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.

Australia: Home of the home-made Lamington

The gastronomic delight of all Australians - the humble lamington!

Lamingtons are the stuff of an Aussie childhood. Making regular appearances at birthday parties, morning and afternoon teas and community fundraisers across the country, these seemingly simple cakes have a complicated lineage.

The Larousse Gastronomique (2001) describes a lamington as “a small Australian cake, made from a square of sponge cake and coated in chocolate or chocolate icing (frosting) and dipped in desiccated coconut. The cakes were named after Lord Lamington, the governor of Queensland from 1896-1901”.

Most accounts of the history of the lamington mention Lord Lamington, but there are many different versions of how it came to be. One version tells how a maid accidentally dropped Lord Lamington’s favourite sponge cake into some melted chocolate and, so as to avoid food waste and messy fingers, the cake was dipped in coconut – a maid’s error turned into a delicious success.

Another story suggests that Lord Lamington had unexpected guests and, since the cupboard was bare but for a stale sponge cake, the chef (who was French) had to improvise – he coated the cake in chocolate and rolled it in coconut to disguise the staleness. Lord Lamington is thought to have approved of the chef’s creation, although was later reported to have referred to the cakes as “those bloody poofy woolly biscuits”.

It’s said that the society ladies who tasted the lamingtons loved them so much they requested the recipe, and it was subsequently published in the Queensland Ladies Home Journal under the name ‘Lady Lamington’s Chocolate-Coconut Cake’, soon after known as simply the lamington. Queensland Country Life published a recipe for “lamington cakes” in December 1900, another early recipe appeared in the Queenslander Magazine in January 1902 and, in 1909 Amy Schauer, a cookery teacher at the Brisbane (Central) Technical College included the recipe in The Schauer Australian Cookery Book. Others claim the lamington might even have been invented in Scotland or New Zealand! Today there’s still debate about whether a lamington includes a jam or cream layer inside – there are arguments for both, as well as for a plain cake square.

Although there may be many versions of the lamington’s history, no matter who really invented it or where and when, today it’s one of Australia’s national dishes – it was placed on the National Trust of Queensland’s 2006 list of Heritage Icons. There’s even a National Lamington Day every 21 July! I can’t remember a birthday party not having lamingtons on offer and very few afternoon teas in Australia miss them out. For many, the mere mention of the word might conjure up images of the quintessential “lamington drives” – whereby kids would assemble and sell the lamingtons to raise money for their school, Scouts or other community organisations. I haven’t lived in Australia for quite some time now but apparently the lamington drive is still alive and well, with a lamington running around $1 per piece.

Traditionally the lamington is made of a sponge cake, although some use white or butter cakes too. My cake recipe is adapted from one of my Nana’s cakes that works well here – it’s a little sturdier which means it’s easier to dip in the chocolate icing. This recipe makes bite-sized lamingtons, which are perfect for parties.

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