What is a Lamington?
Lamington is a traditional Australian dessert that comprises a square of sponge cake, which is coated in a layer of chocolate icing and rolled in desiccated shredded coconut. In Queensland, where the recipe originated, they are still made in the traditional way. In Victoria and South Australia, they are filled with jam, whereas in Western Australia, they are filled with cream.
What is the origin of lamington?
There are several stories about how this Australian specialty was created, although all point to Baron Lamington, a popular governor of Queensland from 1896 to 1901. Rt Hon Charles Wallace Alexander Napier Cochrane Baillie, Baron Lamington, went on to become the Governor of Bombay from 1903 to 1907.
Most theories about the origin of the lamington cake attribute the creation of the dessert to French born Armand Galland, who was Lord Lamington’s chef. One day, as he was asked to prepare dinner for unexpected guests, he cut some leftover sponge cake that had been baked the day before, dipped the squares in chocolate before rolling them in coconut. Although coconut was not a common ingredient in European cooking, Galland was familiar with it thanks to his Tahitian wife. All the guests were impressed. This story is actually corroborated by Lady Lamington’s memoirs, although it is not clear whether the lamington was first served in Toowoomba, when Lord Lamington took his entourage to Harlaxton House to escape the steamy heat of Brisbane, or at Queensland’s Government House in Brisbane during the busy period leading up to Federation in 1901.
Other stories claim that Galland accidentally dropped the sponge cake in chocolate, and used desiccated coconut to make the cake more appealing.
Lord Lamington was known for wearing a homburg hat that looked like the cakes. Some say that the nickname for the hat became the name for those delicious cakes.
The first known mention of “Lamington cake” seems to have appeared in an 1896 newspaper account of a “Lamington Function” at Laidley in Queensland. In 1900, the recipe for Lamington cakes was published in the Queensland Country Life newspaper. Although lamington cakes originated in Queensland, they spread quickly and even appeared in a Sydney newspaper in 1901 and a New Zealand newspaper in 1902, albeit with no indication of the creator of the recipe.
The earliest reference of the cake linking it to Lord Lamington dates from June 1927 in the Sydney Mail.
Other theories attribute this lamington cake to Amy Schauer, cooking instructor at Brisbane’s Central College from 1897 to 1938. She is thought to have named her creation after the school’s patron, Lady Lamington, who was Lord Lamington’s wife.
Other versions of the lamington cakes around the world
Aussies often refer to lamingtons as lammos. A similar dessert is known in South Africa as ystervarkies (porcupines). In Cleveland, Ohio, they are called coconut bars. A similar dessert known as čupavci originated in former Yugoslavia and is now a specialty in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia.
Those little cakes are the perfect delicacy to serve at tea time, or even after dinner. July 21st was designated as National Lamington Day in Australia, but no need to wait for the summer to savor these delicious treats.
- 3 eggs
- ½ cup unsalted butter (soft)
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
- 1 cup flour
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ cup milk
- 4 cups icing sugar
- 6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- ½ cup milk
- 3 cups desiccated coconut
Preheat oven to 350 F.
In a bowl, beat the eggs while gradually adding the sugar until it is dissolved.
Add the milk and vanilla essence. Stir in the flour and baking soda. Add the butter into the mixture and continue beating.
Pour the mixture into a lightly greased square baking dish and bake for 40 minutes.
Allow the cake to cool for at least 20 minutes, then place in the freezer for at least 40 minutes.
In a saucepan, mix the cocoa powder and icing sugar. Gradually add the milk, butter and milk.
Warm the chocolate mixture over a very low heat until reaching a smooth texture.
Cut the sponge cake into 2-inch squares.
Pick each square with a fork, and using a spoon, generously cover each of them with the chocolate mixture making sure that it is evenly applied. Let the excess chocolate drip over the bowl.
Dip each square into the desiccated shredded coconut. Allowing the lamington squares to rest on a cooling rack for at least 30 minutes.