As the story goes, the Australian lamington was created in December of 1901 in Government House in Queensland, where Lord Lamington was residing as the then-Governor of Queensland. Depending on which article you read on the internets, the lamington was either created by a maid working in the Government House kitchen who accidentally dropped a piece of sponge cake in melted chocolate, and at the suggestion of Lord Lamington, it was then sprinkled in shredded coconut to keep his fingers clean, or it was created out of a lack of ingredients by the chef at Government House when he was called upon unexpectedly to create something tasty for guests. There’s even another article that claims that whatever you read about the history of the lamington is probably a myth, as they were most likely created by Amy Shauer in a cooking class and named after Lady Lamington, who was the school’s patroness.
Whatever their true history, lamingtons are an Australian icon and you can find them in any bakery across Australia. Lamingtons are cube-shaped pieces of sponge cake, usually day-old sponge cake, that are dipped in chocolate icing and then rolled in shredded coconut. You might also see lamingtons that are filled with either jam or cream. They look very pretty (and sometimes they look very messy) and they are very yummy, especially when enjoyed alongside a hot cuppa.
Not all lamingtons are created equally, however. I’ve tasted yucky, stale lamingtons and just plain yucky lamingtons. I’ve also had very nice lamingtons – one of my favorites come from the bakery directly next to Pablo & Rusty’s Espresso Bar in Epping, across from the train station.
The recipe for lamingtons that I’m posting today comes from Issue #3 of MasterChef Australia magazine, and was used in the Country Women’s Association episode of MasterChef Australia. There’s nothing difficult about making lamingtons, it just takes a little bit of time. You’ll first need to prepare and bake the sponge cake, let it cool, then cut it into cubes. Next, you’ll need to make the chocolate icing and set out a plate with the shredded coconut in it. Finally, you’ll roll the cubes of cake in the chocolate icing, and then roll them into the shredded coconut.
As I said, the process is a little time-consuming, but not difficult at all. The end result makes a great little snack. My experience with this particular recipe is that these lamingtons taste better the next day (the cake and coconut both seem to be a little moister and softer), so I’d recommend making them a day beforehand if you’d like to serve these for morning or afternoon tea to guests.
Alternatively, you could buy a premade sponge cake to save having to prepare and bake the cake yourself.
- 4 eggs
- 125g caster sugar
- 125g plain flour
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
- 50g unsalted butter, melted
- 200g shredded coconut
- Chocolate Icing
- 25g unsalted butter
- 160ml (2/3 cup) milk
- 500g icing sugar
- 50g (1/2 cup) Dutch cocoa powder
- Preheat the oven to 190C. Grease and line the base and sides of a 20cm square cake pan with baking paper. Fill a sink one-third full with water. Place eggs and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Place bowl in sink and whisk for 2 minutes or until mixture is runny and slightly foamy. Remove from sink. Using an electric mixer, whisk on high speed for 4 minutes or until mixture is pale and triples in volume.
- Using a sieve, sift just enough flour to cover the top of the egg mixture. Using a large metal spoon, fold in flour in one light motion. Repeat sifting and folding with remaining flour until just combined.
- Combine vanilla and butter in a bowl, then add a large spoonful of batter and stir to combine. Gently fold the butter mixture into batter until just combined, then spoon into the prepared pan.
- On a work surface, spin the pan to level, then bake for 25 minutes or until centre springs bake when pressed with your fingertip. Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Freeze for 20 minutes; this will make the sponge easier to cut.
- To make icing, stir butter and milk in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water until butter is melted. Sift over sugar and cocoa, then stir until smooth. Turn off heat.
- My note - I didn't use the double-boiler method as described here to make the icing, I just put the ingredients in a saucepan and had the burner set very, very low.
- Using a large serrated knife, trim sides of sponge, then cut into 16 cubes. Scatter coconut over a tray. Insert a skewer into the crust side of a piece of sponge (don't go all the way through). Holding the skewer over icing, and, holding a spoon in the other hand, spoon icing over the sponge, rotating the skewer to coat evenly. Shake off excess, then slide sponge off the skewer onto the tray of coconut. Scatter coconut over the top and sides of sponge, then transfer to a tray lined with baking paper. Repeat with remaining sponge cubes, icing and coconut. If the icing starts to thicken, stir in a little water to thin.