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.

Making Aussie Lamingtons and other great stuff the way it should be

Make almost anything
including the humble
Australian lamington.
Back then, it was just food. And the food we ate came from the Edmonds Cook Book.

History books: an early edition of the much-loved Edmonds Cook Book.

A wreck, a joke, a travesty. A downright abomination. So old, so battered, so broken, and yet I remain useful, and so does my old Edmonds Cookery Book, which I have owned since primates first swung down from the trees and began to walk upright and eat with a knife and fork.

What year was it printed? Buggered if I know. Both covers are long gone, so this photo shows someone else's more presentable copy. My own ain't pretty, with shredded and missing pages, a knackered binding, and the most popular sections splattered with cake batter and home-made tomato relish. I slowly peeled apart two food-glued pages one day to see what I was missing and found a large yellow ring of mummified onion, perfectly preserved beside the recipe for Mustard Pickle. It's a feast for the eyes and the memory, this book. To read the recipes is to smell warm baking in your mum's kitchen. These are the dishes I grew up with, before anyone ever thought to call them "dishes." Back then, it was just food, and the food we ate was in the Edmonds Cookery Book.

Date Slice. Neenish Tarts. Louise Cake. Lamingtons. It's an embarassment of riches, this book, and proudly old-fashioned. Bugger Google. If you want to make mustard sauce to go with hot corned beef, you look in here. If you suddenly come over all nostalgically peckish for your nana's curried sausages, that's here, too; it's just a basic white sauce with added curry powder, slathered over sausages that have been boiled until the skins slide off like saggy condoms. And yet- it's utterly delicious!

The Edmonds tells it like it is, or at least, like it was. It fights faddish food, overly complex food and spurious food-wank during a time when so much tried and tested tucker is being diminished by unnecessary reinvention. Every second cafĂ© now offers revved-up versions of old favourites that were better the first time around. Do we really want Ginger Crunch without the crunch, the oversweet icing studded with lumps of crystallized root ginger atop a thick oaty base? We do not. Ginger Crunch should be hard as hell and thin as a poor man's wallet, the icing hot with powdered ginger. 

First published in 1908, the Edmonds has since sold over three million copies across multiple reprints, making it this country's biggest selling book by a country mile. Like The Beatles, the Edmonds is more popular than Jesus, with The Bible way down the bestsellers list and persistently misclassified as non- fiction.

But while I have no truck with God, I have an unshakeable faith in the Edmonds. That magnificent sunburst logo. The 'Sure To Rise' motto that's now the punchline for rude honeymoon jokes and ravers' T-shirts. The abundant weirdness to be found within its less-travelled pages.

I suppose it's possible that someone with an autumn glut of beetroot and a spare packet of blackcurrent jelly crystals might want to boil and slice the former then suspend the slices in a wobbly bowl of the latter to make Beetroot Mould. "Delicious," it says here, "with cold meats." But do we really need to know how to make Colonial Goose, Veal Birds or 'Mysterious Pudding'? Is the world crying out for another helping of Luncheon Sausage Cornets?

It's perhaps this scattering of the redundant and the unpalatable in ancient "deluxe" editions like mine that's led to the publication this month of a stripped-down version called Edmonds Classics: New Zealand's Favourite Recipes (RRP $29.99) – a greatest hits collection, if you will, with the featured recipes chosen by you, the general public. Late last year, publishers Hachette NZ invited New Zealanders to nominate their favourite Edmonds recipes, and the top five were Banana Cake, Afghans, Ginger Crunch, Scones and Pikelets, with unimpeachable culinary classics such as Yoyos, Pavlova and Bacon and Egg Pie further down the list. 

"A couple have disappeared since the last edition," says Ruby Mitchell, marketing manager at Hachette. "But really, the Top 20 hasn't changed much in over a decade. I'm not surprised Banana Cake's at the top. I made a lot of things from the Edmonds when I was a child, but the only one I still make today is Banana Cake." The most notable newcomer is Cinnamon Cream Oysters, that unfortunate name suggesting an unholy combo of salty mollusc, coagulated dairy product and spice. "I know, yes, it does sound pretty dodgy, but they're delicious! Lots of people wrote in saying how much they loved them, and that's why they've made the Top 20."

No comments: