Richard's maternal grandmother was Australian and when she died he was given her old cookbook Calling All Cooks, which has stamped on the first page, "WITH COMPLIMENTS FROM THE SOUTH AUSTRALIAN GAS COY." It's a lovely thing to look through, with clippings of recipes from magazines and newspapers hidden between its leaves and Richard's Granny's own recipes written in a beautiful calligraphic hand. Everything from "Stuffed Hearts" and "Ginger Bread" to "S. Aus. Delicious Pudding" which looks to be a kind of lemon mousse, and does indeed look "delicious". On page 58 there is a recipe for lamingtons - a classic Australia cube-shaped sponge covered in chocolate icing and dunked in desiccated coconut. I love lamingtons and decided it would be a rather lovely thing to follow the recipe from Richard's Granny's book, though I adjusted the cooking time as my cake was done far sooner than this recipe suggests. Here is the original recipe for the cake batter, including its old-fashioned variant spelling of coconut:
1/4 lb. butter 1 lb. flour
1/2 lb. sugar 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
4 eggs 1 teaspoon carb. soda*1
Vanilla essence 1 1/2 gills milk*2
Cream the butter and add gradually the sugar, beating until the mixture is soft, creamy and light. Add gradually the well-beaten eggs and vanilla. Sift together the flour, salt, cream of tartar and soda, and add alternating with the milk. Stir lightly until a smooth mixture is formed. Bake in a flat tin at 350 deg. for 3/4 - 1 hour.
Next day cut into suitable pieces, coat with chocolate icing, and roll in desiccated cocoanut. When coating hold the cake on a wire skewer or knitting needle.
*1: This refers to bicarbonate of soda
*2: 1 gill is the equivalent of 5 fl.oz so 1 1/2 is 7.5 fl.oz or 220 ml.
I baked this cake in a parchment lined small roulade tray at 180°C (160°C Fan) for 25 minutes, though the time will depend on your oven. I also made my cubes very tiny as I was serving them as petit-fours. Alternatively, you can simply whip up a quick all-in-one sponge batter, which should work just as well.
I decided not to follow Calling All Cooks' recipe for chocolate icing, as I thought it looked too sweet for my palate. Instead I simply dipped the squares of cake in melted dark chocolate before rolling them in desiccated coconut. If you would like to ensure your lamingtons are fully authentic, here is the recipe in Richard's Granny's Aussie cookbook:
2 lbs. icing sugar Vanilla essence
2 - 3 tablespoons cocoa About one gill hot water
1/4 lb. butter
Sift the icing sugar and cocoa. Work in the butter, add vanilla and sufficient hot water to make the icing the necessary consistency.
When using the icing, stand the bowl in some hot water. This keeps the icing soft, and thus simplifies the task.
When I served the lamingtons, I mentioned that I had also bought some liquorice root with thoughts of making a liquorice tea, but they seemed so much woodier than I expected and besides, Richard hates liquorice and I'm no particular fan myself, so I didn't bother in the end. But, Sarah Dean revealed how much she had loved gnawing on liquorice root as a child and so I offered her some. Here she is, chewing on a liquorice stick:
Personally, I thought it was like chewing on an old pencil - not pleasant at all. Sarah did say that she remembered the sticks she chewed in her childhood being less dry but she still took home the rest of the bag so at least it didn't go to waste.