When I was little my mum bought me a picture book of the world. Two pictures in this book impressed my young mind tremendously, and changed forever the course of my future. The first one was a picture of the Sydney opera house. I thought this was the most beautiful building I've ever seen, and it remains my favourite even today. The other picture was of black swans. I couldn't believe my eyes. Black Australian swans! It boggles the mind! I decided there and then that one day I will live in this country of fabulous buildings and black swans.
Fast forward a few years, and here I am. It may have taken a few years, some other countries en route, and my original choice of Sydney as home town changed suddenly to Melbourne when I met the Fabulous Man, but living here is every bit as exciting as I dreamed of when I was little. The people are friendly, the animals are strange (some of them even taste nice), and the landscape is like a dream. Towering eucalyptus trees, forests filled with ferns and moss, snowy mountains, red desert earth, beautiful sandy beaches.
My other favourite Australian thing is how movie and television quotes become part of the language. "Tell him he's dreamin'", and "What do you call this, darl? Cheakin", from The Castle. "Not happy, Jan", from the Yellow Pages ad, and my ultimate favourite, from Kath and Kim: "No man has ever been shot by his wife while doing the vacuuming."
And then there's the food. At first glance you will see meat pies, Vegemite, snags (sausage, named after the elements tin and silver, which were used as preservatives in the olden days), pavlova and, of course, the barbie (Aussie for barbeque). But then you look again. And you see that Australia is also the birthplace of foodie heavyweights like Donna Hay, Bill Granger and Neil Perry, among many great others. Australia is also home to immigrants from all over the world. Nearly 1 in 4 Australians are born elsewhere, which contributes to the rich variety of ethnic food found right on your doorstep. Australia truly is a paradise for foodies.
One of my favourite Aussie cakes is Lamingtons, those lovely sponge cakes dipped in chocolate icing and then tossed in coconut. Now I know they aren't originally from Australia. We even have them in South Africa where they're called krimpvarkies (hedgehogs). But that is one of the things I like about Australia, the international feel of it. It doesn't matter where you're from, you will find something familiar about the country. To honour that, I chose to make these Lamingtons from the Australian Women's Weekly's little book called Cupcakes. Doesn't everybody just love Australian Women's Weekly recipe books? Aren't they the ideal ambassadors for the country? Nothing trumps food when it comes to bringing people together, no matter what your background.
Hopefully these cupcakes will be good little ambassadors as well at the Culinary Games. And if you decide to whip up a batch yourself, enjoy.
Lamington cupcakes with wings
makes about 10
For the cupcakes
90g butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (110g) caster sugar
1 cup (150g) self-raising flour
2 tablespoons milk
For the chocolate icing
1/3 cup (80ml) milk (I found the icing not runny enough, and added a bit more)
2 cups (320g) icing sugar
1/4 cup (25g) cocoa powder
1 cup (80g) dessicated coconut
1/4 cup (100g) raspberry jam
1/2 cup (125ml) thickened cream, whipped
Preheat oven to 180°C. Line a standard muffin tin with paper cases.
Beat together all the ingredients for the cupcakes until the mixture lightens. Divide the mixture among the cases and smooth the surfaces of the cupcakes. Bake for about 20 minutes. Turn out on a wire rack until cool.
To make the chocolate icing: Melt the butter in a medium heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir in the milk and the sifted icing sugar and cocoa powder until the icing is a coating consistency. You may need to add more milk.
To finish: Remove the cupcakes from the paper cases. Dip the cakes in the icing, drain off excess, then toss in the coconut. Place on a wire rack to set. (If you have, say, a Little Girl who is learning to stand up against everything and falls down occasionally, and you need to abandon your lamingtons to administer hugs and kisses, and when you come back the icing has gone all thick and gooey, don't fret, my dears. Just add a little bit of boiling water to make it nice and runny again.)
Cut a cone shape out of the top of the cupcake (see photo), and fill the top with the jam and cream. Cut the bottom off your cupcake cone to make a disc, then cut the disc in half to form wings. Press the wings into the cream and voilà! Lamington cupcakes fit for the Games!
Do you know about the work that BloggerAid Changing the Face of Famine (BACFF) is doing? At the moment they are hosting the H20PE for Haiti online raffle, which has been extended to March 7th. Read my post about it here, head over to Cooksister to see the list of prizes, and then to the JustGiving donations page to buy some tickets. They go for only $10 each, and prizes are shipped internationally. I have donated a wonderful book called South Africa Eats, showcasing South Africa's culinary traditions and cultures, but there are many wonderful prizes on offer.
Another way to support BACFF is to buy the BloggerAid Cookbook where 100% of the proceeds target children and education through the World Food Programme called School Meals. Purchases can be made here.
I'm always amazed about how something as little as $10 can make a big difference in somebody's life. If you feel inspired to help, please do, otherwise please support your own charities. Every little bit helps.