The Lamington is often referred to as the "National Cake of Australia." The National Trust of Queensland even named the cake as one of Australia's favorite icons.
A lamington is an Australian cake, made from cubes of sponge cake coated in an outer layer of chocolate (or sometimes raspberry) sauce and rolled in desiccated coconut. The thin mixture is absorbed into the outside of the sponge cake and left to set, giving the cake a distinctive texture. A common variation has a layer of cream or strawberry jam between two lamington halves.
This blog looks at the origin of Lamingtons and offers a simple traditional recipe. (If you just want the recipe then please scroll down)
The origin of Lamingtons
Maurice French, an emeritus professor of history at the University of Southern Queensland, who has examined the question in depth, believes that it is certain that lamingtons were named after either Lord Lamington, who served as Governor of Queensland from 1896 to 1901, or his wife, Lady Lamington. Most sources incline to the former option. The earliest known reference to the naming of the lamington from June 1927, links the cake to Lord Lamington.
The identity of the recipe's inventor has also been debated. Most stories attribute its creation to Lord Lamington's chef, the French born Armand Galland, who was called upon at short notice to feed unexpected guests. Using only the limited ingredients available, Galland cut up some left-over French vanilla sponge cake baked the day before, dipped the slices in chocolate and set them in coconut. Impressed by Galland's creation, Lamington's guests were said to have later asked for the recipe. This version of events is supported by Lady Lamington's memoirs. Coconut was not widely used in European cooking at that time, but was known to Galland whose wife was from Tahiti where coconut was a common ingredient. Another possible inventor is Amy Schauer, cooking instructor at Brisbane's Central College from 1897 to 1938.
There have been several accounts put forward...
- One suggests that the lamington was first served in Toowoomba, when Lord Lamington took his entourage to Harlaxton House to escape the steamy heat of Brisbane,
- Another claims that it was created by Galland at Queensland's Government House in Brisbane during the busy period leading up to Federation in 1901.
- A further alternative claim is that Lord Lamington's cook, presumably Galland, accidentally dropped a block of sponge cake into a dish of chocolate. It was later discovered that desiccated coconut, sprinkled over the top, made the cakes more appealing.
The first known mention of "Lamington cake" appears in an 1896 newspaper account of a "Lamington Function" at Laidley in Queensland. The event was in honour of Lord Lamington (although it appears he did not attend) and also featured "Lamington Tea", "Lamington Soup" etc, so, in the absence of any description of the cake, the name of the cake might signify nothing more than the name of the event.
A 1900 recipe for Lamington Cakes has been found in the Queensland Country Life newspaper. While the recipe originated in Queensland, it spread quickly, appearing in a Sydney newspaper in 1901 and a New Zealand newspaper in 1902. However, none of these recipes indicate the creator of the recipe nor the reason for its name.
Anyway, despite it's iffy origin, Lamingtons remain a popular snack across Australia and New Zealand and Friday, 21 July 2006, was designated as National Lamington Day in Australia. Lamingtons are often sold at fundraisers for schools or charity groups, known as "lamington drives". Some Australians shorten the name to "Lammo" (singular) or "Lammos" (plural)
A simple Lamington recipe
Below is a simple traditional recipe to make these tasty cakes. There are many variations you can add if you like. Some prefer to cut the sponge in half and put a layer of jam and/or cream. Please feel free to experiment. If you need help following the instructions then scroll down to watch a video on how it's done.
1/3 cup plain flour
1/3 cup self-raising flour
1/3 cup cornflour
4 x 60g eggs
2/3 cup caster sugar
2 cups icing sugar
1 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup softened butter
1 tbls hot water (add extra if needed)
2 cups desiccated or shredded coconut to roll in
- First add the plain flour, followed by the self-raising and cornflour into a sifter and sift into a bowl. For best results, re-sift the flour mixture three times.
- Crack the eggs into a separate bowl, add the caster sugar and beat on high with an electric mixer for six minutes. The mixture will triple in volume and become pale and creamy.
- Again using the sifter, gradually sift the flour mixture into the egg and caster sugar mixture. Do this by adding a little of the flour at a time and then use a spatula to gently fold it into the egg mixture. Repeat this process until all of the flour and egg has been thoroughly mixed together.
- Gently pour the cake batter into your favourite cake baking dish.
- Place the cake in an oven pre-heated to 180 degrees Celsius (350 degrees Fahrenheit) for 30 minutes.
- Once cooked, remove from oven and leave to cool completely on a wire cooling rack.
- In a bowl, add the icing sugar, softened butter, cocoa powder and boiling water. Mix until glossy and smooth.
- Cut up the cool sponge cake into cubes
- Dip the sponge cake cubes into the chocolate icing mixture until fully coated.
- Roll the coated sponge cubes in the desiccated of shredded coconut until the Lamington has an even coat.
This great traditional recipe for Lamingtons is described in detail by Nicko'w Kitchen.
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