I’m sorry for the long and pretentious title this week – well sort of. Usually, I like to keep recipe titles as short as possible for the sake of clarity and focus (and because I’m easily confused). Although, I think a pompous sounding title is quite fitting when describing a pompous looking lamington.

Let me introduce you to my second entry to Mr P’s Re-Inventing the Lamington competition 2011. Vegan chocolate sponge filled with pandan cream cheese and coated in a layer of dark chocolate. As if this eggless lamington wasn’t trying hard enough to please already, it’s then crowned with a shard of pistachio and salted caramel glass.

NOTE: I’ve had a few comments about this being a ‘vegan’ lamington. Let me clarify: this is NOT a vegan lamington because it’s filled with cream cheese and covered in a brick-ish layer of dark chocolate. However, I’ve highlighted that the chocolate sponge used for this lamington IS vegan. I repeat: these are eggless lamingtons using a vegan sponge for any vegan readers who want to make chocolate cake.

Used and abused bottle of pandan extract.

Regular readers will already know that one of my favourite flavours is aromatic pandan. Pandan is a tropical plant which grows abundantly in South East Asia. Pandan extract comes from pulverising the long, spiky leaves into a rice and vanilla scented paste. Pandan extract can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes and is popularly known for being used in chiffon cake. I like to use it in hot and spicy curries, thumbprint biscuits, pandan burfi and of course, chocolate lamingtons.

I’ve tried pairing pandan with so many different ingredients – usually resulting in unspeakable failure. So I stuck to the flavours I knew worked. For once.

Edible gift?

Pandan and chocolate are super together, as are pistachios and salted caramel. I feel as if the number of ingredients in this lamington is justified by how well the flavours compliment one another. So don’t give me that look, Cynic.

It pains me to admit that my lamington sponge is never as perfect as I want it to be. Eggless sponge is tricky to get right, and I’m a woman on a mission to get it right.

I shaved my sponge, then ate the scraps.
 

Chocolate sponge is much easier to make eggless or veganise than vanilla cake because of the way chocolate and raising agents react with one another – that’s not to say I haven’t cocked it up many a time. In my baking experience, I’ve produced chocolate cakes that crumble at the touch of a finger, chocolate cakes that are so chewy you’d never want to touch a Hubba Bubba again, and chocolate cakes which could knock out The Great Khali during a friendly game of catch gone wrong.

I’m one of those people who like sweet and savoury together. Unless it’s pineapple on pizza, which is sick, twisted and entirely wrong. Moving on, this pistachio-studded salted caramel glass makes a pretty garnish and actually tastes good. You could use any kind of nuts you want, but in keeping with the green theme, I opted for emerald-like pistachios.

Shall I stop babbling now?

Dark Chocolate Pandan Lamingtons with Pistachio and Salted Caramel Glass
(serves 6-8)

Ingredients

For the vegan chocolate sponge:

225g self raising flour
120g caster sugar
70g icing sugar
70g cocoa powder
50ml sunflower oil
250 ml water
2 tsp instant coffee
½ tsp salt
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking soda

For the pandan cream cheese filling:

250g cream cheese
4 tbsp icing sugar
½ tsp pandan extract

For the salted caramel and pistachio glass:

150g caster sugar
65ml water
Broken pistachios
Coarse sea salt

To cover the lamingtons:

400g dark cooking chocolate (70% cocoa)

Method

1. For the chocolate sponge, sift together all of the dry ingredients excluding the icing sugar and caster sugar.

2. In a separate bowl, combine all of the wet ingredients, icing sugar and caster sugar. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and slowly combine until thoroughly mixed. Do not overwork.

3. Pour the cake batter into a greased and lined 6X8inch pan, and bake at 160°C for 35-45 minutes. Don’t open the oven door at all or for at least the first 25 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. Cool thoroughly, trim if necessary and then cut in half.

4. For the salted caramel and pistachio glass, heat the sugar and water in a heavy based saucepan on a low heat. Do not stir the mixture, instead, gently swirl it around from time to time until it is caramelised. Watch it like a hawk because it can quickly burn. If it becomes too dry, add a tsp of boiling water.

5. Grease a steel tray with some oil and pour the caramelised mixture on top. Swirl it around but don’t burn yourself. Quickly scatter over pistachios and a little coarse sea salt. Allow to harden.

 
 

6. When the caramel has hardened fully (around 20-30 minutes) gently tap it with a knife to crack it into large pieces.

Pistachio and salted caramel glass
This was a tester. I got caught up in the excitement and whacked it much too hard.
 

7. Combine all the ingredients for the pandan cream cheese and spread over one chocolate sponge. Top with the other chocolate sponge.

8. Heat the dark chocolate over a double boiler to gently melt it. Don’t stir too much.

9. Coat the cake in a layer of chocolate. Refrigerate it until the chocolate has hardened. Remove from the fridge and cover in another layer of chocolate, this time doing it neatly.

10. Allow to set. To serve, cut a slice and top with a shard of pistachio and salted caramel glass.

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