I’ve always been one of those people with a real love of adventure. I hate to admit it but when I was 25, instead of getting a crunched fender repaired on my car, I used my insurance money to fund a trip to Europe. It was totally irresponsible, but I loved every minute of touring Anne Frank’s house, gazing at famed works of art in the Louvre and floating on the canals of Venice. After returning home it was these memories that kept me going as I worked extra shifts to pay for those care repairs and start my “return to Europe to live someday fund”.
Ten years later, after months of preparations, I somehow found myself standing on a cold and damp train platform in Nottingham, England with my husband, our four year old daughter and newborn son, eight suitcases, four carry-ons, two dolls, one teddy bear, a stroller, and a partridge in a pear tree. Our new lives in Europe, courtesy of my husband’s job were about to begin.
We soon settled into the miniature flat that my husband had rented in advance of our arrival. I really don’t want my use of the word “miniature” to give the wrong idea of the size of our accommodations. It was actually much smaller than that. My children both slept in a room the size of most walk-in closets in the states. The one bathroom which was perched precariously on the third floor only fit one-half of a skinny person at a time, with the door open.
The kitchen was obviously lovingly designed by Ken for his Barbie. Oh sure, I had seen refrigerators like ours before, but mostly in dorm rooms and RV’s. The stove had only two burners and no oven at all. This is when I first discovered that Barbie wasn’t a baker, but never fear, the space where the oven should have been was occupied by a combination washer/dryer that could take your clothes from dirty to clean to crispy French fry dry in a mere three hours a load. For the next three months, I cried every day. I couldn’t cook, I couldn’t drive, it rained all of the time, I missed my family and our clothes looked awful.
Our lives eventually took a turn for the better when we moved into a new large house in a family neighborhood. Things were still strange and different for us, but I soon worked up my courage and began to drive on the opposite side of the road and finally got the hang of flushing the toilets. Everything was looking up, but I still missed the familiarity of things from home. My heart ached for people who understood my accent and my cravings for corn chips, American cheese and a moist piece of cake.
Salvation came in the form of an American woman and her two small girls who knocked on my door one day. She had heard through the neighborhood grapevine that we had moved in. She soon became a dear friend, and introduced me to a large group of Americans who at one time felt just as lost as I did. We celebrated Thanksgiving and Independence Days together. They taught me about ingredient substitutions so I could make familiar recipes from home. Most importantly they taught me about the great foods that our adopted country had to offer. It was a wonderful time in our lives.
We lived in England for close to five years. During that time I made lifelong friends that I still visit as often as I am able. In between visits I find comfort in preparing some of the recipes that I discovered while there. To this day whenever I feel a little “homesick” I bake a batch of biscuits or cakes and make a pot of tea. Who would have guessed all those years ago when I found myself standing on that cold train platform, that I would someday find comfort in a stack of English recipes? Well, it’s true and I’d like to share one of my favorites. These delicious little cakes actually have Australian roots, but since I discovered them in England they count in my book! Over the years I have tweaked this recipe and really made it mine. I hope you’ll love these Lamingtons as much as I do.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup buttermilk (or 3/4 cup sweet milk mixed with 1-1/2 teaspoons vinegar or lemon juice and left to set for about 3 minutes), room temperature
1 teaspoon Rodelle vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease and flour an 8” x 12” baking pan or spray with flour and oil spray; set aside.
In a medium size bowl, sift together the flour, soda and salt; set aside.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer. Add the eggs one at a time beating well after each addition.
Add the flour mixture one third at a time alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.
Pour batter into the prepared pan and place in the oven to bake until golden brown and the center springs back when pressed in the center with a finger.
Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes before inverting onto a cooling rack and allowing to cool completely.
Once completely cooled, trim crusts from all sides before slicing into 18 equal size pieces.
Carefully drizzle icing (recipe follows) on all sides except the bottom (some prefer to dip the cake pieces, but I prefer to drizzle then smooth the icing with the back of a spoon). Place on a drying rack and sprinkle liberally with coconut. Allow icing to set for at least 1 – 2 hours before serving.
To store, cover loosely with plastic wrap.
For the icing:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup whole milk, warmed slightly
4 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup Rodelle Dutch processed cocoa powder
1 teaspoon Rodelle vanilla extract
2 cups shredded, sweetened coconut
Place butter and milk in a sauce pan set over low heat. When butter is melted, remove pan from the heat and stir in the powdered sugar and cocoa all at once. Stir well until it is a smooth consistency. Stir in the vanilla extract. Proceed as directed above.