Meet the lamington, a traditional Australian specialty: a yellow sponge cake cube, split and filled, slicked in a chocolate frosting, and showered with coconut shavings.
Until recently, I had never heard of a lamington. It wasn’t until after dinner at the Second Avenue Deli, where the thought of parve rugelach almost had my friends and me tossing our matzoh balls, that we ventured north to Pie Face, an Australian outpost that serves… pies. Friendly pies.
Here is a friendly blueberry mini pie. You can tell he’s a blueberry from his little “b” mouth.
And here’s a friendly cherry pie. See the “c”?
If you are looking for a more typically Australian interpretation of pie, Pie Face has a whole array of savory pies, with a similar smile-letter coding system (“b” for “beef”, not “blueberry”). Of course, being who I am, I stuck to the sweet side of the refrigerator case.
And to the bottom left of the pies, there they were: the unfriendly, inscrutable, yet still beguiling lamingtons. Notice that this sign is curiously devoid of any further explanation as to what a lamington actually is.
We could have asked the store clerk for a hint, but that would have been cheating. Instead, we ordered two mini pies – pear ricotta and lemon – a mini pumpkin cheesecake, and then, the crown jewel, a lamington.
The pumpkin cheesecake was more or less forgettable. It tasted like mild, thick cheesecake and vaguely autumnal spices, and had an inoffensive but unremarkable crust. Same for the pies – structurally sound but lacking in character, lackluster fillings (lemon glue, anyone?). I guess you can’t expect all that much from a chain, but for a place that touts all pies, all the time (literally – this is a 24-hour establishment), you’d hope for something with a little more pizzazz.
The best thing we had was – drumroll, please! – the wildcard lamington. Once we dug in, we found a pleasantly moist sponge cake with a respectably delicate crumb, split in two by a thin layer of raspberry jam. The frosting was a rich chocolate, almost a melted semisweet drizzle, and the coconut was not cloyingly sweet or dry. Altogether, it was a very satisfying bite: some chew, some chocolate, some tartness.
It’s also a nice bang for your buck. Totaling $4.50 (with tax), you receive a square of cake that is not so large that you won’t be able to finish it, but just big enough that you feel a wee bit indulgent once you’ve swallowed the last forkful. Two people could share it and feel like they haven’t sabotaged their diets too badly. Your choice.
While this was, by no means, the best representation of an Australian lamington (I imagine, since I have nothing to compare it to other than similar jam-filled cakes), it was definitely a worthy treat, independent of its pie-faced case-mates. In fact, it was so pleasing that I’d even consider returning for another cube without the threat of margarine-filled desserts hanging over my head.
In the Theater District and Kips Bay, Manhattan, New York City (map)