By Deana Saukam
Lamingtons are the quintessential Australian cake, and when I tried my first one, I freaked out. Mind blown. Composed of three-inch cuboids of sponge cake coated in chocolate sauce, liberally rolled in desiccated coconut, and often layered with sweet raspberry jam or cream, these gorgeous little cakes are insanely irresistible. In Australia, they’re just as popular or perhaps even more well-known than Twinkies are in America—and rightfully so. An accidental last-minute dinner party trick in the late 1800s for the Governor of Queensland resulted in a frenzy that swept the nation, and today, Lamingtons are so integral in Aussie culture that there is even a widely-celebrated National Lamington Day, which I can’t wait to celebrate every July 21 for the rest of my life.
Since I have a crazy sweet tooth, I knew I had to embark on a personal trek across Melbourne and Sydney to discover the most scrumptious Lamingtons. My passion drove me to devour over 40 versions, and I quickly realized that while these symbolic food icons may have started from humble beginnings, they are now the dessert du jour. I’m very excited to reveal my favorite Lamingtons, and urge everyone to head to Oz and immediately sink your teeth into “Australia’s National Cake,” a treasure not to be missed.
To make your own Lamingtons, look to this recipe from Pastry Chef Darren Purchese’s latest cookbook, Lamingtons & Lemon Tart.
THE ST. KILDA DISPENSARY
13 Brighton Road, Melbourne
Just what the doctor ordered. Once an apothecary where surgeons and dentists performed their duties in the 1940s, today the St. Kilda Dispensary is a hip café that “dispenses caffeine in prescribed doses daily.” Decked out in medical-themed vintage equipment (think Pinterest-worthy antique scales, tables, carts, cabinets, and glass jars), the retro atmosphere pays tribute to the coffee shop’s rich history while serving up delicious lattes and sweet treats. The Lamingtons here are made by Sweet by Nature, an award-winning baking company that creates products almost too pretty to eat. If variety is the spice of life, then St. Kilda’s got you covered. Flavors rotate to include Red Velvet, Golden Gaytime (a mix of toffee, vanilla, chocolate, and honeycomb), and the classic, with chocolate, coconut, and raspberry jam.
BEST BITE: Iced Vovo Lamington, a decadent marriage of a cakey Lamington and an iced vovo, a traditional Australian cookie topped with strips of pink fondant, raspberry jam, and coconut.
BLACK STAR PASTRY
277 Australia St., Sydney 113 Dunning Ave., Sydney Level 2, 500 George St., Sydney
Black Star Pastry is a critically-praised, inventive, boutique patisserie founded by esteemed pastry chef Christopher Thé in the quirky Newtown neighborhood on Sydney’s inner west side. There are now several locations. Ingredients are sourced directly from local markets—fruit, edible flowers, pistachios, and more—and the result is a freshness and vibrancy that you can taste with each bite. The shop front is pocket-sized and bustling, with continuous lines, so when I found out that they create a full-size cake inspired by the traditional Lamington, I knew it must be killer. While they’re known for their world famous Strawberry Watermelon Cake, I was lucky enough to snag the last slice of the day of their Chiffon Lamington Cake, a large round model composed of light and airy vanilla sponge cake enrobed in velvety ganache and topped with dried raspberry crumbles and coconut flakes. It’s heaven in a bite.
BEST BITE: Chiffon Lamington Cake. The beauty of Black Star Pastry’s Lamington cake is its airy texture—simple and magical.
126 King St., Sydney
I was walking down the street, minding my own business, in Sydney’s Newtown district, when I passed by Reuben’s Incredible, a New York-style deli that serves a variety of (you guessed it) reubens, pastrami, hot dogs, and patty melts. I stopped dead in my tracks when I eyed an incredible pink Lamington covered in “hundreds and thousands” (an Australian term for sprinkles). In addition to this fairy bread-esque, other-worldly strawberry Lamington, Reuben’s Incredible also has a homemade traditional Lamington that rivals all others due to its sheer excess. It is larger than any Lamington I had seen—more voluptuous and also much sweeter (but not too sweet).
BEST BITE: Strawberry Lamington, crazily juicy, strawberry cake layered with strawberry jam, drowning in a rainbow of “hundreds of thousands” (sprinkles). This is fun, joy, and happiness in a bite.
Multiple locations, including: Queen Victoria Building, 455 George St., Sydney 296 Darling Street, Sydney Emporium Melbourne, 287 Lonsdale St., Melbourne
Famous Australian sweets master Adrian Zumbo has elevated the humble Lamington to new heights, including a variety of zany Lamington flavors. Zumbo features Lamington creations such as apple pie, matcha, double chocolate, and coffee. In addition to Lamington cakes, Zumbo offers a Lamington Zumbaron which is a bite-size Lamington living inside the body of a macaron.
BEST BITE: Lamington Zumbaron, the result if a Lamington and a macaron made a perfect bite-size baby of ganache and toasted coconut.
206 Cleveland St., Sydney
Opened by incredibly talented baker Simon Cancio and Paul Geshos of Mecca Coffee, Brickfields has developed a cult following in Sydney’s artsy, up-and-coming Chippendale neighborhood and is known for serving some of the best bread in the city along with a mean cup of joe. In addition to bread and coffee, they take their cakes and pastries very seriously, and are famous for their exotic Lamington flavors, which include white chocolate with passion fruit and chili chocolate. I knew I had to have them. The flavors are sweet, intense, and bold, with a vibrancy that jumps off the plate and straight into your mouth. Since I was more than midway through my Lamington voyage at this point, it was refreshing to taste flavors that were so unique and creative in the Lamington world—my palate felt alive again. Head to Brickfields and snag one of their coveted Lamingtons.
BEST BITE: Passion Fruit & White Chocolate Lamington—sugary, tart, mouthwatering—a striking twist on the original Lamington that brings together layers of cake and bright, tangy passion fruit with smooth white chocolate, toasted coconut shavings, and raspberry bits.