Melbourne's best lamingtons for the long weekend

Classic and Davidson's plum jam lamingtons at Phillippa's bakery-cafe in Armadale.
Classic and Davidson's plum jam lamingtons at Phillippa's bakery-cafe in Armadale. Photo: Simon Schluter

To jam or not to jam? Lamington loyalists have long been divided over whether the chocolate- and coconut-covered sponge should have a middle layer of jam, but in the lead up to Australia Day both sides of the debate are united by a common cause: lamington appropriation needs to stop.

On Wednesday Coles launched a lamington and hot-cross-bun hybrid studded with chocolate chips and raspberry jellies. Lamington gelato has been common for the past few years, but in 2020 it has been joined by lamington-flavoured milk, ice-cream sandwiches, croissants and doughnuts.

Phillippa Grogan likens lamington hybrids to the Kardashians.
Phillippa Grogan likens lamington hybrids to the Kardashians. Photo: Simon Schluter

More controversially, Smith's released lamington-flavoured chips in December and an Adelaide restaurant has even made a lamington burger using the iconic treat as a bun.

"Lamington burgers, can you believe it?" says food writer Dr John Newton, who is adamant a lamington should never contain jam. 

"Lord Lamington [the cake's namesake] must be turning in his grave! Australians need to turn their back on this stuff and seek out the original."

The lamington doughnut at Shortstop will raise money for bushfire relief.
The lamington doughnut at Shortstop will raise money for bushfire relief. Photo: Supplied

Melbourne-based baker and cookbook author Phillippa Grogan says a little bit of lamington innovation can be delicious, such as using Davidson's plum jam or lemon curd, but agrees that some of the modern variations take things too far. 

"I suppose Australians will always like things that are new and different," she says. 

"Even if a product is disgusting, everyone is still going to talk about it. In that way, these new products are somewhat similar to the Kardashians. Perhaps we should ban even mentioning them at all!" 

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The lamington's origin can be traced to Queensland circa 1900 when Lord Lamington was governor of the state. It is uncertain who the exact inventor was, however many food historians believe it was the work of Lamington's French-born chef, Armand Galland. 

By 1908 the cake was a staple of baking competitions at regional fairs and jam does not appear in any recipes from the time.

Newton suggests one reason there are so many lamington-inspired products leading up to January 26 is that there are very few other dishes Australia can claim wholly as its own.

Kirin "Kiki" Tipping is the owner of LusciousKiki Cakes, the only lamington-centric retail bakery in Australia. She believes variations to the lamington across the country are making the cake more popular than it has ever been before.

"I think a lot of people, bored by the same old plain sponge filling, are seeking out different types of lamingtons," she says. 

At her Brookvale store in Sydney's northern beaches, Tipping enhances her lamingtons with everything from red velvet cake to pink pepper and Milo. The baker has even embraced the Smith's lamington chip.

"I've crushed the chips, baked them into a double-chocolate mud cake lamington and served it with house-made gin jam and another chip on top," she says. "I call it the Chippy Coma."

As for whether or not jam has any right to be near a lamington in the first place, advice from the Country Women's Association (CWA) is that fruit-based preserve inclusion is totally fine.

Lisa Maude, cookery officer for the CWA Sydney City branch says jam or no, a properly made lamington is perfect by itself. 

"The only thing a lamington should ever need is a good cup of tea." 

The lamington ice-cream cake at Piccolina Gelateria.

Piccolina Gelateria's lamington ice-cream cake. Photo: Supplied

Where to get your lamington fix this weekend

Burch & Purchese Sweet Studio

In the lead up to January 26, B&P has gone desiccated coconut crazy and launched "BPLamington Week" featuring all manner of lamington variations and then some. There are lamington bites, lamington ice-cream sandwiches and even a lammo bombe alaska.

647 Chapel Street, South Yarra.

Ned's Bake

Ned's Euro-leaning bakery in South Yarra is only slightly nudging tradition by offering a lamington with three layers of sponge, home-made berry coulis, Belgian chocolate and coconut flakes.

134 Toorak Road, South Yarra.

Phillippa's

Phillippa Grogan's Armadale outpost is rocking a classic lamington plus riffs such as a Davidson plum jam number enhanced with white chocolate ganache and flaked coconut. Family-sized lamington cakes are available too. 

1030 High Street, Armadale.

Piccolina Gelateria

The gelato whisperers at Piccolina are raising money for bushfire relief until the end of March with a lamington ice-cream sandwich. Available at the flagship Collingwood store plus locations in St Kilda and Hawthorn, the sanger features vanilla gelato, strawberry jam and sponge cake, covered in a dark chocolate glaze and tossed with shredded coconut. All January proceeds will be donated to Wildlife Victoria.

296 Smith Street, Collingwood.

Shortstop Coffee & Donuts

Cult sweet-treat dealers Shortstop have created a lamington doughnut available until January 27 featuring a coconut cake base filled with house-made strawberry jam, dark cocoa glaze and toasted coconut chips. With 100 per cent of the doughnut's proceeds to be donated to WIRES, even the most hardened lamington classicist can get behind the special.

12 Sutherland Street, Melbourne.