The humble lamington.
The humble lamington. Photo: Marina Oliphant

Annabel Smith

Could freezing sponge be the secret to the perfect lamington?

That's the advice of two lamington experts who swear this step helps the cakes retain their shape once they're dunked in the icing.

We asked expert bakers for their tips ahead of our annual Australia Day baking competition. Remember last year's #foolproofpav challenge? Well, this year we want you to put your stamp on the lamington.

A lamington from LusciousKiki.
A lamington from LusciousKiki. Photo: Jennifer Soo

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Put your spin on the classic Aussie lamington and send us a photo of your efforts via Twitter (@goodfoodAU), Facebook (/fairfaxgoodfood) or Instagram (@goodfoodAU) using the #lamingtonchallenge hashtag and be in the running to win three new release cookbooks. Let your imagination run wild and serve up a lamington with a twist using different colours and flavours, or re-interpret it as another dish. Lamington cronuts, anyone? Entries close at 5pm AEDT on January 28.

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When making mini lamingtons, Nat Paull suggests incorporating jam into the icing.
When making mini lamingtons, Nat Paull suggests incorporating jam into the icing. Photo: Jennifer Soo

Whether you keep it classic or create a culinary mash-up, here's how to tackle the humble “lammo”.

The cake

At its most basic, a traditional lamington comprises a square of sponge cake which is sandwiched with jam (optional), coated in a light layer of chocolate icing and generously rolled in coconut.

Orlando Artavilla of Spotswood's Candied Bakery says the secret to a great sponge is ensuring you mix the batter in the same direction.

“Make it as fast as you can and keep as much air in it as possible … you don't want to overmix it and knock all the air out of it,” says Artavilla.

Sydney's lamington queen Kirin Tipping, of LusciousKiki, prefers to use a butter cake, straying to a denser mudcake for her more decadent chocolate creations.

The creations of self-confessed “lamington purist” Nat Paull of Beatrix in North Melbourne straddle the line between a genoise sponge and butter cake.

“I whisk up the egg whites, put the sugar in and then the egg yolks go in so you've got this really sturdy base and then I fold in the flour and a nut brown butter, a beurre noisette, so I get extra flavour. It also means I can put in double the butter than I normally could so it's a really buttery sponge, so it's got a bit of density to it,” explains Paull.

The jam

Tipping doesn't use jam in her lamingtons as it competes with her subtle flavours, such as basil-infused chocolate.

However, for Paull, an absence of jam is “absolute blasphemy”.

“I think it needs it, I think it needs to have that little sparkle of surprise inside,” Paull insists.

She favours a sour cherry or blackberry jam and is experimenting with citrus curd and marmalade.

Artavilla has a novel way of adding jam to his lamingtons, piping in “two blobs” to create a treat that's “almost like a lamington doughnut, but square”.

Coconut part I - texture

Artavilla has used the traditional desiccated coconut since his baking apprenticeship days in country Victoria. He suggests shredded coconut may also be helpful to home bakers.

“You get away with a lot more when you use shredded, any imperfections sort of get covered up with those big thick pieces of coconut on the outside,” says Artavilla.

Coconut part II - toasting

Paull finds raw coconut “uncomfortable to eat” and prefers to toast her shredded coconut. If you decide to go down this route, her advice is to go “low and slow”.

“Put it in really low like 100C to 110C and let it cook for a couple of hours so it's got that beautiful deep golden and not just toasted on the outside, it's cooked all the way through,” says Paull.

Flavour combinations

Tipping prides herself on using seasonal ingredients, studding her lamingtons with Australian ingredients like mango and macadamia nuts. When incorporating other liquids, bakers should be mindful of balancing the added moisture.

“You need to adjust [the recipe] slightly because of the water content of the fruit. The fruit will add more moisture to the cake,” warns Tipping.

Prepare for a dunking

Prior to dunking the lamingtons in the icing, both Paull and Artavilla add the jam then pop them in the freezer.

Paull freezes her perfectly portioned pre-dunked lamingtons for two hours or overnight, placing a wooden board on top to compress them slightly. She swears freezing helps the lamingtons retain their shape.

Unconvinced? Artavilla has this to say on the merits of freezing: “It's amazing how soft it still is. People think you put it in the freezer and it won't be the same but it's beautiful.”

Due to the butter content in her cake, Tipping doesn't freeze her butter cakes, preferring for them to “relax” at an ambient temperature for 12 hours.

The icing on the...lamingtons

Do you use icing for your lamingtons? Or ganache? Paull dunks her frozen sponge straight into a hot icing mixture. “You get a really nice coat without it [soaking] in and it sets straight away,” says Paull.

For his coating, Artavilla makes a ganache using 64 per cent Valrhona chocolate and water, dipping the frozen sponge into lukewarm ganache.

All the bakers recommend setting up a production line when assembling your lamingtons. Artavilla and Paull advocate the merits of dipping your chocolate-covered hands into a bowl of hot water to prevent fingerprints tarnishing your glistening chocolate-coated slabs.

After a good roll in the coconut, Artavilla returns his lamingtons to the freezer for 10 minutes to allow them to set.

Other tips

  • Gluten free alternatives: Tipping recommends using a mix of flour substitutes, such as a combination of chickpea, rice, tapioca and a little bit of potato starch. She says the key to replacing flour in recipes is to go by weight rather than cup measurements.
  • Stay cool: Paull describes her friend Stephanie Alexander's frozen 'lamingtons' made from cubes of coconut ice-cream as “amazing”.
  • Soaking: If you're worried about a dry sponge, the lamington at Woolloomooloo's Flour and Stone is soaked in a panna cotta mixture to ensure a moist centre.
  • Mini lammos: Paull says that adding jam to mini lamingtons is fiddly and suggests incorporating jam into the chocolate icing instead.
  • Textures and infusions: Go wild with flavours - LusciousKiki's Bazinga! special featured coconut-infused sugar and strips of candied chilli.

Recipe suggestions

If you don't have a favourite recipe at home, use one of these as inspiration.

Happy baking!