When Tom recently gave me The Craft of Baking: Cakes, Cookies & Other Sweets with Ideas for Inventing Your Own by Karen DeMasco and Mindy Fox, I was intrigued by the photo on the cover, which seemed to show some sort of cupcake being dipped in chocolate and covered in coconut. In fact, the pictured sweet is a Lamington Cupcake, a variation on a classic Australian treat.
The traditional Lamington is a square piece of sponge cake coated in chocolate icing and rolled in dried coconut, sometimes with a layer of cream or strawberry jam in the middle. According to Wikipedia and this article from the New Zealand Herald, the cake is named for Charles Cochrane-Baillie, the second Baron of Lamington and the Governor of Queensland from 1896-1901. Reportedly, he once referred to the cakes as "those bloody poofy woolly biscuits." Undoubtedly, Lamington is lucky to be remembered mostly for a tasty cake instead of for having committed the horrifying faux pas of shooting a sleeping koala bear while on a trip sponsored by conservationists.
The recipe from the Craft cookbook has a vanilla sponge cake inside that is made from cake flour, baking powder, salt, softened butter, sugar, vanilla extract, vanilla bean, whole milk, and egg whites. I was a little skeptical about the large amount of vanilla in the recipe -- the recipe is supposed to yield a dozen standard-sized cupcakes, and it calls for a tablespoon of vanilla, plus one-quarter of a vanilla bean. You not only scrape out the seeds of the vanilla bean and add them to the batter, but then you throw the rest of the bean in there as well -- fishing it out only near the end before incorporating the beaten egg whites.
After you bake up the little cakes in a greased muffin tin (with no cupcake liners), you cool them completely, coat them in a chocolate glaze (cocoa powder, powdered sugar, salt, vanilla, and water) and then roll them in toasted dried shredded coconut. The finished cakes are completely adorable. The glaze sets firm so that they are easy to handle.
The cake inside is very white (maybe because there are no egg yolks in the batter), with a very spongy and dense texture. The cupcakes are definitely vanilla flavored, but not excessively so. I think my cakes might have been a little undercooked at the bottom, but they were just lovely with the chocolate and coconut. The crunchy texture of the dried coconut was especially delightful. I have never been to Australia, but if I do ever get the chance to go, I will be sure to try a Lamington... In the meantime, I will happily make my knockoff versions here!
Recipe: "Lamington Cupcakes" from The Craft of Baking: Cakes, Cookies & Other Sweets with Ideas for Inventing Your Own by Karen DeMasco and Mindy Fox.