The Great Australian Lamington

The Great Australian Lamington
Lord Lamington Governor of Queensland - creator of the world-famous Australian Lamington.

The Humble Australian Lamington - Created in Queensland in 1901

Australian Lamington

The world-famous Australian lamington is over a century old.

Despite some dubious claims from New Zealand, the lamington is as Australian as meat pies, kangaroos and Holden cars, ranking alongside the other true Australian icons of the pavlova, peach melba and Vegemite.

This Australian culinary icon, which consists of sponge cake dipped in chocolate and liberally sprinkled with fine desiccated coconut, was created through an accident at work by a maid-servant to Lord Lamington, the thoroughly-British eighth Governor of Queensland.

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.

Paul Tully celebrates
the 100th anniversary
of the world renowned
Australian lamington
on 19 December 2001
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 however is on the record as calling them "those bloody poofy woolly biscuits".

Lord Lamington was born in London, England on 29 July 1860 as Charles Wallace Alexander Napier COCHRANE-BAILLIE holding the aristocratic title of Baron Lamington.

He was Governor of Queensland from 9 April 1896 to 19 December 1901.

After leaving Queensland, he went on to become the Governor of Bombay in India for 4 years. He died at Lamington House, Lanarkshire, Scotland, in 1940.

According to Hansard page 728 at the Australian Constitutional Convention in Canberra on 11 February 1998, Cr Paul Tully, an elected delegate representing "Queenslanders for a Republic" suggested that his extensive research of the Governors of the 6 Australian colonies and states had produced evidence of only "one, single, solitary, positive achievement of any Governor since the First Fleet arrived in 1788" and that was Lord Lamington's contribution to the culinary delights of the Australian nation!

Lord Lamington served Queensland for 5 years but despite all of his colonial, aristocratic pomp and ceremony, the only thing which Charles Wallace Alexander Napier COCHRANE-BAILLIE will ever be remembered for in Australia is the creation of the world-famous lamington.


3 eggs
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup castor sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 cup self-raising flour 1/2 cup milk.

Beat the eggs well, gradually adding the sugar until dissolved. Add the milk and vanilla essence and then stir in the self raising flour and whip the butter into the mixture. Pour the mixture into a cake tin or lamington baking dish and bake in a moderate oven of 180 degrees Celsius for 35 minutes. Allow the cake to cool for at least 10 minutes and then stand for 24 hours preferably in the refrigerator, before applying the icing.

4 cups icing sugar
1/3 cup cocoa
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup milk
4 tablespoons boiling water
3 cups desiccated coconut.

Stir the cocoa and icing sugar vigorously in a large bowl, adding the milk, butter and boiling water, warming the chocolate mixture over a very low heat until it has a smooth creamy texture. Cut the sponge cake into equal squares about 5cm x 5cm and, using a fork or thin skewer, dip each piece into the chocolate mixture ensuring that the mixture is liberally and evenly applied. Dip each piece into the desiccated coconut, allowing the lamingtons to cool on a wire tray for several hours.


© Paul Tully 2009

Do you have an interesting historical anecdote about the Australian lamington?
Please email the Australian Lamington Official Website.

Delight of baking your own Lamingtons

Lamington delights.
Nothing polarises bakers (and eaters) like a lamington. Cocoa icing or chocolate ganache coating? Shredded or desiccated coconut? Cream? Jam? Then come the flavours. Get baking for National Lamington Day on 21 July, and find out what kind of lamington lover you are. I think we're the caramel tres leches lamington kind.

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.

Lamington recipes

1. Lamington fingers

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