Thursday, 26 January 2012

Lamingtons

The Lamington
Australia Day and Fantasy Bob thinks it fit to celebrate Australia's greatest contribution to human civilisation and progress.  Just in case your cricketing interest begins to flag, hang on - the cricket link will come.

The Lamington is a chocolate and coconut covered sponge cake of which all Australians should be rightly proud.  However it is not named after an Australian.  Like all good things on God's earth, particularly sweet and buttery things,  it has a Scottish connection.

Lamington is a small Scottish village in South Lanarkshire.  It is said to be the home of Marion Braidfute, wife of William Wallace.  William Wallace was once thought of as a Scottish freedom fighter but was  was found in the 1980s actually to be an Australian actor with a bad accent.

So, might Mrs Wallace have been a keen member of the baking section of the Lanarkshire WRI who developed this delicacy to keep her man well fed while he hounded the English out of Scotland's borders?  Historians are not convinced.  'You may take our lives but you'll never take our Lamingtons' - it doesn't really carry the ring that would echo down the centuries.  Besides, Mrs Wallace's attempts to make the cake would have been severely frustrated by the failure of the 13th Century Scottish supermarket to offer sugar, coconut and chocolate to their customers.  Life must have been tough.

The Rt Hon
The Lord Lamington
KCMG GCIE
No, the Lamington is named after the 2nd Baron of Lamington, Charles Wallace Alexander Napier Cochrane-Baillie.  Lord Lamington was Governor of Queensland from 9 April 1896 to 19 December 1901.  There are alternative accounts of the cake's origin during that time - whether the chef in Governor's House devised it making improvised use of the ingredients he had to hand for unexpected guests, or whether a kitchen maid accidentally dropped some cake in chocolate and made the best of it by covering her finger marks with coconut - readers can take their pick.  Whatever its origin, the Lamington has gone on to become a firm favourite in Australia and is at the heart of many fund raising drives by sporting clubs.

Lord Lamington himself was a ferociously conservative governor at a time that Australia was forming itself into something like its present Federation.  He saw reds and republicans under every bed.  But he was not exceptional in that stance and as a group the Governors did not endear themselves to the population.  But at least he had the cake.  So much so that republican politicians in Australia claim that extensive research had identified the Lamington as the solitary positive achievement of any Governor since the First Fleet arrived in 1788.

His Lordship was not particularly fond of the cake he gave his name to and, showing a decidedly Australian turn of phrase for one of his background, is reported to have described the cakes as  'those bloody poofy woolly biscuits.'

Ranjit -
a true prince and a princely bat
Readers might be weary for lack of a cricket angle in this posting.  Fear not.  A close friend of Lamington while he was at Oxford was the great batsman Prince Ranjitsinghi who visited him in Brisbane in November 1897 when  touring with the England team under Andrew Stoddart.    Although Brisbane was not on the Test itinerary at that time, England played a combined NSW and Queensland XI at what is now the Gabba.   The match was drawn and Ranjit scored 67 in England's innings of 636.

It is not known whether the Prince shared his host's view of the Lamington. If he did sample the confection while at Governor's House it did him no harm.  A fortnight later in the First Test at Sydney he scored his highest Test innings of 175 in England's only victory of the series.  They ended up on the wrong end of a 4-1 drubbing.  Did the newly popular Lamington play any part in the Australian team's success?  FB would not be surprised.

1 comment:

  1. hmmm Lamington, it looks sooooo delicious and even yummier when I read your description, and I have to say that I have not tried before, but now I do want! ;)

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