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Lamingtons, often referred to as Ystervarkies in South Africa, are a beloved Australian dessert that has captured the hearts and taste buds of people around the world. Nevertheless, despite this global recognition, these delightful square-shaped cakes, coated in a luscious layer of chocolate syrup and desiccated coconut, have become an iconic symbol of South Africa’s culinary culture. In this blog post, we’ll take a delicious journey into the world of Lamingtons (Ystervarkies) and explore their history, ingredients, and how to make these scrumptious treats.
The History of Lamingtons (Ystervarkies)
Lamingtons (Ystervarkies) have a rich and debated history. According to popular legend, these cakes were named after Lord Lamington, the Governor of Queensland from 1896 to 1901. It is said that a chef at Government House accidentally dropped a sponge cake into a dish of melted chocolate. To salvage the cake, they coated it in desiccated coconut, creating the first Lamington. Whether this story is entirely accurate or not, it has become a cherished part of Australian folklore.
What Ingredients do I need to make Traditional Lamingtons (Ystervarkies)?
Lamingtons (Ystervarkies) are relatively simple to make, and you’ll need a few key ingredients to get started:
Sponge Cake: The base of Ystervarkies is a light and airy sponge cake. Additionally, you can either buy a pre-made sponge or make one from scratch.
Chocolate Syrup: A rich chocolate syrup is what gives Lamingtons their distinctive flavor. It’s made from a mixture of cocoa powder, sugar, water and vanilla essence.
Desiccated Coconut: The coconut coating adds a delightful crunch and a hint of tropical flavor to the Lamingtons.
Optional Fillings: Some bakers like to add a layer of raspberry or strawberry jam or a cream filling between the sponge cake pieces.
Traditional Lamingtons (Ystervarkies) Variations
Traditional Lamingtons are delicious, but why not spice things up? Here are creative ways to elevate your Lamington game:
- Fruit-Filled Lamingtons: Layer fruit jam or fresh slices (like strawberries or raspberries) between the cake layers. It’s a burst of fruity goodness.
- Nutty Delight: Sprinkle finely chopped nuts (like almonds or macadamias) on the coconut for added texture and a nutty twist.
- Coffee-Infused Lamingtons: Mix coffee granules or espresso into the chocolate syrup for a mocha flavor. A caffeinated delight!
- Citrus Zest and Juice: Add citrus zest (lemon, orange, or lime) to the syrup for a zesty kick. Infuse with citrus juice for extra flavor.
- Chocolate Ganache Coating: Swap cocoa-based syrup for silky chocolate ganache, a rich and indulgent choice.
- Boozy Lamingtons: For adults, add a tablespoon of your favorite liqueur to the syrup, like Bailey’s or Amaretto, for a subtle boozy twist.
- Coconut Variations: Experiment with toasted or colored coconut flakes for unique appearance and texture.
- Mini Lamingtons: Make bite-sized treats for parties or snacking.
- Layered Lamington Cake: Stack cake layers with jam or cream in between, creating a stunning dessert centerpiece.
- Flavored Fillings: Surprise your taste buds with chocolate mousse, caramel, or peanut butter fillings.
- White Chocolate Dip: Use white chocolate instead of dark for a striking contrast, and drizzle dark chocolate on top for an elegant finish.
- Spices and Herbs: Add cinnamon, cardamom, or even finely chopped herbs (mint or basil) to the syrup for unique flavors.
- Decorative Toppings: Get creative with edible flowers, colorful sprinkles, or edible gold leaf for visual appeal.
- Strawberry Lamingtons: Strawberry lamingtons (taste.com.au)
Remember, let your creativity shine as you experiment with flavors, textures, and presentations. Lamingtons are versatile, and the customization possibilities are endless. Enjoy the journey of making Lamingtons uniquely your own!
Why are my Traditional Lamingtons (Ystervarkies) soggy?
Troubleshooting Soggy Lamingtons: Tips for Perfection
Lamingtons are a delight, but sogginess can be a downer. Let’s explore common causes and their solutions:
- Moisture in the Cake: Ensure the sponge cake is fully baked and cooled to room temperature before proceeding.
- Warm Syrup: Let the chocolate syrup cool slightly before dipping cake pieces. It should coat, not soak.
- Inadequate Cooling: Ensure your cake has cooled completely before dipping. A warm cake absorbs syrup quickly.
- Excessive Soaking: Don’t soak cake pieces for too long; a quick dip suffices. Let excess syrup drip off before coconut coating.
- Coconut Quality: Use dry, fine desiccated coconut. Moist coconut can lead to sogginess.
- Layer of Jam or Cream: If adding fillings, avoid excess moisture, which can make Lamingtons soggy.
- Stale Cake: Start with fresh cake to prevent pre-existing moisture absorption.
- Storage: Keep Lamingtons in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. Moist environments soften them.
- Refrigeration: Avoid refrigeration; it introduces moisture and can lead to sogginess. Store at room temperature.
By addressing these issues and following the steps diligently, you’ll master the art of non-soggy Lamingtons. Remember, practice makes perfect, so keep experimenting until you achieve that ideal texture.
Enjoy baking? Give these recipes a go:
- Bakery Style Chocolate Chip Muffins (Think Mugg & Bean) « Just Cook Kai
- Chewy Cherry Biscuits « Cookie Recipe « Just Cook Kai
- Traditional South African Koeksisters – My Way « Just Cook Kai
How to Make Traditional Lamingtons (Ystervarkies)
This cherished recipe originates from the handwritten cookbook of my grandmother and credits my Aunt Annie. Thank you for sharing this recipe.
- 2 Cups Flour
- 20 ml Baking Powder
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- 1 1/2 Cups Sugar
- 4 Eggs
- 1/4 Cup Oil
- 1 Cup Milk
- 5 ml Vanilla Essence
- 1/2 Cup Sugar
- 40 ml Cocoa
- 1 Cup Water
- 5 ml Vanilla Essence
- Whisk together sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract until well combined. In a separate saucepan, heat milk along with oil until it reaches a boil. Gradually introduce the hot milk mixture into the beaten eggs and sugar, ensuring a smooth blend.
- Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Gently fold the dry ingredients into the liquid mixture, and incorporate the remaining vanilla extract.
- Transfer the batter to a baking dish and bake at 180 degrees Celsius for approximately 30 minutes. Allow it to cool completely before cutting into uniform squares.
Prepare the Chocolate Syrup
- In a saucepan, combine all the syrup ingredients and heat until they reach a boiling point. Stir continuously until the mixture transforms into a silky, shiny syrup.
Make the Lamingtons
- Prepare the Cake: Submerge each sponge cake segment into the chocolate syrup, making sure it's fully coated. Allow any surplus syrup to drip off.
- Apply the Coconut Coating: Roll the cake, now coated in chocolate, in desiccated coconut until all surfaces are evenly covered.
- Set and Serve: Arrange the coated Lamingtons on a wire rack to solidify for a few hours or overnight. Once they've set, serve and savor!