This Australian culinary icon, consists of sponge cake dipped in chocolate and coated in fine desiccated coconut. And I took great pleasure in introducing my lovely friend Monkey to it in London last year, after stumbling across a little box of them at Ottolenghi in Notting Hill (thanks to their Australian pastry chef). He had no idea that such a word ‘lamington’ even existed, so I thought for my non-Australian readers and my own education, I’d do a little research (ok Google)…
The very first lamington is believed to have been created in the kitchens of Lord Lamington, the British eighth Governor of Queensland. Lord Lamington was born in London on July 29, 1860 as Charles Wallace Alexander Napier Cochrane-Baillie holding the aristocratic title of Baron Lamington. This is him… (lord knows how any coconut made it past that moustache!)
He was the Governor of Queensland for 5-years but despite all of his colonial, aristocratic pomp and ceremony, the only thing he will ever be remembered for in Australia is the creation of the world-famous lamington. He went on to become the Governor of Bombay in India for 4-years and died at Lamington House, Lanarkshire, Scotland, in 1940. Below is a picture of Lamington House (why it wasn’t covered in chocolate and coconut, I do not know).
There are a few different versions of just how Lord Lamington’s sweet treat came to fruition;
– The maid-servant was working at Government House in Brisbane when she accidentally dropped the Governor’s favourite sponge cake into some melted chocolate. Lord Lamington was not a person of wasteful habits and suggested that it be dipped in coconut to cover the chocolate to avoid messy fingers. Lord Lamington devoured this new taste sensation with great delight and the maid-servant’s error was proclaimed a magnificent success by all!
– The Governor’s chef was striving to create gourmet treats for the hordes of guests Lord Lamington had invited over for a high-tea. He thought it a novel idea to dip some leftover sponge into a light chocolate sauce, then roll it in coconut. Lord Lamington was impressed, almost as much and his guests. Several of the society ladies in attendance requested the recipe, and the suitably chuffed chef obliged. Next month, the recipe was published in the Queensland Ladies Home Journal, attributed as ‘Lady Lamington’s Chocolate-Coconut Cake’, only to be known soon after by its diminutive, the lamington.
However, some further research by Australian author Jackie French unearthed a story that it was invented in the early 1900s by a Queensland cooking teacher, Amy Shauer, and that they were named after the cooking school’s patron – Lady Lamington. Recipe books written before 1910 describe the lamington as a whole cake iced in chocolate and coconut. Bite-sized lamingtons didn’t appear in cookbooks until a few years later, giving more substance to the Lady Lamington story over the Lord Lamington one. Just for today, I’m adopting the title of Lady Lucy Lamington of Lamington House.
I’ve also learnt that there’s a National Lamington Day – celebrated on July 21, mainly by charity groups hosting fundraising ‘Lamington Drives’.
Whichever story you choose to believe. It would have been un-Australian of me not to make my own, as I continue on my search for ‘The World’s Best Lamington’, this Australia Day. I had to make the tough decisions – like regular or double chocolate lamingtons, filled with jam and cream or just jam. And flicking through a copy of Woman’s Day at work, gave me just the recipe.
Traditionally, you coat the sponge in chocolate and coconut, then cut it in half and fill with jam and cream. But I got greedy and sandwiched together two entirely coated lamingtons! The justification being I only made half the recipe and the “lamington jury” at home said they would be too thin if cut in half. I agreed, and the result was incredibly decadent. I also added some desiccated coconut through the sponge batter.
I may be bias, but these were lick-the-plate-clean-amazing. Next time, I’ll give them a little time in the fridge to cool, to allow the chocolate to firm up a bit… but I just couldn’t wait. And special mention to Monkey who made his own lamingtons, 11,000 miles away in freezing cold London, on Australia Day – thank you for spreading the lamington love!
Lamingtons with jam & cream (Woman’s Day)
Makes: 16; Prep time: 40 minutes; Cook time: 25 minutes
1/2 cup caster sugar
2/3 cup self-raising flour, sifted
2 Tbsp hot water
1 1/4 cup desiccated coconut
1/3 cup strawberry jam, warmed and strained
300ml pouring cream, whipped
4 cups icing sugar mixture
1/2 cup cocoa
2/3 cup milk
20g butter, melted
– Pre-heat oven to a moderate 180’C. Lightly grease and line a 24cm square cake pan with baking paper. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat eggs until frothy. Gradually add sugar, beating until thick and pale.
– Continue beating until moisture holds the shape (this can take up to 10 minutes)
– Sift flour on to a paper towel. Fold lightly into egg mixture, followed but water
– Pour mixture evenly into pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until sponge springs back when touched lightly with a finger tip
– Turn cake into a wire rack to cool completely. Trim edges. Cute cake into 6cm squares
– Icing: Sift icing sugar and cocoa together into a large heatproof bowl. Stir in milk and butter. Place over a saucepan of gently simmering water. Heat, stirring, until mixture is smooth and runny
– Spread coconut over a shallow tray. Using a fork, dip each cake piece into chocolate icing, draining odd excess. Roll in coconut to coat. Place on wire rack and allow icing to set
– Split lamingtons in half horizontally. Spread bottoms with jam and cream. Position tops. Store in an airtight container in the fridge