Lamingtons

by leah


Lamingtons are an authentic Australian bakery treat. They are squares or rectangles of stale sponge cake, drenched in chocolate ganache and rolled in desiccated coconut. Legend goes that they were named for Lord Lamington, a state official in the northern state of Queensland, as it was his personal chef at Government House who came up with the dish. Apparently the Lord hated them and called them “those bloody poofy woolly biscuits”. That made me giggle cause that’s exactly how my dad talks. I don’t know if my Dad likes lamingtons or not.

Lamingtons immediately became popular with the frugal housewives who populated the rural landscape almost 100 years ago. You make lamingtons when you have leftover sponge cake that has gone stale and crumby. Waste not, want not and all that.

So I make a fluffly genoise sponge, we immediately enjoy it fresh and moist and then a day or two after I make lamingtons from it. The dry cake sucks up all the chocolate it can handle, which is much more than any moist fresh cake would.

Genoise Sponge – Makes one 10 inch round sponge cake

  • 6 large eggs – at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup of fine white (caster) sugar
  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and
  • zest of 1/2 lemon (very finely grated)
  • 40g of butter, melted and cooled

Lamington Coating – enough for 10 or so 4cm (1.5 inch) lamingtons

  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 50g (2.5 oz) bittersweet good quality chocolate
  • 1/2 cup caster (fine white) sugar
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup whole milk or half and half
  • 1 cup desiccated or flaked coconut. Try to get unsweetened if you can, I couldn’t.

Preheat your oven to 350F/180C

Butter and flour a 10 inch non-stick springform pan. Springform makes the sponge easier to remove and means you don’t have to fuss with lining.

Start by sifting the flours twice so that they are fine and aerated. Best way to do this is to sift onto a bendable tray or a folded piece of parchment. Set aside.

Combine the eggs, sugar, zest in a very large bowl. Whip them with a whisk until they are ridiculously thick and the mixture holds it’s shape like whipped cream. This will take a long, long time – maybe 20 minutes. You can’t over whip this, so just keep going. I use the whisk attachment on my stab mixer, the tines are exactly like a hand held whisk so you end up aerating this mixture instead of beating it.

I sometimes try to do some of the whipping by hand but getting a properly thickened sabayon is past my muscles. I feel a touch of guilt pulling out the electric helpers but it’s assuaged by thoughts of the perfect sponge.

Sift the flour over the top of the sabayon (fancy chef term for whipped, thickened eggs and sugar). Using your (clean!) hand, scoop with fingers splayed, into the mixture and bring it up, gently shaking it, to combine the flour into the sabayon.

Continue this gentle movement until the flour is combined. The reasoning for the hand method is simple. You don’t want to develop any gluten in this cake at all. Stirring and even folding create springy gluten strands which will cause your cake to shrink back after cooking. The hand thing doesn’t seem to do this. It has an added benefit,as the mixture has a texture unlike anything else I’ve touched. Remember that scene in Amelie where she plunges her hand in the dried beans? It’s like that only better. It’s the temperature of air, but the density is like running your hand through a cloud.

Gently pour the butter and vanilla around the edges of the dish and combine in the same fashion as the flour. Gingerly pour the batter into your waiting baking tray and gently place in the oven. Those bubbles you’ve whipped up are the only thing aerating your sponge so they are precious, don’t go slapping it around.

Bake until the top is goldy brown and springs back when you touch it. Approximately 20 minutes – 1/2 hour.

Pull the cake out of the oven and let cool in the pan – it will shrink down a little so don’t be alarmed.

I love to eat this cake warm with no adornment. I’m a purist, the texture of the moist airy cake is enough for me, but if you want, sandwich some cream and jam in between two cut halves, and sift some icing sugar on top. Australians like to serve this with passionfruit icing but I think that’s just a bridge too far.

Making Lamingtons

After you have eaten a fresh slice of cake the day before, you are ready to use the sponge for lamingtons!

Make the ganache by combining all the ingredients except the milk in a small saucepan over very low heat until the chocolate melts. Stir in the milk bit by bit, adding until the ganache reaches a smooth coating consistency.

Gently slice your stale sponge into cubes or rectangles. Shake the coconut onto a shallow dish that’s big enough to manouvre the cakes around in.

Using a fork, stab the sponge and coat in the chocolate (I usually just leave it in the pan for this) This process is somewhat messy. Gently coat in the coconut, pressing down a little so it adheres. Continue until the sponge cubes are all coated.

Enjoy with a cup of tea and some good conversation. Don’t serve to grouchy turn-of-the-century Australian politicians, they might grumble.