Good things come in small packages, so the saying goes. It holds very true for the inaugural Sweet Swap, an online event where food bloggers from around Australia are inspired to make sweet treats and post them to each other in the name of community, charity and good will to all.
After a couple of setbacks, the sweets that I’d ended up making are a devilishly decadent, yet sensibly portioned, bite-sized treat inspired by an iconic Sydney bakery.
Read on for details regarding the Sweet Swap experience and for the recipe for my Panna Cotta Lamington Bites.
This mega post is broken down into three main sections – The Sweet Swap experience, recipe notes and the recipe itself.
Click on the following links to jump to the relevant section:
The Sweet Swap is an Australia-wide online food blogger social event host by the bloggers of Belly Rumbles and Chew Town. The event itself is essentially a sweet tooth secret santa, mail order lucky dip where you send off some sweets you’ve made to an assigned group of food bloggers while a separate group of unspecified food bloggers (at least to you) likewise send you a care package of sweet. Much like a mixed lolly bag, the Sweet Swap has a little something for everyone.
For the altruistic, there’s the charity of sharing food that you’ve made with others while also providing a financial contribution to a charity to help the less fortunate, in this case ChildFund Australia.
For the competitive, there are a number of kitchen appliances prizes that can be won, not to mention bragging rights, for the “sweetest” recipe, photo and story, as judged by the hosts.
For the more socially inclined, there’s the camaraderie involved with shared experiences through social media, such as Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. There are the high and lows of recipe successes and failures, the anticipation of what sweets you’ll receive and from whom, how the sweet packages sent to your recipients are received, as well as being acquainted with bloggers you may not have known or interacted with previously.
Even for those not directly participating in the Sweet Swap, there’s a collection of stories to read, photos to drool over, and recipes to attempt.
Regardless of the reasons for participation, the one thing that remains common are the sweet treats.
The first of the Sweet Swap packages that I’d received were these Popcorn Macadamia Chunks by Nic from Dining with a Stud. These clusters were magnificent in their simplicity. The sweet fragrance of popcorn, the smooth richness of chocolate and the textural bite of the macadamia complemented each other to form a very addictive treat.
The next Sweet Swap packaged received were some Chocolate Coated Caramels by Eileen from soft & stiff peaks (Recipe). These buttery caramels unfortunately didn’t fare so well in the post as they were quite soft at room temperature. However a short rest in the refrigerator firmed them up a bit, making these gooey, stretchy caramels nice to eat.
Unfortunately, the third Sweet Swap package didn’t arrive in time for this post. Which is a shame for the sender, as I know I’d be quite disappointed if something I put love and effort into making didn’t make it to its intended recipient.
The Sweet Swap isn’t just about receiving sweets but also sharing the love in turn. My allocated group of recipients were the bloggers for alanabread, Gastromony and The Littlest Anchovy. Thankfully, all packages were received in a timely fashion and, according to the feedback, were well received.
I found the whole Sweet Swap experience to be a rather anxious one, though not in a bad way. As mentioned above, there’s the anxious excitement of not knowing what you’ll receive, when you’ll receive it and from whom. Then there’s the more nervous anxiety of not knowing how your recipe will turn out, whether your little treats will make the journey unscathed, as well as whether or not they’ll enjoyed by the recipient. Thankfully, everything worked out in the end.
All in all, the Sweet Swap was a fabulous event. It didn’t matter whether you’re a baking whiz or rank amateur, whether your sweets were intricate or simple, or whether they were a resounding success or a near disaster. What mattered were the shared experience and the thought behind it. Irrespective of how your recipe turned out, whether it survived transportation, what you received and whether or not you won any prizes, the journey is the real reward for participation.
The inspiration behind the Panna Cotta Lamington Bites comes from the iconic Panna Cotta Lamington from Flour and Stone, one of the premiere bakeries in Sydney and a personal favourite. I’d come across a version of the recipe online and was eager for the opportunity to attempt it to see how close to the real thing it was.
While the process for making the Panna Cotta Lamington Bites is lengthy, involved and may seem intimidating on paper, each section of the recipe are relatively simple and straightforward on their own, and some parts can be prepared ahead of time. The key to success with this recipe is proper preparation and a little patience.
The recipe is organised into several sections – sponge cake, panna cotta, jam, chocolate coating and a few assembly stages.
The sponge cake is essential a pound cake with a little addition milk. A pound cake is made up of equal ratios (by weight) of butter, sugar, eggs and flour. A pound of each ingredient according to the traditional recipe, though the recipe will work fine so long as these ratios are maintained (milk included).
The recipe below calls for a 20cm x 30cm sized baking pan. If you only have smaller pans, you could choose to either bake in multiple tins ensuring that there’s around 1-2cm of batter in each pan, or you can bake a thicker cake and cut it down to 2cm high layers. Naturally, baking times will likely vary, so you’ll have to account for this accordingly.
When baking the sponge, make sure that the centre is properly cooked. If that means that the outer edges of the sponge are overcooked a little and go a bit dry, that’s ok as the sponge will later be enriched with the panna cotta cream.
The panna cotta is pretty straightforward to prepare and can be started as soon as the sponge has finished baking and is left to cool. As instructed in the recipe, make sure to strain the panna cotta before pouring it onto the sponge cake otherwise the skin that forms while the panna cotta cools will just sit on the surface of the sponge rather than soaking through and won’t add to the final product.
The recipe calls for making the jam with raspberries, though strawberries and probably other berries will work just as well. The jam can be prepared well in advance. If stored in properly sterilised jars, it can last up to a year. Otherwise the shelf life will be around 2-3 weeks if stored in the refrigerator.
The jam is thicker than regular jam spreads with a consistency of thick jam as it comes off the stove and when it cools, it ends up more like a fruit paste than a jam. This is the desired consistency as it means the layers of sponge are less likely to slip around, making the chocolate coating stage less of a hassle. If you find the jam too thick to spread, place the jam container into a hot water bath for a little while and stir the contents to loosen it up.
The chocolate coating for the lamington bites is the most challenging step as it requires the tempering of the chocolate in order to get that nice crisp bite and not melt as readily as you handle it.
If you don’t have a digital thermometer or don’t want to bother with the hassle of tempering, you could instead just melt the chocolate and when it comes time to add the coconut, rather than just placing it on top as instructed, you can cover all sides of the lamington bite as you would with a traditional lamington. Just make sure to allow the chocolate to set a little to make the coating with coconut and handling easier.
The recipe calls for 400g of chocolate, which is close to the right amount to coat all the lamington bites. If you can afford to do so, use more chocolate than the recipe calls for to make your life easier when it comes to tempering and coating. Any leftover chocolate can be scraped off the utensils back into the chocolate bowl, melted again over the double boiler, and with the addition of some milk whisked in, you can reward yourself with a rich cup of hot chocolate. If you’ve never made hot chocolate this way before, you’re in for a treat :)
There are a number of assembly stages to this recipe – enriching the sponge with panna cotta, preparing the sponge cake jam sandwich bites, and coating the bites with chocolate & coconut. Image are provided for the latter two stages as they can be somewhat involved.
If you feel confident slicing the sponge across the middle as a single piece to spread the jam filling, feel free to do so. However, I found that it was easier to cut 2cm wide lengths, trim the edges so it forms a neat rectangular block and slice that in half. Each block was shorter than the length of the knife so it was easy to gently press down to slice along the length rather than having to resort to a sawing action. It takes a little more time to trim the cake and spread the jam this way but it felt like less effort without the concern of tearing or breaking the cake, or slicing the halves unevenly.
If you follow the recipe as written, tempering the chocolate and ensuring that it remains tempered while you coat the lamington bites is the most fiddly and challenging aspect to this recipe. However, with a little patience, it’s worth the reward.
This section of the recipe was left intentionally vague as I’m not all that confident that the way in which I approached the coating of the lamington bites was good, let alone efficient, way of doing so. In lieu of a better way of coating these bites, here are the steps that I went through:
1. Have everything that you need for this part ready, including measuring out the two portions of chocolate and have all the necessary equipment on hand. Also, ensure that the bites have all been prepared beforehand and are at room temperature. If they’ve come straight out of the fridge, they’ll set the chocolate quickly, making it difficult to give it a thin, even coating.
2. Temper the chocolate as instructed.
3. Dip the palette knife or spatula into the chocolate to coat the tip. This will form the base coating of chocolate so make the coating as thick or thin as you like.
4. Place one of the bites onto the end of the palette knife.
5. With another palette knife, spatula or even a butter knife, use it to pour the chocolate, liberally coating all the edges. Once the bite is smothered in chocolate, gently wipe of any excess chocolate from each of the sides of the bite back into the chocolate bowl and double check each side to make sure that it’s completely coated in chocolate without any exposed areas. Touch up and reapply chocolate as necessary.
6. Transfer the chocolate coated bite to a baking sheet covered tray and use the chocolate pouring/scraping knife to gently slide the bite off the palette knife. Make sure to push from the base and not the top of the lamington bite, otherwise the cake layers may separate.
7. Scrap off any excess chocolate off both knifes into the chocolate bowl. The purpose of scraping both knifes is to minimise the amount of chocolate that solidifies on these utensils, which can be annoying to deal with if the solidified chocolate builds up too much.
8. Repeat the process and follow through with the remainder of the recipe.
These panna cotta lamington bites are small, decadent treats. An outer crisp shell of dark chocolate that gives way to a rich, moist vanilla-flavoured sponge cake. The raspberry jam adds a nice punch with some acidity to counteract some of the richness of both the panna cotta soaked sponge and the dark chocolate. The shredded coconut, freshly grated in this case, adds an additional textural component and a subtle coconut flavour.
The full recipe follows below. If you haven’t already done so, make sure to check out the recipe notes for some additional info and tips.
I hope that you enjoy the recipe for my panna cotta lamington bites :)
Panna Cotta Lamington Bites
(adapted from Flour and Stone’s Panna Cotta Lamington recipe)
150g unsalted butter, softened
150g castor sugar
150g eggs, beaten (approx. 2 – 2.5 large eggs)
150g self-raising cake flour, sifted twice
75ml whole milk
500ml pure cream
1/2 vanilla pod, scraped
2 gelatine leaves
500g frozen raspberries
Juice of 1 lemon
400g dark couverture chocolate
1 cup shredded coconut
- Preheat the oven to 180C.
- Grease and line a 20cm x 30cm baking tray and line baking paper, ensuring that all internal surfaces have been covered. Allow the baking paper to rise above the baking tray for ease of removal later.
- With a stand mixer or electric hand mixer on high, cream the butter and sugar until it’s fluffy.
- Gradually add the beaten eggs to the creamed butter until fully incorporated.
- With the mixer on a low speed, add half of the flour until it’s mixed in, then loosen the mixture with half the milk. Repeat the process with the remaining flour and milk until the batter just comes together.
- Scoop the batter out into the lined baking tray and spread it out evenly with a spatula.
- Place the tray into the oven and bake for around 15-20 mins until the centre springs back to the touch.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool while still in the tray.
- Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water.
- Add the cream, sugar and scraped vanilla bean (including pod) to a small saucepan.
- Stir and warm mixture over low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Remove the saucepan from the heat.
- Squeeze and shake off any excess water from the gelatine leaves. Add the gelatine leaves to the saucepan and whisk until dissolved.
- Allow to cool for an hour at room temperature.
- With a toothpick or skewer, poke a lot of holes across the surface of the cooled sponge cake while it’s still in the tray. Make sure that you poke all the way through to the bottom of the tray.
- Strain the cooled panna cotta cream through a sieve and pour the cream over the entire sponge cake.
- Place the tray in the fridge and allow to set overnight.
- Add the frozen raspberries and sugar into a small saucepan and stir on low until the sugar is dissolved.
- Add the lemon juice and turn the heat up to high so that the mixture reaches a rapid boil. Stir the contents occasionally ensuring to scrap the bottom and sides so that it doesn’t stick to it and burn.
- Reduce the jam for around 30 minutes until it forms a thick jam-like consistency.
- Remove the jam from the heat and allow to cool before transferring it to a container (or properly sterilised jar for long term storage of up to a year).
- Take the sponge cake from the fridge and remove the cake from the baking tray by lifting it out using the baking paper. Place the cake onto a cutting board and peel back the baking paper from the edge, though leave the cake on the baking paper for now.
- Trim each of the four sides of the cake.
- Cut a 2cm wide block of cake and lay it down on its side. Trim the top of the cake (now lying on the side) to form an even rectangular block.
- Gently slice the cake block in half by pressing down with a knife and lay each half out flat.
- Evenly spread some of the jam over one of the halves. Cover with the remaining half of cake and scrape any excess jam off the sides.
- Slice 2cm portions from the sponge cake jam sandwich block to form bite-sized portions. Place each of these portions on a tray lined with baking paper or cling wrap to prevent sticking.
- Repeat Steps 3-6 for the remainder of the cake. For more info on these steps, check out the relevant section in the recipe notes above. You should end up with approx. 50 portions.
- Cover the tray with another sheet of baking paper or cling wrap to prevent drying and allow the bite-sized portions to come to room temperature if they haven’t already done so.
- Chop up the chocolate if necessary and put aside 1/3 of the chocolate.
- Place the remaining 2/3 of chocolate into a bowl of a double boiler on simmer to melt, stirring occasionally and check the temperature with a digital thermometer until the mixture reaches a temperature of 46C.
- Turn off the heat, separate the bowl from the saucepan, add the remaining 1/3 of chocolate and stir vigorously and constantly until the mixture cools to 31C.
- Coat each of the portioned bites with the chocolate, making sure to coat all sides. If you’re not familiar with how to do so, refer to the section in the notes on coating with chocolate.
- Place the coated chocolate onto a clean tray lined with baking paper and repeat the process of coating the bites with chocolate.
- When the chocolate coating the bites have partially set, place a generous pinch of shredded coconut onto the top, pressing down gently. If the chocolate has already set, spread a little melted chocolate on the top before adding to coconut to act as a glue.
- Allow the chocolate coated bites to set at room temperature before storing them it in the fridge. The panna cotta lamington bites should last around a week.