“Australia’s favourite cake”. (Image source: Kytons Bakery)
By Viki Ntafillis | @viki_ntaf
Lamingtons are a national icon. An Australian institution. An all-time classic.
Fortunately, Kytons Bakery will be pulling out all the stops this International Lamington Day, according to Sharon Sutton, who co-owns Kytons with her husband, Darren.
“On [July 21] we’ll be handing out free lamingtons in Rundle Mall from 8:30am to 3pm, and we’ll also be visiting Frewville and Pasadena Foodland,” she said.
When it comes to Australian cakes, the lamington, without a doubt, reigns supreme.
What about the pavlova? I hear you ask. Well, unlike its curvaceous cousin, there is no fiery debate surrounding the origin of the lamington.
Created towards the end of the 19th century, the cake was named after Lord Lamington, the then-Governor of Queensland, and so it is unequivocally an Aussie invention.
You would be hard-pressed to find an Australian that disliked this choc-coconut treat, and perhaps even harder-pressed to find one who had never tried it.
While the lamington’s birthplace is well-known, Ms Sutton said the reasoning behind the annual date of the celebration is not.
“I have no idea why it’s the 21st July, but it’s a good excuse to eat a lamington and enjoy Australia’s favourite cake.”
She also said that, by complete coincidence, it is the birthday of Kytons’ mascot, Larry the Lamington.
Kytons Bakery has been a part of the SA community since 1938, and has been SA’s premier fundraising bakery for the last few decades.
Ms Sutton said that Kytons has always aimed to support the community where possible, since the community has helped shape the business over the years.
“We sponsor the Adelaide Zoo, Variety and Kickstart for Kids…we’re very conscious of giving back to the community that has been supporting us for so long.”
With this level of community involvement, it is easy to see why COVID-19’s impact on the business was felt by many.
“We lost most of our fundraising with the schools and the sporting clubs, as they shut down or weren’t sure if they were closing or not.
“We also lost all our food service as cafés and restaurants closed, and our morning teas with corporates,” said Ms Sutton.
“Obviously the main COVID influx started in mid-March and those were the four weeks leading into Easter.
“Those are normally our busiest of the year because of our hot cross buns, so COVID affected us pretty severely.
“Those four weeks were the longest weeks of my life.”
Ms Sutton said the company also had to change the way their shop ran, to keep in line with COVID-19 restrictions and still meet customer demands.
“For six weeks, we were serving out the front window of our shop and then for the last couple of days before Easter we were serving out of two windows.”
“After Easter, we rearranged the shop so all the products were behind the counter, so we could grab things for the customers and there weren’t as many touchpoints.”
“Also, rather than fundraisers picking up one big giant order, we’re now packing their individual orders for them.
“We have a lot of staff on Job Keeper, so we had staff looking for jobs…the fundraising side of the business has given them something to do.”
Another COVID-19 blow was the cancellation of the Royal Adelaide Show, where Kytons would normally have set up a stall.
“We love going to the show because most of customers get our products from supermarkets or fundraising, so we [usually] only see those that visit our Edwardstown store,” said Ms Sutton.
“It’s a long ten days but it’s a lot of fun and atmosphere, and we are sad there is no show this year.”
Fortunately, Ms Sutton said the company “still had some things up its sleeve”.
“Instead, we’ll be selling lamington cooler bags, which we will be delivering the week before the show.”
As for the general public, Ms Sutton said everyone has been extremely accommodating.
“Customers embraced the changes.”
“Lots of fundraisers still did their drives, even though their group might have been shut. People picked up their products and dropped them off at people’s houses, so that they can still run their fundraising and help us out.
“We were very touched by how much goodwill was out there when so many people were doing it so tough.
“The one good thing that has come out of COVID is that the good side of most people has come out over the last four months.”
Ms Sutton said that Kytons’ community-mindedness may also stem from its owners and the locality of the business.
“We’ve been sold twice in our 82 years, and both times to a friend of the owner’s son…so it hasn’t stayed in the family but it has kept very close ties,” she said.
“It’s great to be a part of SA’s food scene; we have the most amazing food here.
“I’m also on the Food SA board…it’s great to be involved in something that is bigger than just our business.”
When asked the age-old lamington question, ‘to jam or not to jam?’, Ms Sutton said definitely not, and that the community mostly agreed.
“We’ve never added jam, and because Kytons have [been] around for such a long time with the lamington as our iconic product, I think it might be more of an interstate debate than in SA.”
This decision is evidently a successful one, as Ms Sutton said the traditional lamington is undoubtedly Kytons’ most popular product.
“I also really like the mini lamington…I say it has a better choc-to-cake ratio,” Ms Sutton said.
Whatever you fancy, Ms Sutton said Kytons has always had one clear objective.
“Our slogan is ‘make life special’…it’s about helping people enjoy their food. We make sure our products are as good as they can be and it becomes part of their memories.”