In my mystery novel, Murder Down Under, two of my main characters take time out of their busy sleuthing to enjoy a popular Australian treat. Here’s what Lysi Weston and Grace Wright have to say about Lamingtons.
“Easy now, the best is yet to come—le dessert.” Lysi held up a package of chocolate cookies and said, with exaggerated reverence, “Lamingtons. Because as you know it’s a proven scientific fact that women need chocolate.”
“Amen,” Grace said, spreading another cracker with cheese.
“The story is that these dainty little morsels of sponge cake, dipped in melted chocolate, sugar and coconut, were named after a governor of Queensland.”
“Queensland, shmeensland! Just open the package,” Grace said giggling at Lysi’s performance.
Several of my readers have asked about Lamingtons so I decided to share a bit of the history of these scrumptious little morsels. I’ve also added one of the best recipes for them.
The word lamington means layers of beaten gold. An Australian dessert of little cubes or squares of sponge cake, dipped in chocolate, then rolled in coconut.
They are served with tea in the afternoon. Lamington’s are so popular in Australia that the cakes are a favorite means of raising money for school groups, churches, and scouts and girl guides. These money making adventure are called Lamington Drives.
The cake is named after Charles Wallace Baillie, Lord Lamington, the governor of Queensland from 1895 to 1901. The truth is, says Dr Katie McConnell, historian and curator of Old Government house, that the Lamington came into being in 1900 at Old Government House. “Governor Lord Lamington and his wife Lady Lamington brought Armand Galland, the French chef who invented the lamington back with them to QLD from the UK in 1900, “Dr McConnel said. ”The Lamington’s took Monsieur Galland with them to their summer home in Toowoomba but Government House in Brisbane is where they would have had large numbers of unexpected guests and the lamington was first whipped up in a hurry to disguise the staleness of the sponge.
2 cups all-purpose Flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (120 ml) milk
4 cups (1 lb.) confectioners’ (powdered or icing) sugar, sifted
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup milk
2 cups unsweetened desiccated coconut, finely ground
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) and place oven rack to middle position. Butter, or spray with a nonstick cooking spray, the bottom and sides of an 8 inch (20 cm) square cake pan.
In a large bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
In bowl of electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter until soft. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy (about 2-3 minutes). Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the vanilla extract and beat until combined. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and milk, in three additions, beginning and ending with flour.
Spread the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with an offset spatula. Bake in preheated oven for about 25 – 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
Cool the cake in its pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Then place a wire rack on top of the cake pan and invert, lifting off the pan. Re-invert. Once the cake has completely cooled cut into 16 two-inch (5 cm) squares. Wrap the cake in plastic wrap and refrigerate (to make them easier to frost) for several hours or even overnight.
Chocolate Frosting: Place the confectioners’ sugar, cocoa powder, butter and milk in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir the mixture until it becomes smooth and of pouring consistency.
To assemble Lamingtons: Make a production line; put the 16 squares of cakes on a wire rack that is placed over a baking sheet (to catch the drips). Have ready the coconut on a large plate and the chocolate frosting. Spoon or ladle the chocolate frosting over each square of cake, making sure you cover all sides. (It is best to do a few squares at a time.) With a small offset spatula or knife transfer the chocolate covered cake to the plate of coconut and roll the cake in the coconut, covering all sides. Gently transfer the lamington to a clean wire rack to set. Repeat with the rest of the cake squares. Once the Lamingtons have set, store in an airtight container for several days.
Note: When you ladle the frosting over the cake, some of the frosting will drip onto the baking pan. Pour this frosting back in your bowl and reuse (strain if necessary). If the icing becomes too thick to pour, simply place the frosting back over the saucepan of simmering water and reheat until it is of pouring consistency. (You may have to do this a few times as the frosting has a tendency to thicken over time. Add a little more milk to frosting if necessary to get pouring consistency.)
Makes 16 2-inch squares.