Ahhh how we love our lamingtons in Toowoomba! Birthplace of the lamington? Home of the Big Lamington? All those Lamington souvenirs? Lamington number plates?

It’s good to have dreams.

According to Maurice French’s new book “The Lamington Enigma: a survey of the evidence”, the first ever recorded recipe of the lamington was in the Sydney Telegraph in October 1901 (see Highlife Winter edition 2103 for the full story and you’ll find the recipe here).

Having made squillions of the contemporary version I decided to have a go at the original 1901 recipe.

Baking from old cook books is like time travel. As long as you don’t cheat and use modern ingredients and electric appliances you can connect with those Edwardian cooks on a primal level (by that I mean you too can burst your foofer valve creaming the butter and sugar by hand).

So I followed the original lamington recipe to the letter and with aching arms and blistered hands I took a batch into Toowoomba’s City Hall where the reaction was a bit deflating: “They didn’t turn out too well did they, Al?”

“Well actually, they turned out exactly as the recipe intended and they are absolutely delish even if they do look wonky, spotty and anaemic”.

Now, I’m no food anthropologist but as I did set out to make “the original” recipe there was no creative tweaking allowed. But I can see why many clever cooks have fiddled with this lamington recipe over time until it evolved into the cake we call “icon” today. Professor French has included many lamington recipes in his book and I’m going to brace myself and do some arm stretches ready for the 1920 version next.

Hints for making the original lamington recipe:

  • The original recipe lamingtons don’t rise as much as you might think so don’t worry if the uncooked mixture sits high in the baking pan.
  • The cake is quite dense and not like a sponge.
  • The icing is so thick I nearly broke my spoon! It’s not a sauce but a thick butter/marshmallow frosting and with only three teaspoons of chocolate, quite pale. Tastes sensational though and you’ll be slapping little hands away from it.
  • The assembly of the cake is super fiddly and messy because you have to smear the icing onto each side of the squares before rolling in coconut.
  • And once they’re made up you have to handle them very carefully because the icing goes soft it quickly loses shape.