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  • Writer's pictureLéonie Kelsall

Never admit to failure!

Updated: Nov 29, 2020

Actually, that’s not my mantra at all, because I tend to think my failures are rather hilarious.

Take this week, for instance…

As those who have read The Farm at Peppertree Crossing, or caught my chats and interviews, will be aware, the book was originally titled ‘Liverwurst & Lamingtons’. I still don’t know why Allen & Unwin wouldn’t let me run with that title (joking, Annette!)

However, both liverwurst and lamingtons still feature in the story. To inherit the wheat and sheep farm she has been bequeathed, Roni must complete a number of tasks. One is baking prize-winning lamingtons.

And here’s the sad fact: I’ve tried to bake lamingtons, and failed miserably.

Part of the issue is that I resent throwing away good cake from around the edges of the square (you can’t coat it in icing, it’s too firm). So I have to eat those trimmings. Then, feeling somewhat sick, I’ve not even begun the messy job of dipping in chocolate and rolling in coconut - so I’m generally ‘over’ the whole project.

Anyway, in the spirit of ‘write what you know’ I thought I’d better have another shot…

Instead of pulling out my pre-tested recipe, I hit Google for a CWA version.

Bad move.

Much as I love all things CWA, Google lies to me. Or at least, tries to lead me astray.

The recipe called for half a cup of butter to one cup of flour.

Yep. You read that right: half a heart attack of butter.

Here's the predictably heavy result

Yes, I ate the edge. It was my duty to taste test it, okay? And it didn’t taste at all bad (my heart disagrees). But no way was it a sponge cake.

So, on to recipe number two.

This one looked far more promising, with only a teaspoon of butter to a cup of flour (how’s that for a variation?)

However, my eggs were small and… well, less than fresh. You know the ones that sit in the bottom of the egg bowl while the fresh ones get piled on top? Yep, I tried to use them up. And, as this recipe relies on initially creating what is basically a pavlova, and non-fresh egg whites do NOT whip into firm peaks, I was doomed to failure. Yet I blundered blindly on. Because I have great faith in my crossed fingers.

And, on the left, attempt number two

And no, I didn’t eat the trimmings this time. I limited myself to the butter-rich version. Because… oh, wait, I don’t really have an excuse for that. But Bear ate the trimmings of the second cake: look at his face!

A quick dog-walk later (powered by guilt and butter) and I decided to have another crack at it. Same recipe, but with fresh eggs.

And what do you know…tada! This sponge certainly looks better, with the texture of commercial lamingtons. But I wonder if it’s a little tasteless? Or have I just eaten so much of the butter-slab-cake that I can’t deal with anything nuanced anymore?

Of course, this means I now have three lamington sponges (well, two sponge cakes and one butter-soaked heart attack cake), so, unwilling to admit failure, I’ve devised recipes to make it seem as though I knew what I was doing all along.

So, for anyone else who has little ‘hiccups’ in their baking to hide, here are some ideas:

Number 1: Lee’s Failed Lamington Sponge Truffles.

The buttercake-slab went into this one because it required a dense cake. And, yup, half a cup of butter will make a cake dense.

In the back of the booze cabinet, I discovered the tad end of a bottle of some undrinkable Bailey’s Irish Cream knock-off.

Firstly, don’t ask what I was doing in the booze cabinet at 11.00 am on a Wednesday.

Secondly, it clearly wasn’t undrinkable, as there was only about half a cup left. And I think I have to take the blame for that, although I don’t recall drinking it (I stuck my finger in just now, and it really is pretty awful)

To this rather alcoholic-tasting but slightly bitter cream, I added a slug of cream Apera because… well, because I saw it in the cupboard and thought ‘why not?’

The answer to that is because it makes the fake Irish cream separate a little, but, meh, whatever. I’m not even sure what Apera is - sherry? – much less why I have it.

Had it.

I dropped about half a cupful of sultanas into this witches’ brew and left it to soak for a couple of hours (yes, I got distracted… what can I say? Squirrel!)

Next, I crumbled up the failed-ah, I mean, delicious cake.

Dropped it into the pot of booze.

Oops, I mean into the premixed fruit and liquid.

Squished it a bit to see if it stuck together.

It did, so I rolled the mixture into balls and dipped one side into melted white chocolate. Why only one side? Because, presentation, y’know. And doing the other side got messy. 😊

Score from The Kid: 7/10

She said they needed to be smaller, so she could put the whole thing in her mouth, and drier -which they probably would be if she would give them time to set!) *edited to add: a day later they scored 10/10*

Number 2: Lee’s Failed Lamington Tiramisu

Before you read through this, I’ll tell you upfront: it’s a definite winner!

Brew two cups of strong coffee. Add half a cup of marsala. Or use the Apera because, y’know, it’s still sitting on the kitchen counter. Isn't it? What kind of a household are you running over there?

Allow to cool while you beat a cup of cream until slightly thickened, then add 250ml of mascarpone and mix briefly.

Beat 3 egg whites until stiff, set aside

Mix the egg yolks with a third of a cup of caster sugar until thick.

By this point, you’ll realise that if you change the order and start with the egg whites, you don’t have to keep cleaning the beaters and changing bowls!

Lightly blend the yolk mix and the cream mix, then fold through the egg whites.

Pour the coffee and booze into a shallow tray, briefly dunk the failed sponge cake into this, then lay it in a tray or bowl. Put a third of your yummy cream stuff on top, then another layer of cake, another layer of cream. Repeat once more, then decorate with shaved chocolate. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours – the taste improves if left overnight.

And, I guess after all that, I’d better provide the recipe for perfect lamingtons! Lee’s Perfect Lamingtons


3 eggs separated

½ cup castor sugar

1 cup SR flour

1 tablespoon cornflour

1 teaspoon butter

3 tablespoons boiling water.

Melt butter in water and set aside (doesn’t need to be cold when adding, though)

Beat egg whites until stiff, then gradually beat in sugar. Yay, you made pavlova. Now fold in yolks and add sifted flours. Then fold through the butter/water. Pour into a lamington tin (don’t use those trays often sold as lamington tins, they are far too big. You want about 28cmx20cm)

Bake at 180 for 20 mins and then cool. Refrigerate for at least an hour.


500g icing sugar

4 tablespoons cocoa (I use very expensive dark Dutch cocoa -SO worth it!!)

½ cup boiling water

1 tablespoon butter

1 teaspoon vanilla essence (or if you've read The Farm at Peppertree Crossing, use Tracey’s trick here)

Mix ingredients to a smooth icing. Dip squares of cake into icing quickly, then place on a thick bed of desiccated coconut. Sprinkle more coconut on top, and turn gently until coated. If the icing gets too thick, just add a few drops more boiling water as you work…it needs to be thickish, but smooth.

Back in the fridge for a few hours, then sit yourself down with a well-earned cuppa. And they are super yum frozen!

Happy munching and Happy reading! x

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1 Comment

Glenda Joy McGhee
Glenda Joy McGhee
Mar 09, 2021

I love the idea of challenges in your book!

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