Lamingtons are soft sponge cake dipped in choclate syrup and covered in dessicated coconut.  There has been many variations on the story of how and where this delectable little cake originated. The most likely story seems to be that it was devised by Armand Galland, the French chef to Lord Lamington, Governor of Queensland from 1896 to 1901. It is said that he accidently dropped a piece of sponge cake in chocolate syrup.

However, numerous other possibilities have been put forward. Maurice French, an emeritus professor of history at the University of Southern Queensland, who has examined the question in depth, believes that it is certain that lamingtons were named after either Lord Lamington, who served as Governor of Queensland from 1896 to 1901, or his wife, Lady Lamington. Most sources incline to the former option. The earliest known reference to the naming of the lamington from June 1927, links the cake to Lord Lamington.[1]

Another possible inventor is Amy Schauer, cooking instructor at Brisbane's Central College from 1897 to 1938.[2]

A 1900 recipe for Lamington Cakes has been found in the Queensland Country Life newspaper. While the recipe originated 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.[3]

However interesting the origin of this delectable little cake, the fact remains that it is a tasty morsel. In South Africa they are also known as ystervarkies. I suppose because they do look a bit like a small porcupine or hedgehog.

They were one of my favorites since I can remember and a regular on my birthday tables since childhood.  I use my mother’s recipe for the syrup, to this day, which contains granulated sugar and not confectioner's sugar.

Herewith the recipe I use for the sponge cake, followed by the syrup and then the ever present tips, hints and tricks.

For the sponge, I use the recipe from the Afrikaans book Bakboek, Wenresepte (Huisgenoot), compiled by Carmen Niehaus. (It is the same recipe I use for cupcakes.)

Ingredients for sponge
160 ml milk
60 ml butter
4 extra large eggs
375 ml caster sugar
5 ml vanilla essence
500 ml cake flour
2 ml salt
10 ml baking powder

  1.               Preheat oven to 200 °C. Prepare a baking tray          
  2.           Heat the milk and butter to  boilingpoint. Remove from the heat and stir untill       butter has completely melted.
  3.               Whisk eggs and sugar until light and fluffy.
  4.               Add sugar gradually. Whisk until sugar has disolved. Mix in essence.
  5.               Sift flour, salt and baking powder. Fold into egg mixture.
  6.              Lastly add milk and buttermixture. Whisk.
  7.             Pour batter into baking tray and bake for 20 to 25 minutes.
  8.              Cool and cut into small squares.


  cups of water
3 cups of sugar
1 tablespoon butter
4 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder

1.        Mix the cocoa powder, water and sugar and bring to a boil.
2.        Stir gently until the sugar has dissolved.
3.        Add butter.
4.        Cool.
5.        Dip the sponge squares in the syrup. Cover in coconut.

Hints, Tips and Tricks

(i)  The sugar in the syrup is a lot. I usually add less, to taste.
(ii)  I do not use butter or margarine in the syrup but the same amount of coconut oil.
(iii)  I add a bit of vanilla essence AND a pinch or so of cinnamon.
(iv)  You do not have to cut the cake into squares.  You can use a cutter of your choice. I have used hearts on occasion.

 (v)  Do not take the piece cake directly from the syrup to your bowl with coconut.  After you have dipped the cake in the syrup, place on cooling rack to allow excess syrup to drip from cake. Then place cake in plate and with your fingers cover in coconut.

 (vi)  Do not drop the cake in the syrup.  It will absorp too much syrup.  I know some like this cakes to be wet. I do not.  The syrup should cover only the outer 5 millimeters or so of the cake.
(vii)  Wether you use a cookie cutter or cut the cake into squares, do not make your individual cakes to big. A good guideline for square cakes is to be about 3.5 cm squares.

(viii)  There is another variation of syrup where confectioner's sugar (icing sugar) is used in the syrup.  This is again a matter of personal taste.  I never use icing sugar for this syrup.  It tastes too much like buttercream.

Enjoy your lamingtons!

[1] According to Wikipedia.
[2] Also according to Wikipedia.
[3] Wikipedia.

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