Culinary Vices

“Culinary Vices – Some foods are really, really naughty. Globs of butter, lashings of sugar and syrup, decadent chocolate and wine. Bring out your naughty indecorous side with foods associated with all the bad things, in the best ways.”

Butter. Sugar. Eggs. Kentucky Bourbon. Just those ingredients alone sound decadent, naughty and bad. I played with all these ingredients for Historical Food Fortnightly Challenge #2 by baking a Lane Cake.

The Recipe, Date/Year and Region:

The Lane Cake started out as a regional dessert in the Georgia/Alabama/Mississippi area introduced by the cake’s developer, Emma Rylander Lane. Ms. Lane wrote a self-published cookbook called A Few Good Things to Eat in 1898. As time went on, the Lane Cake was included in Atlanta Woman’s Club Cook Book (1921), in Southern Cooking (1941) and then in the now-classic To Kill a Mockingbird (1960). With each publication and each new version, different ingredients were added, including nuts, coconut and dried fruits. I wanted to make the original “Prize-Winning Cake” developed by Ms. Lane.

I searched high and low, scouring the internet until my eyes were crossed, trying to find my primary source for this challenge. Ms. Lane’s cookbook is not in the digitized world and is very scarce in the printed world. The best I could do was an article from the Spokane Daily Chronicle printed December 20, 1967 ( with both the recipe and an interview with Ms. Lane’s granddaughter, Emma Rylander Law. In the article, Ms. Law states that she had made her grandmother’s prize winning cake exactly as her grandmother did, although modernizing the method of making. She recounted how the Lane Cake was served at holidays and tea-time with guests.

Lane cake recipe

How Did I Make It?

I started by sifting my dry ingredients together, just as the recipe called for, onto wax paper. Luckily, I have a sifter! (Note Wild Turkey bottle in the background – more on that later!)


I made my batter, using the 1 cup of butter, 2 cups of sugar, and 8 egg whites the recipe called for. Alternating the dry ingredients with the milk called for, the batter became a rich thick mixture, which I poured into 4 9″ cake pans, and baked for 20 minutes.

While my cake layers were baking, I made the custard filling with the 8 egg yolks, 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup butter, 1/3 cup bourbon, 1 teaspoon vanilla and the seedless raisins. The bourbon and vanilla weren’t added until the custard was made, retaining the alcohol provided by the bourbon. I chose Wild Turkey bourbon for three reasons: It was from Kentucky, my Grandma Myrtle’s childhood state, the company was crafted in 1855 and my husband and I had toured the distillery, exploring the rickhouses where the barrels are stacked to age just right. Mmmm…. I still remember that wonderful bourbon aroma!


Seriously. Rich creamy custard with the warm heat of bourbon and just the right amount of flavor from the vanilla and raisins. For Real.


I assembled my layers with the filling between each layer. It looked really yummy at this point! And I know that the filling was yummy – I couldn’t let the little bit on the spoon go to waste!

After the layering, I needed to make “Boiled White Frosting (from a standard recipe)”. For that recipe, I turned to the White House Cookbook’s version of Boiled Frosting from the 1887 Edition. (digital.lib.msu.eduFour more egg whites, a pound of confectioner’s sugar and some vanilla. I have never made boiled frosting before, and as a result, it took a lot longer than I thought it would. The recipe calls for boiling the sugar and three wine glassfuls of water until it is perfectly clear and threads from a spoon. After what felt like forever, I finally broke out the candy thermometer because I didn’t know when it had hit the threading temperature. After adding the syrup to the egg whites, the recipe said “beat all well together for one half hour.” This girl’s not about to beat that by hand for that long. My Kitchen Aid mixer to the rescue!

The frosting was ready and I frosted the cake, taking care to keep filling from getting out from under the layers.


Time to Complete: About two hours – longer than it probably should have, but it was mostly due to that frosting. However, I did follow the directions and let the cake age for two days before eating it on the third day.

Total Cost: About $25.00. I needed to get a new bottle of bourbon and that was the most expensive ingredient.

How Successful Was It? It was good! The cake was dense, but not hard. As I said before, the filling was fabulous. I could eat the filling all by itself and be happy with that! And the frosting was ok, but it tasted like marshmallow fluff, which I am not a huge fan of. It was super rich. A very fine sliver is really all that was needed.

cake slice

How Accurate Is It? I used an electric stovetop and oven for both the filling and the cake, as well as my Kitchen Aid mixer for that frosting.

Did you total all the decadent ingredients? 3 cups of sugar, a pound of confectioner’s sugar, 1 1/2 cups of butter, 12 eggs and 1/3 cup of bourbon.

Next up – History Detective! I’ll be cooking for you soon!




Meat and Potatoes

“Meat and Potatoes – They’re a staple for the tables in the most rustic cottages as well as the fanciest banquet tables – and it’s also an idiom meaning a staple or the most basic parts of something. Make a historic “meat-and-potatoes” recipe – however you interpret it.”

Discovering the challenge Historical Food Fortnightly was an exciting moment for me. It allowed me to do three of my favorite things – read history, research and cook! I excitedly looked at all the challenges and pored through my hoard collection of vintage cookbooks. I have been blessed, just like my Grandma Myrtle, in that I can read a cookbook like a novel – reading the ingredients and how to put the dish together, imagining the combination of flavors and textures, smelling the outcome with the olfactory portion of my memory. As I looked, and read, and imagined the recipes I could use for each of the challenges, I decided I would use the cookbooks I personally own for as many of the challenges as possible.


The first cookbook I decided to use was “The Every-Day Cook-book and Encyclopedia of Practical Recipes” by Miss E. Neil, published in 1892. I purchased this gem at an auction that was JUST COOKBOOKS!!!! I thought I was in heaven that day. I was competing against ladies that looked like my grandma for all these different cookbooks and they were cut-throat! Don’t let that white hair fool you. Those ladies were just as serious about their purchase of cookbooks as a heart attack. And I know the auctioneers were surprised at the intensity of the bidding. At the end of the day, I was able to come away with Miss Neil’s guide. As I looked over my collection, I came to the conclusion that a basic cookbook would be the perfect choice for a basic meat and potatoes dish.



I decided after reading through the directions that I would need to precook my meat, which I chose as a three pound chuck roast, due to the fact the baking would need to be short, just long enough to warm the dish. Because I was making this for Sunday dinner, I decided to use my crock pot for the cooking of the meat. I only added a little salt, pepper and water with the roast in the crock.

While my potatoes were boiling, I set in to mincing the meat. Basically, I just sliced it across the grain in half inch slices, and then separated the meat fibers so it was loose. I covered the bottom of the pan with the meat and added the pinches of seasonings according to the directions. My very sharp chef’s knife, which I refer to as Jason, made quick work of the task.



I used two and a half pounds of potatoes along with a half pint of cream and four tablespoons of butter and a couple shakes of my salt shaker. They mashed beautifully.


I covered the meat with the mash, and then whisked an egg and about a quarter of a cup of cream to pour over the top.

At this point, I covered it with foil and transported it to my parents’ house. They knew I was bringing Sunday dinner, and they knew I was using them as the guinea pigs to my first HFF challenge. I asked my mom to preheat the oven to 350 F, and put the pan in for about 15 minutes. After checking the top to see if it had browned yet, I decided that I needed a hotter oven so I upped the temperature to 425 F, resulting in a nice toasted top after 10 minutes.


My family eagerly dug in for dinner. Everyone liked it. My mom said she would give it an A.


What they liked – the enhancement the addition of cloves gave to the beef. I have never added cloves to meat. I have always seen it as a dessert-type of spice. However, after this dish, I think I will experiment a little more in using it for savory dishes.

What they didn’t like – it seemed kind of dry. My husband added extra butter to the top. I had planned on using my drippings for a gravy to accompany the dish, but had forgotten to make it during my preparation time. I definitely think it needed it, and it would be an easy addition to make.

So here it is…

The Challenge: A meat and potatoes dish.

The Recipe: Was found in The Every-Day Cook-book and Encyclopedia of Practical Recipes by Miss E. Neil.

The Date/Year and Region: The book was published in 1892 by Regan Printing House in Chicago, IL, so I believe this recipe would be considered Upper Midwest.

How Did I Make It: See above.

Time to Complete: It took approximately 90 minutes to make this dish. That includes my oven temperature adjustment and extra time, but does not take into account the overnight cooking of the roast in the crock pot.

Total Cost: $15.00  The roast was the most expensive ingredient at $13.00.

How Successful Was It? It tasted good, and looked great. If I were to make it again, I would increase the amount of cloves I used. I had followed the directions and used a pinch, but I would have liked it just a little more spicy. I also would have made gravy to serve with it.

How Accurate Is it: I used a crock pot for the roast, an electric stove for the potatoes and a gas stove for the completion. But those potatoes were mashed by hand – no mixer for this girl!

Next up – Culinary Vices! I’ll be cooking for you soon!