You know that thing where you are all of a sudden reminded of something you haven’t eaten for ages and you MUST have it immediately? Yeah, well the other night in a movie we were watching, LAMINGTONS popped up and I couldn’t stop thinking about them… Wait, what – “lami-what?” I hear you asking…
What are lamingtons?
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you will have seen various references to and iterations of lamingtons (including a “how to” piece for Jamie Oliver) – an Australian childhood fixture! The Larousse Gastronomique (2001) defines a lamington as
a small Australian cake, made from a square of sponge cake and coated in chocolate or chocolate icing (frosting) and dipped in desiccated coconut. The cakes were named after Lord Lamington, the governor of Queensland from 1896-1901.
Oxford Dictionaries Online suggests they are
a square of sponge cake dipped in melted chocolate and grated coconut. [A]pparently from the name of Lord Lamington, Governor of Queensland (1895–1901).
For many, the mention of the word might conjure up the vision of “lamington drives” – where lamingtons are sold to raise money for school, Scouts, or other community organisations. National Lamington Day is on July 21 every day. In 2006, The National Trust of Queensland named it an Australian “Heritage Icon”. Yes, these humble cakes really are a big deal Down Under.
Who invented the lamington?
Ok so these cakes might be a part of every Australian childhood but for an everyday cake, they have a complex history, especially when it comes to the question of who invented them. As you’ve seen above, it’s generally accepted that they are named for Lord Lamington but there are a few different accounts of how they came to be created. One story has a maid accidentally dropping sponge cake into melted chocolate and, to avoid food waste and messy fingers when the cake was being eaten, she dipped the cake in coconut – a mistake rescued that apparently the Lord loved!
Another version insists that the cakes were invented when Lord Lamington had unexpected guests and the cupboard was bare except for a stale sponge cake. Chef improvised and coated the cake in chocolate and rolled it in coconut to disguise its staleness (this actually works and lamingtons are easier to make with slightly stale cake!). Lord Lamington apparently referred to the cakes as “those bloody poofy woolly biscuits”, but it is said he actually quite enjoyed them and his guests loved them so much they requested the recipe.
When was the first recipe for lamingtons published?
A recipe was published in the Queensland Ladies Home Journal shortly after society ladies had enjoyed these at Lord Lamington’s house under the name ‘Lady Lamington’s Chocolate-Coconut Cake’. Queensland Country Life published a recipe for “lamington cakes” in December 1900, another early recipe appeared in the Queenslander Magazine in January 1902 and in 1909 Amy Schauer, a cookery teacher at the Brisbane (Central) Technical College included the recipe in The Schauer Australian Cookery Book. So, they definitely have a storied history.
Ok then – how do I make these historically significant, delicious treats?
Interestingly, unless you’re making your cake from scratch, a “recipe” for lamingtons is more about assembly than baking. It’s a messy, delicious business and it might be a long time before you make lamingtons again if you end up with a kitchen full of coconut and chocolate on your first try.
HINT: If you can, do the assembly part outside (I did for this round, and it was -10C outside! Kept my just cleaned kitchen spotless!)
- Cake (typically it’s a sponge cake but pound or yellow cake works too)
- Chocolate coating (a very liquid but thick enough to coat a cake icing)
- A baking tray
- Parchment paper
- A wire cooling rack
- A wide flat bowl
- Two forks
I started with roughly half a leftover pound cake (approx 200g) that I cut into small cubes…
Lamingtons can have both jam and cream centres or simply a layer of jam. I find it’s super fussy to slice them in half and add a jam layer and then there’s more likelihood of them falling apart when you dip them so I came up with the idea of squirting a bit of jam in the centre of the cubes with a piping bag…
Then it’s important to set up your “lamington assembly line” so you can move fast…
This recipe is a “small batch” (makes 10 small lamingtons) recipe and is a great place to start if you have never made them before. The chocolate icing is way more than you need but you need a certain depth in order to be able to dip the cake cubes. Note that the coconut will be tinged with this chocolate icing once you are done but I bet you could use both coconut and leftover chocolate icing to make a chocolate crackle… (another Aussie childhood classic!).
Ok then, about that recipe…
For the cake
- Approx. 200g pound cake, cut into 4-5cm cubes
- Approx. 1/2 cup smooth jam or jelly (raspberry or strawberry are my faves)
For the chocolate coating
- 3 tablespoons (43g) unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup (120mls) milk
- 1/4 cup (30g) cocoa powder, sifted
- 1 1/2 cups icing sugar (218g), sifted
- Approx. 2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
Make the jam centre
- Place the jam in a piping bag fitted with a small, plain tip (1/2-inch opening).
- Carefully poke the piping tip into the middle of a cake cube and gently squeeze the jam in until you feel some resistance. You might have jam spurting out the cake when you remove the piping tip, just smooth it off with an offset spatula or a knife.
- Continue until all cake cubes have a jam centre.
- Refrigerate until you are ready to coat and dip.
Make the chocolate coating
- Melt the butter in a small pot over medium heat and mix in the milk.
- Slowly add the cocoa powder and whisk until smooth and lump-free.
- Add the icing sugar, about 1/3 at a time, whisking until the coating is smooth and thick and lump-free.
- Pour the chocolate coating into a small bowl and prepare 2 forks for the assembly.
Assemble the lamington bites
- Pour the coconut into a wide, flat dish. Place one fork in this dish.
- Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper and topping it with a ire cooling rack (to catch drips).
- Working quickly, drop one cake cube into the chocolate coating. Use the second fork to dunk and dip until the cake is fully coated in chocolate.
- Lift the cake cube (still on the fork) out of the coating and allow the coating to drip off back into the bowl.
- Once there are barely any drips, drop the coated cake cube into the coconut and use the fork in that dish to toss the cake in the coconut, coating it thoroughly.
- Place the cake cube on the wire rack.
- Continue until all cake cubes are coated.
- Once there are not more drips, place the cake cubes on a plate in the firdge and cover loosely with plastic wrap.
- Chill for 30 minutes to set the icing.
- Serve chilled or at room temperature.
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