A cream-filled lamington
|Place of origin||Brisbane|
|Main ingredient(s)||Icing, desiccated coconut, sugar|
A lamington is an Australian dessert. It consists of squares or more often these days rectangles 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 Australian outlets such as cafes, lunch bars, bakeries, home industries and supermarkets. In South Africa, the Afrikaans name ystervarkies ("hedgehogs") is often used; South African lamingtons are typically smaller than those in Australia and New Zealand. A raspberry variety is also common in New Zealand, while a lemon variety also exists 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. First known mention of "Lamington cake" appears in an 1896 newspaper account of a "Lamington Function" at Laidley in Queensland. The event was in honour of Lord Lamington (although it appears he did not attend) and also featured "Lamington Tea", "Lamington Soup etc, so, in the absence of any description of the cake, the name of the cake might signify nothing more than the name of the event. A 1900 recipe for Lamington Cakes has been found in the Queensland Country Life newspaper. While the recipe appears to originate in Queensland, it spread quickly, appearing in a Sydney newspaper in 1901 and a New Zealand newspaper in 1902. However, none of these recipes indicate the creator of the recipe nor the reason for its name. The earliest reference located so far to the naming of the lamington is in June 1927, where the name is linked to Lord Lamington.
It was claimed in 2007 that Lord Lamington did not like lamingtons and that he referred to them as "those bloody poofy woolly biscuits", but it is not known if there are any contemporaneous sources that can confirm this.
Lamingtons are often sold at fund raisers for Australian and South African youth groups such as Scouts, Guides and churches to the extent that such fund raisers are called "Lamington drives". The cake is supplied by commercial bakeries in large slabs and cut into about 40 mm cubes. Teams of volunteers work together, dipping the cake into the chocolate icing and rolling it in the coconut. Generally they are packaged up into one dozen lots for distribution within communities which have been solicited for orders ahead of time. Commercially produced versions are also sold.
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, Raspberry Lamingtons and strawberry Lamingtons.
Friday, 21 July, 2006, was designated as National Lamington Day in Australia.
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 1,320 kg.
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