Recipe: Ross Dobson's lamingtons

08 April 2021
Recipe: Ross Dobson's lamingtons

Taken from Australia: The Cookbook, by Ross Dobson (Phaidon, £35)

Recipes for lamingtons start to appear just before the forming of the Federation in 1901, with many urban myths surrounding this iconic cake. One story goes that they were made by accident. It is said that the servant to a Lord Lamington (British born, Queensland resident) supposedly dropped a sponge cake into a bowl of melted chocolate. To avoid waste, and so it could be eaten with fingers without a mess, the cake was then covered in coconut.

There is a claim that lamingtons make an appearance a bit earlier in New Zealand, where they were originally called Wellingtons. This reflects the enmeshed relationship between Australia and New Zealand. There is an ongoing and friendly rivalry between these two countries over other foodie things like the pavlova and flat white coffees.

Lamingtons are firmly established in Australian food culture. It's not so common now, but they were often made and sold by volunteers as a form of fundraising for charities, clubs and schools – such events were known as ‘lamington drives'.

There are many variations of this recipe, but they all begin with the sponge cake. The cake is cut into squares or rectangles, dipped in a mixture of icing (confectioners') sugar and cocoa powder before being dressed up in a coating of coconut. This is the basic idea. Today, you will find ‘gourmet' lamingtons that are dipped in melted dark chocolate and the fine desiccated coconut replaced with coconut flakes. Some versions are dipped in a panna cotta-type mixture before being hit with chocolate and coconut, while others are filled with jam and whipped cream. This recipe sticks pretty much to the traditional.

The sponge here will look like it doesn't have enough butter, but it does – combining boiling water with butter is an old family recipe of mine. And make the cake the day before you make the lamingtons, as this will make for a far superior lammo. Yes, even the ‘lamington' is abbreviated, to ‘lammo'.

Makes 12 lamingtons

  • 25g (2tbs) soft unsalted butter, chopped, plus extra for greasing
  • 2tbs cornflour
  • 150g self-raising flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 220g caster sugar
  • 360g desiccated coconut

For the chocolate icing

  • 500g icing sugar
  • 125g unsalted butter, chopped
  • 100ml-120ml boiling water
  • 4tsp cocoa powder
  • 1tsp vanilla extract

Make the sponge the day before. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease a 33cm x 23cm x 7cm baking pan with butter and line with baking paper.

Sift the flour and cornflour onto a clean dry plate and set aside.

Put the butter into a small heatproof bowl with 50ml boiling water and stir to combine, then set aside.

Put the eggs into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a balloon whisk attachment and whisk on medium speed for 8-10 minutes, until they have tripled in volume and are pale and creamy. Slowly add the sugar and whisk until combined.

Reduce the speed to low. Pour in the butter mixture and whisk until combined.

Use a large metal spoon to add half of the flour mixture and fold through. Add the remaining flour and fold through until well-combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes until golden. Leave in the pan for 10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Cover with a clean dish towel and leave overnight.

The next day, cut the cake into 12 equal squares. Set aside.

To make the icing, combine the ingredients in a bowl and whisk with a balloon whisk to make a smooth and thin chocolate sauce.

Spread out the coconut on a plate. Pick up a sponge square with two forks and dip it into the sauce, then roll it in the coconut. Repeat with the remaining squares and serve them on a platter.

Photography by Alan Benson

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