The summer solstice always leaves me a little flat, thinking I should have used the longer days leading up to it more fully because, oh no, now we are on our way back down the slope toward darkness, and I. Am not. Ready. And so, I thought I would think of my friends who are down under, celebrating the flip-side of all that with a winter solstice in June, and I looked for an Australian recipe in The Joy of Cookies.
I started these Lamington bars on the day of the solstice by baking their dense sponge-cake-like center first. That part had to cool completely before proceeding to the part where it is cut into cubes, dipped in rich chocolate glaze and then in coconut, so I waited until the next day to finish them.
Quoting Sharon Tyler Herbst’s description of these in full here:
Australia’s famous Lamingtons are squares of sponge cake that are first dipped in a chocolate glaze and then in coconut. This cookie version of that wonderful dessert has the same chocolate-coconut coating, but the inside is denser and loaded with lots of toasted almonds. [emphasis mine]
Note the mention of almonds. They are not listed in the ingredients. A cup of finely chopped toasted walnuts is. And so before making the sponge-cake-like center, I had dutifully toasted walnuts, let them cool, then chopped them finely and set them aside. I put together the remaining ingredients as instructed in the body of the recipe, baked the sponge-cake-like center, set it aside to cool, then perused the remainder of the body of the recipe and realized with a bit of a start that Ms. Herbst never mentions when to add the nuts, be they walnuts or almonds!
I confess there may have been wine. Drinking, that is, not actually in the list of ingredients, and so my focus may have been a tad compromised. Almonds, walnuts, what’s the difference! And who cares which if you never actually add them! Had I been paying better attention, I would have added them to the cake batter despite the lack of instruction. Instead I mixed them in with the cocoa, powdered sugar, milk and vanilla that comprise the glaze.
A cup of finely chopped toasted walnuts. When knitting designers make errors that slip by editors, I am annoyed. With some designers who have a reputation (not naming names) for lackadaisical editing, that annoyance can border on white hot rage. Particularly when I am on a knitting deadline and the designer is a repeat offender. Admittedly some of that rage is self-directed for being wooed yet again by a poorly-edited pattern when I know there is a history. Not so much with Sharon Tyler Herbst. A year and a half into this enterprise and this is the first semi-major editing error I have found? I think I can live with it. It’s not like she said decreasing 6 stitches and then two-times 23 stitches more from 72 equals 16 now, is it? Looking at you, Jo Sharpe.
Back to the bars: This confection has an interesting story. It may be named for Lord Lamington, late 19th century Governor of Queensland. His chef may or may not have created the recipe by accident, dropping cut-up sponge cake in a pot of melted chocolate. That bit is rather reminiscent of tollhouse cookie origin stories. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never left bits of chocolate lying around long enough to fall into batter nor pots of it melted for cake to fall into. I am inclined toward doubting it. Legend has it the Baron didn’t care much for the sweet regardless, which is all kinds of twisted, if you ask me. We think they are excellent!