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.

Lamington or Lemmington or Leamington: It's Australia's national culinary icon

Lamington or Lemmington: The word lamington means layers of beaten gold. An Australian dessert of little cubes or squares of sponge cake, dipped in chocolate, then rolled in coconut. In Victoria (State of Australia) they often add a layer of raspberry or plum jam. 

They are served with tea in the afternoon. Lamington’s are so popular in Australia that the cakes are a favorite means of raising money for school groups, churches, and scouts and girl guides. These money making adventure are called Lamington Drives.

Lamington History

The cake is named after Charles Wallace Baillie, Lord Lamington, the governor of Queensland from 1896 to 1901. Lord Lamington was known for wearing a homburg hat that looked like the cakes. For many years lamingtons were served on state ceremonial occasions in Queensland. But Baron Lamington himself could by no means abide them. He invariably referred to them as “those bloody poofy woolly biscuits.” Another source recounts the slightly less dramatic circumstance of the baron's cook concocting the dessert as a way to use up stale or slightly burnt sponge cake.

Before 1910, Australian cookbooks describe the Lamington as a whole cake iced in chocolate and coconut. 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.

According to Janet Clarkson and her blog The Old Foodie:

One possibility is that the lamington is named after a locality, and there are three contenders: Lamington village (in Scotland), Leamington Spa (Warwickshire), and Lemmington (Northumberland). There are recipes for Leamington cake and puddings in some late Victorian cookbooks which are layered jam sponge-cake type mixtures, so the lamington could have developed from these. I hope this does not turn out to be the case, as it would be a very boring explanation.

According to Jackie French in her article titled Another History of Lamington, February 21, 2008:

It appeared that lamingtons were invented in Brisbane around the early 1900s, probably by Amy Shauer who taught cooking at Brisbane central Technical College from 1895 to 1937. She also wrote three very popular cook books, and developed cookery courses for schools and colleges across Queensland, and was a famous cake maker and cake judge at Shows.

It's likely the first lamingtons were invented in Amy Shauer's cooking class and named after Lady Lamington, who was the school's patroness and extremely interested in education for girls. 

(One elderly correspondent, who remembered those days well, informed me that Lord Lamington was a pompous ass, and that no one would ever have named a cake after him. But Lady Lamington was much loved.)

In Australia, July 21st was designated as National Lamington Day, and now it is celebrated mainly by charity groups to sell lamingtons to raise money.

The Scots and the New Zealanders also claim credit. The Scots say it was a sheep shearer's wife in the village of Lamington who made the cake for a group of traveling sheep shearers.

New Zealanders enjoy lamingtons just as much as the Australians. They refer to the cake as leamington or lemmington, which are names of towns.

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