This Saturday is Anzac Day in Australia. Normally, there are dawn services and marches in the cities and towns to commemorate the ANZACs and all other servicemen and women, past and present. This year, coronavirus measures have forced the cancellation of these services and parades. So this year, to commemorate their bravery and sacrifice, I made Anzac cupcakes instead: our twist on the humble Anzac biscuit.
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Who were the Anzacs?
Anzac stands for Australian New Zealand Army Corp.
It was a WWI army corps formed in Egypt in December 1914. Originally called the Australasian Army Corp (in line with the name used for Australian/New Zealand combined sports teams at the time), complaints from the New Zealand troops lead to it being renamed Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. Administrators quickly abbreviated it to ANZAC, though the troops themselves did not use the term until after the Gallipoli landings.
One of the key battles involving the Anzac troops was the Gallipoli Landing, also known as the battle of Anzac Cove. It resulted in great loss of life. However, the actions of the Anzac soldiers in dealing with extremely adverse circumstances helped form the Australian and New Zealand national identities as stories of the soldiers’ endurance, courage, ingenuity and good humour reached their home shores.
What is Anzac Day?
Anzac Day is held on 25 April each year. It is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand of the first landing of the Anzac troops at Gallipoli in Turkey in 1915. The landing and the bravery and sacrifice of all of the Australian and New Zealand soldiers in that conflict and all Australian and New Zealand servicemen and women, past and present, who served and dies in all wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations is commemorated with dawn services and marches throughout both countries.
This year, as with so many other things (like holidays), the marches and dawn services will not be taking place due to the efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Some of the most vulnerable people in our societies are the elderly soldiers who fought in WWII (the last Anzac died in 2002), the exact people the measures enacted to fight COVID-19 are designed to protect. In addition, social distancing makes if difficult to have a march or dawn service: there simply is not the space for the number of people that normally attend.
Plans are not certain this year, but there is talk of asking people to stand at the end of their driveways or next to their front doors at dawn on Anzac Day to commemorate the bravery and sacrifice of the soldiers. There is even talk of an app to play ‘the Last Post’, a feature at all Anzac Day services. Have a listen to it being played by Corporal Matthew Creek at the Australian War Memorial.
Aussies or Kiwis are unlikely to commemorate Anzac Day without also celebrating their camaraderie, even in times of coronavirus. While a visit to the pub is out and playing two-up (a gambling game which is illegal every other day of the year) is difficult without other players, you can still bake some Anzac biscuits, or these Anzac cupcakes!
What are Anzac biscuits?
Anzac biscuits are the inspiration for these Anzac cupcakes.
Anzac biscuits are a sweet biscuit (what Americans call cookies) made using rolled oats, flour, sugar, butter, golden syrup, baking soda and desiccated coconut.
Australian and New Zealand wives and womens’ groups supposedly sent Anzac biscuits to soldiers fighting away in the Great War, as the ingredients – notably no eggs or milk – do not spoil easily and keep well during transport. A contradictory claim says that Anzac biscuits were never sent to soldiers and were instead sold at home to raise funds for the war.
The term Anzac is protected under Australian and New Zealand law. It cannot be used without official permission. There is a general exception for Anzac biscuits, providing they remain true to the original recipe and are sold as biscuits and NEVER cookies. In 2008, the Subway restaurants chain was ordered to bake their Anzac biscuits using the original ingredients. They were unable to develop a cost-effective version of the biscuit and instead chose to remove it from their menu.
About the Anzac cupcakes
Our Anzac cupcakes are a moist apple and golden syrup cake with Anzac biscuit crumb topping, subtle golden syrup frosting drizzled with golden syrup and topped with a mini Anzac biscuit.
The key ingredient in Anzac biscuits is golden syrup. While delicious, it can get quite sweet if there is too much. The challenge was therefore keeping the essence of Anzac biscuits, without being overly sweet.
Golden syrup, also called light treacle, is a thick amber-coloured form of inverted sugar syrup. It looks like honey and is often used where honey is unavailable or too expensive, but should not be confused with amber corn syrup or amber refined sugar. The most famous brand of golden syrup is Tate & Lyle, which is where golden syrup was first invented (then as Abram Lyle & Sons) and also has the honour of holding the World Record as the product with the world’s oldest branding and packaging.
You can probably imagine how quickly the golden syrup could make things too sweet if there are too many other sugars in the mix.
To cut through some of the sweetness, I decided to add tart apples to the mix. I adjusted a basic apple cupcake recipe, cutting down on the sugar and replacing it with some golden syrup for the taste. Of course, there is no cinnamon, nutmeg or other spices in these Anzac cupcakes as there is none in Anzac cupcakes.
The other core element of any Anzac biscuit is rolled oats. I wanted to ensure that rolled oats were in the Anzac cupcakes, but I didn’t want to put them in the batter. I was afraid that it would make them too dense or heavy and more like muffins.
Instead of putting them in the cupcakes, I decided to put them on top. Actually, I put the whole Anzac biscuit on top: I made a simple biscuit mix and used some of it as crumble or streusel for the Anzac cupcakes and used the rest to make mini Anzac biscuits to adorn their tops.
One tip: Only add the crumble part way through the baking. It will otherwise sink too far into the cupcake that you won’t recognise it as crumble.
The frosting was more difficult. I was very concerned that any golden syrup together with icing sugar was going to be far too sweet. I eventually got a combination that was not too sweet, though I was conscious of not piping too much frosting onto each cupcake.
Easy Anzac cupcakes
While there are a number of ingredients, this recipe is actually incredibly easy. That’s because it pretty much a ‘throw almost all ingredients in the bowl and mix’ recipe, like our fairy cakes. Especially the cupcakes: it involves mixing the ingredients then adding the apple.
A simple and delicious twist on the humble Anzac biscuit.
Make some Anzac cupcakes this Anzac Day
If you are also looking for a way to commemorate Anzac Day this year, why not try these tasty and simple Anzac cupcakes? They’re our twist on the humble Anzac biscuit.
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- wooden spoon
For the crumble
- 1 cup plain flour
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 3/4 cup desiccated or shredded coconut
- 125 g butter
- 2 tablespoons golden syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- 1 tablespoon hot water
For the cupcakes
- 125 g unsalted butter softened
- 2 tablespoons golden syrup
- 1/2 cup golden caster or demerara sugar
- 1 cup plain flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla essence or vanilla sugar
- 2 large eggs at room temperature
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1 large apple peeled and cored
For the buttercream & decoration
- 100 g 4oz unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup icing sugar
- pinch of salt
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
- 2 tbsp golden syrup + extra for drizzling
- 1 tbsp milk
For the crumble
- Combine the flour, sugar, oats and coconut in a bowl. Make a well in the centre.
- Place the golden syrup and butter in a saucepan over low heat and allow to melt.
- Combine the bicarbonate of soda and water in a bowl and then add to the melted butter and golden syrup, stirring well. It should foam up.
- Pour the golden syrup mixture into the well in the dry ingredients and mix until well combined. Set aside.
For the cupcakes
- Preheat the oven to 160C. Place pans in a muffin tin.
- Add all ingredients except the apple to a large bowl and mix slowly at first, then fast for 2 minutes until it is all combined and is soft and creamy.
- Chop the apples into small pieces (1 cm pieces) and add to the batter. Quickly fold together but do not over-mix.
- Spoon the batter into the cases until no more than 2/3 full. Bake for 10 minutes until risen.
- Remove from the oven and crumble some of the crumble topping onto each cupcake to make the crumb topping. Return to the oven and bake for a further 10 minutes.
- Use the remaining crumble mix to make little Anzac biscuits to decorate the top. Simply form the mixture into little balls (3 cm diameter) and place on a lined tray. Increase the oven heat to 170°c and bake for 10 minutes or until golden.
For the buttercream
- Place the butter in a bowl and beat until pale and fluffy. Sift over the icing sugar and mix until soft, then add the remaining ingredients and beat until smooth and fluffy (3-4 minutes).
- Transfer to a piping bag and decorate the cakes with a swirl of buttercream.
- Drizzle with a little golden syrup and top with a mini Anzac biscuit.