Hello, my little Lamington

As I think I’ve mentioned, TD and I spent a couple of weeks in Australia during the second half of May.  As I’m sure many people do, we have an ever-lengthening list of places in the world we’d like to go and Australia had been on that list far too long.  I also happen to have on my own personal bucket list, with the goal of spending at least one birthday on each continent.  Australia made for continent number five.

Deciding to go to Australia or sort of like deciding to go to the United States in terms of geographic breadth.  Not wanting to spend the two weeks on planes, we chose three cities: Melbourne, Sydney and Port Douglas (an hour outside of Cairns).  This meant only two domestic flights and maximized our time on the the ground.

As I’ve said at least a million times in previous posts, my favored souveniers come in the form of photos and recipes (or at least inspirations for recipes).  We dropped the ball a bit on photos.  I’d estimate that at least half of the 50 or so pictures we took are of wallabys and a certain koala we met at an animal sanctuary.  Of those, a surprising number happen to be selfies of said koala and TD.  Hmm.  Luckily, Australians do like their baked goods and sweets.  The most famous of which is, the Lamington.

This little tea cake is named after either Lord Lamington, the Governor of Queensland from 1896-1901, or his wife, Lady Lamington.  Like red velvet cake, the mythology of the treat’s exact origins differs by account.  However, the most common story suggests that the yellow cake, dipped in chocolate icing and then rolled in coconut, was developed by the Lamington’s chef when confronted with unexpected guests at tea.  Lacking fresh cakes, the chef used the day-old sponge cake and the rest is history.

I have an admission, we didn’t have a chance to actually try Lamingtons while in Australia.  I know it makes me a poor researcher, but I assumed the cubes of coconut covered confections were giant marshmallows.  Oops.

It wasn’t until late in the trip that I realized my gaff, and so, I set about rectifying my mistake by making my own.

In reviewing recipes, I settled on David Lebovitz’s version.  Because, it makes so much sense to make an Australian cake using a recipe from an American living in France.

While he was in Australia, he didn’t get to try them either.

I think these would be a ton of fun to make with kids.

Mostly because they’re incredibly messy.  See that unappetizing bowl in the top center of the photo below?  That was my hand-wash station.  True Lamington form requires one to dip the sandwich cakes in the runny icing (by hand) and then roll them around in the coconut (by hand).  Not wanting to get coconut in the icing (in retrospect I have no idea why I was so concerned), I dipped, rolled, set, washed hands, dried and repeated. Sixteen times.

I’m pretty sure I lost about a quarter of the icing and coconut to what ended up on me.

In the end, it was worth it.  The recipe calls for desiccated coconut.  I was too lazy to find the desiccated version and went for shredded.  The Australians seem pretty okay with variation (in fact, they seem pretty okay with just about anything), so I don’t think they’d mind.

These reminded me of something Little Debbie would make.  In a good way.  Little Lamington does have a certain ring to it.

Now, consider yourselves warned.  By my count, I’ve got six more Australia-related posts in the pipeline.  Next week we’ll take a little break for some Fourth of July fun but after that it’s back to my version of boring vacation slides.

And one more thing.  Well done Bruins Baseball!  If my math is correct, that’s 109 championships, a first for baseball and about a million 8-claps.


Colin Hay of course


adapted just slightly in technique from David Lebovitz

16 Individual Cakes


For the spongecake:

  • 6 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (150 g) sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cup (175 g) cake flour*
  • 2 1/2 ounces (70 g) melted unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the chocolate icing:

  • 6 ounces (170 g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 1/2 ounces (40 g) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup (180 ml) milk, whole or lowfat
  • 2 cups (220 g) powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, natural or Dutch-process (sifted if lumpy)
  • 2 tablespoons boiling water
  • 3 cup (200 g) unsweetened shredded coconut


1. To make the spongecake, butter a 9-inch (23 cm) square cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC).

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the eggs and granulated sugar and salt on high speed for five to ten minutes, until thick and the batter forms a well-defined ribbon that remains on top of the batter when you lift the whip. Stir in the vanilla.

3. Fold the flour into the egg mixture by putting the flour in a sifter or mesh strainer and sifting the flour over the top of the beaten eggs while simultaneously folding the flour in using a whisk.

(You might want to steady the bowl on a damp towel, twisted and rolled up into a circle, or get someone to hold the bowl while you fold.) Fold in the melted butter until no streaks of butter are visible, but do not overfold.

4. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes, or until the cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan. Remove from oven and let cool completely.

5. When cool, unmold the spongecake onto a cutting board and remove the parchment paper. TMH note: since the origins of the cake involved day-old sponge, I wrapped up the cake tightly and froze it over night for ease in cutting.  And authenticity.

6. Trim the ends and cut the cake in half horizontally using a serrated bread knife.  (I find it easier to cut the cake into two rectangles first, and cut each one separately.)

7. Make the chocolate icing by melting together the chocolate, butter, and milk in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Remove the bowl from the pan of simmering water when smooth, then whisk in the powdered sugar and cocoa powder.

8. Spread a generous 1/2 cup (125 ml) of the chocolate icing over one layer of the spongecake, then top with the other half of the spongecake, sandwiching the two together with chocolate icing in the middle.

9. Cut the cakes into sixteen squares.  TMH note: I was worried about the two halves sliding around during the dipping process and so, arranged the squares on a 1/4 baking sheet and put them in the freezer for 30 minutes to encourage the icing to form a stronger glue.  It worked as I can report no slippage.

10. Whisk two tablespoons of boiling water into the icing. Put the coconut into a shallow baking dish or bowl.

11. Use your hands to dip the Lamingtons into the chocolate, rolling them around to make sure each side is coated with the chocolate icing, then wipe off any excess on the side of the bowl. Place the Lamingtons in the vessel of coconut, tossing them around gently to get them coated on all sides.

12. Once iced and tossed in coconut, place the Lamingtons on a wire cooling rack and let stand until the icing firms up a bit.

Lost and Found Panna Cotta

When we were in Montana, oh, back in December, my brother decided we needed to make a panna cotta for dessert on Christmas Eve.  I think it was one of two or three other desserts.  For six people and a toddler.  But, far be it for me to EVER stand in-between a family member and pudding.  There has been violence.

From the get-go we decided we didn’t want to un-mold the limber treat and so my brother added a ribbon of melted ganache to each pretty glass.

I’m not sure if it was the elevation, but while the panna cotta eventually found the lovely silky and slightly firm consistency that makes it so delectable, it took at least 12 hours to set in the fridge.  Maybe we should have just put it out in the snow to firm-up.

Obviously I’ve been hoarding this recipe for several months, though without intention.  Sometimes my reliance on spreadsheets and lists gets in the way of actually thinking.  Somewhere along the way a cut-and-paste error dropped this treat off my editorial schedule and it wasn’t until I found the pictures that I recovered this little corner of paradise lost.

If you like this, you might like these

Coconut Panna Cotta


It was Christmas Eve, I’m sure John Denver and the Muppets were involved.


Orange Panna Cotta

adapted from Gale Gand via www.foodnetwork.com


  • 1 tablespoon powdered gelatin
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 4 cups heavy cream, or a combination of cream with milk or buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 6 wide strips fresh orange peel (orange part only-no white pith)
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise


  1. In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let soak 10 minutes (do not stir).
  2. Meanwhile, heat the cream, sugar, orange peel, and vanilla in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, to dissolve the sugar. As soon as it simmers, turn off the heat and add the gelatin mixture, stirring to dissolve the gelatin. (If the gelatin doesn’t completely dissolve in 3 minutes, return to the heat and warm gently until dissolved.)
  3. Strain the mixture into a pitcher to remove the vanilla bean and orange rind. Pour the mixture into 6 to 8 ramekins or dessert cups, or into 1 larger dish. Chill, uncovered, at least 3 hours (or maybe a good 24 hours in our case).
  4. To unmold, dip the cups in hot water for 10 seconds, then turn the panna cottas out onto dessert plates (or, simply serve in the cups or by the spoonful). Shave some chocolate curls onto the top of the panna cottas and serve with the orange supremes.


The shortbread experiment continues

A while back, I experimented with a Thomas Keller shortbread recipe.  As a note in the recipe, he casually throws out a slight alteration for chocolate shortbread.  I couldn’t resist.

The substitution is simple–just replace some of the flour with high quality dutch-processed cocoa.

Because I can’t leave well enough alone, I also added the zest of an orange to the dough.

Then I iced each little square with a simple concoction of confectioner’s sugar and blood orange juice.

These were really intense.  And, in my opinion, better than the original shortbread recipe.

If you like this, you might like these

Chocolate Cayenne Cookies

Wold Peace Cookies


Carol King


adapted from Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel in Bouchon Bakery


  • 13 TBS (1 stick + 5 TBS) (180 grams) unsalted butter at room temp
  • 1/2 C (90 grams) superfine sugar
  • 1/2 + 1/8 tsp (2 grams) kosher salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4  all purpose flour
  • 3/4 C unsweetened alkalized cocoa powder
  • zest from 1 large orange (optional)


  1. Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Cream until smooth on medium-low speed.
  2. Mix-in zest.
  3. Add 1/2 C (90 grams) sugar and the slat, mix on medium for about 2 minutes until fluffy.
  4. Scrape down the  sides and bottom of the bowl.  Add the vanilla and mix on low speed for about 30 seconds to distribute evenly.
  5. Add the flour and cocoa in two additions, mixing on low speed for 15-30 seconds or until just combined.  Scrape the bottom of the bowl to incorporate any flour that may have settled.
  6. Mound the dough on the work surface and, using the heel of your hand or a pastry scraper, push it together into a 5-inch square block.  Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, until firm.
  7. Position the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees.  Line two pans with parchment paper.
  8. Unwrap the dough and place between two pieces parchment paper.  With a rolling pin, pound the top of the dough working from left to right to begin to flatten it.  Turn the dough 90 degrees and repeat.
  9. Roll-out to a 9 inch square.  If the dough has softened, slide it (still inside the parchment) onto the back of a sheet pan and refrigerate until firm again.
  10. Using a chef’s knife, cut the dough as desired.  The original recipe calls for 3 cuts horizontally and 5 cuts vertically so that you have 24 2 1/4X 1 1/2 inch pieces.
  11. Dust the tops of the dough with sugar and arrange on baking sheets leaving 3/4 inch in between each.
  12. Bake until pale golden brown, 17-19 minutes.  Set the pans on a cooling rack and cool for 5 to 10 minutes, transfer the cookies to the rack to cool completely.

For icing

  • If you would like to ice the cookies, begin with 1 cup of confectioner’s sugar, whisk in orange juice or water 1 TBS at-a-time until the icing is of desired consistency.  Dip cookies and allow icing to dry.

Three flours, none wheat

In a surprise turn of events, TD pulled this recipe for me a few months ago from, where else, the Wall Street Journal.

When I made the cake several weeks later, he asked where I’d gotten the recipe.  Turns out, when he found it he only got as far as the candied orange peel, decided I would like it, and perused the list of ingredients no further.

This recipe combines almond meal, corn flour and corn meal to give the loaf an interesting and satisfying body.

Unable to resist anything citrusy, I actually doubled-up on the zest and juices.

The instructions suggest serving the cake with a scoop of coconut ice cream.  I double and triple this recommendation.  Bright and lovely, this cake is sophisticated enough to serve as a dinner-party dessert. That fact that all the elements can be prepared in advance and assembled in minutes makes this dessert a party no-brainer.


Almond Polenta Cake

adapted from the Wall Street Journal, March 29, 2013 who adapted it form the Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook

Candied Orange Peels


  • 10 clementines, mandarin oranges, tangerines, tangelos or small blood oranges (I used blood oranges of course)
  • 2 C water
  • 2 C sugar


  1. Peel citrus and separate into segments, removing as much pith as possible.
  2. Bring sugar and water to boil over medium-high heat in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan.
  3. Reduce heat to low, add peel and simmer for about 5 minutes.
  4. Strain mixture over a bowl and return liquid to the pan.
  5. Set pan over medium-high heat and cook until syrup is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 6-8 minutes.
  6. Allow to cool completely and gently stir-in the citrus segments.

Almond Polenta Cake


  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks, 16 TBS) unsalted butter, plus additional to grease pan.
  • 1 C superfine sugar
  • 2 C almond meal
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 eggs
  • zest of 2 lemons + juice of 1 lemon
  • zest of 1 orange, plus juice of 1 orage
  • 1/4 C corn flour
  • 1/4 C corn meal
  • 2/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • coconut ice cream
  • fresh mint sprigs


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Grease loaf pan and line with parchment.
  2. With an electric mixer or standing mixer fitted with a paddle, beat butter and sugar until pale and light, 1-2 minutes.
  3. Add almond meal and vanilla, mix on low until combined.
  4. Beat-in eggs one-at-a-time.
  5. Fold in citrus zests and juices, corn flour, corn meal, baking powder and salt.
  6. Pour batter into greased loaf pan and bake until set and deep golden brown, about 45 minutes.
  7. Allow loaf to cool on rack for at least 10 minutes before removing from pan.
  8. Serve each slice topped with a scoop of coconut ice cream, a hefty drizzle of candied citrus peel and a sprig of mint.