Sunday History Photo / Qld

Submitted: Sunday, Mar 16, 2014 at 07:49
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The humble Lamington is an Australian icon but where did it come from? Toowoomba would you believe! In the summer of 1886, Lord Lamington, Governor of Queensland took his entourage to Harlaxton House in Toowoomba to escape the steamy heat of Brisbane.

A lamington is a dessert of Australian origin. It consists of squares of sponge cake coated first in a layer of traditionally chocolate sauce, then in desiccated coconut. Lamingtons are sometimes served as two halves with a layer of cream or strawberry jam between, and are commonly found in South African and Australasian outlets such as cafes, lunch bars, bakeries, home industries and supermarkets. A raspberry variety is also common in New Zealand, while a lemon variety has been encountered in Australia.
The chocolate coating is a thin mixture, into which cubes of sponge cake (one cookbook states 4 cm per side) are dipped, and the chocolate is absorbed into the outermost layers of the sponge where it sets. (Similarly, the strawberry jam or chocolate icing is absorbed into the sponge.) The cubes are then covered with coconut and left to set.
Most accounts of the creation of the lamington agree that it was named after Lord Lamington, who served as Governor of Queensland from 1896 to 1901, although it might have been named for his wife, Lady Lamington. One account claims the dessert resembled the homburg hats that he favoured. Another claim has them named after the village of Lamington, South Lanarkshire in Scotland. As the title Baron Lamington itself derives from the village, however, the question of this connection is merely whether it is direct or indirect.

Even among those who attribute the name to Lord Lamington, there are different claims as to the exact location and creator of the cake itself. According to one claim, Lamingtons were first served in Toowoomba when Lord Lamington took his entourage to Harlaxton House to escape the steamy heat of Brisbane.
In another claim, Lamington's chef at Queensland's Government House, French-born Armand Galland, was called upon at short notice to provide something to feed unexpected guests during the busy period leading up to Federation in 1901. According to the Melbourne newspaper The Age, Galland cut up some left-over French vanilla sponge cake baked the day before, dipped the slices in chocolate and set them in coconut. Coconut was not widely used in European cooking at that time, but was known to Galland whose wife was from Tahiti where coconut was a common ingredient. Lady Lamington's guests then asked for the recipe.
A further alternative claim is that Lord Lamington's cook, presumably Galland, accidentally dropped a block of sponge cake into a dish of chocolate. It was later discovered that desiccated coconut, sprinkled over the top, made the cakes more appealing.

Most of these claims are based on relatively recent reports. For some time the earliest identified mention of the lamington recipe was published in January 1902, but the identity of the contributor of that recipe was not revealed. A 1900 recipe for a cream-filled lamington has been found, however, in a Brisbane paper - Queensland Country Life on 17 December 1900, Thereafter, the earliest reference to the naming of cake located so far is in October 1933, where it is attributed to Lord Lamington himself.
Ironically, Lord Lamington was believed to have hated the dessert cakes that had been named in his honour, referring to them as "those bloody poofy woolly biscuits".
Lamingtons have also been popular in Cleveland, USA, for many decades. There, they are usually called coconut bars. Some bakeries in cities with many former Clevelanders, such as Los Angeles, also make them, under various names, such as Cleveland bars and rum bars which have rum extract added to the chocolate icing.
Other flavours have also become popular, including Lemon Lamingtons and Raspberry Lamingtons.
Friday 21 July 2006 was designated as National Lamington Day in Australia.
In September 2006, the National Trust of Queensland named the Lamington one of Queensland's favourite icons.
A number of record attempts have been made to make the World's Biggest Lamington. The most recent successful attempt occurred on 11 June 2011 in Toowoomba, Australia, when Quality Desserts and the Toowoomba Chamber of Commerce made a Chocolate Lamington weighing 2,361 kg, setting a new Guinness World Record. Pieces of this record breaking Lamington were cut up and sold to raise money for the local children's hospital foundation. The Quality Desserts record beat a previous record attempt by Ipswich City Council in 2009, which was made during a visit to Australia by Lord Lamington's Great Grandson and Niece. They achieved a weight of 1,360 kg.

My own experience with Lamingtons takes me back to around 1972 when my then wife and I decided to make some lamingtons, all I can say is ....what a bloody mess the kitchen bench top and our hands were in, we must have been doing something wrong about adding the melted chocolate , some of the cake cubes fell apart, and when we tried to roll the damn things over to get the chocolate on the bottom the chocolate had begun to set and was stuck to the tray, at that time we lived in a block of flats on Newton Ave , Clovelly Park , SA , that was the first and last time at making Lamingtons.

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Reply By: Member - Bruce C (NSW) - Sunday, Mar 16, 2014 at 08:59

Sunday, Mar 16, 2014 at 08:59
Good on you Doug,
Another SHP under your belt and the variety of subjects still amazes.

Being an absolute lover of the "anything but humble" lamington I can say Doug that the best lamingtons are made with butter cake and it must be at least a day or two old before using it. This ensures it will not break up and the moisture in the chocolate will rejuvenate the cake.

The chocolate mix needs to be quite moist so that it is absorbed up to a quarter of an inch into the cake and then rolled in fresh coconut. Well this is my personal preference anyway. I have never made one Doug, but I sure have eaten plenty of the wife's making.

Spoilt, who me !??, you bet.

Cheers, Bruce.
At home and at ease on a track that I know not and
restless and lost on a track that I know. HL.

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Reply By: MUZBRY- Life member(Vic) - Sunday, Mar 16, 2014 at 09:00

Sunday, Mar 16, 2014 at 09:00
Thanks Doug , now I am hungry, so off to make breccy and coffee .

Great place to be Mt Blue Rag 27/12/2012

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Reply By: Member - Fab72 (Paradise SA) - Sunday, Mar 16, 2014 at 09:00

Sunday, Mar 16, 2014 at 09:00
G'Day Doug,
Thanks once again (for making me hungry).
Your personal experiences of trying to make some sound just like mine, hence I wait for the charity drives who seem to use the humble Lamington as their weapon of choice.

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Reply By: Bob Y. - Qld - Sunday, Mar 16, 2014 at 13:42

Sunday, Mar 16, 2014 at 13:42
Can't beat a good lamington or two, Doug.

Just not the best snack for eating in a vehicle.........unless you've got an air hose rigged up, to blow all the coconut out.


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Can't remember most of it.

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Reply By: i'machocoholic - Sunday, Mar 16, 2014 at 14:59

Sunday, Mar 16, 2014 at 14:59
Anything chocolate, Doug, and you've got my attention!

What a great post, thank you.

And to us Adelaidean's and any visitors coming this way, the best lamo's can be found at Kyton's bakery at Edwardstown. They freeze well and you only need to just pull them out of the freezer for a coffee stop whilst travelling when required.
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Reply By: Life Member - Dunworkin (WA) - Monday, Mar 17, 2014 at 04:45

Monday, Mar 17, 2014 at 04:45
Great story Doug as usual, I too love my lamingtons and yes, I make one heck of a mess when making them.

Simba, our much missed baby.

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