As you know, I’ve always had a thing for cute desserts, particularly if they’re tiny and pastel-colored. When considering what kind of sweet to make for this year’s historical picnic, I came across a recipe for strawberry lamingtons, and suddenly couldn’t get them out of my mind.
I admit I’d never actually had lamingtons before, much less made them, but they looked easy enough– cubes of sponge cake dipped in glaze and coated in finely shredded coconut. Traditionally the glaze is chocolate, but apparently strawberry is a common variation– and it’s made with jello!
My sponge cake baked up really nicely– it had a nice, flat top and a close-crumbed texture, though since I left it on the counter overnight to stale up just a teeny bit (on the advice of various food writers, to make it easier to slice cleanly), it ended up a bit dry, so I put a layer of jam in the center of each cube to add moisture. Since I didn’t get to taste the cake before slicing it into cubes I didn’t decide to do the jam step right away– I could have sliced the whole cake into two layers and added the jam before making cubes, but in retrospect I think it worked better this way since the jam stayed away from the cut edges and that worked better for dipping later.
I will note that since I loved the raspberry rose jam from last year’s linzer cookies so much (but couldn’t find it anymore), I stirred a spoonful of rosewater into some regular raspberry jam and found that it was tasty, but somewhat overpowered by the coconut flavor.
Interestingly, while the coconut was kind of dry the first day, it really softened up after a night in the refrigerator, as did the slightly dry cake. I would definitely recommend making these a day ahead and letting them ripen in the fridge before serving, as they improve texture-wise without declining in terms of appearance or stability.
They really are adorable, aren’t they? I’m really tempted to make an array of these in rainbow colors just to serve them on a big tray at a party…
Sponge Cake (from David Lebovitz)
6 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup (150g) sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cup (175g) cake flour (or 2 tbs. cornstarch with enough all-purpose flour to make up the rest of the weight)
2 1/2 ounces (70g) melted unsalted butter at room temperature
1. Line a 9×9″ square pan with parchment and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip eggs, sugar, and salt on high speed for about 5-10 minutes, until fluffy enough that a ribbon of egg dropped from the beater will rest on top of the batter rather than sinking in.
3. Add vanilla.
4. Sift flour over eggs and fold in carefully with a spatula.
5. Add melted butter and continue to fold until combined. You just want to avoid streaks of butter, so don’t over-mix or your batter will deflate.
6. Spoon batter into prepared pan and bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan. Let cool completely.
Glaze and assembly
4 tbs. raspberry jello powder (regular, not sugar-free)
2 tbs. butter
1 cup boiling water
300g powdered sugar
1/2 cup raspberry jam
1 tsp. rosewater
3 cups finely shredded dessicated coconut (the really small kind, the pieces are about 1/4″ long)
1. Put jello powder and butter in a bowl and pour boiling water over them, stirring to dissolve.
2. Whisk in powdered sugar and place mixture in the refrigerator until it cools to room temperature and thickens slightly, like egg white.
3. In the meantime, put your cooled cake in the freezer for 30 minutes to firm up before slicing into 25 cubes with a long, serrated knife.
4. Mix raspberry jam with rosewater.
5. Slice each cake cube into two layers and spread a dab of jam in the center to form a sandwich. Put cake cubes back in the freezer until the jello mix cools down sufficiently.
6. Set up a wire rack over a baking sheet, and place coconut in a separate bowl for dipping.
7. Remove cake cubes from the freezer and dip quickly in the jello mixture, then immediately cover in coconut. Set lamington on the wire rack and repeat with remaining cubes. Keep in mind that the coconut in the bowl will slowly start to turn pink as it gets damp from residual icing, and once that happens it won’t stick to the cake as well– to combat this, it’s better to only use 1/3 of your coconut at a time and replace the “used” coconut as it starts to get too wet to stick.
8. Allow lamingtons to set in the refrigerator, uncovered, for at least an hour before serving. These keep in the refrigerator for at least 3 days.