Today, January 4th …
Today I want to de-bunk some myths about the lamington, because persisting myths are ruining a perfectly good mystery. What is certain that “a subscriber” had a recipe for lamingtons published in The Queenslander newspaper on this date in 1902, and that this is the earliest known published recipe for our national cake. What is not certain is how the name originated.
Fakelore says that it was named after Baron Lamington, governor of Queensland from 1896-1901. The most ridiculous version of this says that it was so named because it resembled the hat he habitually wore, which either meant he had a lot of dandruff, or that the real name of the cake should have been “homburg”. What is also absolutely untrue (pity though) is that he referred to them as “‘those bloody poofy woolly biscuits”. The best that can be said is that the cake “came to be associated with him”.
One possibility is that the lamington is named after a locality, and there are three contenders: Lamington village (in Scotland), Leamington Spa (Warwickshire), and Lemmington (Northumberland). There are recipes for Leamington cake and puddings in some late Victorian cookbooks which are layered jam sponge-cake type mixtures, so the lamington could have developed from these.I hope this does not turn out to be the case, as it would be a very boring explanation. Naturally the New Zealanders claim to have invented lamingtons, as they do the pavlova, but this is from the nation that also had the idea of re-naming the Chinese gooseberry as “kiwi fruit”.
My favourite explanation, so good that it should be true, is that “lemmingtons” are made out of minced lemmings who have not yet drowned themselves.
I now give you that first known recipe. Call me if you make them.
The weight of two eggs in butter, sugar and flour; 2 eggs; ½ tsp baking powder.
Beat the butter to a cream, add the sugar and yolks of eggs, one by one, then the whites beaten stiff, lastly add flour and baking powder. Bake in a moderate oven. When cold cut the cake like a sandwich and put the white mixture between, then cut into small pieces and cover on all sides with the chocolate mixture. Dip the cakes into grated coconut and put in a cool place.
Tomorrow: What’s in a name?