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.

A slice of Lamington history and a great Lamington recipe

The Australian lamington,
 a neglected culinary icon. 
Australians love lamingtons. 

Packed in lunchboxes and piled high at morning teas, they disappear at the rate of more than eight million a week. Decades of lamington drives have arguably built more scout huts and church halls than any federal government building scheme.

Yet despite the fact that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade lists the lamington as an Australian icon (along with the meat pie and Vegemite), and former Queensland premier Anna Bligh has declared this special cake a Queensland icon, we haven't really bothered to learn much about lamingtons.

Who knows where the lamington was first made, when and by whom? How was it named? Has the lamington ever been immortalised in art and song? When did you last buy a lamington souvenir? Dame Edna, an early lamington fancier, must be disappointed.

Thankfully, Toowoomba, on Queensland's Darling Downs, is so enthusiastic about all things lamington it almost compensates for the national languor.

Let's count the ways: it's the home of the 2011 Guinness World Record for the Largest Lamington (weighing 2.36 tonnes). It's the home of Quality Desserts, Australia's largest baker of lamingtons (3.5 million a week). It was the only Queensland city to celebrate National Lamington Day during the state's Q150 celebrations in 2009, with attendance by Lord Lamington's descendants. Finally, it's home to Maurice French, who last month published The Lamington Enigma: A Survey of the Evidence.

Toowoomba's links to the lamington are ingrained in its folklore. According to French, older residents grew up believing the city was where the lamington was invented. "It was just accepted as part of our oral history," he says.

"In the past two decades, the Toowoomba tradition has been challenged by 'Johnny-come-lately' claims by Ipswich and Brisbane, provoking a more overt and robust assertion by Toowoomba."

Former dean of arts at the University of Southern Queensland, French has spent two years scouring historic cookbooks, oral histories and gubernatorial documents to officially record the rise of the lamington.

"I was intrigued by the rival and boisterous claims of the three cities (and, of course, the claim it was a Kiwi invention), so decided to subject the claims to an assessment of the historical evidence," he says. "It was rather like a detective trying to solve a crime."

French says we can be certain the lamington is named after either Baron Lamington, governor of Queensland from 1896 to 1901, or his wife, Lady Lamington.

Lord Lamington
However, when it comes to who created the cake, there are several contenders. "One is the French chef de cuisine Armand Galland, who was appointed to Brisbane's Old Government House to serve Lord and Lady Lamington. Another is Fanny Young from Ipswich, who was the governor's temporary cook at the Lamingtons' summer residence in Toowoomba, Harlaxton House. Another is Amy Schauer, the cookery instructor at Brisbane's Technical College."

The most common account of events is that a Government House cook, lacking the ingredients to make the governor's favourite treat - a rather exotic snowball - concocted the lamington as an emergency substitute. An equally popular claim is that it was to cater for an unexpected number of guests at the governor's afternoon tea party.

The lamington was not an overnight success. "There was a brief interest around 1901-02, but it was rather slow to enter cook or recipe books (about a decade later). Although it was a common feature of rural agricultural shows in Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania, it really became popular as a feature of afternoon tea parties in the 1920s and 1930s when, I suspect, a shortage of ingredients caused a shift from the original butter cake mixture to the lighter and cheaper sponge cake mixture.

"The acme of popularity was in the 1950s to early 1980s when the famous 'lamington drives' dominated fundraising activities by schools, Scouts, Girl Guides and other community groups."

French believes the lamington is still evolving. "There are interesting variations to be found by creative bakers such as Quality Desserts' lemon lamingtons, Toowoomba chef Lee Faulkner's jaffa lamington and even a chilli chocolate lamington."

No spoiler alerts here. In his book, French provides the facts and the reader is left to conclude "whodunit". However, he does concur that Toowoomba's case for ownership scores more points for passion and dedication than its rival cities. And the latest manifestation of that passion is the city's bid to build a Big Lamington.

There are also hints at new lamington number plates for Toowoomba, cemetery tours of the city's favourite lamington bakers and even a CWA bake-off to crown a Queen of the Lamington.

Perhaps Dame Edna would be pleased, after all?

The original lamington recipe

Published in The Sydney Mail October 12, 1901

(It is not known who sent the recipe to the paper)

Original spellings and measures


I cup butter

3 cups flour

2 cups sugar

5 eggs - (leaving out the whites of two for icing)

1 small cup milk

1 small teaspoonful of bicarbonate of soda

2 small teaspoonsful of cream of tartar, dissolved in the milk


Rub the butter and sugar together; add the eggs and the milk with the flour in which the soda has been mixed.

Bake for 20 minutes in long flat tins and when cold cut into small blocks and ice all over with the icing made as follows ... cover the blocks all over and immediately roll them in 'desiccated cocoanut'.


lb (453g) butter, 1lb (453g) icing sugar, beaten well together. Add the whipped whites of the 2 eggs, with 3 large teaspoonfuls grated chocolate (or cocoa of a dark colour) and essence of vanilla to taste.

From The Lamington Enigma: A Survey of the Evidence, by Maurice French


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