It may be better known for its barbecues than its baking, but Australia is proud home to a range of traditional sweets. Using simple ingredients that hark back to its British heritage (such as cream, sponge, chocolate and jam) these unique little treats may not be as beautiful as a delicate French tart, but they’re scrumptious all the same. And there are some rather great stories behind a few of them, too.
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Cased in a delicate meringue, crisp on the outside and marshmallow-soft on the inside, topped with whipped cream and fresh fruit, the pavlova is like an Eton mess in grand-scale, cake-shaped form. The name may be exotic but the dessert is all local; it was created and named for the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova during a New Zealand and Australian tour in the 1920s. The fruit used in pavlova varies, but the most popular choices are berries, kiwi fruit, passionfruit and, more recently, mango.
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2. Caramel Slice
The humble caramel slice, now a staple in bakeries all around the country, first appeared in a cookbook released by The Australian Women’s Weekly in the 1970s (though the recipe may have Scottish roots due to its use of shortbread). With a base of dense biscuit, a thick layer of buttery caramel and a coating of rich chocolate, the caramel slice is simple, but indulgent. Best served cold, when the caramel is chewy and the chocolate crisp, the caramel slice is one of the richest, sweetest, tastiest slices imaginable.
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3. Chocolate Crackle
When it comes to preparing desserts, it doesn’t get much simpler than the chocolate crackle. This coveted children’s confection, which dates back to 1937, is made from cocoa, sugar, coconut oil and Kellogg’s Rice Bubbles, mixed in a big bowl, lumped into patty cake cases and set in the fridge. They may not be glamorous, and they may be mostly confined to the realm of children’s birthday parties (along with fairy bread and honey joys), but I’ll never forget the happiness of arriving at a party and discovering my friend’s parents had made chocolate crackles.
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I’ve written about the unassuming yet delectable lamington before; read about it here. A light sponge cake dipped in melted chocolate and rolled in coconut, this beloved Australian dessert harks back to the turn of the twentieth century. The how and why is still disputed, but it’s generally believed the lamington was born when Lord and Lady Lamington governed the state of Queensland and demanded a sweet yet simple dish to be whipped up at short notice for their guests.
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5. ANZAC Biscuit
Perhaps the most historic of Australian desserts is the ANZAC biscuit. Made from sustaining oats and coconut, these cookies were invented as a long-life bread substitute for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZACs) as they fought in the World Wars. Originally, ANZAC biscuits were hardy, solid bricks of (admittedly tasty) sustenance. The modern equivalent is softer and chewier and completely delicious, but the key ingredients remain the same: oats, flour, coconut, butter, sugar and golden syrup.
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6. Iced Vovo
While we have plenty of Oreos, Petit Ecoliers and biscotti in Australia, the world of Australian-made sweet biscuits is a wild and wonderful one. Many are partial to the now-famous chocolate Tim Tam, sophisticates flock to the decadent Mint Slice, and children favour Tiny Teddies, Australia’s answer to Animal Crackers. But the supreme Australian biscuit would have to be the Iced Vovo. Traditionally made from a sweet butter biscuit, topped with pink icing and a strip of raspberry jam and sprinkled with desiccated coconut, cake and tart varieties have also begun cropping up of late. Sickly-sweet and totally moreish, the Iced Vovo has been gracing grandmas’ kitchens and Australians’ afternoon tea tables since 1906.
What’s your favorite Australian dessert? Please share in the comments below.
Contributed by Gemma King