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.

Australian Icon: The Lamington - a long and controversial history

Lamington. Noun. A cake confection made by covering a cube of sponge cake in chocolate icing and desiccated coconut. (Apparently named after Lord Lamington, 1860-1940, Governor of Queensland, 1895-1901) Macquarie Dictionary, 4th Ed, 2005

When my daughter started a school project on Lamingtons as part of their discussion of Australian icons I had no idea of the controversy of which she was to become a part. History, we know, is written by the victors and it seems the lamington has a past clouded by hearsay and convenient recollection.

The Lamington regularly finds its way to lists of Australian icons alongside the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Kangaroo, Vegemite and the meat pie. For much of the last 100 years it has been a popular addition to any “bring a plate” event, although in recent years it is more likely to be store bought than made at home.

Much of the Lamington’s iconic status probably derives from its suitability for our climate as sponge cake lasted much longer in the heat when it was iced in bite-sized squares and covered in coconut; and it also became a staple at fundraising events (known as Lamington Drives) where it could be made easily in large quantities.

The Lamington’s origins, however, are quite cloudy. The Lamington is not only claimed by Australians as a popular dish but also by New Zealanders (as the Lemmington, or Leamington) and by the Scots. It is most likely that the name derives from either Lord or Lady Lamington. Lord Lamington was the Governor of the State of Queensland from 1895-1901.

The most popular story is that a kitchen maid of Lord Lamington accidentally dropped some sponge cake into some chocolate icing and then rolled it in coconut to stop it from being too sticky to handle. However, some further research by Australian authorJackie French unearthed a story that it was invented in the early 1900s by a Queensland cooking teacher, Amy Shauer, and that they were named after the cooking school’s patron – Lady Lamington.

The CWA Cookery Book and
Household Hints, Perth WA 1936
Recipe books written before 1910 describe the Lamington as a whole cake iced in chocolate and coconut rather. Bite-sized lamingtons didn’t appear in cookbooks until a few years later, giving more impetus to the Lady Lamington story over the Lord Lamington one.

Historians before our time were apt to attribute discoveries to the most senior person on an expedition or a local government official so perhaps the common attribution of the this iconic cake to Lord Lamington rather than Lady Lamington is just another example of this practise.

I think we will never know the true history of the lamington, although I’m quietly cheering for the Lady Lamington story. Perhaps you have a different lamington story? 

Or perhaps the Scots and New Zealanders out there would like to weigh in with a completely different history?

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