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.

Lamingtons – provenance unproven but tastiness universally unquestioned

Whoever invented the chocolate-and-coconut-covered cake, it has a unique place in the hearts – and stomachs – of Australians.

A fresh home-made lamington - always delicious.
Are squares of sponge cake dipped in chocolate and covered in coconut delicious? Certainly. Is the combination an exclusively Australian one? Certainly not.

In Hungary, for instance, lamingtons are known as kokuszos, or coconut squares. If I was writing this piece for South African readers, the headline would readystervarkies, a derivative of the Afrikaans word for porcupine. In America, meanwhile, the good folk of Cleveland refer to cubes of chocolate-and coconut-coated cake as coconut bars.

Did these countries take inspiration from Aussie ingenuity or did chocolate-coated inspiration strike simultaneously around the world? It’s hard to say, but I’m certain no other country holds the lamington in as high regard as Australia. How many cakes do you know with a national day of their own? How many school buildings and sporting trips have Pavlova drives funded over the years?

So who should Aussie sweet tooths and dentists toast on national lamington day on 21 July? That’s a tough question, albeit one that Toowoomba-based historian Maurice French has done his utmost to answer once and for all. In his self-published book The Lamington Enigma ($30; available direct from author via, the emeritus professor of history at the University of Southern Queensland offers a 70,000-word analysis of the who, what, where and why before offering two theories as to who invented the dish.

One suspect is Armand Galland, the French-born chef at the old government house, circa the turn of the 20th century. The other is Amy Schauer, cooking instructor at Brisbane technical college between the late 1890s and the 1930s.

As well as the Brisbane connection, the other common thread between both theories is that the cake was named after a Lamington. Although Lord Lamington (Charles Cochrane-Baillie) is generally credited with lending his name to the cake, many believe the lamington was named in honour of his wife, Mary Houghton Hozier. That Lord Lamington once described lamingtons as “bloody poofy woolly biscuits” certainly adds weight to such claims, and not to mention the fact his missus studied under Schauer.

“If Amy Schauer didn’t invent the cake, she most likely named the cake, likely for Lady Lamington, as Lord Lamington wasn’t particularly well liked by certain sections of Brisbane society,” says French.

“It’s unlikely that the lamington cake, or any cake, for that matter, was invented by one person at a particular time in a particular place. One thing I’ve found out about, looking at the history of cooking, is that recipes are popping up all over the place and are constantly being modified by professional chefs and home cooks.”

While such Brisbane-centric findings are a tough pill for French’s neighbours to swallow (many Toowoombans swear the lamington is a local creation), the city has two major claims to chocolate-dipped and coconut-coated fame. Firstly, Toowoomba is home to Quality Desserts, one of Australia’s largest lamington producers. And secondly, the city holds the record for the world’s largest lamington: made in June 2011 at the Newtown rugby club by the aforementioned Quality Desserts. The 2,361kg cake weighed just one kilo more than the previous record-holder, baked at the Sydney Opera House in 1993.

When he’s not gunning for world records, Quality Desserts CEO Julian Lancaster-Smith oversees the weekly production of some 3m lamingtons. Each day, the factory bakes 12 tonnes of Victoria sponge cake: enough sponge, says Lancaster-Smith, to fill the cabin of seven LandCruisers.

Although unfilled chocolate lamingtons remain the company’s biggest seller, non-standard models (think jaffa-flavoured and salted caramel variants) also feature in the production schedule. Not that there’s such a thing as a standard lamington, however. Like any foodstuff, even Australia’s most famous sponge cake is subject to the vagaries of regionality.

In New South Wales, for example, cream-filled lamingtons are par for the course. In South Australia, the cakes tend to be flatter, while Queenslanders like their lamingtons like their measures of rum: big. As outlandish as it sounds, one element – either plus or minus – can be a deal breaker.

“A customer in Victoria who bought one of our bulk lamington packs sent us an email to say she was most upset because they had no jam in them,” says Lancaster-Smith. “She never bought our product before and just assumed every lamington in Victoria had jam in it.”

No comments: