The point of the lamington is to use up old sponge cake. Who in the hell has a heap of old cake lying around? No one. That’s why I neither like nor understand the lamington; the basic concept baffles me. In fact, I’d never even made a batch before this post.

australian day cake

The point is, whether it makes sense or not, that is what a lamington is. I will defend to my death the authentic/traditional ‘Strayun lamington recipe as made perhaps not on its first occasion but ever after.

Here’s how it goes- sponge cake, chocolate icing and dessicated coconut. I cannot stress this enough. It is integral to both the flavour and texture of the lamington. But recently, in trendy cafes and even, shock, horror, on food blogs (even ‘Strayun ones), I have come across furry, rather than fuzzy lamingtons – they have been using shredded coconut, not dessicated. For shame.

In actual fact, my recipe is not even a recipe for lamingtons, it’s pretty much a recipe for icing. Because if the point of the lamington is to use up stale cake, you might as well just buy a sponge cake from the shops and be done with it. I did. Even so, this recipe is truer to form than the spiky, echidna-like lamingtons I’ve had the displeasure to witness in recent times.

You may add whipped cream or some raspberry or strawberry jam in the centre of the lamington, no worries mate, but for God’s sake, stick to the tried and true recipe. Don’t mess with a good thing! After all, it is Australia Day.

Lamingtons (icing recipe from the Australian Women’s Weekly)
1 x 450g sponge cake (mine was a pack of two rectangular sponges)

4 cups icing sugar mixture
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 cup milk
15g butter

2 cups dessicated coconut

Sift the icing sugar and cocoa in a large heat proof bowl. Stir in the milk and add the butter.

Over a simmering saucepan (double boiler) stir the mixture until the butter melts and you have a smooth icing. Set aside.

Cut the sponge into even pieces with a sharp knife, I got 24 pieces in total.

Coat the sponge with icing, letting the excess drip off, coat in coconut and leave to rest. See below for more details.

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Happy Australia Day!

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1. The Presentation of all things Food
Crisp white tablecloths without paper covers. The old-world charm of BA restaurants. And more recently, the beautifully arranged fruit and vegetable stands in every neighbourhood. Although the aesthetic can be homogeneous, there is something lovely about the Porteños’ eye for detail when it comes to food.

BA fruit and veg

2. Cake is sold by weight
In panaderias, smaller cakes, pastries and biscuits from medialunas (small croissants or ‘half moons’) factures to alfajores are often sold by weight rather than quantity. There’s something very decadent about ordering half a kilo of a combination of meringue, dulce de leche and sponge cake to take away.

cakes by weight

3. Fresh OJ
Fresh Orange juice is like running water here and not, in the words of Basil Fawlty, ‘rather sticky’. Cafés, restaurants and confiterias all make and serve it, as do some convenience stores and market stalls. It makes that breakfast of coffee and pastry seem a tad more balanced.

4. Garapiñadas
These sugar-coated nuts, usually peanuts or almonds, are cooked and sold by the side of the road in autumn and winter. In the mornings you can see the vendors wheeling their carts to their allocated spots for the day. It’s the kind of snack that is considered gourmet and is expensive where I come from, but here in Buenos Aires a small packet of garapiñadas costs only 2 or 3 pesos (about 50 Aussie cents). Freshly made and with fresh peanuts, they are more addictive than peanut butter. And since peanut butter doesn’t really exist here, they make a tasty substitute.

5. Delivery
One of the most fantastic things about this city, besides most restaurants being open until around 2:00 am is that practically anything you want can be delivered. You want empanadas at midnight? Done. A coffee and a medialuna at 10:00 am? No worries. Most shopfronts have their phone number displayed so that customer can ring up and order what they like. It’s not uncommon to see waiters with a covered tray in hand dodging traffic as they try not to spill coffee for someone a few doors down. There’s no minimum delivery and no delivery charge.

There are some recipes that are solid crowd pleasers, and these are the ones I tend towards when it’s time to celebrate something. This orange cake, which I first saw on Food Safari is a classic Jewish Middle Eastern cake made of Oranges, almond meal, sugar and eggs. It takes about 10 minutes to throw together and although it’s been blogged to death, I can’t resist posting it here. Believe the hype, I’ve made this cake more times than I can count and I’m not about to stop now.

The flavour is intensely orange, the texture is creamy and dense. One tip though; make sure you don’t use oranges with very tough, thick skins, as this will give a bitter flavour. I once made this cake with very thick-skinned oranges (I didn’t realise it at the time) and although it was still tasty, it left a bitter aftertaste that I wouldn’t want you to repeat…

Kosher Whole Orange Cake – Batia Slater via SBS Food Safari
2 oranges
6 eggs
250g caster sugar
250g almond meal
1 tsp baking powder
Baking paper
Canola spray (for greasing the pan)

Wash the oranges and place unpeeled, in a pot of water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 2 hours. Drain the water and allow the oranges to cool for at least 10 minutes. You can boil them ahead of time if you prefer.
Preheat oven to 190°C. Grease a 20 cm round baking tin with canola oil spray, cut a circle of baking paper and place it in the bottom of the tin (use the tin as a template).
Break 6 eggs into a mixing bowl. Add caster sugar and blend together with an immersion blender.

Place the two oranges into the egg mix. Break up the oranges and then blend together to a smooth consistency. Add the almond meal and baking powder and blend.
Pour batter into the pan and bake for 45 minutes to an hour and a half or until the top is golden brown. If it starts to brown too early or too much, cover it with foil. Makes 16 slices.

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I know I can’t be tho only one whos’ kitchen experiments sometimes turn out…questionable. Or is it questionably? Whichever is grammatically correct. Anyway, we’ve all had moments where we’re sure the lightning bolt of genius has his us. ‘Mustard éclairs!’ we shout ‘Twice-baked rum-soaked polenta!’ ‘Chocolate steak!’. But, by and large, it is disaster, not genius that has struck.

Personally, my mistakes aren’t usually to do with creativity. I’m not much for crazy fusion projects (Italian sushi, anyone?). Rather, my disasters are the fruit of my impatience. I will drop or undercook or burn myself on things in my haste to prepare food quickly. I’m never going to make a mustard éclair, but I cook the same way I eat…fast. And as a result, sometimes my creations can resemble a kind of indigestion.

I have been putting off posting this recipe because for this very reason; I’m just not sure about it. Something about it just isn’t quite right. It isn’t terrible. It does work, in theory. It tastes ok. It’s good on paper. Nobody died. But I’m not convinced by it.

Maybe it’s because I love panettone, buttered and dunked in coffee so much that it seems a bit redundant, like bread and butter pudding made with croissants – as if there’s any such thing as a leftover or stale croissant. Maybe it’s just not as good as the sum of its parts – all the components are delicious, so you’d expect the finished product to be even more so, but it isn’t. Maybe you can tell my what’s missing, or maybe you can fix it. Either way, here it is: Panettone Trifle.

Raspberry Upside-down Panettone Trifle
1 Panettone, sliced into thick rounds (as you would a layer cake, I’d imagine)
About 400g frozen raspberries
1 portion Portuguese custard or any other custard you like
About 300ml fresh coffee, cooled and in a flat dish

Find a container roughly the same size as or a bit smaller than the panettone. Line it with cling wrap.

Dunk a round of panettone in the coffee, press into the container. Scatter a few raspberries and slather on some custard, repeat with all layers – you should have art least 1/3 of the custard left. Cover and refrigerate.

To serve, turn the trifle out onto a plate, cover in custard and sprinkle with raspberries. It will be a mess but maybe you will like it.

So, do you have any questionable kitchen experiments you’d like to share?

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