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Friday 15 January 2010

Re-Inventing the Lamington: The Base Recipe

(In which Mr. P outlines exactly what makes a lamington.)

Okay people. Before I embark on my 10-day celebration of the lamington proper, I think it would be a good idea to clear up a few issues that have presented themselves since I first introduced the idea of this series and contest.

Some readers have emailed me asking what exactly a lamington is, and what makes it a lamington, as opposed to anything else. It would appear that the Australian cake is not as famous as it deserves to be. I can only hope that the Global Bake Off that seems to be taking place currently is going to put paid to that.

Happy eggs = Delicious lamingtons! Thanks to Aunty Sue and her hens for the free eggs.

Lamingtons are essentially cake sandwiches. Not like whoopie pies (although lamington whoopie pies really would be something special), but actually sandwiches of (usually génoise) cake, put together with a filling (traditionally jam), before being dipped in a chocolate icing and dessicated coconut. They were apparently first made in Toowoomba, Queensland, by the 2nd Baron Lamington's chef, an Armand Gallad, who, when called upon at the last minute to provide something to feed unexpected guests (hey - we've all been there, Armand), cut some cubes of the previous day's cake, and coated them with chocolate and coconut. Ms. Humble has written a hilarious account of the man who gave the lamington its name, as well as entering my contest no less than four times (you've got to love a woman with dedication!) here, so I suggest you go and take a look if you have further questions. Be sure to leave a tip in her basket.

I always thing the ingredients look really nice, pre-mixing. Tell me I'm not alone.

Now. I have also had emails and comments disagreeing with my lamington definition; that lamingtons are only true lamingtons if they are plain cake, with chocolate and coconut, but no filling. No jam, no cream, no nothing. I am not deliberately setting out to court controversy, but, for the purpose of this competition and challenge (which are mine, after all) I am throwing these suggestions out of the window. In my challenge, the lamingtons do not have to use cake, and they can be filled or unfilled. I prefer a little something in mine - the best one I had in Oz was sandwiched with cool, thick whipped cream, and got more than a little sandy as I ate it on Manly Beach in Sydney).

What is important for me is that the lamingtons must be dipped in something (chocolate, frosting, jam, sugar glaze etc. etc.) and then rolled in or sprinkled with something else (coconut, sugar, hundreds and thousands, peppercorns etc).

Well, maybe not peppercorns.

I am not trying to damage Australian food culture. I actually think the opposite is true - I want more people to know about these simple cakes, that are so much fun to make and to eat.

It's not génoise cake. But I like it.

With that cleared up, I can move on. The WORST thing about most of the bad lamingtons I ate in Australia (and I did have one in most places we stopped at - with coffee. Australian coffee puts ours to shame.) was either that the cake was dry, or that the chocolate coating tasted cheap and nasty. These flaws are, in my eyes at least, unforgivable. Actually, no. Poor quality chocolate I can just about handle. But biting into a dry cake is like treading ankle-deep into a puddle whilst wearing your best shoes. It just ruins your day.

Thus in all my lamington recipes, I'll be using only good quality chocolate, and have tinkered with my usual cake recipe to ensure a moist cake that is as fluffy and light as can be. Normally, I would get around the dryness issue by soaking the baked cakes in a sugar syrup. But the process of making lamingtons is already rather hands-on, and I didn't want to make it any more involved. The key change is to add potato starch, or fecola di patate, which I get from the Italian section of my local deli. Corn flour does the same job, mind you.

These amounts make two 20cm square sponges, which will make 32 lamingtons if you cut them into 4cm squares. (Promise - you can check my maths if you like!) But since half the fun of re-inventing the lamington is making them different shapes, I think we can ignore that. You'll just get a few more, or a few less.

And so, without further ado...

To the lamington - the greatest cake in the Southern Hemisphere!


Mr. P's Lamington Base

You will need:

6 eggs (large)
375g butter, room temperature
375g granulated white sugar
325g plain flour, sifted
75g potato starch, or corn flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbinate of soda

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Grease two 20cm square cake tins with butter. I didn't bother to line them as well, since I trim the edges of my lamingtons anyway and was in a flippant mood. You must decide for yourself if you are feeling brave enough not to line either.
  2. In a large bowl, mix everything together on a slow speed with an electric hand mixer, until combined. You may need to add a splash of milk. This takes a bit longer than for a normal cake; this is a lot of mixture we're making.
  3. When combined, transfer half of the mixture to each tin. Smooth the tops and bake for 25 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes in the tins, and then turn out onto a wrack. When cool slice as needed.

Don't forget to Re-Invent the Lamington! Deadline 26 January.


  1. Ha! Perfect I can't wait to start on my Lamingtons -- aaaah now to think of the winning combination...

  2. Mr P!

    I think I love you!

    I worship at the alter of Lamington and I rejoice in the fact that you are spreading the good word.

    Thanks for the sponge recip. I will make my Aussie Day Lammos from scratch now.

    Rather fortutitous that your wee competition ends on Aussie Day. Did you do that on purpose?

    Kris - Bne, Qld, Au

  3. Shameful that you had dry Lamingtons! The whole POINT of the coating is to keep the cake fresh - not to cover up an already stale cake. Knowing the way I go with experiments in baking, my submission may not be worthy for much more than a chuckle, but I will use the fact that anything goes to give it my best shot;)

    PS, I do agree the original Lamington may have been the plain unfilled version, but there's no denying that the filled ones are now considered as trad as the true trad version....yeah what she said;)

  4. You've gotten emails about the lamingtons?!

    Well if they can do it, so can I.

    I'm forming the Wedding Cake Preservation Society.

    Our mission is to make sure that people stick to the ORIGINAL 'wedding cake', that is to say, a roman empire era loaf of barley bread.

    To ensure that people stick to our stringent original wedding cake standards, we shall heckle brides via email and crash weddings. Forcing the groom to eat our bread and cracking the rest of it over the brides head.

    Who is with me? Down with any and all improved upon baked goods!

    Oh and that's one nice looking cake there, Mr. P!

  5. Oooh, I read that as you got emails *telling you* what lamingtons were, not asking. My bad.

    I've eaten way too many macarons tonight and the sugar buzz is messing with my head.

  6. Oh wait... below that you did say you got emails disagreeing with you.

    Thats it! I give up...

    I'm putting down the macarons and going to bed.

  7. lamingtons..yummmm! looking forward to seeing this one being re-invented.

  8. Joy - I can't wait either! To see what you come up with I mean.

    Kristine - You've made me smile! I did plan all of this to co-incide with Australia Day, yes. I just had to talk about it a bit earlier to give everybody a chance to bake. For as we all know, lamingtons, though delicious when made fresh, are actually a LITTLE time-consuming to prepare. Glad you like DDD :)

    Coby - I really can't wait to see your entry, especially since you've taken the plunge and begun batter creating from scratch. I know they'll be great. What I LOVE about The Clayton's Blog is that every entry ALWAYS starts with the same premise: real food, made for the family to enjoy, that is going to be eaten. It makes me hungry! And I think I just like being nosey and seeing what you're going to eat. Can't wait to see it.

    Ms. Humble - I am down with that. You know, I have actually baked wedding cakes before and was SO angry at the insensitivity and lack of respect for traditions shown by brides. And grooms. I mean, so what if they wanted vanilla and rose cupcake towers, or heart-shaped, marzipan rose covered fruit cakes? Rules is rules. What do they think, that they have a right to choose?
    (Maybe I should post about my wedding cakes?). You make me laugh Ms. Humble. On the day I have to go to work too - thanks :)

  9. Lamingtons , good to know what these are looking forward to seeing the variations of them.

  10. I'm an Aussie (tho living in the UK) and the best lamingtons I've ever had were made by the mums in my primary school for our lamington drives (ie fundraisers). The were the best by miles and they were CREAM FILLED!

    I totally legitamize your cream filled lamingtons!

  11. o i love lamingtons! i had it once on a tour in Australia .. they told me it's authentic Aussie breakfast food. LOL. but i just love the taste of it...cake, chocolate & coconut .. yummm! thanks for the recipe! :D

  12. is the first time when i hear of Lemington. Look delicios and i will try it very soon.

  13. You know i love your blog... i blogged your Lamingtons recipes forward :)

  14. Lamingtons? Who knew -- looks like a delicious treat with endless possibilities. Thanks for the education.

  15. As an Aussie, I wanted to make something Australian to celebrate Anzac Day tomorrow (someone else is making the Anzac biccies) so in my imagination I visualized how nice a passionfruit filled lamington would be. So I googled it. The first page I checked out was yours! A Pom!
    The 'Passionfruit' and white chocolate recipe looks fantastic, even if it is pomegranate! Good job. I think I'll still have a go at making a passionfruit version though.
    Anilou from Adelaide x

  16. I love passionfruit, but never imagined it in a lamington! I will have to try it.
    I will be visiting Sydney and Melbourne (and possibly Bendigo) in March. Where can I taste the best lamingtons in those cities?

    Bruce in Canada


That's what he said.

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