Anzac biscuits in a cake
Today is Anzac Day, the day when Australians and New Zealanders remember those who died in the war. I always think of my amazing grandfather on this day – his photograph, resplendent in his army uniform, presides over my dining room as a reminder of his war. He was on Kokoda in Papua New Guinea, a particularly hideous theatre of war for all concerned, where Pa was lucky to only lose a toe to gangrene. Then he went on to Japan. After the war, he stayed in Japan for a bit longer, helping to rebuild Nagasaki. In that time, he learned the language, developed a deep, lifelong respect for the Japanese people, fell in love with a Japanese woman who he had to leave behind – and returned to Australia an avowed pacifist who wouldn’t even keep a gun on the family farm after his experiences with weapons of war.
It seems silly, hollow almost, to remember him with a spot of baking, but he loved sweet treats. And the Anzac biscuit is the quintessential way to remember Australia and New Zealand’s soldiers through food. Anzac biscuits are simple to make with limited ingredients, that’s the whole point of them. There is no need to overcomplicate them – and when I decided to turn Anzac biscuits into cake, I did not go wild with hundreds of impossible ingredients. I basically added a few cake ingredients to the classic Anzac biscuit basics. I didn’t have any golden syrup in the cupboard – the traditional source of more-ish sweetness for Anzac biscuits – so I used dark treacle instead. And I’d run out of brown sugar, but that was OK because the treacle is such a big flavour that caster sugar was OK. It was, in true wartime style, a classic make-do-and-mend cake, hence I have a few options in the ingredients list.
I doubt the Anzac biscuits that were made by soldiers against the terrible backdrop of war were exactly the same every time and so too with this cake (or indeed your Anzac biscuits), it can be varied every time you make it. I’m confident Pa would have told me I’d done good if I was to serve him this giant cakey biscuit. It just breaks my heart that we can’t have one more conversation, ideally in his ute, with the Cowra sun streaming in, newspapers open at the sports pages, as we put the world to rights.
125g butter, softened
3/4 cup (185g) sugar – caster sugar or brown sugar is fine
1 cup (250g) self-raising flour
1/2 cup (125ml) milk
1 teaspoon vanilla essence or extract
Pinch of salt
2 eggs, separated
1/4 cup golden syrup, treacle or honey
1/2 cup (125g) desiccated coconut
1/2 cup (125g) porridge oats
Icing sugar to serve
- Prepare a round cake tin by greasing and lining with baking paper and preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
- In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy then mix in the egg yolks.
- Sift in the salt and flour, add the milk and vanilla, then mix well. You should have a smooth, thick batter.
- Whisk the egg whites until bubbles start to form, then add to the bowl and mix well.
- Using a metal spoon, fold in the coconut and oats until well combined.
- Bake for 35-40 minutes, until golden-brown and springy to touch.
- Allow to cool then dust with icing sugar and serve.