Australia Day! These little cubes of deliciousness are in tribute to our Aussie friends who celebrate their national day on 26th January. They’re named after a former Governor of one of the states, who presumably loved to eat them or maybe invented them. They are rich, chocolately, coconutty and really addictive. I’ve never seen them for sale in the UK but you can buy them in packs in the supermarket in Australia, and most bakeries have their fresh version. Some recipes add raspberry jam in the centre of each cube but it isn’t necessary so keep it simple.
I’ve made them before, for my Seniors Lunch Club and have always had a nightmare coating a sponge cake in thick chocolate icing – the cake gets all crumby and starts to disintegrate. This year I used Kate Young’s recipe, from The Little Library Cookbook and adapted it a bit, which uses a much denser sponge that holds together better – Kate is Australian and knows about these things. Thanks, Kate, they came out great! (see Kate's blog on: http://thelittlelibrarycafe.com/)
This isn’t a quick operation – the cake needs to cool down overnight (some recipes say freeze it to add to the stability) and it takes a long time to coat in icing and then roll in coconut – but you do get 25 pieces of rich cake and something very impressive and unusual. I made a choice of coatings – either coconut or chocolate sprinkles as there are some people who don’t like the chewy texture of desiccated coconut, or the way it gets in your teeth.
We discussed all things Australian in our Seniors conference call, led by our Aussie volunteer. We started by making the Acknowledgement of Country, which pays respect to the original inhabitants, their ownership of the land and their connection to the environment. We asked how many islands there are (many!), about the animal life, we whistled the theme tune to Skippy and sang along to Waltzing Matilda. We listened to Olivia Newton John and Dame Edna. Many of the group have relatives there, making a new life in the sunshine. If we can’t travel these days, this was the next best thing!
Sponge Cake: Makes 25 cubes – timings 20 minutes preparation, 1 hour cooking. Then overnight cooling and about 1 hour making the icing and decorating the squares.
For the icing:
Preheat the oven to 180°C and grease a 22x22cm baking tin, line it with greaseproof paper.
Melt the butter while you measure out the flour, sugar, vanilla and yoghurt into your mixing bowl. Add the melted butter into the bowl and beat until it turns creamy, then add in the eggs one at a time with a spoonful of flour after each one. Add in the rest of the flour and mix briefly.
You will end up with a thick creamy batter rather than a fluffy one. Pour into the tin and cover the top with foil. Bake 40 minutes, remove the foil and bake for another 15 minutes until cooked. It doesn’t rise very much, and it won’t look very brown. Leave to cool completely in the tin, and best if you leave it overnight, covered.
For the icing:
In a small bowl, add a tablespoon of milk to the cocoa powder, mix to a thick paste, adding more milk if needed. Heat the rest of the milk with the sugar in a pan and add the cocoa paste to it – this stops the cocoa powder clumping and having to be whisked in. Bring to simmering point. Put the solid chocolate in another bowl and pour the hot milk onto it, stirring to melt. You should get a thick gloopy chocolate liquid. It stays quite liquid as long as it is warm – when it starts to cool it will thicken of course, so if the next stage takes a while you can warm up the bowl of icing again with a brief blast in the microwave – only 20 seconds and a good stir will keep it liquid.
Now lay out a shallow tray or wide bowl with some coconut in it.
At the end of the row, have a wire rack with either paper or another tray under it – the chocolate icing will drip off the cake and there will be quite a mess.
Cut the cake using a bread knife into even squares – I got 5 rows across and 5 down so I had 25 squares, of course it depends on what cake tin you use. The squares do not want to be too big, as the cake is rich and so is the icing.
Using a fork and spoon, dip a square into the icing and smooth the icing over the sides, not letting too much cling but making sure each surface is covered. Drop the square into the coconut and roll it around to cover all the sides, pressing the desiccated coconut onto the chocolate icing. Then put the square onto the rack at the end. Keep on going – it’s easiest if you have one person doing the dipping and another doing the coconut but you can do it all yourself, it just takes a while. Keep on until all 25 are covered.
Leave the squares on the rack to cool down and set – takes an hour or so, then put into a tin.
Now impress your friends and relatives!
A Hug from the Kitchen
Healthy, hearty, happy food, for good times and bad. Cheer yourself up, or spread the cheer around your family and friends.