Lamington Cake with Balsamic Strawberry Jam

Happy Australia Day to all you Aussies! I hope everyone is having a relaxing long weekend 🙂 As a country, Australia does not really have a defined cuisine of its own. I guess it has something to do with being derived from Britain, and not really having a whole lot of history of our own. However, there is one sweet that we do claim do be our own (aside from the humble Pav, of course!). It is the delicious Lamington. If you do not know what a Lamington is, you are missing out, big time! They are slices of sponge-y cake, filled with jam, and covered in chocolate icing and coconut. Yum! I had actually never made a Lamington before, so I wasn’t sure how it would go, but I decided on a cake version for my Mum’s birthday, and I must say, it was delicious, and a big hit.

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I was going to use the recipe from the ‘BAKE’ book, from the Australian’s Women’s Weekly (AWW are the go-to’s for great recipes for many Aussies), for normal Lamington’s. However, I just had to look on my favourite site, Taste, of course, to see if they may have had a recipe for a cake. Luckily, I found the perfect one with great reviews, so I went with that, with a few of my own additions. I guess I could be more sure of the measurements this way, instead of having to adapt a slice into a cake. Anyhoo, the recipe was great – easy to follow and not ridiculously time consuming, either. Winner 🙂

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Lamington Cake: (recipe from Taste.com)

  • Cooking oil spray, to grease
  • 1/2 cup self-raising flour
  • 1/4 cup plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 1/4 cup cornflour
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup caster (white) sugar
  • 2 cups coconut
  • 250ml thickened cream
  • 1/3 cup icing (confectioner’s) sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste/natural extract

Preheat your oven to 180c/356f. Grease two 20cm round springform baking tins with cooking oil spray, and line with non-stick baking paper. Set aside.

Sift all three flours into one bowl. In a separate bowl, beat all of the eggs, and the sugar, for approximately ten minutes, or until the mixture is thick, pale and creamy. Then, sift half of the flour mixture into egg mixture, and  gently fold it in with a metal spoon until well combined. Repeat with the remaining flour. Make sure the flour is all combined as it can be difficult to see in a large bowl – the flour will just sink to the bottom. And remember to be gentle as you don’t want to knock too much air out of the sponge.

Divide the mixture evenly into the 2 prepared tins. Smooth the surfaces with a metal spoon to ensure the mixture is even. Bake for 12-15 minutes (mine took 14, but ensure you check at 12). Insert a skewer to ensure cake is cooked – the skewer will come out clean. Leave in tins to cool, then place on a wire rack.

Chocolate Icing:

  • 2 cups icing (confectioner’s) sugar
  • 1/3 cup good quality cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup water

Sift the icing sugar and cocoa into a bowl together, and add the water. Mix well until combined and smooth. Pour the icing into a large, shallow dish. Pour the coconut out onto a large baking tray.

Place one side of the sponge cake into the icing, cover the sides, then dip the other side of the sponge in the icing. Cover in coconut and place on a large cake stand. Repeat with remaining sponge cake, except place this one on a plate or another baking tray. I found this process super messy and it took me a while, but I got there in the end!

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Balsamic Strawberry Jam:

  • 1 medium punnet of strawberries, hulled and quartered
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste/natural extract
  • 1 cup caster (white) sugar
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • Splash of water

Place strawberries and water (I literally used a splash, just to moisten the strawberries) in a medium sized saucepan. Cook on a medium heat until the berries begin to soften (about 2 minutes). Add the vanilla and sugar, and cook over a low heat for about 10 minutes, or until strawberries have broken down. Add balsamic vinegar, and continue cooking on low until mixture becomes a sticky, jam like consistency. Pour into a bowl, and leave to cool. If you are not using the jam on the day of making it, cover with cling wrap and place it in the fridge. I made my jam two days beforehand.

Lamington Cake

Assembly:

Whip up 250ml thickened cream, with 1/3 cup icing (confectioner’s) sugar, and 1 tsp of vanilla bean paste/natural extract. With one sponge cake already on the cake stand, cover with whipped cream, ensuring you spread the cream right to the edges of the cake (if you want to decorate it like my cake, leave a little bit of cream behind to pipe on top). Then, spread over the strawberry jam – although this time don’t spread it right to the edges, leave about 1cm. Place the other sponge on top of the cream and jam. Decorate as desired 🙂 EAT!

Messy goodness

HAPPY AUSTRALIA DAY! (check out my past Australia Day posts here.)

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Lamington Macarons

This is my second attempt at Lamington macarons. If you are unfamiliar with lamingtons, they are a delicious Australian treat – a vanilla cake that often has rapberry jam in the middle, and is rolled in chocolate sauce and covered in coconut. Sounds pretty good hey?! Thankfully this time, they actually do look like macarons, instead of pancakes (see Vegemite macarons)! I love the idea of using a flavour or a product that is completely non-macaron related, and making a macaron with these flavours and products in mind. That is the great thing about macarons – they are a blank canvas. You can colour them however you like and you can fill them with whatever flavour you like whether it be fruity, creamy or rich and chocolatey like this one.

I love the dark chocolate and raspberry combination, and with the addition of coconut, these macarons were so rich, hence why they are teeny tiny! This is also the first time I have made proper chocolate shells, and with a little tweaking with the recipe, they mostly turned out well. The chocolate shells were like mini mud-cakes with a meringue crust – so good. They were a lot denser than a normal shell, but were still airy and carried the chocolate flavour really well.

Chocolate Macarons: (this recipe is adapted from Adriano Zumbo’s book and is a bit different to the recipe I usually use)

You definitely need kitchen scales (preferably digital) to make macarons.

  • 135g almond meal
  • 135g icing sugar
  • 30g cocoa
  • 55g egg whites, x2
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 45g water

Grease and line 4 oven trays with baking paper, and preheat the oven to 160c. Place one lot of 55g egg whites in a large, dry and clean bowl and set aside. Sift together the almond meal, icing sugar and cocoa four times, and set aside, along with the other lot of 55g egg whites (I usually place egg whites in a ramekin, on top of a paper towel in the bowl with the dry ingredients – otherwise I tend to forget them :P). Combine the caster sugar and water in a small saucepan over a low heat. Stir until sugar is dissolved and syrup is hot – keep testing with your tongue until sugar is dissolved. Begin beating 55g egg whites in the large bowl, and slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl. This will create an Italian meringue. Beat until soft peaks form – you do not want to overbeat your egg whites. The mixture should be thick and very glossy.

Pour the 55g egg whites in the ramekin into the dry ingredients. Carefully spoon the Italian meringue mixture into the dry ingredients bowl and stir to combine. Once combined, fold mixture (one single stroke) until there are no air bubbles left – this will usually take 30-40 seconds if you are folding non-stop. Make a spread with the spoon on top of the mixture, and it should subside in 15-20 seconds.

Using a piping bag fitted with a round nozzle, fill the bag 2/3 way with the macaron mixture (TIP – if you do not have a piping bag set, never fear. In the baking aisle of most Australian supermarkets you will find a small orange box – they are ‘Multix’ brand and have 5 piping bags and 5 piping tips. I am sure most supermarkets in the USA would have a very similar product). To lock the bag, spin the top around 4 times. Gently pipe small circles onto prepared baking trays. When you have a finished a tray, tap it hard against the bench – this will get rid of the air bubbles. Leave trays for about half an hour, or until they are dry to the touch and a crust is formed. You need this crust for the macarons to rise properly so that they form their little feet.

I had a bit of trouble with this next part. I’m not sure if it was my oven or the difference of having the cocoa in the shell mixture, but quite a lot of my shells cracked, especially around the edges of the tray. I found that these chocolate shells cook a lot quicker than regular shells, so this is what I did and most of them turned out pretty well. Only cook one tray at a time. Place tray in preheated oven for 7 minutes. Turn tray around and bake for 3 minutes. You may need to check early on in the cooking process whether you shells are forming properly or they are cracking. If they are cracking, I would recommend removing them from the oven and cooling them down, as they may already be cooked. If not, follow the times I have suggested. Let shells cool on trays for 5-10 minutes, then remove and place on a wire rack. Repeat process with remaining trays.

Chocolate Ganache:

This is a basic chocolate ganache. I have doubled the recipe I usually use.

  • 200g chocolate (I used half milk, half dark), chopped
  • 1 cup cream (doesn’t really matter which type but I use thickened or lite thickened)

Place chocolate and cream in a saucepan over a low-medium heat. Constantly stir with a metal spoon until completely melted. Pour into container/bowl/whatever and refrigerate until firm enough to pipe. I often make this ganache the day before and take it out of the fridge in the morning. Sometimes it may need 5-10 seconds in the microwave.

Assembly:

Match up likely pairs of macaron shells. Fill one piping bag with chocolate ganache and another piping bag with raspberry jam – I didn’t make mine this time, but if you want to, check out this awesome recipe by Matt Preston. Pipe a small dollop of ganache on the shell, pipe an even smaller dollop of jam on top, and then another dollop of ganache to encase the jam. Sandwich with another shell and gently sprinkle around the edges of the macaron with dessicated coconut.

 

Aussie Green and Gold Vegemite Macarons

I know Australia Day was last week, but I hardly had any time to do anything for the occasion then, so here we are! I had a few ideas floating around, and I wanted to do something a little bit different, but still reflecting an Aussie theme obviously. I hadn’t made macarons in a couple of weeks, so I decided to try the vegemite macarons from Zumbo’s crazy cookbook! (page 27 for those who have it). FYI, if you have never heard of Zumbo, he is basically the Aussie version of Willy Wonka, and the king of the macaron. Check out his amazing creations and stores here.

I thought making the macarons bright green and gold would look fantastic, and I was so happy with them, and their flavour, too. I’m not a huge, huge fan of Vegemite at the best of times, but the filling is quite subtle, especially when coupled with the sweetness of the macaron shell itself. I was going to call it Vegemite Toast, because the ganache has breadcrumbs in it, however they are not as pronounced when sandwiched between the macaron shells. Once again, if you don’t know what Vegemite is, well, you’re not really missing out on much! It is an Australian yeast spread, which has an extremely concentrated and intense savoury/soury flavour, it’s a bit hard to explain exactly what it tastes like. I always see Americans on TV trying HUGE spoons of Vegemite, and clearly hating it. A tip – do not have too much, and have it with a lot of butter, on toast, and it isn’t too bad at all! Anyway, getting back on track…

I also decided to make lamington macarons, too, another traditional Aussie treat consisting of sponge cake dipped in chocolate, covered in coconut and filled with raspberry jam. Unfortunately, I think I may have added a bit too much cocoa to the meringue mixture, and most of the shells came out looking more like pancakes 😦 I did manage to salvage a couple of half-decent ones for a photo, but they pretty much crumbled straight after. On the bright side, however, they tasted AMAZING. Definitely one to give a go again.

Macarons: (obviously I made 2 separate batches for this recipe)

This recipe is Adriano Zumbo’s, and was published a couple of years ago in the Herald Sun. You will definitely need kitchen scales to make macarons.

  • 135g almond meal
  • 135g icing sugar
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 45g egg whites
  • 50g egg whites
  • 40g water
  • Food colouring and flavouring (optional)

Preheat oven to 170c (160c fan forced). Line three oven trays with baking paper and set aside. Place almond meal and icing sugar in a large bowl, and sift together 3 times. Set aside, along with the 45g egg whites. Put 50g egg whites in a separate bowl. Heat caster sugar and water in a small saucepan until it is hot and syrupy (if it slightly burns my tongue, it’s done!). If white, powdery bubbles begin to form around the edges, start again!

Begin beating the 50g egg whites with one hand, and with the other, stream the hot sugar syrup down the side of the bowl to create an italian meringue. Beat until stiff peaks form, the meringue should be thick and very glossy. If you want to add colouring/flavouring, now’s your moment. Just lightly beat them into the meringue. Pour meringue into the almond meal, icing sugar and 45g egg whites mixture and mix roughly to combine. When combined, fold mixture together (one single stroke) until there are no air bubbles left. Make a spread across the top of the mixture, and it should disappear in about 20 seconds. Spoon mixture into a piping bag fitted with a round nozzle. (If you don’t have a piping bag set, most supermarkets sell plastic ones, they are Multix brand, in an orange box and contain 5 piping bags with a few different nozzles, plus they’re only about $3. You should be able to find them in the baking aisle). Lock the bag by spinning the top around 4 times. Pipe 3-4cm rounds on the oven trays prepared earlier. Gently tap the bottom of the trays and let them sit for about half an hour, or until mixture is dry to the touch.

Place in oven and bake for 8 minutes. Turn tray around in the oven and bake for another 7 minutes. To test, pull a macaron off the baking paper. If it is stuck, keep cooking and checking regularly. Cool on trays for 5 minutes, then peel off and place on a wire rack. The mixture should make about 12 large macarons, and about 25 smaller macarons.

Macaron fillings and toppings:

Lamington – Add 1 tsp good quality cocoa to meringue mixture, before combined with almond meal, icing sugar and 45g egg whites. After the macarons have been piped onto the tray, sprinkle with shredded coconut. To make the ganache, melt 100g good quality dark chocolate with half a cup of thickened (whipping) cream, and half a cup of shredded coconut until smooth. Spoon 2/3 tsp of ganache onto 1 macaron shell, spoon 1/2 tsp of raspberry jam on top of the ganache, and sandwich with another shell.

Green and Gold Vegemite – For the shells, add 1/2 tsp of Wilton’s colouring gel in Lemon Yellow (I do think that supermarket food colouring liquid will change the consistency of the shells, as you would need a lot to achieve such a bright yellow), to the meringue mixture. For the ganache, you will need 95g of thickened (whipping) cream, 112g good quality white chocolate, and 20g vegemite (you could probably use Marmite if Vegemite is not available), 25g breadcrumbs and 62g butter, softened – not melted. Put the cream in a saucepan, over a medium heat and bring to the boil. Have the chocolate and vegemite ready in a bowl. Pour the hot cream over the choc/vegemite mixture and leave for 2 minutes. Stir until mixture is smooth, and stir in the breadcrumbs. When the mixture has cooled down a bit, blitz in the butter with a stick mixer (if you do not have a stick mixer, make sure your butter is really, really soft and just whisk it in while it is still warm until smooth. Add green colouring (again, I used Wilton’s gel). Cool ganache until solid enough to pipe. Fill a piping bag fitted with around nozzle. Pipe approx. 1 tsp on a shell, then sandwich with another. (I did half Zumbo’s recipe here).

Please don’t be put of making these by my explanation of Vegemite, because when combined with white chocolate and butter – it tastes pretty great!

Check out MACTWEETS Mac Attack Challenge – an awsome blog that honours the amazingly delish macaron every month! For March, it will be Macaron Day (on the 20th). I have entered these little babies in the challenge…go you happy little vegemites!

Happy belated Australia Day!!!

(P.S. I will be overseas for 3 weeks now, so stay tuned for a post after then!)