Out of Africa

One of our regular lamington tasters has embarked on an African adventure. Just when we were beginning to doubt her dedication to the humble lamington, she surprised us with this wonderful account of finding a lamington in Uganda. 

Lamingtons turn up in the most surprising places!

The PurchaseOn Sunday morning I visited the Backpackers on Mengo Hill in Kampala to meet a friend and start our road journey to Lubanda (about 145 kilometres from Uganda’s capital Kampala, and home of the wonderful HUG project – check out this fantastic community development project at http://www.hug.org.au/). Not only did I find Sue, a talented sonographer from Brisbane, who was coming to volunteer at the health clinic, I also found a delicious looking plate of lamingtons. It turns out the backpackers is run by an Australian ex-pat, who clearly understands the culinary importance of the lamington, and provides it as an offering to expand the gastronomic experience of international travellers in Uganda.

I took the opportunity to purchase one lamington, and travelled with it to Lubanda on by a mix of tarmac and dirt roads, wrapped in a single piece of aluminium foil.

Ready to shareHere are the thoughts from four keen taste testers.

Firstly, the lamington travelled incredibly well. It arrived in one solid piece, which is a small miracle in itself given some of the road conditions. The sponge (if you can call it that) was relatively firm, an attribute that was obviously a benefit for travel, but not necessarily demonstrating the kind of light fluffy consistency we have come to expect from a good lamington.

Serious lamington judgingIndeed, Sue exclaimed the sponge was ‘denser than expected’, and concluded it was ‘more like a tea cake’. We all agreed it took a non-traditional form, with Helen adding ‘it took some chewing to get through’, and thought that perhaps the ’density was a problem’. David Ssemwongerere, a first time lamington eater, felt the sponge ‘was really heavy, and when you eat it you feel a little bit heavy’. Not exactly strong praise!

African lamingtons face the taste testWhile we were not able to sing enthusiastically about the sponge/tea cake imitating sponge, the chocolate coating was a different story. Overall, it was delicious. Helen stated it was clearly of good quality, not chocolate confectionery that you might expect in Uganda. Meanwhile Sue described the chocolate as leaving a ‘lingering pretty good taste’.  I agreed, the chocolate coating was by far the strongest attribute of this lamington, and in many ways made up for the questionable ‘sponge’. In addition to the delight of the chocolate, David, our first time lamington eater, also added ‘this stuff on the surface (the coconut), it helps it to have another taste, and when you eat it, it is so sweet’.

Lamington judging underwayThe lamington received some strong praise from Helen, a long time visitor to Uganda, who concluded the taste test by declaring that eating a lamington (of any quality) in Uganda was indeed a ‘luxurious experience’.

I agree, it was a divine gastronomic moment. And eaten alongside an African spiced tea and sour oranges made for a winning combination.

Overall, given the transport and other environmental conditions, our team of taste testers gave it a collective score of 8.3 out of ten.

The Lamington Leaderboard

This is a list of the lamingtons we have tasted and tested, ranked according to score. This is a living list. We will be adding new lamingtons regularly, and going back to visit old ones too.

9.2 Davies Bakery Tarragindi | 4/6 Gapap Street, Tarragindi 

8.6 The Flour Monkey Bakery Carina | 889 Old Cleveland Rd, Carina

8.2 Shingle Inn Indooroopilly | Indooroopilly Shopping Centre, Moggill Road

8.0 Kelvin Grove Village MarketsBlamey St, Kelvin Grove

7.9 Gerbino’s PasticceriaShop 10A, 57 Musk Ave, Kelvin Grove

7.2 Golden King Bakery | 239 Waterworks Rd, Ashgrove

6.7 Yeronga Bakery & Cafe | 429 Fairfield Road, Yeronga

5.8 Brumby’s St Lucia | 228 Hawken Drive, St Lucia

5.6 Holland Place Bakery | 926-928, Logan Rd, Holland Park

5.3 Kelvin Lee Hot Bread48 Musk Ave, Kelvin Grove

A rainy day lamington

Yesterday, I drove out to Carina in the rain with the sole purpose of buying a lamington from The Flour Monkey Bakery. A little bakery with loads of character, The Flour Monkey was bustling when I stepped inside from the drizzle. The service was friendly and efficient despite the bustle and I was back out in the rain with my lamington in no time at all. The Flour Monkey is everything a local bakery should be, my only complaint is that it is not in my neighbourhood.

I was a solo lamington eater this weekend, which was a little lonely. On the way home from the Flour Monkey I had given my lamington a little sqeeze and finding that it was soft and springy, felt a little sad that there would be no other lamington lovers to share in the joy of a well-made lamington.

Stuck in traffic on the way home, I was very, very tempted to eat this lamington in the car. I mustered all my self-control, however, so that I could take a few pictures before it was reduced to a sprinkling of leftover coconut. Cutting the Flour Monkey lamington in half gave me even greater hope that this would be a delicious lamington. The sponge was the perfect colour and the icing was still moist. It was probably fortunate that I was not eating with company because I devoured this lamington in under a minute. And it was fantastic. With the rain thundering against the roof, I felt really happy and contented with my lamington (however briefly) and a cup of ginger tea.

The Flour Monkey’s lamington had just one shortcoming and that was that the thickness of the icing was not uniform. One side had the optimum amount of icing and was just divine, but the other side of the lamington was a little scant on icing. If both halves had been coated as beautifully as the left half, this lamington would have been nigh on perfect. That said, this was one of the best lamingtons I have eaten in the last few months, and I’ll certainly be picking up some more lamingtons from The Flour Monkey when our judging panel is convened again. No monkey business here, these guys definitely know how to make a lamington.

The Verdict: 8.6

The Flour Monkey Bakery Carina | 889 Old Cleveland Rd, Carina

http://www.theflourmonkey.com.au

Lamingtons $2.20 each

A lamington not worth the wait

This Sunday I happened upon a modest-looking bakery in Holland Park. It seemed to be attracting a steady stream of locals, which I thought a good sign. There were two people in front of me at the counter, so I lined up for my lamington. After five long minutes, I felt like it was taking just a little too long. Then I was faced with the inevitable dilemma, I had already waited this long, invested my precious time, I simply had to wait it out. I did my best, smiling at the customer in front of me who kept turning to look at me apologetically. After an interminable wait it was finally my turn. I stepped forward to be greeted with a very surly “yes?” Had I stepped into someone’s private dining room, rather than into a bakery? Even the affable customer before me had failed to raise a smile from this woman with his friendly banter. In her defense perhaps she was having a bad day, or maybe she had just eaten a lemon, or something else incredibly sour. In any case, she did deign to trade me a lamington for my $2.50.

I loved the look of this lamington, the shape reminded me of a cliff. Geometric qualities aside, there was not much else to love about this lamington. If our Brumby’s lamingtons tasted like they had been left out in the rain, this lamington tasted like it had been left out in the desert…for a week. It was dry, oh so dry! It had the same consistency and dryness of a kitchen sponge before it hits water. This was a shame because the overall taste was quite nice if eaten with a sip of tea to rehydrate the sponge.

The Holland Place Bakery lamington also featured an abundance of coconut. So much that I used the excess to create shapes on the table, kind of like a coconut Etch a Sketch.

There’s not much more to say about this lamington. One side was slightly less dried out than the other, so I ate that half and threw the other half of the sponge to the birds. They didn’t eat it though. I don’t blame them.

Maybe I should have gone with Holland Park Hot Bread on the opposite side of the road.

The Verdict: 5.6

Holland Place Bakery | 926-928, Logan Rd, Holland Park

$2.50 per lamington

A Brumby’s Bust

We were at full strength again this week for our lamington judging, with all three lamington tasters in attendance – Traditionalist, Diplomat, and Novice taster. Brought before us this week was (half) a tray of Brumby’s lamingtons. “Sorry, they’re from Brumby’s” apologised our Diplomatic taster. But a Brumby’s lamington is still a lamington, and therefore deserved to be eaten and judged by us. If anything, this gave Brumby’s the underdog advantage. We expected so little from these franchise lamingtons, that they could have wowed us more easily than any other.

Despite its underdog advantage, however, the Brumby’s lamington crumbled under the pressure. Like a cheap toyota from a used car dealership, it drove alright for the first couple of hundred metres before things rapidly began to fall apart. After the first bite, our Brumby’s lamingtons began to disintegrate. The icing separated from the sponge and in order to experience all three ingredients together, one had to pick up a little sponge, a little icing, and a little coconut from the plate, force it together and devour it as quickly as possible.

The Icing
I will forever remember these lamingtons as the lamingtons that were left out in the rain – because that is the only way to describe the consistency of the icing. It had crossed the line from deliciously moist to wet. Even the box bore traces of damp where it had absorbed some of the lamintons’ excess moisture. For all the icing’s dampness, though, the sponge just did not want to absorb it. In fact, the sponge seemed to be openly rejecting the icing. Once the lamington was sliced, the icing began to peel off in sheets, leaving a naked square of sponge in its wake. “It’s a real problem,” exclaimed our diplomat, ‘it’s just not mobile.’ Indeed, the only way to eat this lamington was by leaning very close to the plate and holding the lamington tightly together until it reached one’s mouth.

The Sponge This was actually a very nice sponge in parts; light, creamy, sweet. Unfortunately, however, it had been a little singed on the top and the bottom and the taste of ever-so-slightly-burnt cake permeated the lamington. If only the baker had sliced a fine layer off the top and bottom of the sponge before cutting it into lamington squares, we would never have known. All three of our lamingtons suffered this same fate.

“It’s disappointing,” lamented our diplomat who had brought these disastrous lamingtons to the table.

I think we went a bit rogue when it came to scoring our Brumby’s lamington, though even our generosity has not saved them. I have to admit, there was some fun to be had in eating such a messy lamington, so I gave it an extra half point for entertainment value. Meanwhile, our diplomat added an extra half point for the service at Brumby’s, which was apparently exceptional. If only we could say the same of their lamingtons. It seems our novice was the only one sticking to the rules, although he seemed largely preoccupied by the price, “I feel like it should be cheaper, it’s from a franchise.”

The Diplomat: 5.9
The Traditionalist: 5.8
The Novice: 5.7

The Verdict: 5.8

This lamington was more of a donkey than a brumby I’m afraid.

Brumby’s | 228 Hawken Drive, St Lucia

$2.90 per lamington

An elite lamington

This week I ate what was surely one of Brisbane’s most expensive lamingtons. One should always be cautious when the price is not displayed alongside an item for sale. It usually implies that the wares are outrageously expensive. In this case, though, it was a lamington I was after, and I thought ‘how expensive can a lamington be?’ Well at Indooroopilly’s Shingle Inn, $4.40. “It’s highway robbery, that’s what it is” exclaimed my thrifty partner as we left the store with my extravagant lamington.

Shingle Inn is an institution in Brisbane, first opening its doors in Edward Street in 1936. Sitting down with my lamington, the paper bag reminded me that they have been trading in baked goods for over seven decades now. Surely enough time to have perfected the great Australian lamington.

The Shingle Inn lamington was definitely the smallest we have judged so far. What it lacked in size though, it made up for in fluffiness. The outstanding feature of this lamington was the fluffy sponge, it was just so fluffy! Like little clouds of sponge dancing on my tongue. The downside of this lamington was that it was such a wee little thing. Because the sponge was so light and delicate, it was not a terribly satiating treat. Immediately after eating it, I felt like I had not eaten anything and wished I had bought two.

The overall experience of this lamington was just a tad fleeting. I think it was undersized, especially given the oversize price-tag. With such a light, airy sponge, it needed to be double the volume to make it truly outstanding. There are few things more disappointing than a lamington that does not satisfy one’s lamington craving.*

The Verdict: 8.2

Shingle Inn | Indooroopilly Shopping Centre, Moggill Road
http://www.shingleinn.com

* There are many things more disappointing than this, but I feel, as the authour of a blog with such limited scope, I cannot overemphasise the significance of lamingtons.

A cheap and cheerful lamington

When the friendly lady behind the counter requested “$1.70 please,” I replied, “excuse me?” Yes, this lamington was just $1.70. With pricing straight out of the nineties, how could you go wrong at Ashgrove’s Golden King Bakery.

Sitting down to survey my low-cost lamington that afternoon, I began to think it was a little too square for my liking. Should lamingtons be quite so brick-like, I wondered. Was this lamington too cheap? I sliced it in two to reveal a firm, dense sponge and I was pleasantly surprised when I took my first bite. The icing was set, rather than sticky, and the cake was a little closer to butter cake than sponge cake. I would have liked a lighter sponge, but the slightly heavier cake was nicely offset by the firmer icing.

On the whole, this was a lamington I really enjoyed. With a cup of Earl Grey and a novel, I felt entirely satisfied. It was also a generous size, and, at the budget price of $1.70 it might be Brisbane’s cheapest lamington.

On another note, I am just now realising that a blog about lamingtons is not a very visually appealing thing. Perhaps we’ll have to resort to eating some pink lamingtons for the sake of some colour. But I do detest pink lamingtons.

The Verdict: 7.2

Golden King Bakery | 239 Waterworks Rd, Ashgrove