Lamingtons for Australia Day

Australia Day just isn’t Australia Day without pavlova or lamingtons. This being a universally understood truth, I decided to make some. Unfortunately my meringue was an epic fail! The egg whites could not be formed into ‘stiff peaks’ no matter how long I beat them for and although they rose when in the oven, by the time the slow cooking and cooling processes had finished, I was left with some sad, cracked, wafer thin looking thing not capable of holding together let alone supporting any fruit or cream.

With one not working, I pinned all my hopes and patriotic dreams on the other. Thankfully my lamingtons turned out perfectly! They were most, spongy and had the perfect proportion of coating to cake. Funnily enough I got the recipe a few years ago from a post on an American food blog trying to explain Australia Day and our traditional foods to Americans. 

And here it is… the secret to any awesome Australia Day gathering.

Ingredients

For the sponge

  • 110g softened butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup self-raising flour
  • 1 tbsp cornflour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • pinch of salt

For the icing

  • 45g softened butter
  • 75g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 tbsp cocoa
  • 2 cups dessicated or shredded coconut

Method

Preheat oven to 180C (170C fan forced, 350F, gas mark 4). Line a square 20cm cake tin with baking paper and grease any uncovered sides.

To make the cake, sift flours and baking powder into a medium mixing bowl. Add all remaining cake ingredients and beat using an electric mixer on medium high for about 5 minutes. The mixture will become pale and light. Transfer into the tin and bake for 30-35 minutes or until just golden on the top and cooked through.

Allow cake to cool before placing it in the fridge for about 20 minutes and cutting into fingers or squares. I like to remove the side crusts too, it makes the lamingtons even more meltingly soft.

To make the icing, place all ingredients into a mixing bowl and mix while adding a tablespoon of boiling water at a time. The icing should have the consistency of a slightly runny gravy.

Place coconut on a dessert plate. Dip each cake in the icing turning quickly then drop into the coconut, making sure it sticks and covers the cake well. Repeat with the rest. Keep lamingtons in the fridge until serving time.

Chocolate Almond Torte, a gluten free delight

It’s cake baking time again folks but this time it’s for a very special friend who is gluten intolerant, well not so much intolerant (or trend following) but seriously and very uncomfortably allergic.

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Rather than look up a specifically designated ‘gluten free’ recipe, I want to do something that came from a normal book, that wouldn’t have to fight against the ‘special diet’ stigma and that was just yummy in its own right. So I turned to my trusty women’s weekly cook book and sure enough, I found the below recipe for an awesome chocolate and almond cake – beautiful and nutty… Just like my friend 🙂

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Oh and word to the wise- just because it’s gluten free, it’s definitely not calorie free! Mmmm chocolatey goodness……

Ingredients
160g dark chocolate
160g unsalted butter
5 eggs separated
3/4 cup caster sugar
1 cup almond meal
2/3 cup flaked almonds + extra for decorating
35g dark chocolate chopped coarsely

Chocolate ganache
125g dark chocolate
1/3 cup thickened cream

Directions
1. preheat oven to 180 degrees. Spray and line a 22cm cake tin.
2. Melt the 160g chocolate and butter together (I used a microwave) and stir till smooth. Cool to room temp.
3. Beat egg yokes and sugar until thick and creamy. Fold in the chocolate mixture, almond meal, flaked almonds and chopped chocolate.
4. Beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold them into the chocolate mixture gently in two batches.
5. Pour mixture into pan and bake for 35 – 40 minutes.
6. Melt the last batch of dark chocolate and cream together to make the ganache. Once both the cake and ganache are cool, pour the ganache over the cake and spread it using a palette knife. Put in the fridge to set.
7. Toast the extra slivered almonds in a small pan on the stove. Sprinkle in an even layer on top of the cake.

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I finished the whole thing off with some almond bark – whole almonds sprinkled on baking paper and covered in a light toffee.

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The Potting Shed, Alexandria

I’d been looking forward to a friend’s dirty 30 for ages. When you are going for dirty, you have to pick a suitably themed restaurant…. and nothing in this world is filled with more dirt than a potting shed. Bet you didn’t see that one coming! Minds out of the gutters people and into the flower beds!

On Saturday night I wandered down the proverbial garden path to one of The Grounds night time haunts, The Potting Shed. This restaurant has to be one of the most beautiful I have ever seen! To start with, despite the warm night, a mini bonfire has been set up outside the entrance accompanied by a pot of skewers and marshmallows for toasting. I almost didn’t make it into the actual restaurant. Boy I’m glad I did!

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When these guys go for a theme, they seriously commit. Timber tables of all shapes and sizes completely fill the place while the diners who sit at them, lit only by candle powered lanterns, provide the happy buzz of chatter and laughter that sets the scene for our celebration. A beautiful explosion of greenery covers the ceilings and walls with potted plants, vines, hanging baskets and flower beds positioned in every available space. It is the unique touches like a hanging bench swing and a real life macaw vocally making his presence known that makes this place really special.

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And the menu… It was to die for! Attached to a clipboard with a pitchfork or shovel clasp, everything from the appetisers to the sides to the mains are designed to share and we could see why – giant sized potions and delicious options that create a complete inability to make choices, all of which are definitely value for money!

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We began with two servings of the pumpkin fatteh $16, which was, and I kid you not, an explosion of happiness in my mouth. It kept me silent for about 15 minutes which is basically unheard of! Served on a wooden board it consisted of perfectly roasted pumpkin, zatar coated pita bread, sweet labne and toasted pine nuts. Individually the elements were tasty – together they were the perfect mouthful.

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We moved on to the small sized (cough cough) serving of the steamed black mussels $15. These juicy morsels were stewed in a rich tomato and chorizo sauce that was perfectly spiced. The two slices of buttered garlic and herb bread that accompanied the dish were the kind of carb I would happily get fat for.

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By this stage we were stuffed but that didn’t stop us from moving on to our mains. We’d ordered a mixed barley salad $18 which was the only slight disappointment as though there was tasty stuff at the bottom of the plate, it was a sparing potion and smothered in salad greens. Not to worry though, our other main was the lamb shank pot pie $24 – a mammoth dish of juicy, soft, fall of the bone meat topped with creamy, well seasoned mashed potato. We were heroic in our attempt to finish it but despite our best efforts, half made it home with us to become the following day’s dinner.

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The others had ordered the mixed meat and cheese platter, the wagu burger, grilled fish and the beef back strap. Everyone was deliriously happy with their choices and by the end of the night, utterly stuffed. Thank goodness there was no cake, although the ones available for special preorder I was told, had been seriously tempting – cheesecake pavlova anyone?

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But no, there was absolutely no room for sweets and yes, I too almost fainted hearing myself say that. All I had space for was one perfectly toasted marshmallow and then it was off into the fairly light filled night, taking our happy hearts and grateful stomachs home.