Lamington Cake (1902) ★★★★★

Australia Day is today, January 26th, so I thought I would branch out a little bit and make something to commemorate Australia's history - The Original Lamington Cake Recipe!

I've never actually had Lamingtons before, which is kind of odd, because apparently they're really popular in Cleveland, Ohio. I lived about an hour outside Cleveland for 4 years, but I don't recall having Lamingtons.

As of now, the first mention of Lamingtons appears to be in a 1902 edition of the Queenslander, an Australian newspaper. The recipe appears early in January, so I wonder if it was meant to be a holiday treat, or perhaps, as some have speculated, a way to use up stale cake - cake left over from the holidays, maybe?
The base of the traditional story goes something like this: Lord Lamington, the Governor of Queensland from 1896 - 1901, needed to feed some guests. In an effort to please these guests, Lamington's chef dipped some sponge cake in chocolate icing and then coated it in shredded coconut. Naturally, there are many variations to the story. One says that this occurred during a hot summer day, another says the cake was an accident, with the coconut sprinkled on top in an attempt to make it more appetizing. It's also possible that the cake was named after a place, not a person. This was common among baked goods (Shrewsbury cake and Yorkshire pudding, for example). A third theory claims that the cake was created by an influential cooking teacher from Brisbane, Amy Schauer.

Like most dishes, it's impossible to know exact specifics, but it is likely that the recipe was circulating before the 1902 publication. These things are often around for a while before they get written down and/or published.



Original Recipe:

Lamington Cake (from a Subscriber).
The weight of two eggs in butter, sugar, and flour, two eggs, half-teaspoonful baking powder.
Beat the butter to a cream, add the sugar and yolks of eggs, one by one, then the whites beaten stiff, lastly add gradually flour and baking powder. Bake in a moderate oven. When cold cut the cake like a sandwich and put the white mixture between, then cut into small pieces and cover on all sides with the chocolate mixture. Dip the cakes into grated cocoanut and put in a cool place.
The Mixture. - 2oz. butter, 6oz. icing sugar, beat to a cream, and divide equally in two basins, and to one half add one and a half teaspoonful cocoa (to be had in small tins) dissolved in three teaspoons boiling water. Beat well.

The Verdict:
Yum, yum, YUM! I can't believe I've never tried this before, these are delicious! This recipe is very rich though - the buttery taste is very strong. Which isn't really a surprise, considering the amount in the recipe. The cake was good on its own, which was a good sign for the final product. The only issue was that the icing recipe didn't make enough. Half of that was the perfect amount for filling the cakes (even though it didn't look like enough), but the other half wasn't near enough to coat all of the cakes. I also had to add extra water to loosen up both the filling and the icing. Overall, these were pretty easy to make, despite the dipping and coating taking some time. Because they were super tasty I give them five stars! I think Little Y loved them as well - she kept sneaking into the kitchen and grabbing them while I was dipping!


Modernized Recipe:
(Adapted from The Queenslander, Saturday January 4, 1902)

The weight of 2 eggs in BUTTER
The weight of 2 eggs in SUGAR
2 EGGS
The weight of 2 eggs in FLOUR
1/2 teaspoon BAKING POWDER

2 ounces UNSALTED BUTTER
6 ounces POWDERED SUGAR
1 1/2 teaspoons COCOA POWDER
3 teaspoons BOILING WATER

About 2 cups SHREDDED COCONUT

1. Weigh the two eggs to determine the amounts for sugar, butter, and flour. Mine were 4.20 ounces. Preheat the oven to 350F and grease an 8x8 square pan.
2. In a medium mixing bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the egg yolks, one by one. Gently fold in the egg whites, whipped to stiff peaks.
3. Slowly stir in the flour and baking powder. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out mostly clean and the edges are golden brown.
4. Make the filling and coating by beating together the butter and powdered sugar. add water if needed. Divide the mixture in half. In one half add the cocoa powder, dissolved in the boiling water. Add more water to the chocolate coating if needed, to make it dippable.
5. Let the cake cool completely, then turn out and slice in half horizontally like a sandwich. Add the plain filling to the cake and put both pieces together. Cut into small pieces, dip in the chocolate coating, then roll in shredded coconut. Let the cakes set somewhere cool.


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Sources

"Lamington." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 25 Jan. 2013. Web. 26 Jan. 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lamington>.

Olver, Lynne. "Lamingtons." The Food Timeline. Web. 26 Jan. 2013. <http://www.foodtimeline.org/foodcakes.html>.

Stradley, Linda. "Lamington Cake - Lemmington Cake Lamington Cake Recipe - Lamington History." What's Cooking America. 2004. Web. 26 Jan. 2013. <http://whatscookingamerica.net/History/Lamington.htm>.


7 comments:

  1. Sorry. I found a mistake and have resubmitted my comment. I hope it reads better now.
    I have never seen a home-made lamington with filling in the middle. Those are sold in shops however and taste awful. I have made plenty of lamingtons for my family. It is messy.
    Lamington drives are popular fund raisers. Orders and money are taken first, and then the team gathers around for the work. Make in the morning and deliver in the afternoon.
    Bake the cake the day before. For fundraising usually we will have a commercial bakery make slabs and deliver them to us. The cake needs to be plain and a bit stale, not fresh. Cut the cake into squares/cubes. The next person rolls the cake in chocolate icing, all six sides. The next person rolls the iced pieces in coconut. Do not use fancy coconut; use the simple dessicated short style. You have to keep replenishing the coconut because you do not want to end up with brown chocolaty pieces in the wrong places. The next person places six lamingtons on a piece of cardboard or a styrofoam tray. The next person wraps the filled tray in plastic film. The next person places the trays in boxes for delivery with the list of owners and addresses. It would be normal to order at least a dozen for a family.
    Put them aside to cool? Never.

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    1. One thing I find interesting is how things change from then to now :)
      Having the filling in the middle was nice, but it made it somewhat challenging to dip them in the chocolate. I think it would be just as good without, too!

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  2. I've made Lamingtons with my Rainbow Guides, but we cheated and used chocolate spread. Unsurprisingly, still very popular!

    Since then I've found a recipe (in a modern book of traditional British recipes) for Leamingtons (sic) claiming them as a Warwickshire recipe, presumably Leamington being from Royal Leamington Spa, the Warwickshire town. There's no evidence given to back up that claim in the book and though it seems quite plausible it would be interesting to know how a cake from central England became the national cake of Australia!

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    1. It would be quite the rise to fame for a recipe, but at the same time, I wouldn't be surprised if it originated in England, given that Australia was a British colony.

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  3. It does seem logical, doesn't it, that somebody took the recipe over with them? It's just that I can't quite reconcile a cake with chocolate and coconut being a particularly old English recipe. But then why would Lamingtons make their way back to the UK and become Leamingtons? I guess we'll never know!

    I did find this alternative explanation online http://whatscookingamerica.net/History/Lamington.htm

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    1. You know, the Amy Schauer story does make the most sense to me. It's also possible that it had English roots (that maybe she built upon?) that had originally excluded the coconut.

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  4. Thanks for sharing this! I've only heard of Lamingtons recently and have been wanting to try them.

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