Lamingtons are one of those peculiarly Australian recipes that have not really made an impact outside of their home nation -- unlike pavlova (which turns out to be a New Zealand recipe anyway...). Non Australians have sometimes heard of lamingtons, and occasionally seen them in well read teashops willing to experiment a bit, but few are aware of how embedded in the Australian culture lamingtons are. And even Australians are unaware of their history, and that they were invented by a Frenchman!
|The cake for lamingtons.|
These small cakes are called lamingtons after Lord Lamington, Governor of Queensland at the turn of the 20th century. The first printed recipe for them appeared in Queensland Country Life in December 1900. Very quickly, by the time the First World War had broken out, they had spread throughout the country and became a staple of agricultural show baking competitions.
|Coating a lamington with chocolate.|
For those of you who have never encountered a lamington, they are made from squares of a plain slab cake, dipped in chocolate syrup and coated in dessicated coconut. They seem to have been invented by Armand Galland, the French chef working for Lord Lamington. His wife was Tahitian and he may have got the idea of using the then unusual ingredient coconut from her. They remain fresh and delicious for several days and can be transported easily, hence their popularity in rural areas where isolated women would gather for precious social events and bring a home baked cake.
|Coating a lamington with coconut.|
It's possible that the first place lamingtons were ever served was at Harlaxton House in Toowoomba, close to where I grew up. The Governor would decamp to Toowoomba, in the hills, to escape the heat and humidity of Brisbane, the State Capital on the coast. During my youth lamingtons were mainly encountered as a means of charity fundraising, known as lamington drives, where a local baker would supply the cake and volunteers would then coat squares of cake with chocolate and coconut to sell to the public.
|Lamingtons drying on a rack.|
125 g butter at room temperature
1 cup castor sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups flour
1 sachet (2 tsp) of baking powder
1/2 cup milk
3 1/2 cups icing sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tbsp butter at room temperature
1/2 cup boiling water
2 cups dessicated coconut
- Turn on the oven to 180C and grease and line a 20 x 30 cm tray that has sides 3 cm high (a type of baking tray that in Australia is called a lamington tray).
- In a stand mixer, beat together butter, sugar and vanilla.
- Add the eggs one at a time and beat well.
- Add the baking powder to the flour and sift half of it into the mixture, stirring well.
- Add half the milk and stir well.
- Repeat with the rest of the flour and then the rest of the milk.
- Pour the batter into the prepared tray, make sure it is level, then bake for half an hour.
- Once cooked, cool in the tray for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack.
- Once cool transfer to a cutting board and divide into 15 squares.
- Wrap the cake and cutting board in cling film and put into the freezer overnight.
- The next day make the icing by sifting the icing sugar and cocoa into a bowl, add the butter and hot water, stir until smooth.
- Put the coconut in a shallow bowl.
- One by one, using two forks, dip the frozen squares of cake in the chocolate icing, making sure every surface is covered, then roll in the coconut.
- Put the lamingtons on a rack to set, which will take a couple of hours.
- Serve for afternoon tea.
|Cross section of a lamington.|
|Platter of lamingtons.|
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