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.

More Lamington history as the search for its origins continues

The Lamington again

I have lately heard from a kind reader in Brisbane, Kerry Raymond, who with exquisite tact provides valuable new information about the Edwardian and vice-regal origins of the lamington, that staple of the Australian afternoon tea table. With her permission, I am delighted to provide particulars.

The earliest reference to the lamington, roughly coinciding with the relinquishment of the Government of Queensland by Lord Lamington, and his departure with Lady Lamington and their children from Brisbane on June 20, 1901, comes in the women's section of the Queenslander the following December 14, where "Native Born" inquires: 

"Have not heard of a recipe for 'Lamington cake.' Can you give some clue to the appearance and ingredients of the cake?"

This cri de coeur suggests that by the end of 1901 word of the discovery had spread some considerable distance and generated much interest, although the delicacy had evidently not been sampled or even much seen outside Old Government House, where Lord and Lady Lamington's chef de cuisine, M. Armand Galland, presided over the catering arrangements—although I see that one account of the second vice-regal ball of the season that was given by the Lamingtons in August 1899 explicitly mentions that "all the dainties so lavishly provided for the supper were prepared under the supervision of Government House chef de cuisine Mrs. Jones," so I am not quite sure where this leaves us.

Anyhow, after the hiatus of Christmas and the New Year, on January 4, 1902, so prompted by "Native Born," the Queenslander furnished the following recipe: 

"Lamington Cake (from a Subscriber). The weight of two eggs in butter, sugar, and flour, two eggs, half-teaspoonful of baking powder. Beat the butter to a cream, add the sugar and yolks of eggs, one by one, then the whites beaten stiff, lastly add gradually flour and baking powder. Bake in a moderate oven. When cold cut the cake like a sandwich and put the white mixture between, then cut into small pieces and cover on all sides with the chocolate mixture. Dip the cakes into grated cocoanut and put in a cool place. The Mixture.—2 oz. butter, 6 oz. icing sugar, beat to a cream, and divide equally in two basins, and to one half add one and a half teaspoonful cocoa (to be had in small tins) dissolved in three teaspoons boiling water. Beat well."

There is a commonsense air to these instructions that points to a colonial mastermind, and not so much to the specialist patissier temporarily transplanted to the tropics, even one searching for new and exciting, even flamboyant uses for grated coconut, so if pressed I would hazard a guess that the canonical lamington (with filling) was the brainchild of Mrs. Jones and perhaps not M. Galland. 

It seems certain, meanwhile, that unlike the pavlova, New Zealand's premier cultural export, the lamington is a bona fide Australian discovery, now satisfactorily documented to not later than 1901, the year of Federation.

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