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.

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Australia: The tale of Baron Lamington and an improvised cake

Baron Lamington
Australia's national cake and a national park were named after Charles Wallace Alexander Napier Cochrane-Baillie, second Baron of Lamington.

But as Governor of Queensland from 1896 to 1901, m'lord upset ecologists by killing a koala, while lamington cakes turned out to be not to his taste at all.

The stories resurfaced recently when the Binna Burra Mountain Lodge, in Lamington National Park 75km south of Brisbane, opened its new Teahouse licensed cafe, replacing one that was destroyed by fire in 2005.

To celebrate the occasion, chef Ben Taylor produced what was hailed as the world's biggest lamington, a block of sponge cake coated with chocolate icing and dessicated coconut.

It measured 50cm high by 75cm long, which Taylor said was about 16 times the size of the cakes served in the Teahouse.

He used 32 cups of flour, 16 cups of icing sugar and a kilogram of coconut.

Queensland Tourism Minister Margaret Keech pronounced it a fine example of her favourite cake, and Binna Burra staff began talking about an entry in the Guinness Book of Records.

But none of this, it seems, would have impressed Lord Lamington (1860-1940).

The story goes that, while visiting Harlaxton House in Toowoomba, the Governor had unexpected guests at teatime. The cupboard was bare apart from a stale sponge cake, so he asked the chef to improvise.

The chef chocolate-coated the sponge cake, cut it into 5cm squares and added shredded coconut because it was sticky. The result was the lamington, which he named after his vice-regal boss.

Although some reports say Lord Lamington approved of the taste (as did millions of Australians), he was reported to have referred to the cakes later as "those bloody poofy woolly biscuits".

Lord Lamington left a bad taste in everyone's mouth when Governor, by slaying a koala.

Invited to Binna Burra in 1899 by conservationists pushing for a national park, he had just begun his journey back to Brisbane when he ordered his carriage to stop: he had spotted a koala asleep high in a roadside tree.

Then he reached for his rifle, let loose one shot and it fell to earth dead, to the horror of his hosts.

One obituary of Lord Lamington referred to him as "an enthusiastic hunter", but this wasn't a deer in the Scottish Highlands whose antlers would be mounted over his fireplace.

You don't go around slaying a cuddly Australian icon (not declared a protected species until 1937), especially when you're a guest of conservationists.

The Governor later acknowledged his tragic mistake, saying remorsefully that the koala's "dying cries were terrible ... They haunted me for years".

Despite, or perhaps because of, the koala's death, Lord Lamington gave his support for Queensland national parks and what became Lamington National Park was declared a protected area in 1913.

What happened to the dead koala is not recorded.

The New Zealand Herald:


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