My Lamington layer cake was inspired by Melbourne restaurant Attica, ranked number 20 among the 50 best restaurants in the world. Ben Shewry of Attica showcases uniquely Australian dishes at his fine dining restaurant which defies many things core to what we know and perceive as fine dining-the vibe at the restaurant is familiar and comfortable, rather than the charade put on by smiling yes-men, which can usually be the case with fine dining. In this way, the food and wine is the star of the experience.
The thought put into the food at Attica is apparent from reading any menu you can get a hold of. At any time you will find dishes titled ‘Cook’s Leaves’ which is a bundle of leaves selected by the chef and presented alongside a cream emulsified with caramelised apple balsamic and olive oil. Another example would be of a house favourite- ‘Potatoes cooked in its own earth’, a dish in which the potato is slow-cooked for 3 hours before being served with cold smoked goat’s curd, freshly ground coffee, coconut ash and saltbush. The menus at Attica aim to highlight indigenous Australian ingredients such as emu, wattleseed, Davidson plums, quandong and desert lime to only name a few of seemingly hundreds of new fruit and veg to be found in Australia.
This large Lamington takes its inspiration from the Black Ant Lamington dessert served to guests at Attica. The large square-ish cake is sandwiched with a thin layer of blackberry jam, then coated with vanilla buttercream. The whole cake looks like a giant snowflake because the sides are dipped in a simple chocolate icing and rolled in grated dry coconut flakes.
The reason I’m so excited to be including Attica in my Melbourne bucket list is that the dining experience transcends into something educational almost with a host of new ingredients to bite into and learn about that have been part of Bush culture for many generations. As an Indian, I understand this connection better than anyone else because in every state, in every nook and cranny of our nation you find produce that is so surprisingly different and delicious.
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Lamington Layer Cake
Yield 10-12 servings
This Lamington layer cake is incredibly simple to make, and you could use any jam you like instead of the blackberry jam. Raspberry and strawberry jam is great too.
For the cake
Makes 2 x 20cm by 30cm cakes
Caster sugar 330g
All purpose flour 150g
Self-raising flour 150g
Salt a pinch
Butter 40g, melted
Boiling water 4 tbsp
Dry coconut 320g grated and set aside
For the chocolate icing
Icing sugar 2 cups
Cocoa powder 1/3 cup
Water 1/2 cup
For the vanilla buttercream
Salted butter 100g
Icing sugar 225g
Milk 1 tbsp
Vanilla essence 1/2 tsp
Blackberry jam 1 bottle
To begin, preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
Butter and line 2x 20cm by 30cm pans with baking paper.
In a large bowl and with the help of a hand mixer, whisk together the caster sugar and eggs until the mixture is fluffy and light, for about 8-10 minutes.
Sift together the cornflour, self-raising flour, all-purpose flour and the pinch of salt twice. Alternately, whisk the flours and salt together very well. Sift the flours and salt one last time directly over the sugar and eggs mixture.
Fold using a metal spoon and carefully so as to incorporate the flour into the mixture with a light hand until just combined.
Add the melted butter and the boiling water together and continuing with the metal spoon, gently fold it in.
Transfer the cake batter into the two ready pans and transfer to the oven to bake for 20-25 minutes. Switch the two trays halfway for even browning of the top and continue cooking until a cake tester inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. If the cakes are browning too quickly, make a tent out of aluminium foil and place over the cake. The cakes will be slightly domed.
Once the cakes are out of the oven, let them cool for 5 minutes in the pan before running a sharp knife around the corners and turning it out onto a cooling rack.
The cooled cakes will now have to be torted. Trim the domed tops of the cake and if your pan had rounded corners, trim the sides of the cake by a few centimetres until you are left with two square-ish cakes with clean sharp edges.
Stir together the icing sugar, cocoa powder and splash in the water bit by bit till you get a runny chocolate icing that can coat the sides of the cake.
Spread all the grated coconut on a plate and keep ready. Take both of the cake squares and dunk the cake into the chocolate icing, then transfer to the plate with the grated coconut. Do the same for the sides of both cakes.
Further divide the cakes by slicing cleanly through the centre into thinner even layers until you have four slices. You’ll be using the three best looking slices for the cake.
Next up, make the buttercream. Using an electric hand mixer, cream the butter until it is very light and fluffy. Sift the icing sugar over this mixture and stir it in.
Add the milk and the vanilla essence and continue to beat until the mixture is pale and fluffy like buttercream.
Lay one slice of the cake down, coconut and chocolate side downwards.
Spread a thin layer of blackberry jam using an offset spatula and dollop half of the buttercream spreading it towards the edges. Sandwich this layer with a second cake layer white side up and smear with a thin layer of blackberry jam and repeat with the buttercream. Finish with the last cake layer that has the coconut and chocolate on top. Smear the underside with a thin layer of jam and finish placing the top layer.
Refrigerate the cake for at least an hour before slicing into it.