25 February 2014

Lamingtons: The story behind that heavenly Australian(?) cake

lamington (ˈlæmɪŋtən)
1. (Cookery) Australia and NZ a cube of sponge cake dipped in chocolate icing and desiccated coconut.

(Photo credit: Ganache Patisserie)

God, I wish there were lamington drives here - you now, where kids go from house-to-house selling lamingtons for fundraisers.  I had my first taste of the cake in 1995 in Melbourne and have fallen in love with it since.

As Aussie as Vegemite and the baggy green, lamingtons come in various shapes and sizes but because I'm not really a fruit jam person, I much prefer them in their traditional form, i.e. slightly stale spongecake with chocolate icing and heaps of desiccated coconut.  Over tea, every cube carved out of a whole 6" x 6" (or even 8" x 8") serving would go down quite nicely and with relative ease.

But how did the lamington come about and how did the cake get its name?  Well, curiosity got the better of me yesterday and I decided to do some detective work on the history of what I consider to be one of Australia's many gifts to the world.  Here I'd like to share with you what I learnt.

Lamingtons with fruit jam filling

According to an article from the New Zealand Herald (Kiwi... how ironic), the cake is named after Charles Cochrane-Baillie, the second Baron of Lamington and a 19th century Governor of Queensland who reportedly once referred to the cakes as "those bloody poofy woolly biscuits".

As is understood, lamingtons were first served at the Old Government House in Paddington, an inner suburb of Brisbane, sometime during the period leading up to the Federation of Australia in 1901.  There, the Lamingtons' chef, a Frenchman (sorry, mate, Aussie he was not) named Armand Galland, was asked at short notice to prepare something for some unexpected guests.  In his endeavour to create a novel high tea, Galland is said to have cut up a stale vanilla spongecake. dipped the slices in chocolate and rolled them on a bed of desiccated coconut.  The result was an improvised cake which wasn't only presentable but also decidedly divine.

(L-R): Lord Lamington, Lady Lamington and their chef, Armand Galland

The story goes on that Lord Lamington's guests were so impressed by this delectable new treat that a few of the high society ladies asked for the recipe from Galland.  Chuffed as chips, the Frenchman of course duly obliged.  Reportedly, the recipe was soon published in the Queensland Ladies Home Journal, attributed as "Lady Lamington's Chocolate-Coconut Cake" which, over time, evolved into simply the "lamington".

So, perhaps the lamington isn't 100% Aussie after all - but that's the great thing about Australia; she takes the best of everything from everywhere and makes them her own.  So to me at least, this great Australian culinary icon will always be associated with Oz because, trust me, no one - but no one - makes lamingtons like them Aussies do.  This heavenly (albeit improvised) cake has for decades been a quintessential part of every Australian's childhood.  No doubt, it will continue to make kids Down Under happy for a long, long time to come.  Anyone here going to Australia?

(Photos courtesy of Google)

Have you had lamingtons before?  If so, how did you find them?


  1. Nice, informative article.

  2. Lamingtons have been made and consumed in my family since forever. Nan used to make them all those years ago up in Mackay, and now I'm making them for my own grandchildren. Well done, Vincent. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this.

    1. Thanks, Helen. Glad you like it. I first had them in 1995 and have occasionally been craving for them since. Lovely place, Mackay.

  3. Where are the lamingtons in the shop?

  4. I remember something very similar in the UK only they were balls of sponge cake covered in red jam and desiccated coconut also with jam through the middle. They were good! Can't remember the name of them but maybe one of your readers in the UK know them :-) I've not tried Lamingtons but they look good too! Interesting read Vincent.

    1. Thanks so much, Kay Dee. The missus made some the other day.... they were fab!

  5. Great post! I love your blog! May be you'd like following each other? Let me know)
    Maggie from

    1. Hi Maggie. Thank you for your kind words. I've started following u and, yeah, I'd be honoured to have u follow me too. By the way, what a pretty blog u have! Well done.