True blue Aussie dessert: Dumplings and ‘Cocky’s delight’

Feb 28, 2023
This bloggers father taught them how to make the traditional Aussie dessert of golden syrup dumplings. Source: Getty

My daughter and her husband are giving up the bright lights of the city to live in a remote northern region of Australia. The pearl earrings and stilettos have been placed into storage, and the small car that was so brilliant for parking in small spaces has been traded in for a beast that includes sleeping quarters, a bull bar, and racks for fishing rods. I wish them the best of luck!

When they visited over Christmas last year I thought I’d share a few meal preparation tips for basic and rural living because there certainly weren’t going to be any Michelin-star restaurants where they were headed. This in itself was strange because I too am a city lass and have never been camping in my life.

However, lessons from my childhood came flooding back, especially the lessons from my father who, after years in Bomber Command during World War II, returned to a position held for him in government which allowed him 12 months leave to ‘find himself’. What did my private-school-educated, city-slicker father do during those 12 months? He went sheep shearing of course.

This was the reason that as a child there was always a tin of Golden Syrup, or as it was better known, ‘Cocky’s delight’ or ‘Cocky’s joy’, in the pantry. You see, it was not as expensive as jam, didn’t need to be refrigerated, and came in a tin, making it easily transportable. Spread across damper straight off the coals, it was considered the bee’s knees and an integral part of life in outback Australia.

My father was always happiest sitting in front of a fireplace shaped from large rocks, way down the backyard, with his fresh damper covered with Cocky’s delight, and a hot billy tea.

The best explanation of this nickname comes from CEW Bean’s On The Wool Track in 1910:

A small farmer battling for a living was given the title ‘cockatoo’, which was soon shortened to ‘cocky’. It’s said that the farmer selected himself a 300 (or 500) acre holding, clears it, fences it, pays for it, sows wheat in it – and then he goes to bed to wait for his crop. The next morning he gets up and finds the paddock white with cockatoos grubbing up his seed.

From it came boss cocky, cocky’s joy (golden syrup or treacle) etc.

Anyway, when my daughter visited I decided to treat her to golden syrup dumplings. It takes minimal effort, and minimal ingredients and is simple to cook on a camp oven. Flour, butter, Cocky’s delight, and a dash of milk is all I needed.

Of course, the syrup no longer comes in the black tin I remember from my childhood, which made it difficult for this ‘non-sweets cook’ to source in the supermarket. However, making it certainly brought back long-lost memories, and my daughter said it was a tasty alternative to ice cream and tiramisu, which might be a little tricky to source in Arnhem Land.

cocky's delight dumplings
Cooking a batch of ‘Cocky’s delight’ dumplings for her daughter. Source: May Green


  • 1 1/2 cup self-raising flour
  • 100g butter
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup golden syrup (treacle)
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar


  • Add two cups water, brown sugar, 1/4 cup golden syrup and 50g butter to a large saucepan over low heat. Stir to combine until melted.
  • Combine the remaining 50g butter and flour in a medium bowl. User fingertips to rub together until it resembles breadcrumbs.
  • Combine milk and 1 tablespoon of golden syrup. Stir into flour mixture until well combined.
  • Bring sauce to the boil. Scoop out heaped dessert spoon-sized portions of the mixture and place into sauce. Reduce to low heat. Cover and leave to simmer for 15-20 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

You can also slow-cook this recipe over 45-60 minutes.

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