This month on the Ovenu Australia blog, we are all about national pride – and cakes, of course. How best to combine the two? With the ultimate guide to Lamingtons!
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of Lamingtons, you must be new to the country! A Lamington is, at its most basic, a white sponge cake which has been covered in chocolate icing or sauce and rolled in desiccated (dried) coconut.
They are thought to be named after Lord Lamington, who served as the Governor of Queensland between 1896 and 1901, although reports of the cake’s inception differ somewhat. Some historians claim that it was first served in Harlaxton House in Toowoomba, where Lord Lamington was visiting with his wife; others that it was at the Queensland Government House, where the chef was forced to be creative when some unexpected guests arrived.
Wherever it was first served, it was undoubtedly made by Lord Lamington’s personal chef, although his discovery is often put down to pure accident or fortunate creative thinking. Either he dropped the cake into melted chocolate by accident, covering it up with desiccated coconut, or he was instructed to make something for the guests no one had predicted and, thinking quickly, improved upon the stale sponge cake which was all that remained in the pantry, along with chocolate and coconut. However it was made, Lady Lamington’s friends were desperate for the recipe and it spread like wildfire after that day.
The Original Lamington
The first known publication of the recipe comes from the December 1900 Queensland Country Life magazine, where it fell under the “useful recipes” section.
½ cup of butter
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon of baking powder
4 tablespoons of milk
Beat the butter and sugar together, and in a separate bowl beat the eggs with milk. Add the egg mixture to the butter and sugar, then sift in the flour and baking powder. Flavour with vanilla, or lemon if desired (we’ll get on to other variations later) and bake in two sandwich tins. Leave overnight, cutting into squares the next day.
For the icing, beat together 3 ounces of icing sugar with 1 ounce of butter until a cream is formed; spread this between the layers of your cake and sandwich together. For the outer icing, mix the same quantities of icing sugar and butter but add 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder and a little vanilla essence. Ice the cube with a knife and then roll in dessicated coconut.
This is undoubtedly a useful recipe, although by no means is it the only accepted one.
An Alternative Lamington
A quite drastically different method involves beating two egg whites with a teacup of honey until it is stiff, then in a separate bowl mix two egg yolks and one more whole egg together. Combine the two mixtures, fold in a teacup of self-raising flour which has been sifted well with a pinch of salt, mix in a dessert spoon of cold water and then bake in a medium-heat oven.
To ice, beat two egg whites until stiff and then fold in a teacup of icing sugar as well as three tablespoons of cocoa powder. Dip squares of the cake into the icing, then roll in coconut.
Both of these recipes are fairly complex, but theoretically the cake should be so simple as to be made by children. Lamington cakes are often made in large batches to be used in various fundraisers, where volunteers take charge of icing and decorating with coconut – in fact, they are so frequently used for this purpose that fundraising cake sales are frequently referred to as “Lamington drives”.
The biggest Lamington ever made came into existence in June 2011, when the Toowoomba Chamber of Commerce combined with Quality Desserts to create a piece of Lamington which weighed 2361kg, beating the previous contender by just 1kg. It won the Guinness World Record and was then cut up and sold to raise money for a children’s hospital.
As a Lamington is technically just a decorated sponge cake, it can easily be made with a shop-bought cake mix, or with this devastatingly simple all-in-one sponge cake recipe:
All-In-One Sponge Cake
225g soft butter
225g caster sugar
4 large eggs
225g self-raising flour
2 teaspoons of baking powder
Mix all of the ingredients together with an electric whisk for a few minutes, and then cook in a large, lined sandwich tin (or two) until a knife comes out clean and it springs back when prodded.
Twists on the Original
Although Lamington purists would claim that the only decoration should be chocolate icing and desiccated coconut, many others would disagree. Lemon and raspberry versions of the dessert are quite popular, as are those with jam and/or cream in the middle layer of cake, in the style of a more traditional Victoria sponge. For adults, an alcoholic option can be a real treat – simply soak the day-old sponge in a fine Australian single malt whisky, and then add a splash more into melted chocolate with a little bit of milk.
Having trouble with your sponge cake mix? Try some of these helpful tips for a light and fluffy white cake:
- Prepare everything before you start – weigh your ingredients, pre-heat the oven and grease the baking tin. Leaving your cake batter to sit causes it to lose air, and therefore be less fluffy and light.
- Leave butter to warm to room temperature – don’t be tempted to heat it in the microwave. If you’re in a hurry, margarine is also acceptable.
- Sift dry ingredients like flour and salt at least twice, preferably three times to introduce lots of air.
- Use eggs that are room temperature.
- Beat the eggs in a deep bowl rather than a wide shallow one before adding them to the sponge mix.
If you aren’t an expert in the art of Lamingtons by now, then get practicing! And remember to protect your oven with liners if your cake tins are full of batter; Lamingtons don’t taste nearly as good scraped from the bottom of the cooker.