Lady Baltimore Cake

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Makes

    10 to 12

    servings

Appears in

The Glory of Southern Cooking

The Glory of Southern Cooking

By James Villas

Published 2007

  • About

It’s debatable which of the South’s elaborate cakes is more ceremonial: Lane cake or Lady Baltimore cake. What is for sure is that the latter is in no way connected with the city of Baltimore but, rather, with Owen Wister’s 1906 romantic novel entitled Lady Baltimore, in which the cake is described. In reality, the luscious cake was most probably created in Charleston, South Carolina, by Alicia Rhett Mayberry around the turn of the twentieth century and not named till after Wister’s novel was published. Some, on the other hand, believe it could have originated in a Charleston tearoom of the time called Lady Baltimore. Whatever its origins, the cake’s fame spread quickly throughout the South, and today the versions are multiple. Notice that to make this complex cake, you’ll need both a standing electric mixer and a hand mixer. Lady Baltimore cake is always prepared for a very special occasion—which seems appropriate.

Ingredients

For the Cake

  • sticks butter, softened
  • cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • cups whole milk
  • 4 large egg whites

For the Icing

  • 2 large egg whites
  • cup cold water
  • cups sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup coarsely chopped pecans
  • ½ cup seedless golden raisins
  • ¼ cup diced seedless figs
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract

Method

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously grease two 9-inch cake pans with butter and set aside.

To make the cake, cream the butter in the bowl of a standing electric mixer on high speed while gradually adding 1 cup of the sugar. Add the two extracts and continue beating till the mixture is light. Sift together the flour and baking powder into the butter mixture, adding it alternately with the milk and beating till the batter is smooth.

In a bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer till firm peaks form, add the remaining ½ cup of sugar, and beat till the meringue is fairly stiff and glossy. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter, then scrape equal amounts of batter into the prepared cake pans, tapping the bottoms to remove any air bubbles. Bake the cakes till a cake tester or knife blade comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes, then turn them out onto racks to cool.

Meanwhile, make the icing by combining the egg whites, water, sugar, and cream of tartar in the top of a double boiler over simmering water and beating them with an electric mixer till stiff peaks form. Off the heat, stir in the vanilla. Scrape about one third of the icing into a bowl, add the remaining ingredients, and mix till well blended.

To assemble the cake, place 1 cake layer on a large plate and cover with the fruit icing, smoothing it with a rubber spatula. Cover with the second layer and then ice the top and sides with the remaining icing. Let the cake stand about 1 hour before serving.