“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 (news.google.com) 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.
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!
THE CUSTARD WAS TO DIE FOR!!!
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.edu) Four 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.
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!