A light, vanilla-spiked sponge soaked in a rich chocolate sauce and tossed in shredded coconut – the lamington is the perfect afternoon treat (even better, we think, with a layer of jam and cream sandwiched in the middle. But more on that particular debate later).
In honour of World Lamington Day (July 21), why don’t you make a cuppa and join us in appreciating this Aussie classic.
For such a symbol of Australian cuisine, the history of lamington is a little muddled. Once listed as a national icon by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (alongside Vegemite and meat pies), nobody quite knows where the lamington was born. Most accounts seem to agree that the cakes were named for either Lord Lamington, Governor of Queensland at the turn of the 20th century, or his wife. But who made the original lamington, and why? One theory is that the French chef Armand Galland, who worked at Government House, created the recipe (proponents of this theory like to point out that Galland’s wife was Tahitian, so could have introduced him to coconut, then a relatively unknown ingredient in Australia). Another account puts Government House temporary cook Fanny Young in the driver’s seat (or chef’s toque, if you will), while for others, Amy Shauer, a cooking instructor from Brisbane Technical College gets the credit.
But why? Why take a perfectly good piece of cake and add even more delicious ingredients to it? Most historians agree that the recipe came about because the cook - whoever she or he was - was trying to make the Governor’s favourite dessert, a snowball, and didn’t have all the ingredients. In desperation, the lamington was born.
Two years ago, claims that the lamington began life as the “wellington” over in New Zealand turned out to be nothing more than a clever April Fool’s joke by The Guardian. The article went so far as to posit the cake in a painting from 1888, before the invention of the Aussie cake. Australians can rest assured: the lamington is ours.
That said, similar versions are certainly enjoyed elsewhere - in South Africa, lamingtons are known as ystervarkies (porcupines) and they’re sold in Cleveland, Ohio, as coconut bars.
Whatever you call them, though, the debate still rages over whether a true lamington has jam or cream - or both (as in all matters of excess, we’re firmly in favour of both). An original recipe, published in The Sydney Mail in 1901, included neither.
Seven lamington recipes we love
When it comes to cake, we reckon it pays to go big, or go home. These slabs of chocolate and raspberry lamington certainly fit the bill - even if they won’t fit in your mouth.
Try Poh’s citrusy spin on the classic - you're welcome!
Pandan, a fruit found in South-East Asia, pairs perfectly with coconut - ergo, pandan lamingtons.
A wicked mix of the classic South American dessert tres leches and the iconic lamington, these caramel tres leches lamingtons are best served with piping hot black coffee. And a napkin.
Playing with the formula, Bakeproof columnist Anneka Manning’s lamington fingers are a simple, single-layer version. As Anneka says” The resulting lamingtons don’t have the height of the traditional ones but it does mean you get more chocolate icing and coconut to butter cake – a little cheeky but definitely, a good thing!”
Gluten-free? You can still get your lam on. Check this out.
Two faves come together in a glorious combination in these coconut banana bread lamingtons. It’s a lamington, made with banana bread. Genius!
This sponge will have you wanting an excuse to make afternoon tea every day. There are two main tricks when making a sponge: don’t over-whisk the mixture once you have added the flour – only whisk it until the mixture is just combined. Also, sponges don’t take long to bake and, if overcooked, will easily become dry, so keep a close eye on them when baking.
Everybody loves a scone – especially when warm from the oven. Even though they have a reputation for being tricky to make, in reality they're fast and simple, especially when you have a good recipe like this one. The secret to the lightness of these scones is the cream – a trick I learnt many years ago.