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What are Lamingtons?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 25 August 2016
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Lamingtons, sometimes called lemmingtons, are a tremendously popular dessert in Australia. They’re something of the modern equivalent to the American brownie. In Australia and New Zealand you’ll find them on bake sale tables, in plenty of bakeries, or served with afternoon tea. Kids might enjoy lamingtons as a snack after school. They are essentially individually sized squares or rectangles of vanilla sponge cake dipped in chocolate glaze and then rolled in shredded coconut.

There are some disputes about the origin of lamingtons. Some accounts say that this dessert was created when a piece of cake served at a dinner given by Lord Lamington (Charles Wallace Bailey) was accidentally dipped in gravy. The diner who made the mistake tossed the cake behind him and it landed in a bowl of coconut.

Supposedly a fellow diner named Agnes Lovelightly was hit with a sudden Gestalt moment, and conceived of a cake dipped in chocolate and then coconut. Another less colorful explanation was that a cook of Lord Lamington created them to make use of left over and slightly stale sponge cake. Some New Zealanders, and residents of Scotland claim their country invented lamingtons first, but it can be said that Australians and New Zealanders are likely to serve them, while they’re not common in Scotland.

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The simplest lamington is a square of cake dipped in a chocolate glaze, usually made with a little cocoa, water and powdered sugar. While the glaze is still wet, the cake is rolled in coconut. There are many variations on the traditional type. Bakeries in particular can produce huge lamingtons, sometimes composed of more than one layer and filled in the center with whipped cream. Chocolate ganache can be substituted for the simpler chocolate glaze if you want the result to be very rich.

Actually, though, if you’re using stale cake, you should skip the ganache. The more watery chocolate glaze helps the cake to revive a bit, and will usually produce a better tasting lamington than does the ganache, which is much more fatty. You can find ways to alter the basic recipe at home, perhaps adding fruit between a layered lamington, or varying the type of filling of a lamington sandwich cake. You’ll find numerous recipes online particularly if you visit Australian or New Zealand based cooking sites.

You’ll have a hard time finding Lamingtons outside of Australia or New Zealand. Most people make their own, and if they want to speed up the process, they simply buy vanilla sponge cake. They also buy lamingtons made by local bakeries or in grocery stores, but a grocer in the US would likely wonder what you were talking about if you request these cakes. Given that the cakes are already stale, they probably wouldn’t survive much of a trip, unless flown by air overnight. You can however, buy lamington cake mix, though any recipe for yellow or white sponge cake will do.

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