When borders snapped shut due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Aussies Eddie Stewart and Min Chai were trapped in Sydney and unable to return to the cafe they had set up selling lamingtons in Tokyo.
With quite the hospitality pedigree — Mr Stewart is the former chef at cult institution Black Star Pastry in Sydney and Mr Chai is from N2 Extreme Gelato — the duo, who are both 36, decided to set up a shop called Tokyo Lamington in the Australian city.
They partnered with chocolate brand Koko Black for one day and their entire stock was sold out in 40 minutes.
While they have a traditional flavoured lamington, they like to experiment with different flavours and incorporate Aussie favourites like fairy bread.
It’s been a surprising hit with almost 40,000 lamingtons sold since September last year and revenue of around $300,000.
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Mr Stewart said he loved lamingtons as a kid but didn’t have the best memories of them tasting great. He uses a butter-style cake for the base and raspberry jam and cream for their traditional lamington.
But that’s where tradition stops. There’s a yuzu flavour, which is a Japanese citrus fruit, as well as a black sesame cream.
“Our most popular would be neapolitan, which is like the ice cream,” he told news.com.au. “I think it’s that memory that people have when you were a kid. You’ve got the connection to a lamington and I think every adult that grew up in Australia remembers neapolitan and fighting over which colour you would have. It sounds a bit weird, but once get it and eat it, everyone turns around and says it’s just like the ice cream.”
He said they originally used fresh strawberries in the neapolitan lamington but it made it taste more like yoghurt, so they switched to a syrup to ensure it was “bang on”.
There’s a fairy bread flavour with buttered popcorn in the centre, which is dipped in hundreds and thousands, and is hugely popular with children, revealed Mr Stewart.
“We are just getting into vegan as well. It’s taken a bit of time to get right with the recipe testing, but we are happy with red velvet lamington we have created,” he said. “The next one to come out is a vegan carrot cake lamington. We make our own vegan cream cheese as well. We are very proud. These are not just your standard stale lamingtons, but we’ve gone a step further and made lamingtons cool again.”
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All the flavours cost $7 with a rotation of six on offer each week, except for the yuzu which sells for $9 because it takes double the time to make, he said.
“People love it when we do quirky flavours. It sparks people’s interest as they try and imagine what it’s going to taste like. The red velvet sparked a lot more interest than we thought especially the fact its vegan,” he said. “When we started doing the whole vegan thing, we started looking for a vegan cream cheese and we couldn’t find anything we liked and we started making vegan cream cheese and had a lot of bad attempts. It took about a month to get right, but we are really happy with that. It’s a beautiful product and we want to bottle it and sell the cream cheese itself.”
Tokyo Lamington was just one of many new business started last year as the pandemic hit the country.
Australia’s entrepreneurial spirit continues to shine bright despite one of the toughest years the nation has faced, with 47,000 new businesses being added to the local economy last year, according to a new research report by global small business platform, Xero.
The industries that flourished for new business included the construction industry, professional and financial services, as well as healthcare.