can substitute sultanas or raisins instead. I use a kitchenmaid mixer for the whole thing, which makes an easy recipe even easier, but if you don’t have one then regular beaters and a mixing spoon will work just fine. The dough needs to rest in the fridge for a while before being baked, otherwise they will spread out too much in the oven. It also makes the dough easier to roll.

115g butter
1/4 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups rolled oats 
1/2 cup plain flour
2 tsp chia seeds
1/3 cup ground flaxseed
1/2 tsp baking powder
15g brewers yeast
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup dark chocolate chips or sultanas

Cream the butter, sugars, egg and vanilla. Add all the dry ingredients except for the chocolate chips and mix well. Add the chocolate chips and stir until just combined.

Cover the mix and put in the fridge for about 2 hours. Roll into balls (put your thumb and forefinger together to make a circle, about that big) and place onto trays lined with baking paper. Press down each ball with the palm of your hand to flatten slightly. Bake in a preheated 180C oven for about 12 minutes, they should be slightly golden brown around the edges. Cool on trays.

They will last a few days in an airtight container, or you can wrap them individually (or 2-3 together) and freeze them.

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…

Cherry Ripe Muffins

Last week I had an idea for cherry ripe muffins, so this weekend I was compelled to make them. I need to have these kind of ideas more often, because the resulting muffins are AMAZING! Rich and chocolatey, with bursts of cherry pieces and coconut, they taste just like their namesake chocolate bars. Even the batter tasted incredible.

1 2/3 cups self raising flour
½ cup caster sugar
1/3 cup desiccated coconut
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 cup dark chocolate chips
1 cup glace cherries, halved
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup coconut milk
90g butter, melted
¼ cup cherry liqueur

Preheat oven to 180C, line or grease a 6-hole texas muffin pan. Sift dry ingredients into a large bowl, stir in chocolate chips and cherries. Stir in remaining ingredients and divide the mixture among the pan holes. Bake for 30 minutes, stand in trays for 5 minutes before turning on to a wire rack to cool.

Easter Chocolate Cupcakes

We had a big Easter celebration on our final day of work before the break – there was an Easter bonnet parade and competition, some lucky door prizes, the Easter Bunny made an appearance, and of course there was a heap of food! I made these chocolate cupcakes, and  they fitted right in with the theme for the day.

I used the same recipe for the cakes as I did for the Chocolate and Rosewater Cupcakes, and I made a very chocolatey buttercream icing (extra cocoa!) to pipe on top. I then decorated them with crushed Cadbury Flake bars, and popped a couple of mini chocolate eggs on top of it all to finish them off!

Jaffa Cupcakes

I decided that the chocolate cupcakes that I made previously were so good that I’d make them again for another work farewell afternoon tea! This time, just to vary things a little bit, I thought I’d make them with peanut butter icing.

Unfortunately my peanut butter icing didn’t work so well (it curdled! I don’t know) so I had to then think of something else that would use ingredients I already had on hand at 9pm on a Sunday night. I decided on jaffa – a classic combination of chocolate and orange.

For the icing I simply made a basic buttercream, but added some orange flavouring (I didn’t have any real oranges) as well as some pink and yellow colouring, and then decorated them with jaffas! They worked out well especially considering they were a rushed afterthought, and they disappeared pretty quickly at work, so I shall call them a success 🙂

Dark Chocolate Turkish Delight Brownies

These brownies are amazing. Seriously rich and fudgy, they can be made with any chocolate bar you like, changing to suit tastes. I prefer to make them with Fry’s turkish delight bars – the flavour works so well with the slightly bittersweet dark chocolate and coffee – but I’ve made these with peppermint crisp bars before, and that works well too.

If you don’t like the bittersweet dark chocolate taste, then you could absolutely make these with milk chocolate instead, but I’d still recommend including the coffee.

1/3 cup strong black coffee
250g dark chocolate – roughly chopped
180g butter, chopped
1 ½ cups plain flour
½ cup cocoa powder
1 ½ cups brown sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
4-5 chocolate bars, roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 180C.  Grease and line a 20cm base cake tin or deep slice tray.

Place coffee, chocolate, and butter in saucepan and melt. Stir while it’s melting to make sure it doesn’t catch and burn. Set aside to cool for about 10 minutes.

While that is cooling, roughly chop up the chocolate bars.In a separate bowl mix flour, cocoa, and sugar together. Make a well in the centre, add eggs and chocolate mixture. When combined, add chopped chocolate bars and mix again. Pour into tin/dish, bake for 45-50 minutes, use a skewer to check when it’s done. Leave to cool in the dish (preferably in the fridge overnight or for at least a few hours) before cutting into squares.

It’s rich, so you can usually cut the pieces fairly small. Even better is warming it up and pouring some cream over the top!!