Lamington Cake Bites- Queensland Treats

This week marks the 5th anniversary of my move from Texas to Queensland, so I thought I’d make some cake.  Lamingtons are an Australian food, little pieces of yellow sponge cake dipped in chocolate and rolled in coconut.

I like the idea of them, but the little Lamington cakes from the bakery aren’t very exciting.  I decided to try my hand at making them, so my buddy Enid came by this afternoon to make a batch and catch up.  Both of us have small children and limited discretionary funds, so an afternoon of baking is a great way to hang out for cheap with a sweet payoff.  Besides, we split the baking so I don’t end up eating far more cake than is good for me!

It started with a simple Google search for Lamington cake recipes.  Before I knew it, I was sucked in by the mystery surrounding the origins of this treat and its namesake.  Lord Lamington was the Governor of Queensland around the turn of the last century.  Though his term as governor was relatively short, he was well-respected and lent his name to both the Lamington cake and the spectacularly beautiful Lamington National Park.  Not a bad legacy, having your name attached to a cake and a slice of paradise:

It seems fairly clear the cakes are named after the Governor, but less clear are the stories of its invention.  My favorite story is that a clumsy maid knocked stale sponge cake into a plate of chocolate, and the thrifty Lord said “Cover it in coconut and serve it.”  The more likely story is that Lamington’s French cook had to provide a nice dinner with little notice.  He sliced some stale sponge cake, dipped it in chocolate and rolled it in coconut.  European cooks at the time didn’t use coconut, but his wife was Tahitian and they used coconut in their cooking.  The guests loved the “new” cake and clamored for the recipe.

At any rate, Enid and I (and Lila!) had so much fun in the kitchen today that I *had* to share the recipe and what we did.

I couldn’t find a well-reviewed “proper” or definitive Lamington recipe, so Enid suggested we use her family’s Victoria Sponge cake recipe.  I took notes:

Lamington Cake Base:

200g (1 cup) caster suger (white sugar)

200g (7/8 cup) butter, softened

200g (1.5c) flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon orange zest (added when my eye fell on a basket of sweet local oranges in my kitchen)

1 package chocolate chips

1/3c milk

2-3 cups coconut.  I used shredded, but “dessicated” is the preferred coconut.

Grease and flour a 13″ X 9″ baking pan.  Preheat oven to 180 C or 350 F.  Cream together the butter and the sugar.  Stir in vanilla and orange zest.  In a separate bowl, mix or sift together the dry ingredients.  Add 1 egg and 1 tablespoon of flour mixture to the butter, mixing until just blended.  Repeat with each egg.  Gently fold in remaining flour mixture, do not over-beat.  Spread it in the pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let it rest 5 minutes, then turn it out to cool on a wire rack.

We could have taken greater care with the beating to make a softer cake, but even though we didn’t take great pains with it this yields quite a decent base cake with very little effort.

Assembling the Lamingtons:

The cake went together almost as simply as a cake mix, and came out a pretty golden color.  It’s not a “soft” cake, but holds its shape well which makes it suitable for Lamingtons.

We sliced the cake into 1.5″ wide “strips” then cross-cut them into pieces.  Enid decided she liked the variety of sizes we cut because sometimes you just want a tiny bite of cake, sometimes you’d like a little more.   At this point, I got really excited and whipped out my camera.  I used to enjoy baking before I moved here, but after the move my cakes and cookies never turned out the way they used to.  I think it’s the flour.   This is the first cake I’ve made in 5 years that actually behaves like cake.

We cut off the bottom edges, because you’re supposed to. And because we may have slightly burnt the bottom.

Most recipes I found for Lamingtons involve a milk-icing sugar-cocoa mixture cooked over a double boiler to dip the cake.  Instead, I grabbed a package of chocolate chips and mixed in some milk to thin it in a mixing bowl over a pot of boiling water.

We kept stirring and adding a little milk at a time (could have been more than 1/3 c) until the chocolate was melted and the consistency of chocolate syrup.

I dropped a piece of cake into the molten chocolate chips.

And rolled it around until it was covered, then lifted it out…

…and dropped it in the coconut.  Lila had the job of tossing the coconut over the cake until she remembered how much she likes coconut and began eating it.

Then we placed them on the wire rack to let the chocolate set.

We rolled some of them in cocoa powder for a truffle effect because I’m not the biggest fan of coconut.

Enid and Lila and I had a great afternoon baking together.  Who knew dipping little pieces of yellow cake into chocolate and rolling them in coconut would be so much fun?

Later on, my husband (a genuine Queenslander) tried one.  “They’re good, but they’re not Lamingtons.”

I must have fancied them up too much with orange zest and shredded (rather than dessicated) coconut.  Too bad, I like them the best of any Lamingtons I’ve ever tried!  The chocolate brings out the orange flavor in the best way possible, dear me it’s delicious.  And just a bite or two at a time, no more.  Perfect.

Besides, apparently Lord Lamington himself didn’t care for the cakes, calling them “bloody poofy wooly biscuits.”

Australians: Have I committed a sacrilege with a beloved national food?  How do you make your Lamingtons?

Do you ever get together with a friend or two to bake?  What do you make?


42 comments

  1. Thank you for this – I lived in NZ as a child (way back when), and always enjoyed these at birthday parties.Yes, yours do look different ;-) , but definitely delicious!
    I had forgotten about them, not having them around anymore, but I’m definitely going to bake some with my daughter – who only started enjoying cooking and baking after she got married, despite all my efforts earlier.Now she inspires me with new recipes.
    Anyway, happy anniversary (of your move).

  2. Let me tell you my love that they are just as kiwi as Ozzie, although for once we concede provenance! I love them but I feel the sacrilege you committed was using real chocolate – the real recipe gives the outside a fudgy taste and texture that is sooo good. Bakeries make a sort of choc syrup to coat them which I find quite revolting. I do, however, like raspberry ones from a good bakery, very much!
    I love baking with friends – I’ve decorated cupcakes with my friend’s daughters and Miss Two was banned as her idea of helping was to eat everything that was passed to her! Very funny :)

    • MrsC, I have to say that after a couple of hours sitting and fridging they are suitably fudgey and not a little bit hard like you might think. The combination of the milk and chocolate turns it into a thin ganache, slightly absorbed into the cake and the coconut seems to help aswell (I did have to have two just to make sure…!)

    • But Mrs C- There is no “real” recipe…! They vary so much it’s impossible for me to tell which one is “real” so we just made it up. ;) I thought Kiwis called them “Lemmingtons”? Or is that some kind of joke I picked up on and thought was an actual fact?

      And Enid’s right… They didn’t turn hard at all, very soft and fudgy. Really. :)

  3. Your hubby is right – they may be good but they aren’t proper lamingtons! Mind you I’d be happy to pitch up and eat them!

    As to the baking with friends – yes – but it tends to be supper options. So the kids play while we cook dinner, lasagna, spag bol, sausage rolls etc.

    • I think we’re likely to graduate to making dinners… Sometime. :)

      I don’t know how anyone could resist these… I’m not even that into sweets and I love them… :)

  4. I love lamingtons. The highlight of the school year when I was a kid was always the school lamington drive… I’m partial to the ones sandwiched with a sweet cream. Unfortunately, my son is allergic to eggs and I haven’t figured out a way to make sponge cake without them, so we are a lamingtonless house. Those look darn good though….

    • I read about those… Everyone gets together and makes piles and piles of lamingtons? Sounds like fun.

      Enid’s son is allergic to eggs, too… She was thinking of developing a vegan version, I’ll let you know if she comes up with anything. :)

      • There’s usually a group of mums who make millions of them. Then they sell them at the school to raise money for… something. So each family will put in an order for x number of boxes, and the lamington mums tally the numbers and make that many. My kids school doesn’t do it… Makes me sad.

        I usually us ground flaxseed in place of eggs for pancakes or cookies or other cake, but sponge is so dependant on the eggs…

  5. Lord Lamington was a funny chap, eh? My beau made a batch of lamingtons last Aus Day that looked identical to yours. They were great! I’m not a huge fan of the coconut either but love your idea to truffle them up a bit. I might try that next time :)

    • He sounds like a funny chap, certainly. I might go dig around the library to see if I can find out more about him…

      The truffly ones are soooo good. If you like unsweetened cocoa.. (I do…)

  6. It is clear looking at them that they are a lamington variation, if not exactly authentic. They sound interesting – I should try the orange flavour.

    • It’s *delicious*. But then again, I’m partial to fruity flavored cakes. I used some really gorgeous flavorful oranges, they’re from my husband’s family farm…

  7. Ok – here goes: I’m Dianne and I am a recovering Lamingtonaholic! I’m also a bit of a coconutaholic too. Now my secret is out! Seriously, I banned myself from having lamingtons at home because I love them too much. The day I graduated uni I celebrated with a giant lamington for breakfast! My mother was aghast of course! I have spent many hours making lamingtons with exchange students and we always did the chocolate syrup dip. Day old sponge cake is easier to deal with rather than fresh. Sometimes we use buttercake at school but I think sponge is nicer. I have a slice in once of my more recent cookbook purchases that is of the ‘lamington’ variety. There is two layers of cake sandwiched with raspberry jam and fresh cream and then the top is iced with chocolate and sprinkled with coconut. I have been resisting the temptation to try it but I don’t know how much longer my will power will last for. I think lamingtons with orange zest would have been lovely – I like anything jaffa flavoured!

    • I forgot to add – yes I do cook with friends and family! Last year my cousins came over for Christmas in July and we decorated gingerbread houses and we had a pizza making day earlier in the year. I also swap baked goods with the girl who lives downstairs. You have reminded me that I need to have another baking day at home with friends!

      • Christmas in July? Sounds good. I always threaten to do such a thing because my poor Northern Hemisphere brain wants Thanksgiving and Christmas to come in cold weather.. Was thinking of putting together a Thanksgiving dinner for the 4th of July this year. Then when real Thanksgiving comes around, we can have a 4th of July barbeque…

        I digress! Your lamington cake sounds delicious! hehe. The just-baked Victoria Sponge we used wasn’t crumbly at all, I was surprised how well it held together.

  8. I have never heard of Lamingtons, but they sound delicious! I will have to give them a try.

    Some of my happiest memories are of cooking with family and friends. Whether it was baking rolls with my sister as a child, or more recently, baking wedding cupcakes with a friend for her brother’s wedding, a day in the kitchen is my favorite way to spend time together.

    However, there are times I don’t want anyone else in my kitchen! It’s a pet peeve of mine to have people hang out in my kitchen when I’m trying to cook a holiday meal. They always tend to stand where I need to be. But then, I have a pretty small kitchen, and when I cook I use every inch. Someday I’ll remodel and expand the kitchen so that I can socialize and cook at the same time, but for now, it just drives me crazy! My favorite way to entertain now is more formally, which you can see on my blog at feastfestive.blogspot.com. It keeps everyone out of the kitchen!

    But, if the kitchen is large enough, I love spending time with friends and family in the kitchen!

  9. Bloody poofy wooly biscuits! I do believe this may become my preferred “not quite swearing” phrase for a while. Much more child friendly than my current one, which I have to mumble under my breath.
    They look rather yummy, although I’m not a fan of fruit of any sort, even flavoring, in my chocolate or my cake. (Except for pineapple upside down cake, because without the fruit it would just be…cake).
    I wonder how this would work if you used a chocolate orange instead of plain chocolate morsels….hmmm.

    • Bahahahahah! I think I might have to adopt it too.

      The cake is meant to be plain, I just threw in some zest because I like orange cakes. :) Probably a chocolate orange and plain cake would yield more or less the same flavor… Interesting!

  10. As another Queenslander – I am a huge fan of Lamingtons. I usually make a batch for Australia Day. I find freezing the sponge helps if it is fresh. I generally use shredded coconut too since it is more likely to be in the panrty (but not very traditional). Yum!

  11. I am a Queenslander, and these are one thing I miss terribly. :( I would suggest that if you don’t like coconut very much, try a finer desiccation <– if that is the right phrase. They are lovely with the raspberry and no doubt with the orange too – both go well with chocolate. Well done!

    • I like coconut ok, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to make something with coconut in it… And the truffly version might not be a Lamington, but it’s really really good… :) Enid suggested calling it a “Jaffington” hehe.

  12. I’m an Aussie and I love lamingtons too. I think your modifications are genius! Orange and chocolate are made for each other. I’ll have to give your version a try..

  13. My friend Dale grew up in Sydney. He now lives in North Carolina. Just the mention of Lamington cakes is enough to make him visibly drool. His (U.S., Ohio-born) wife has a good recipe … I’ll ask her for it, and forward it on to you. Funny how just writing about local specialties can make you long for home, no? When we lived in Indiana, I pined for the Neeses’ Liver Pudding of my youth. And Cheerwine, a local cherry-lime-cola soda. And Krispey Kreme doughnuts, the sine qua none of yeasty sweet goodness.

    • WalMart is now carrying Krispy Kremes in Pennsylvania. If you’re in the States, check your local one. They’re not fresh, but popped into the microwave for a few seconds, they’re pretty close.

    • Lin- my searching turned up a cluster of lamington-afficiandos in Cleveland of all places… Apparently they think they invented it… ;)… Liver pudding? Hm. Sounds like an acquired taste… hehe. The soda sounds delicious, though…

      I used to like Krispy Kremes, and was VERY excited when a few stores opened up in Brisbane. But for some reason they charge $2 a donut. Crazy. I know they aren’t good for me anyway; the pricetag helps me say no…

  14. Aren’t they supposed to have a layer of jam in the middle? There is another delicacy called a Jaffa Cake, which I think has a layer of marmalade inside and orange zest in the chocolate, but no coconut. You might like those better.

  15. Oh how wonderfully nostalgic. The store bought variety in NZ are pretty boring and often super stale too. I think you’re absolutely right to add shredded coconut rather than desiccated stuff, far yummier and less chance of being dry.

    • Yeah, I’ve only had the ones from Brumby’s (bakery chain here) and wasn’t that impressed. I didn’t hate them either.. Glad I made my own though, wowie… :)

  16. I love lamingtons with shredded coconut! My kids have christened them Hairy Cakes which doesn’t sound appetising but they really are delicious especially when I fill them with whipped cream!

  17. I love lamingtons (more than the actually-invented-in-NZ pavlova, which probably makes me a bad adopted kiwi). They are my go-to afternoon potluck food, but I just do it the easy way and buy the supermarket ones which I fill with real cream and berries in summer. I tried making my own lamingtons once, and it was an unmitigated disaster. I might give this recipe a go and see if I can do better.

  18. There are so many cake recipes to choose from but i always want those cake recipes with choclate chip cookies in it. ,*””

    edited to remove spammy link. thanks for playing! -stephc


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