Ever since I can remember, I have baked with my mum. We always had a steady supply of home made biscuits (cookies for my American friends) and slices – although never cake, she isn’t a cake baker, except for the occassional fruit cake. We did most of the baking in winter, using the wood fire stove. In fact, I can’t remember baking biscuits in the electric oven ever, although I do remember eating biscuits in summer.
Anyway, we’d bake for at least half a day – it was quite the production line. We didn’t have a lot of bench space in the family kitchen, so all the baking was done on the red formica-topped kitchen table, which stood in the centre of the kitchen. All the ingredients were put in the same spot on the table, the flour, SR flour, sugar, butter, baking power and soda etc, and the sifter on it’s enamel plate. Mum would get out her recipe book, and we’d start – always jam drops, forcer biscuits (a plain biscuit mix cut into shapes using a biscuit press – or “forcer”) and butter snaps. And if Dad got involved, there’d be ginger nuts as well – Mum could never make them as good as Dad.
Once the first batch went in the oven, we’d start mixing the second batch, so they would be ready to go when the first came out of the oven. And of course, there’d be a lot of taste testing of the warm biscuits – had to be sure they were ok! Is there anything more satisfyingly comforting to eat than a warm homemade biscuit?!
We also had a similar production line for the lamingtons, but it wasn’t usually a half day job. We’d always use the same bowls and plates and system, and of course, I do too when I make lamingtons, although I don’t have a willing helper (yet!).
We start with the cake on the left – always a bought cake (see above re Mum not being a cake baker), which has been frozen and not thawed – it makes it easier to cut into cubes, and less crumby when being dipped in the chocolate. Then the bowl with the chocolate icing, and two large forks, to toss the cake around in the chocolate. Then an enamel plate with a cake cooler on top, to drain the chocolate coated cubes. Then, a small bowl for the dessicated coconut and two small forks, for the tossing of the cubes. No fingers allowed! And no messy fingers either! Finally, a clean plate for the finished lamingtons. For the observant lamington makers (or eaters) amongst you, you will notice there is no jam step! I say NO to jam in lamingtons! (mostly because we never made jam ones – but I really do prefer them without jam!)
Start by doing about 5 or 6 cubes in the chocolate – leave to drain and then do those in the coconut, and repeat from the beginning. And every so often, the chocolate from the draining plate would be put back in the bowl – no waste here. And no soggy lamingtons either, due to the draining process. I think mum thought that was her magic secret for the perfect lamington. Whoops, now I’ve shared it with the internet!
I suppose I should go the whole hog and share the chocolate icing method too, not that it is any great secret! For around 2 dozen lamingtons, you will need:
-500g icing sugar
-1 tbsp cocoa
-1 tbsp butter
-about 1/3 cup boiling water
-about 1 teasp vanilla essence, or less of vanilla extract
Put the butter in the boiling water and wait until it melts. Put cocoa and icing sugar into bowl, squashing out lumps (sift if you wish!). Slowly add water and butter mix, and vanilla, to the icing sugar/cocoa mix. Don’t add all the water at once, as it may make the icing too thin. Mix until you get a good consistency – not too thick, not too thin. Err on the side of a runnier mixture though. You may need more or less water. Or possibly more icing sugar if you’ve used too much water!
I must say, it took me ages to get a good consistency with the icing, and even then I still think it was a bit too thick. I can’t say I can make lamingtons quite as good as mum yet! But they were pretty good!