You Never Quite Know What You'll Get With Australia's Lamington Cake

Lamington cake recipes involve squares of either sponge or butter cake dipped in chocolate and then rolled into pieces of finely ground coconut to make a delicious, irresistible treat (per National Lamington Day). This cake is so beloved it even has its own holiday: July 21 has been named National Lamington Day, and Australians are encouraged to have a slice or two of cake to celebrate.

Lamington cake recipes are fairly easy to follow, and the traditional list of ingredients provides a platform for bakers of all levels to get creative with culinary expression. Some recipes incorporate hidden layers of cream or fruit jam and have even taken on unique presentations. 

While the individual components of the cake are tempting enough (hello, coconut and chocolate!), the texture of the cake itself adds to the overall dessert experience, as the chocolatey outer layer delicately envelops the soft, moist cake. With a cake this good, it is no wonder there's debate over who was the original baker. 

A contentious history

The Lamington has a bit of discourse on where exactly the first treats were made, according to Where is My Spoon. According to the Australian Lamington Official Website, the recipe was created by accident, in which staff serving the Queensland Governor Lord Lamington mistakenly dropped sponge cake into a vat of melted chocolate. Unfazed, Lamington asked for the cake to be covered with pieces of coconut to protect his fingers from any unsightly chocolatey mess. 

The Guardian, however, points to Wellington, New Zealand for the cake's origins, with Governor Lamington finding the coconut-covered cake in a bakery long before having started his duties in Australia. The cake was called a Wellington and it was a sponge cake covered in pieces of coconut meant to represent New Zealand's snowy mountaintops. A news clipping and a painting are referenced as proof of the cake's kiwi beginnings. Wherever this cake was first cooked up, the original recipe has given birth to endless variations of the beloved treat.

Lamington cake ingredients

"Really good Lamingtons need to be fluffy with a fresh sponge," baker Nadine Ingram told ABC Everyday. Ingram has plenty of experience, having baked up to 240 Lamingtons in one day for enthusiastic Australians celebrating national holidays.

As Where is My Spoon explains, the basic recipe involves either a sponge or butter cake that has been cooled, cut into squares, and dipped into a glaze made out of unsweetened cocoa powder, icing sugar, melted butter, and milk. The chocolate-coated treat is then coated with a generous amount of desiccated coconut.

Although this is the classic recipe, Lamington cakes can also contain a myriad of other flavors, insists ABC Everyday. One Australian bakery sells 11 different variations called "glamingtons" that build on the more traditional chocolate-coconut recipe. From strawberry to fairy bread, salted caramel to apple crumble, and peanut butter and jelly, bakers have a wide range of creative freedom when whipping up batches of sweet treats to serve.

Making Lamington cake

From planning to baking, cooling, and freezing, Lamington cakes can take several days to make. ABC Everyday suggests thinking about the desired end result of your Lamington creation before you begin, as butter cakes are firmer than sponge cakes.

Where is My Spoon warns about cake crumbs falling off into the chocolate coating and encourages bakers to keep chocolate layers smooth and even. Cakes that have been frozen ahead of time can result in fewer crumbs when dipped into the chocolate, and the chocolate itself must be at the right temperature so that the perfect thickness of coating envelopes the cake. 

Bakers need to work quickly to transfer the square cake pieces from chocolate to coconut to rack. While it might seem reasonable to create an assembly line of chocolate-dipped pieces to place into the coconut, Where is My Spoon discourages this kind of efficiency. Instead, the cakes should be made turn by turn and placed into the fridge in order for the chocolate to harden. When it is finally time to enjoy the delicious results of your labor, Lamington cake is best served at room temperature.

Lamington cake variations

Whether your taste buds are craving fruity sweetness or a special occasion calls for baked goods made with specific colors, the options for Lamingon cakes are seemingly endless. Delicious lists several variations to the traditional Lamington cake recipe: Think white chocolate cream, raspberry jam, or strawberry panna cotta layers placed delicately between the moist cake. For fruit lovers, mangoes, oranges, or raspberries can be tucked inside.

Taste takes Australian pride a step further by combining two famous Australian delicates into one by merging Tim Tam biscuits with Lamington cake. The result is a batch of rolled Tim Tam Lamington balls that are surely snatched up at tea time. For those wanting a more custard-style dessert, a lemon meringue Lamington cake may do the trick, with lemon curd and meringue buttercream creating a creamy spread baked into the cake that will keep guests reaching for additional servings. The cake can even be made onto frozen popsicle sticks for cool bites to sweeten hot summer days.