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 Day Lamington challenge

The humble lamington.
Could freezing sponge be the secret to the perfect lamington?

That's the advice of two lamington experts who swear this step helps the cakes retain their shape once they're dunked in the icing.

We asked expert bakers for their tips ahead of our annual Australia Day baking competition. Remember last year's #foolproofpav challenge? Well, this year we want you to put your stamp on the lamington.

A lamington from LusciousKiki.

Put your spin on the classic Aussie lamington and send us a photo of your efforts via Twitter (@goodfoodAU), Facebook (/fairfaxgoodfood) or Instagram (@goodfoodAU) using the #lamingtonchallenge hashtag and be in the running towin three new release cookbooks. Let your imagination run wild and serve up a lamington with a twist using different colours and flavours, or re-interpret it as another dish. Lamington cronuts, anyone?

When making mini
lamingtons, Nat Paull
 suggests incorporating
 jam into the icing.

Whether you keep it classic or create a culinary mash-up, here's how to tackle the humble “lammo”.

The cake

At its most basic, a traditional lamington comprises a square of sponge cake which is sandwiched with jam (optional), coated in a light layer of chocolate icing and generously rolled in coconut.

Orlando Artavilla of Spotswood's Candied Bakery says the secret to a great sponge is ensuring you mix the batter in the same direction.

“Make it as fast as you can and keep as much air in it as possible … you don't want to overmix it and knock all the air out of it,” says Artavilla.

Sydney's lamington queen Kirin Tipping, of LusciousKiki, prefers to use a butter cake, straying to a denser mudcake for her more decadent chocolate creations.

The creations of self-confessed “lamington purist” Nat Paull of Beatrix in North Melbourne straddle the line between a genoise sponge and butter cake.

“I whisk up the egg whites, put the sugar in and then the egg yolks go in so you've got this really sturdy base and then I fold in the flour and a nut brown butter, a beurre noisette, so I get extra flavour. It also means I can put in double the butter than I normally could so it's a really buttery sponge, so it's got a bit of density to it,” explains Paull.

The jam

Tipping doesn't use jam in her lamingtons as it competes with her subtle flavours, such as basil-infused chocolate.

However, for Paull, an absence of jam is “absolute blasphemy”.

“I think it needs it, I think it needs to have that little sparkle of surprise inside,” Paull insists.

She favours a sour cherry or blackberry jam and is experimenting with citrus curd and marmalade.

Artavilla has a novel way of adding jam to his lamingtons, piping in “two blobs” to create a treat that's “almost like a lamington doughnut, but square”.

Coconut part I - texture

Artavilla has used the traditional desiccated coconut since his baking apprenticeship days in country Victoria. He suggests shredded coconut may also be helpful to home bakers.

“You get away with a lot more when you use shredded, any imperfections sort of get covered up with those big thick pieces of coconut on the outside,” says Artavilla.

Coconut part II - toasting

Paull finds raw coconut “uncomfortable to eat” and prefers to toast her shredded coconut. If you decide to go down this route, her advice is to go “low and slow”.

“Put it in really low like 100C to 110C and let it cook for a couple of hours so it's got that beautiful deep golden and not just toasted on the outside, it's cooked all the way through,” says Paull.

Flavour combinations

Tipping prides herself on using seasonal ingredients, studding her lamingtons with Australian ingredients like mango and macadamia nuts. When incorporating other liquids, bakers should be mindful of balancing the added moisture.

“You need to adjust [the recipe] slightly because of the water content of the fruit. The fruit will add more moisture to the cake,” warns Tipping.

Prepare for a dunking

Prior to dunking the lamingtons in the icing, both Paull and Artavilla add the jam then pop them in the freezer.

Paull freezes her perfectly portioned pre-dunked lamingtons for two hours or overnight, placing a wooden board on top to compress them slightly. She swears freezing helps the lamingtons retain their shape.

Unconvinced? Artavilla has this to say on the merits of freezing: “It's amazing how soft it still is. People think you put it in the freezer and it won't be the same but it's beautiful.”

Due to the butter content in her cake, Tipping doesn't freeze her butter cakes, preferring for them to “relax” at an ambient temperature for 12 hours.

The icing on the...lamingtons

Do you use icing for your lamingtons? Or ganache? Paull dunks her frozen sponge straight into a hot icing mixture. “You get a really nice coat without it [soaking] in and it sets straight away,” says Paull.

For his coating, Artavilla makes a ganache using 64 per cent Valrhona chocolate and water, dipping the frozen sponge into lukewarm ganache.

All the bakers recommend setting up a production line when assembling your lamingtons. Artavilla and Paull advocate the merits of dipping your chocolate-covered hands into a bowl of hot water to prevent fingerprints tarnishing your glistening chocolate-coated slabs.

After a good roll in the coconut, Artavilla returns his lamingtons to the freezer for 10 minutes to allow them to set.

Other tips

Gluten free alternatives: Tipping recommends using a mix of flour substitutes, such as a combination of chickpea, rice, tapioca and a little bit of potato starch. She says the key to replacing flour in recipes is to go by weight rather than cup measurements.

Stay cool: Paull describes her friend Stephanie Alexander's frozen 'lamingtons' made from cubes of coconut ice-cream as “amazing”.

Soaking: If you're worried about a dry sponge, the lamington at Woolloomooloo's Flour and Stone is soaked in a panna cotta mixture to ensure a moist centre.

Mini lammos: Paull says that adding jam to mini lamingtons is fiddly and suggests incorporating jam into the chocolate icing instead.

Textures and infusions: Go wild with flavours - LusciousKiki's Bazinga! special featured coconut-infused sugar and strips of candied chilli.

Recipe suggestions

If you don't have a favourite recipe at home, use one of these as inspiration.

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