Stories abound about the origin of the lamington, and most are in some way related to the second Baron Lamington, Queensland’s Governor at the turn of the 20th century. Some say the cake was so named for its resemblance to the homburg hat that the baron liked to wear. (Last time we checked, a homburg is much like a fedora and shares little resemblance to a chocolate snowball.) Other accounts have it that Lady Lamington had nothing but stale sponge to offer visiting parliamentarians. Necessity being the mother of invention, she had the cook dip the lacklustre leftovers in chocolate icing, toss them in desiccated coconut and pass them off as high tea.
The earliest known published recipe for the lamington appeared in 1902 in the cookery section of The Queenslander newspaper credited to ‘a subscriber’. The lamington’s subsequent popularity, particularly at fundraising drives and school fetes and, of course, its darn good eating, earned it a spot on the National Trust of Queensland’s 2006 list of Heritage Icons. But its fame extends beyond that state’s borders – every 21 July Australians celebrate National Lamington Day, and even New Zealanders lay claim to its invention.
For dinky-di purists, nothing but day-old sponge will do – hold the jam and cream – preferably baked by a Country Women’s Association nanna with tuck-shop arms.
The Book Kitchen
A one-bite miniature served alongside coconut sorbet, strawberry and rhubarb jelly, and a hot cup of chocolate sauce. 255 Devonshire St, Surry Hills, NSW, (02) 9310 1003.
Try the grand ‘Dame Edna’ – a pale pink raspberry-coated version - or just go for the classic slice, with or without cream. 27 Camp St, Beechworth, Vic, (03) 5728 1132, www.beechworthbakery.com.
The lamington fingers served with homemade strawberry jam at Pearl are chef Geoff Lindsay’s mum’s recipe. 631-633 Church St, Richmond, Vic, (03) 9421 4599.