As days go, one of my favourites is National Lamington Day on 21 July, and that’s because it involves three very delicious Cs in my food dictionary: Chocolate, Cake and Coconut. I wonder whose great idea it was to declare a day dedicated to this most satisfying of treats. Genius. I’m sure I’m not alone in having a complete soft spot for this simple but clever combination – squares of sponge cake filled (or not) with jam or cream (or maybe both), bathed in chocolate icing and coated generously with coconut.
As Aussie as a cake can be (even though New Zealand tries to claim its fame), the much-loved lamington is believed to have been created more than 100 years ago for Lord Lamington, the Governor of Queensland, and his houseguests. The recipe was requested (as all good recipes are) and first published in the Queensland Country Life newspaper under the heading ‘Useful Recipes’ in December 1900. And so a star was born.
A popular traditional pick at school cake stalls, country bakeries and special afternoon tea gatherings all around Australia for as long as anyone can remember, the lamington is now often reimagined and updated by adventurous pastry chefs – think jaffa and lemonade to tiramisu and chocolate and basil. You can understand why lamington purists might get upset about these assaults on the original concept, but a sneaky nibble of my chocolate and raspberry lamingtons or caramel tres leches lamingtons would be enough to convert anyone.
Even if you're a staunch traditionalist, the lamington may still be open to some healthy baking experimentation. I use a butter cake base for my lamington fingers and gluten-free lamingtons, because I find butter cake easier to work with than the more traditional sponge cake – it's more robust, making it easier to dip. The butter cake version can also undergo the lamington transition in the same cooking session, whereas sponge cake tends to need a day or so standing or a couple of hours in the freezer before being coated.
Okay, fillings aren’t compulsory but they do provide a deliciously moist surprise as well as extra character. My favourites after extensive testing are dark berry (using mixed berries, raspberries or blackberries) or sour cherry and whipped fresh cream or mascarpone.
As for the coconut coating, desiccated is delicious, but shredded or flaked, toasted or raw are all excellent alternatives to try. So, get baking for 21 July, and establish your favourite lamington style and flavour.
Anneka's mission is to connect home cooks with the magic of baking, and through this, with those they love. Read our interview with her or for hands-on baking classes and baking tips, visit her at BakeClub. Don't miss what's coming out of her oven via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
View previous Bakeproof columns and recipes.
Photography by Alan Benson. Styling by Kristine Duran-Thiessen. Food Preparation by Tina McLeish.