Life has suddenly gotten very busy, so it is with a slight delay that I present to you my Australia Day creation… a Lamington Layer Cake! The mother of all lamingtons, this cake is a sky high collaboration of an easy, light sponge, thickly whipped vanilla cream, some luscious slatherings of strawberry jam, dark chocolate buttercream and shredded coconut. If you’re not familiar with the classic Australian lamington, you are ordered to invest some time in this creation so that you know what you’ve been missing! Note that my sponge cakes look ridiculously yellow thanks to the eggs of my free range chooks, do not be alarmed by any bright yellow food you come across on this blog…
I did a bit of research before deciding which sponge recipe to use, and I settled on Delia Smith’s ‘All-in-one Sponge’, which she promises even the least experienced chef can successfully bake. I think she may be right, because the recipe is so simple and fuss-free, but the sponge itself is as wonderfully fluffy and buttery as you could wish for. Delia claims that one of the secrets to such a sponge is the use of margarine instead of butter. I have no idea why this substitution is so important, but I am more than willing to place all my trust in Delia’s methods. She is, after all, an indisputable Baking Queen!
Now for a more serious side note. For me, the significance of Australia Day is in both celebrating what we have achieved as a country, but importantly in remembering the suffering and injustices that were inflicted upon those who lived here before us, and those who hope to find refuge here. We Aussies have so much to be thankful for and proud of, but there is a lot we can still do to be a more compassionate, tolerant and inclusive nation. I hope you all spare a thought for Indigenous Australians and refugees seeking asylum in our beautiful and safe country, as you continue to remember how modern Australia came to be, and reflect on how we want to shape the Australian identity. On Australia Day, and every day, we should recognise, welcome, celebrate and hope.
And after you’ve spared a moment for contemplation, bake this cake and share it with your family and friends, wherever you are in the world, in celebration of everything we have to be thankful for!
Above is a photo of the spread I shared with friends on Australia Day; this cake, salted caramel slice (recipe to come), and a delicious home made pecan pie and zucchini and lime layer cake made by a spectacularly talented friend!
Lamington Layer Cake
Preparation Time: 1-1.5 hours
Total Time: 2 hours
Recipe from Delia Smith’s ‘Complete Cookery Course’
- 165 g self-raising flour, sifter twice
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 165 g soft margarine, at room temperature
- 165 g caster sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract/1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
Jam and Cream Filling
- 600 mL thickened cream
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
- 350 g good quality strawberry jam
Dark Chocolate Buttercream
Adapted from this recipe from She Wears Many Hats
- 260 g good quality dark cooking chocolate
- 4 tablespoons good quality cocoa powder
- 340 g unsalted butter, cubed and at room temperature
- 3 tablespoons full cream milk
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract/1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
- 340 g pure icing sugar, sifted
- 100 g shredded coconut, to decorate
- Preheat the oven to 170°C/325°F fan-forced.
- Grease, line with baking paper, re-grease and flour two 18 cm/7 inch cake tins.
- Sift the flour and baking powder from a height into a large mixing bowl, to incorporate as much air as possible into the mixture. Add all other ingredients to the bowl, and use an electric whisk on medium speed to thoroughly combine. A spoonful of mixture should easily drop of a wooden spoon when tapped against the side of the bowl. If you think the mixture is tad thick, add one or two tablespoons of warm water and whisk again to combine.
- Spoon one third of the mixture into each of the two prepared cake tins, using a butter knife or small offset spatula to smooth the surfaces. Cover and set aside the remaining batter. Bake the cakes on the same centre shelf for about 30 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean and the surfaces are lightly golden brown.
- Remove the cakes from the oven, leave to cool for 30 seconds, then loosen the sides of the cakes with a butter knife and tip the cakes out onto greased wire racks immediately, gently peeling off the baking paper. Leave to cool completely.
- Meanwhile, run one of the tins under cold water to rinse and cool, then dry completely and re-line the tin. Spoon the remaining cake batter into the tin, and bake as above.
Note: Try to transition as quickly as possible from removing the first batch of cakes from the oven, to getting the last cake into the oven. The longer you take, the more likely the consistency of the uncooked batter is to change. If you prefer not to risk any inconsistencies in cake batter, do as I did and prepare your batter in two batches. In the first batch, use only 2/3 of the ingredients to bake the first two cakes. Then, while the first two cakes are baking, mix up the rest of the ingredients for the third cake closer to baking time.
Jam and Cream Filling
- In a medium mixing bowl with an electric whisker, whisk the cream on medium speed until stiff peaks form. This should take about 3-5 minutes. Add the vanilla and whisk again for 10 seconds to combine.
- Transfer the cream to a smaller bowl, cover with glad wrap and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes.
- Once the cream has firmed up a bit, spoon one cup of cream into a medium piping bag fitted with a 1-2 cm round nozzle. Pipe a ‘dam’ of cream around the circumference (the very edge) of two of the sponge cakes. This will form a barrier of cream that will hold the jam in place, and prevent it from oozing out before the cake is frosted.
- In a small saucepan over very low heat, warm the jam to just loosen it. Stir constantly as you go, only heating the jam for a few minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Spoon half the jam onto one of the piped cakes, using a small offset spatula or butter knife to gently spread the jam to the cream barrier. Repeat with the second piped cake. Refrigerate the cakes for at least 30 minutes to cool and set.
- Remove the cakes from the fridge. Place a small spoonful of whipped cream on your cake plate, then secure one of the piped cakes in place as your base layer. Top with half of the remaining whipped cream, the second piped cake layer, the rest of the whipped cream and finally the last cake layer. Tightly wrap the whole cake in glad wrap and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes, or overnight.
Dark Chocolate Buttercream
- In a medium heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, stir the dark chocolate until just melted. Alternatively, microwave the chocolate until just melted, according to the packet instructions.
- Remove the chocolate from the heat, and use a spatula to stir in the cocoa powder one spoonful at a time, until the mixture is completely smooth. Set the bowl aside to cool until just warm.
- In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the butter on medium speed for 5-10 minutes, until it looks pale, creamy and well whipped. Stop every minute or so to scrape the butter down the sides of the bowl, and ensure all the butter is whipped up.
- Turn the beater to low speed, and gradually add the milk, beating until just combined.
- Turn the beater off, scrape all of the chocolate mixture into the butter, and then beat on low for a few minutes until well combined. Add the vanilla, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and beat on medium for another 2 minutes.
- Add the icing sugar a spoonful at a time. After each addition, beat on medium speed for a minute or two until thoroughly combined. Then scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the next spoonful of icing sugar, and repeat. Continue this process until all of the icing sugar has been added. Beat on low for another few minutes until the buttercream is smooth, creamy and glossy, but firm enough to hold its shape while frosting. Add a bit more milk or icing sugar if you like, to reach your desired consistency. I prefer my buttercream to be a little on the firmer side, so if in doubt add another spoonful of sifted icing sugar.
- Spoon half the buttercream onto the top surface of the cake, then use a butter knife or small offset spatula to spread it across the top and just over the sides. Add more buttercream to the sides of the cake, and spread evenly around the cake until you have thoroughly covered the entire surface. Always add more buttercream than necessary, then scrape it off as you even your surface. Do not worry too much about a smooth finish with this cake, as the whole thing will soon be covered in coconut!
- Immediately after frosting, use your hands to gently press the coconut all over the surface of the cake, as generously or sparsely as you wish.
- Refrigerate the cake for at least 30 minutes, or until the buttercream is firm. Bring to room temperature for 15 minutes, just before serving.
The buttercream can be covered tightly with glad wrap and refrigerated for up to 3 days before use. When required, bring it to room temperature and beat on medium speed until smooth and creamy.
Store the cake covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days. Best eaten on the day of assembly.