It must be very unusual for most visitors to Southern Africa during December to spend Christmas in the sweltering haze of mid-summer. The only snowflakes to be found are made of icing sugar, and Santa’s reindeer are replaced by herds of zebra that graze the open grasslands of the Sabi Sand Game Reserve.
In the midst of the long, hot days, the team at Singita Ebony Lodge commence their preparations for the festive season. As the original Singita lodge, the property is a blend of European heritage and African boldness, with the down-to-earth warmth of a much-loved family home. It is therefore the perfect setting for the Singita staff to spend Christmas with their guests, all part of a new extended family.
Lodge Manager, Tom Rutherford, describes this time of year: “It is a time for guests and the team to share a magical evening under the stars, listening to the sounds of the African drum beat around the fire and sipping on some special wines from our cellar. Guests will celebrate in true African style as each room is decorated with festively-adorned acacia trees, under which beautifully wrapped gifts await. The afternoon tea table is laden with appropriately themed treats like candy cane striped biscuits, and children help to bake cookies that will be used to decorate the main Christmas tree. Even the game rangers wear Christmas hats while out on safari!
One of the highlights will surely be the sundowner stop out in the bush on Christmas Eve, where the local youth choir from Justicia will perform. The evening will incorporate an African-styled Christmas menu with items such as braised lamb shank with cherry samosas and pumpkin fritters with fruit mince chutney, in our traditional Boma setting.”
It’s easy to bring the magic of an African Christmas to your table with home bakes like these delicious lamingtons. Originally of Australian origin, and named for a governor of Queensland from the late 19th Century, lamingtons consist of squares of vanilla sponge cake coated first in a layer of chocolate icing and then rolled in desiccated coconut. These tea-time confections soon made their way to South Africa, where they are a popular bake-sale item and regularly appear on the afternoon menu at Singita Ebony Lodge.
Ingredients – what you will need:
For the sponge:
680g cake flour
800g castor sugar
50ml bicarbonate of soda
110g cocoa powder
15ml vanilla extract
For the chocolate dipping sauce:
375g icing sugar
60g cocoa powder
400g desiccated coconut
Method – what to do:
In a mixing bowl, sift the flour, sugar, bicarbonate of soda, cocoa powder and salt.
In another mixing bowl, stir together the milk, oil, vinegar and vanilla.
Making a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, slowly pour in the liquid mixture and combine until there are no lumps.
Pour the batter into a greased baking tray and bake for 20 minutes at 170°C.
Once baked, remove from the oven and allow to cool before portioning into squares.
For the dipping sauce, place the icing sugar, cocoa powder, butter and water in a small saucepan and gently heat so that all the ingredients melt together and become combined.
Allow to cool slightly before dipping the portioned cake in the sauce.
When the chocolate sauce is still wet on the cake, dust them with desiccated coconut and allow to dry