Cake from Around the World

Lamingtons. Has anyone else heard of these? They are little sponge cakes drenched in a chocolate sauce and rolled around in "dessicated" coconut, and they hail from New Zealand. Or maybe Australia originally, but for all intents and purposes, we're going to say New Zealand. See, I have this culture class - Nutrition and Culture - and we had to choose a country and essentially become experts in it over the course of the semester. It ends with a food tasting where we all make little samples of classic dishes, so of course I baked.

And this is what came of it: Little rectangles of moist sponge cake soaked in cocoa powder, butter, and levels of confectioner's sugar that should be illegal, and topped with just enough coconut (alas, not "dessicated") to keep them traditional without forcing my mostly coconut-averse peers to eat lumps and lumps of the stuff.

My one complaint is that the chocolate didn't set - and really, I don't know why I was expecting it to. After all, the recipe called for cocoa powder, not chocolate chips, so the cakes are now being stored awkwardly in my much-too-small dorm refrigerator, as I sit here worrying about them and fussing over them in the hopes that they will not dry out or melt away before class time comes. I'm happy that I stuck to the recipe closely, as it's supposed to be an example of what New Zealander's typically eat, but if I make this in the future (and I just might!), I will be sure to experiment with a chocolate glaze/coating that will set. I will also replace the coconut with one of any number of toppings: nuts, chocolate shavings, chocolate chips, candies, powdered sugar, sprinkles, fondant, edible flowers - the possibilities are endless!

I'm sorry that I don't have step by step pictures of the process. I'm continually debating whether I should have more or less pictures than I currently provide - as I don't know how to put my text behind a cut, I'm afraid too many will make my blog tedious to scroll through. However, I've read blogs that do step-by-step pictures alongside instructions, and it's an interesting approach.

For now, just this one picture, and the following ridiculously-simple but very tasty recipe for (what google informs me is) a well-loved New Zealand dessert. Also, I doubled this recipe and baked it in a 9x13 pyrex lasagna dish (it was all I had). I mean, I had to feed 40 people, and was worried that it would take me a few trials before I got the hang of the chocolate-coating process.

Lamingtons, courtesy of About.Com
for the cakes:
2 C all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp sea salt (omitted - you should know that by now!)
2 large eggs
1/2 C (1 stick) room temperature butter
3/4 C white sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 C milk (I used 2%, what we had in the house)
for the chocolate coating:
2 C powdered sugar (I didn't exactly measure this...)
1/3 C cocoa powder
3 Tbsp butter
1/2 C milk
*unspecified amounts of "dessicated" coconut (because I didn't roll them in it as the recipe called for, I can't tell you how much you'll need; however, I can tell you that I used sweetened coconut because it was the only coconut available in the store.)
*whipped cream for serving

1. Preheat the oven to 350F (180C)
2. Lightly butter an 8 inch square cake tin. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
4. In a separate bowl, use an electric beater to cream the butter and sugar mixture together until pale and fluffy.
5. Add the eggs one at a time to the butter/sugar mixture. Beat well after adding each egg.
6. Add the vanilla to the mixture and mix well to combine.
7. Next, use a spatula to alternately add the flour mixture and milk, in three additions, starting and finishing with the flour.
8. Spread the batter into the cake tin, making sure it's evenly spread.
9. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes. Test the center of the cake with a toothpick and make sure it comes out clean.
10. Cool the cake in the tin for about 5 minutes and then invert it onto a wire rack to cool.
11. Once the cake has cooled cut it into squares of a desired size and place them in an airtight container. Pop the container in the fridge for at least 2 hours or even overnight.
12. Now for the icing. Place the icing sugar, cocoa powder, butter and milk in a heat proof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.
13. Stir the mixture until it is smooth but still a bit thick. You don't want the liquid to get too thin otherwise the sponge cake won't absorb the coating.
14. Now it's time to assemble the Lamingtons. Put out some newspaper under wire racks to catch any mess. Place the cake pieces on the racks and have your chocolate icing and desiccated coconut ready.
15. Quickly coat the sponge cake on all sides in the icing mixture and then gently roll the cake in the coconut. Repeat the process.
16. The Lamingtons can be stored in an airtight container for 5 days.

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