These classic lamingtons are a staple Australian recipe. A light and fluffy butter cake dunked in chocolate icing and then coated in coconut. There is a reason these lamingtons are an Aussie favourite!
Lamingtons are one of those treats that we grew up eating. They are an icon of Australian baking and for very good reason – they are so incredibly good.
Like a lot of classic foods that have formed part of our cultural identity, there is much conversation to be had about the origins of this delicious treat.
The story goes that Lord Lamington, governor of Queensland at the time, wanted to feed hungry guests so decided to get some stale sponge cake and revive it by dunking it in chocolate and coconut. And this is where our gratitude to this clever idea begins.
There are also other reports that the lamington was instead first created in New Zealand and enjoyed by Lord Lamington on a trip (and thus this dessert becomes another NZ treat to be claimed as Australian).
To be honest I very much doubt that there is ever one true moment of invention so it’s quite possible that both or neither are true.
It’s still said that the first recipe appeared around 1900 in Queensland Country Life magazine – so saying that the humble lamington is part of our country’s history is not an exaggeration. It just might also represent our relationship with our friends across the ditch.
Oh and that first recipe has no indication of jam – so whoever did that went a bit rouge and therefore you’ll find no jam here today just the classic lamington holding its own.
What exactly is a lamington?
Ok if you’re not from Australia I’ll forgive this question, but within Australia it is known that the lamington breaks down into 3 components;
The cake – It starts with a light and fluffy vanilla sponge or butter cake. My recipe leans more to the side of a butter cake as it uses whole eggs rather than egg whites, but the true characteristic of the lamington cake is that it melts in your mouth.
The chocolate icing – the icing should form a thin, even coating around the cake locking in the moisture and providing the perfect balance of sweetness.
The coconut – finally, the whole thing is dunked in a coating of desiccated coconut. Yes you’ll probably make a mess when eating them but that’s half the fun.
As I mentioned before, there is ongoing debate about whether a lamington should have jam in the middle. I am a firm no as I honestly just love the simplicity, but if you need jam, just cut your piece of cake in half, spread some strawberry jam and sandwich it back together before dunking in the chocolate and coconut.
Key Ingredients – The Butter Cake
You’ll need a few pantry staples to make this basic butter cake that will form the base of our lamingtons.
- Dairy-free butter – I always like to use a good quality dairy free butter such as Nuttelex for the best flavour and texture.
- Caster sugar – also known as superfine sugar, this will help keep our cake light in texture.
- Vanilla – for flavour.
- Eggs – providing structure and lift to the cake/
- Plain flour – also known as all purpose. I haven’t tried this recipe with a gluten-free substitute.
- Baking powder – for lift and lightness.
- Dairy-free milk – I like to use oat milk or almond milk, but soy will also work.
Key Ingredients – The Coating
To make these lamingtons, you’ll need to make a thin chocolate icing to dunk in the pieces of butter cake and then coat the whole thing in coconut. You’ll need;
- Icing sugar
- Cocoa powder – for a deep chocolate flavour make sure to use a good quality cocoa powder.
- Dairy-free butter – just a little bit adds richness and helps ensure the icing coats the cake evenly and smoothly.
- Vanilla extract – enhances the chocolate flavour.
- Desiccated coconut – for coating the outside of the lamingtons. It’s key to use desiccated coconut for this recipe rather than shredded as you want the coconut to no longer contain any moisture, it’s key for the flavour and texture.
How to make lamingtons
To make lamingtons you are going to need to have the correct sized pan. They actually sell specialty lamington tins so if you want to make these frequently then I highly suggest making the investment.
You want the pan to be 20cm x 30cms with high sides to make sure that your cake can be cut into squares.
Start by making your cake. In a large bowl you want to beat together the dairy-free butter and caster sugar. This step is what is going to give us a light and fluffy cake so don’t rush.
This step is almost impossible to do without an electric mixer and I prefer using a hand mixer to give me more control. Don’t stop until you see the butter and sugar start to get pale in colour, then beat through the vanilla.
Next you want to add in the eggs, one at a time and continue beating between each addition so that everything is completely combined and the mixture is smooth.
From here, add in your sifted dry ingredients slowly, alternating with the milk. It’s often easier in this step to move to a spatula and mix by hand as you want to make sure that you aren’t over mixing the batter as this will lead to a dense cake.
Pour the batter into a prepared cake tin and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the cake is lightly springy when touched. Let cool completely before slicing into squares or rectangles, depending the shape and size you want your lamingtons to be.
Make the chocolate icing by mixing all of the ingredients together in a large bowl. Using two forks, dunk the pieces of cake into the icing ensuring all sides are coated, and then lift up to let any excess chocolate drip off.
Dunk the chocolate coated cake into the dessicated coconut and roll to coat. Set aside on a plate while you complete this step with the remaining cake pieces.
Tips for making lamingtons
- You want to make sure the icing consistency is just right. It needs to be thin enough to easily coat the cake, but not too thin that it becomes see through. Start with 4 tablespoons of water and increase as needed. The icing should very easily drizzle off your spoon. If your icing starts to get too thick as you work, you can add a splash more boiling water to thin it out again.
- Use two forks to turn and coat the cake piece in the bowl of chocolate icing and to easily lift it out while allowing any excess icing to drip off.
- Use two different forks to turn the cake in the coconut to ensure an even coating on all sides, and then to and lift it out onto a plate to set.
- Only use some of the coconut on the plate at a time. The chocolate drips will contaminate the coconut making it more difficult to coat the cakes, so replace this with fresh coconut as you need to.
How to store lamingtons
I like to store lamingtons in the fridge as it can get too hot in my climate at room temperature which melts the icing. They will stay fresh for up to a week in the fridge in an airtight container. One of the benefits of the chocolate coating is that the cake will last a bit longer before drying out.
Lamingtons also freeze well for up to 3 months. You’ll want to defrost them either in the fridge or on the kitchen counter overnight.
Lamingtons take a little time and can get a bit messy, but they are really simple to make using mostly pantry staples and are guaranteed to be devoured by anyone you serve them to. Oh and this recipe happens to be dairy-free.
There really is no wonder these mini butter cakes rolled in chocolate and coconut are an Aussie favourite any time of year.
More classic Australian recipes:
Please share any creations on Instagram using the tag #eightforestlane as we would love to see what you’re making!
For the butter cake:
- ⅔ cup dairy-free butter 160 grams
- ¾ cup caster sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 3 eggs room temperature
- 2 cups plain flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup dairy-free milk
For the chocolate icing:
- 3 cups icing sugar
- 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 4-6 tablespoons boiling water
- ½ teaspoon dairy-free butter
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla
- ½-1 cup desiccated coconut for coating
- Preheat the oven to 180°C and grease and line a 30cm x 20cm lamington tin with cooking spray and baking paper.
- In a large bowl, cream together the dairy-free butter and caster sugar with an electric mixer until the mixture is light and fluffy and starting to get pale in colour. Add in the vanilla and continue to beat. Gradually add the eggs one at a time, beating the mixture completely after each addition.
- In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and mix to combine. Slowly add the flour mixture a little at a time, to the wet ingredients, alternating with the dairy-free milk mixing until just combined. You might want to do this step by hand with a spatula to ensure the mixture does not get overmixed.
- Pour the batter into the lined cake pan and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the cake is cooked through and springs back when lightly touched. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- Once the cake is cool, cut it into squares or rectangles depending on the size you want your lamingtons to be.
- Make the icing by sifting together the icing sugar and cocoa powder in a large bowl. Add the boiling water, dairy-free butter and vanilla and stir until smooth and shiny. You want the icing to be quite thin to be able to coat the cake, so adjust the water as needed to maintain the correct consistency.
- Spread some desiccated coconut on a large plate. Using two forks, dip each square piece of cake into the chocolate icing to coat completely. Allow any excess icing to drip off before rolling it on the coconut. Use a small amount of coconut on the plate at a time and replace as needed throughout the process as it can get clumpy with drips of chocolate.
- Set the lamington aside on a plate to set and continue this process until all of the cake has been coated.
Nutritional information is provided as a guide only and is calculated using automated online tools, therefore we cannot guarantee the accuracy. We encourage you to make your own calculations based on the actual ingredients used in your recipe.