Lamington cake – traditional Australian cake squares dipped in velvety chocolate icing and sprinkled with desiccated coconut; they are moist, comforting, and utterly delicious!
What is a lamington?
A lamington is an Australian chocolate cake, one of the most popular Australian cakes. Together with the pavlova and the peach melba, they are the peak when it comes to desserts in Australia. No wonder... these lovely squares are as delicious as they are easy to make.
And if you would like to try another popular Australian cake, have a look at this Lemon Slice recipe.
Basically, all you have is a sponge or butter cake, which gets cut into squares. Dip these squares in chocolate glaze or icing and roll them in desiccated coconut.
So not only delicious and easy to make, but rather cheap as well. You won't even have to buy chocolate to make the lamingtons; the glaze is made with unsweetened cocoa powder.
The butter cake, a bit sturdy at first, gets so wonderfully moist and delicate after being dipped into the chocolate. The icing gives it just the right amount of moisture it needs to become soft to achieve a perfect consistency.
The history of the lamington
Who invented the lamington cake? There are quite a few different stories out there.
First of all, there is a debate about whether the lamingtons have been first made in Australia or New Zealand. The most popular story I've read on the subject mentions Lord Lamington, who was a British Governor of Queensland at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th.
The story goes that his maid-servant dropped a piece of sponge into a bowl of chocolate glaze. The Lord didn't mind that but suggested the square be dipped into desiccated coconut as well to stop it from being too messy when eaten with the hands. (Source: Australian Lamington Official Website)
Another source (The Guardian) mentions the same Lord Lamington, who discovered this cake in a bakery in New Zealand prior to his time spent in Australia, a “Wellington – a double sponge dessert, dressed in shavings of coconut intended to imitate the snow-capped mountains of New Zealand.”
To support this theory, a painting is mentioned, which shows a Wellington/ Lamington cake on the counter of a cottage painted by JR Smythe in 1888.
But, although fun to read about all these things, the main thing remains that either originating in New Zealand or Australia, the modern recipe remains one of the most popular foods which these countries have to offer.
How to make lamingtons?
- If you wish, you could make a sponge. I preferred the butter cake; I just assumed it would be sturdier than the rather delicate sponge and, thus, more suitable for dipping.
- After baking, leave it until it is completely cool.
- Wrap it well in cling film/plastic foil and refrigerate it overnight.
- The next day, carefully cut into regular squares, the size of my lamingtons was 5 cm/ 2 inches.
- Resting overnight makes the cutting process easier and cleaner. This way, the cake is less likely to break, and there will be significantly fewer crumbs involved.
- Place a wire rack on a baking tray or piece of baking paper to avoid a mess on your counter.
- Sift the icing sugar and the unsweetened cocoa powder into a bowl. Set aside.
- Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the milk. Start adding the icing sugar and cocoa powder in several batches while whisking all the time.
- When everything is incorporated, pour about half of the icing into another bowl and leave the rest in the saucepan.
- I divided the glaze having those crumbs in my mind. So, to avoid the chocolate being full of crumbs at one point, I preferred to dip the lamingtons into the chocolate in the bowl first. When that was finished, I continued dipping the cake squares into the chocolate glaze that was still in the saucepan.
- The crumbling was not major, but still, I found this to be a good idea. I would not have wanted all those crumbs covering the last of my lamingtons.
- And I did the same with the desiccated coconut. I only placed about a third of it on a large plate, dipped some of the lamingtons, discarded the chocolate-coconut clumps that had formed, and added more desiccated coconut on the plate.
- In this case, this method was necessary, as there were rather many clumps on the plate after dipping just one batch.
- Make sure you also let the excess chocolate glaze drip before you roll the lamingtons into the coconut. This will also help reduce the formation of chocolate-coconut clumps on the plate.
- When glazing the cake squares, work carefully (they are delicate) but rather quickly.
- Turn the pieces into the chocolate with the help of two forks. Take the square on one fork, and let the excess drain a little before you drop the piece into the coconut.
- Roll into the coconut with the forks as well. Transfer it to the wire rack and continue with the next square.
- Don't be tempted to first glaze all the lamington squares with chocolate and then roll them into the coconut. Make them one by one, first chocolate, then coconut, and so on.
- When finished, let the lamington cakes set on the wire rack. It will not take that long, half an hour should do it. You can refrigerate them to help the chocolate icing set but bring them to room temperature before serving.
More cake squares
Lamington Cake – Australian Cake Recipe
- Square 20 cm/8-inch baking dish
- 240 g all-purpose flour 8.5 oz/ 2 cups
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- pinch of salt
- 120 g unsalted butter soft, 4 oz/ ½ cup
- 150 g granulated sugar 5.5 oz/ ¾ cup
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 125 ml milk 4 fl.oz/ ½ cup
- For the chocolate icing:
- 325 g icing sugar 12 oz/ 3 ¼ cup
- 65 g unsweetened cocoa powder 2 oz/ ⅔ cup
- 75 g unsalted butter 2.6 oz/ ⅓ cup
- 250 ml milk 8.5 fl.oz/ 1 cup
- 200 g desiccated coconut unsweetened, 7 oz/ 2 cups
- Bake the butter cake one day in advance as it needs to spend the night in the refrigerator.
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius/ 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a square 20 cm/8-inch baking dish.
- Dry ingredients: Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
- Wet ingredients: In another bowl, beat the soft butter until creamy. Add the sugar and beat until pale and fluffy. Add one egg, beat well to incorporate, then add the second egg and the vanilla extract and combine as well.
- Batter: Set the mixer at the lowest speed. Alternatively, add the flour and the milk, starting and finishing with the flour. Beat the mixture only shortly until smooth, do not overbeat.
- Bake: Place the batter into the prepared baking dish and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Leave the cake in the baking dish for about 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.
- Refrigerate: When completely cool, wrap it well in cling film/ plastic foil and refrigerate overnight. (Note 2)
- Cut squares: The next day cut it into regular squares of about 5 cm/ 2 inch. Place a wire rack on top of a large baking tray that will catch the possible chocolate or coconut drippings.
- Sift the icing sugar and the cocoa powder. Set aside.
- Melt the butter in a saucepan large enough to hold the whole icing sugar and cocoa powder mixture.
- Combine: When the butter has melted, add the milk, mix, and start adding the icing sugar and cocoa powder mixture while whisking all the time. Add only about 1 cup at a time, whisk well and continue adding the sugar until everything is well incorporated and lump-free.
Icing the lamingtons:
- Divide ingredients: Pour half of the chocolate mixture into a bowl and leave the rest in the saucepan. (Note 3)Do the same with the desiccated coconut. Place only ⅓ of the coconut onto a plate and when the coconut gets too “dirty,” and you have too many chocolate clumps in it, discard those and add some fresh coconut to the plate.
- Dip the lamingtons into the chocolate mixture and coat them in coconut one by one. Work carefully (the cake squares are delicate), but rather quickly. Turn the lamingtons into the chocolate with the help of two forks, then take the square on one fork and let the excess drain a little before you drop the cake piece into the coconut.
- Roll the squares into the coconut with the forks, transfer it to the wire rack and continue with the next lamington. (Note 4)
- Refrigerate: When finished, you can refrigerate the lamingtons until set (it will not take long), but let them come to room temperature before serving.
- Always use a digital kitchen scale in baking; it ensures the best results (Amazon affiliate link). Although the recipe is converted to American cups, cup measuring is very unreliable. Also, cup volume is slightly different from country to country, which might lead to disasters.
- This will help the cake become more stable and crumble less when you dip it in the chocolate icing.
- Dividing the mixture into two will help in case the cake crumbles too much. This way, you can dip the first half of the cake squares in the bowl, and if that gets too crumbly, you can continue with the remaining cake pieces using the fresh chocolate icing left in the saucepan.
- Finish each square before you move to the next one. Don't try to dip them all first in chocolate and then all of them in coconut; those already glazed should not sit and wait for the coconut.