This is the very first post in my Stately Desserts series. What this series is, is a collection of desserts that I have compiled while researching which desserts are the most popular in each of the states here in the US. I will attempt to post a new Stately Dessert recipe once per week, so keep your eyes open!
I'm kicking this series off with Alabama. There is a very difficult-to-find cookbook floating around out there that was published in 1898 entitled A Few Good Things to Eat, which was self-published by Emma Rylander Lane, who was a native of Clayton, Alabama. Lane entered a cake in a little country fair in Columbus, Georgia, where it won first prize. Lane had entitled her culinary confection Prize Cake due to this fact, and later it took on her name, being only known as Lane Cake.
The history of this delicious dessert is so long, and I'm not going to bore you with every little detail of every cookbook it's ever been in, but I will throw in that it was even mentioned in one of my favorite books, To Kill a Mockingbird, where it was stated that 'Miss Maudie Atkinson baked a Lane cake so loaded with shinny it made me tight.' Shinny is Southern slang for liquor (typically moonshine).
The original version of this recipe only calls for raisins in the filling, but over time, many cooks have added chopped pecans, coconut, and even dried fruit. I personally prefer only raisins, pecan, and coconut.
This cake MUST be made at least two days before serving it, so the alcohol has time to dissipate a bit. Also, please read the instructions carefully on how to assemble and store this cake. There are a LOT of ingredients here, but the end result is absolutely worth the trouble it takes to make it. The original recipe consists of 4 cake layers. Mine is only 3.
You're going to need a candy thermometer for the frosting. This is the one I use, and it hasn't let me down yet.
3 1/2 cups sifted cake flour (or 3 cups sifted all-purpose flour)
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup whole milk
8 large egg whites (Get this from real eggs, and hang on to the yolks. You'll need them for the filling.)
8 large egg yolks
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup bourbon
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup raisins, finely chopped
1 cup pecans, finely chopped
1 cup fresh, grated coconut flakes
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
2 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and grease 3 9 1/2" round cake pans with butter, cover the bottom with a circle of parchment paper, grease with butter again, and then sprinkle with a little flour.
2. Sift together all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
3. In another large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla, and beat for a few seconds more to incorporate it in to the mixture.
4. Add in 1/4 of the flour mixture, and mix for a few seconds before adding in 1/3 of the milk. Keep alternating the flour and milk, mixing after each addition, until it is all incorporated into the batter.
5. In a separate dry bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric hand mixer on low speed until they are foamy. This will take roughly 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium, and beat for 5 to 8 minutes, until soft peaks form.
6. Stir in 1/4 of the egg whites into the batter, then gently fold in the rest.
7. Pour the batter in equal amounts into your prepared cake pans, and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. This will take roughly 20 to 25 minutes if you're using 3 cake pans, and 30 minutes if you're using 2.
8. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then remove them from the pans onto a wire cooling rack, and let cool completely.
1. Lightly beat the egg yolks and put them in a 2-quart pot.
2. Pour in the sugar, and beat until smooth.
3. Stir in the salt and butter, then cook over medium heat for 10 minutes. The mixture should be thick enough to coat the back of your spoon. This filling must be stirred constantly, or it will scorch very quickly. Do not let it come to a boil.
4. Remove from the heat, and gently stir in the rest of the filling ingredients. Set it aside, and let it cool, but do not put it in the refrigerator. It needs to come to room temperature before using it.
1. In a small pot, combine the sugar and water and heat over low heat until the sugar is dissolved, stirring constantly.
2. Increase the heat to medium/high, and stop stirring. Let this mixture boil until it reaches 238 degrees on your candy thermometer.
3. While the sugar mixture is boiling, beat the egg whites in a small bowl on low speed until foamy, then add in the cream of tartar. Increase the speed to medium/high, and beat until soft peaks form.
4. Here comes the tricky part of making this type of frosting. With your mixer on medium speed, start beating the egg white foam, and slowly pour in the boiled sugar mixture. Make sure that the syrup absolutely does not touch the beaters, or it will spin out into long strands of hard sugar 'candy'.
5. Once the sugar mixture has been mixed in, add in the vanilla, and beat the frosting for several minutes until it is cool and creamy.
If you're using 3 cake pans, place a cake on a COVERED serving dish, and top with 1/3 of the filling mixture. Top with another cake, more filling mix, another cake, and the remaining filling mix on top. Then, frost only the sides of the cake with the frosting.
If you are using 2 cake pans, you need to slice each of the cakes in half horizontally, and alternate the cakes with the filling, leaving the very top bare. Then, frost the entire cake.
THIS STEP IS IMPORTANT: Cover the cake with a loose-fitting lid, and let it 'ripen' in the refrigerator for 2 days, up to 2 weeks. If any filling leaks out, scoop it up and place it on top of the cake. The bourbon in the filling helps to preserve the cake, so it will keep for a long time if kept cold.
There you go! Your very own historic Lane cake. If you have any suggestions as to which dessert recipes you would like to see represent your state, let me know in the comments!