Lamingtons are an iconic Australian dessert, made of vanilla sponge cake squares coated in chocolate icing and rolled in desiccated coconut. They’re so easy and fun to make!
The New Zealanders might have officially claimed the Pavlova as their own, but Aussies firmly hold onto the humble Lamington as our national dessert. And we plan to keep it that way. A Lamington is a tall square of vanilla sponge cake, coated entirely in chocolate icing and then rolled in dried coconut. Sometimes we go a bit fancy and fill the middle with jam and cream.
Lamingtons have appeared at BBQs, fundraisers, cake stalls and baking competitions in Australia for generations.
Hunting down the backstory to our national dish proves to be a little tricky. In a nutshell, they’re named after Lord Lamington, the Governor of Queensland from 1896-1901, who did the unthinkable and shot a Koala. He also did the second most unthinkable thing and proclaimed a dislike for the lamington, calling them “woolly biscuits”. Isn’t he a dear.
Contrary to Lord Lamington, I think these “woolly biscuits” are pretty great.
This Lamington recipe is an updated version of the one I first posted in 2011. I’ve found an even better and more reliable sponge cake recipe and improved on the method for making the chocolate icing. There’s even a video tutorial now to demonstrate how to make lamingtons.
The Lamington sponge is adapted from the Bourke Street Bakery recipe in their ‘All Things Sweet’ cookbook. It’s light, easy to prepare and doesn’t crumble apart at the chocolate dipping stage. The trick is to bake the sponge the day before assembling the Lamingtons.
HOW TO MAKE LAMINGTONS
Click to watch how to make Lamingtons
Makes: 12 large or 24 smaller Lamingtons
Rectangular baking pan (about 30cm x 19cm x 3cm)
Large Spoon (slotted if possible)
Large heatproof bowl
6 Large Eggs, at room temperature
165g Caster Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
100g Plain Flour
50g Unsalted Butter, melted, room temperature
500g Icing Sugar
50g Cocoa Powder
15g Unsalted Butter, softened
200g Desiccated Coconut
Raspberry or Strawberry Jam
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (160 fan-forced; 350F). Line the base and side of the baking pan with baking paper.
Add the eggs, sugar and vanilla to the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on medium-high speed until the mixture is thick, creamy and pale. It should have almost doubled in volume. Remove a small scoop or two of the beaten egg mixture and stir it into a separate bowl with the melted butter.
Meanwhile, sift the flour and cornflour together three times.
Sift half the flour mixture over the whipped egg mixture. Use a spatula to fold it in lightly until only just combined. Sift in the rest of the flour, and add the melted butter mixture. Work quickly but gently to fold everything together.
Pour the batter into the pan immediately and place on the middle rack of the oven. Bake for 35-40 minutes approximately. The sponge cake is ready when the top is golden brown and springs back when lightly touched, and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
Leave the sponge cake to cool in the pan, then carefully invert it onto a wire rack. Let the cake rest overnight in an airtight container if possible.
Prepare the chocolate coating. Bring some water to boil in a large saucepan, and make a double boiler by fitting a smaller saucepan over the top. The smaller pan should have holes in the bottom like a colander, or allow space for steam from the boiling water below to safely escape upwards.
Add the icing sugar, cocoa powder, butter and milk to a heatproof bowl. Stir together, then place the bowl into the steam of the boiler and stir the icing together until it is free of lumps and has lost the grainy texture. Be careful with the steam. Remove the bowl from the heat when ready and start to use it immediately.
Cut the sponge cake down the centre from the longest side, then cut each half in half again down the long side. You should have four long strips of cake. Coat two of the strips with a layer of jam, and sandwich the other strip on top. Now you should have two strips of layered cake with jam in the middle of each. Cut each one into 6 square pieces if you’re making larger lamingtons, or about 12 smaller sponge cake fingers.
Working quickly, lower one square of sponge cake into the bowl of frosting with a slotted spoon and coat all sides of the cake. Transfer it to a wire rack with a tray underneath to catch the drips. Repeat for all 12 squares of cake. Let the frosting settle for 10 minutes.
Once the frosting has started to stick and set on the outside of the sponge cakes, you can start rolling each one in a bowl of desiccated coconut. Coat each side of the cakes evenly with coconut.
- Don’t disturb the sponge cake while it’s baking until it’s almost ready.
- Since there’s no raising agents like baking powder, baking soda or bicarb soda in a sponge cake, all of the light and fluffy cake volume comes from the beaten eggs. It’s important that they’re beaten long enough. Having them at room temperature helps this process.
- Lamingtons are easier to make when the sponge cake is kept overnight to settle a bit. If you don’t have time you can make them straight away, but they might be more fiddly to work with at the chocolate coating stage.
- Lamingtons keep quite well in an airtight container at room temperature. The chocolate coating keeps the sponge inside moist for at least 4 days.
- Heating the icing over a double boiler lets the icing sugar melt to lose its graininess, and gives the icing its dipping consistency.