Lamingtons is a sponge cake (or, more traditionally, butter cake) in the shape of a cube, coated in a layer of traditionally chocolate icing then desiccated coconut. They are sometimes served as two halves with a layer of cream and/or strawberry jam between, and are commonly found in Australian outlets such as coffee lounges, lunch bars, bakeries, and supermarkets. The strawberry variety is more common in New Zealand, while a lemon variety has been encountered in Australia.
The chocolate coating is a thin mixture, into which cubes of sponge cake (one cookbook states 4 cm per side) are dipped, and the chocolate is absorbed into the outermost layers of the sponge where it sets. (Similarly, the strawberry jam or chocolate icing is absorbed into the sponge.) The cubes are then covered with coconut and left to set.
They have traditionally been popular as fund raisers for Australian youth groups such as Scouts, Guides and churches to the extent that such fund raisers are called "Lamington drives."
The cake is supplied by commercial bakeries in large slabs and cut into about 40mm cubes. Teams of volunteers work together, dipping the cake into the chocolate icing and rolling it in the coconut. Generally they are packaged up into one dozen lots for distribution within communities which have been solicited for orders ahead of time.
In the early twenty first century these type of community bonding events are becoming obstructed by food handling regulations. Commercially produced versions are also sold. In Australia, they are seen as a typical Australia Day food.
Friday 21 July 2006 was designated as National Lamington Day in Australia.
A 1981 report in the Brisbane Courier Mail states the following: A colleague ... swears this is really how the lamington came about. At one stage when Baron Lamington was Queensland Governor, there was a large amount of stale cake in the Government House kitchen. In an attempt to make it palatable, the cake was dipped in chocolate and then tossed in desiccated coconut. The parliamentarians liked this 'gateau' and ordered their cooks to obtain the recipe from the Government House cook.
Ironically, Lord Lamington was known to have hated the dessert that had been named in his honour, once referring to them as "those bloody poofy woolly biscuits".
Most of these reports amount to hearsay, and some border on the absurd. The most probable version of events surrounds the visit of Lord Lamington and his entourage to Toowoomba's Harlaxton House. An industrious cook, lacking some ingredients, came up with the "lamington". Tea and lamingtons are part of the festivities that follow Australian Citizenship ceremonies.