Tuesday, July 19, 2011

nanaimo lamingtons

My daughter was watching you tube videos of an Australian kid's show the other day when she excitedly called me over. She kept saying something about "lemontons", and cutting it, and dipping it in chocolate, and rolling it in snow. When I didn't move fast enough, she said the magic words, "come see mom, they're making cake". She knows me so well. Of course that got me curious. So I watched the clip, then as soon as I was able to pry Cha off the computer, I googled a word close enough to lamingtons that I was directed to the wikipedia page.

There I learned that lamingtons are a popular Australian snack, basically a sponge cake, cut into cubes, sometimes filled with jam or cream, then covered in a chocolate glaze and rolled in coconut. And they have a national holiday in Australia on July 21st. Perfect excuse to make them!

I'm not a big fan of coconut, so although I thought it would be fun to make them with Cha, they didn't look overly appetizing to me. I was trying to think of a jam that would go well with the chocolate and the coconut, and couldn't get excited about it. Then it dawned on me: chocolate + coconut + filling could very well equal a spin on the traditional Canadian snack, the nanaimo bar. That got me excited!

So I looked through a few lamington recipes to make sure I got the jist of it before I played with it. Sponge or pound cake seemed to be the standard. The chocolate glazed seemed to be pretty much the same everywhere I looked. Coconut, check. Then I decided that if I wanted something that was similar to nanaimo bars in flavor, I had to go with a chocolate cake. The chocolate glaze alone wasn't going to cut it. Sur La Table had a recipe for a chocolate pound cake, so I went with that. Then for nanaimo filling, I went to Canadian Living for a recipe.

Chocolate Velvet Pound Cake
Recipe adapted from Sur La Table, The Art & Soul of Baking

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/1/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon water, at room temperature
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
3 large eggs at room temperature
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
½ cup cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
½ cup buttermilk, at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 350°F and position an oven rack in the center. Grease an 8x8 pan, set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar in a stand mixer until light in color, 4 to 5 minutes. Scrape down the bowl with a spatula.

In a small bowl, stir together the water and espresso powder until smooth. Beat in the eggs to blend. With the mixer running on medium, add the eggs to the butter mixture about 1 tablespoon at a time, allowing each addition to completely blend in before adding the next, scraping down the bowl occasionally.

Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt into the medium bowl and whisk to blend. With the mixer running on the lowest speed, add 1/3 of the flour mixture until blended, then 1/2 the buttermilk, another 1/3 of the flour mixture, the rest of the buttermilk and the rest of the flour mixture. Scrape down the bowl and finish blending the batter by hand if necessary.

Scrape the batter into the prepared baking pan and smooth the top. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

I greatly simplified this recipe, but I totally recommend this book, as it's super complete in its instructions and has great recipes and variations. After tasting this cake, I realized that it was probably all wrong for this recipe. It was moist, and dense with a tight crumb. Of course, it didn't absorb any of the glaze, but it made for a very yummy cake!

Nanaimo Bar Filling
recipe source: Canadian Living

2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp custard powder
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 cups icing sugar
1 tbsp milk, (approx.)

In bowl, beat together butter, custard powder and vanilla. Beat in icing sugar alternately with milk until smooth, adding up to 1 tsp (5 mL) more milk if too thick to spread.

At this point, I leveled the cake, cut it in 16 squares, then I split each cube in half, spread some of the nanaimo bar filling on the bottom half, put the top half back on, and stashed the cake in the fridge over night. *Do not do it this way*. It was a total fail. I was trying to fill the squares individually so that the filling wouldn't go all the way to the edges, thinking that I'd have cleaner looking lamingtons when they were all done. Yeah, didn't work. If I were to do it again, I would level the cake, split it in half horizontally, spread a good layer of nanaimo filling on the bottom layer, put it back together, let it set in the fridge overnight, *then* cut it into squares. Yeah, that would be the way to go!

Chocolate Glaze
recipe source: All recipes

2 cups confectioners' sugar
scant 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup milk

In a large bowl, sift confectioners' sugar and cocoa. In a glass measuring cup, microwave milk and butter until the butter is melted. Add the milk to the sugar mixture and mix well to create a fluid, but not too runny icing.

This icing reminded me of what you pour over Texas Brownies. Super sweet and chocolatey, with a smooth texture. I had to add a splash of milk to my icing because it was coating the cakes too thickly.

source : All recipes

2 (8 ounce) packages flaked coconut

Place a drying rack on top of a piece of wax paper. Place coconut in a shallow container. Using tongs, dip each square into the icing, let the excess icing drip back into the bowl, then roll the cake in the coconut. Place onto rack to dry.

Cha had fun coating them in the coconut. I left a couple plain, because I didn't think that she would like the coconut, but she did. They look like snack cakes you get individually packaged in the grocery store, but taste so much better! I wouldn't say that they scream nanaimo bars, and I'm pretty sure someone who grew up eating lamingtons would not say that these are like the classic treat, but hey, they made a pretty good dessert. It is sweet though, so I recommend a glass of milk.


  1. Chocolate and coconut are my favorite combination! Thanks for showing us the whole process. It really helped make the steps clear.

  2. These do look wonderful, but as an Australian I need to tell you that you're missing out by not making them the traditional way!!! Hehe although perhaps it's one of those things like Vegemite that we all rave about, but nobody from anywhere else actually likes...

    They're supposed to be more coconutty than chocolatey. In fact, I think you'll find they were invented as a way to use old cake - the chocolate icing makes it moist again, and is a way of sticking the coconut on. Your best bet for a jam filling is raspberry jam - just a thin layer, enough for a little flavour and moisture but not overwhelming sweetness.

    I'm also not sure what national holiday is on the 21st of June (possibly Queen's Birthday weekend? Hard to say because it's one of those roaming holidays - second Monday of June or whatever - but amusingly, nowhere near the Queen's actual birthday!), but maybe you could make them for Australia Day (26th of January). I made some for the day two years ago and totally forgot to blog about it, otherwise I could help you out with a recipe :(

  3. oh my goodness, these look and sounds delicious!! I am a huge fan of nanaimo bars this is an interesting twist. Would love to try them


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