Like most Australians, I probably met my first lamington before I can remember it. Kids love them.
And let’s face it, there has to be something about a country that has such a thing for stale sponge cake covered in chocolate icing and furry with desiccated coconut! There’s even a National Lamington Day – and today is it!
Over a hundred years ago, a French chef in Brisbane – now there’s a cultural divide to begin with – first knocked up an impromptu batch for some guests having afternoon tea with Lord Lamington, the second Baron of Lamington and Governor of Queensland from 1896 -1901.
No doubt wanting to keep his job, on the spot the chef obsequiously dubbed them ‘lamingtons’, and undoubtedly the good Lord did nothing to let the guests know that they weren’t biting into the results of an ancient family recipe handed down throughout the centuries along with his title.
The concept of lamingtons is simple: cut stale cake into large cubes, dip these carefully into thinnish chocolate icing, then toss in coconut. Please note: the pertinent word here is ‘simple’.
The one and only time I tried to make this staple of all good CWA cooks, P&C mothers and fundraising organisations (think, lamington drives) the word ‘simple’ was a long way from my vocabulary, which turned shorter and pithier as I became more and more coated with the major components.
Unless you have done this several dozen times, the whole crumbly cake, sticky icing, coconut routine is NOT simple. I had icing on my hands, face (well I had to lick my fingers!), cake rack, floor, clothes, cupboard doors, bench tops – ditto the coconut. Everywhere, it seemed, except on the cubes of cake which stubbornly sprouted bare spots as the icing refused to adhere and began to drip off onto my hands, cake rack, floor, clothes, cupboard doors, and bench tops.
In a clever example of role-reversal, the bowl of icing became crumbier, as an exchange plan between it and the cake cubes came into effect.
Despite my shambles of an effort, lamingtons remain a favourite of mine. A staunchly Aussie food icon they are available in every cake shop and supermarket and sold in dozens for charity. My private guess as to why they sell exceptionally well is that they are so tricky for the not-too-talented-and-coordinated home cook to execute.
Me? I’ll buy any number for a good cause. I am just happy to let the experts make them, rather than go through another ordeal like that.
National Lamington Day today – go buy a few dozen!
More information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lamington