A tribute to an American cake and to Kill a Mockingbird

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Hi everyone! This is the third and last cake I made  for my friend Lina´s Cake Challenge. I will start by saying that I loved making it. I think that this was my favourite for several reasons.

  • First, its origin is the United States. I have often heard it said that Americans or Canadians know nothing about good food or don´t have a rich food history. My answer to that is that we do but it is just not as well known.
  • The cake was mentioned in the book ¨To Kill a Mockingbird¨. A great book and a great movie with a serious hottie. gregory-peck-in-to-kill-a-mockingbird.jpg Gregory peck, in my opinion, was a fantastic actor and had the looks to match!
  • It is similar to a fruitcake but dare I say it, even better.
  • It is a recipe that used to be made for special occasions like Valentine´s Day or a birthday. I made it for Valentine´s Day.
  • Though it is called ¨boozy¨it is by no means riddled with so much brandy that it overpowers the fruit. Instead, the flavours are enhanced and the cake is just gorgeous.
  • I had never made a 4 layer cake in my life! I am 40 now so it was a good time to try it. One layer for every decade I have lived. And you know what? It was not hard! It was fun! I let mine sit for a week before serving it.
  • Any cracks or inconsitencies are covered by icing or a fruit mix. No worries here.
  • Finally, it is so beautiful! You can´t help feeling proud of yourself after making one of these!

Here is the history and recipe which I found for Lane Cake on Tori´s Kitchen

Lane Cake – History and Recipe for a Classic Boozy Layer Cake
on The History Kitchen

“Miss Maudie Atkinson baked a Lane cake so loaded with shinny it made me tight.”[Tight means tipsy but trust me, you really can´t get tipsy with this cake]

– To Kill a Mockingbird. Author Nelle Harper Lee (1960), a native of Monroeville, Alabama, presented a picture of Southern culture in the mid-20th century, with numerous vestigesof life in the Deep South and Southern foods including Lane cake.
[Shinny = slang for liquor, derived from moonshine]

Lane cake is a four-layer (though some prefer three) white cake with a thick bourbon-laced raisin filling. The egg whites are used for making the vanilla butter cake and the egg yolks for the custard filling.

Emma Rylander Lane (d. April 25, 1904) of Clayton, Alabama in Barbour County introduced the now classic treat bearing her name in her self-published and extremely hard to find 1898 cookbook, A Few Good Things to Eat (the more easy to find 1989 reprint was renamed Some Good Things to Eat). Lane cake appeared shortly before the advent of another classic Southern layer cake — but not the same — Lady Baltimore cake of Charleston, South Carolina (1903) and after the Robert E. Lee cake (lemon curd filled cake) and coconut cakes; the spread of regulated ovens and the rotary beater spurring the proliferate of fluffy white cakes. In her book, Lane entitled the concoction “Prize Cake,” as it had won first prize at a baking contest at a country fair in Columbus, Georgia – about 60 miles from her home in Americus. William Faulkner, a native of Mississippi, in his novel Intruder in the Dust (1948) wrote of a trend in Southern culture: “…this happened two or three terms ago back in the twenties, a Frenchman’s Bend lady naming no names at feud with another lady over something which began (we understood) over the matter of a prize cake at a church supper bazaar….” The concoction eventually and indelibly took on the name of its creator.

The base for Lane cake is an egg white variation of the classic 1-2-3-4-cake, resulting in a sponge cake-like texture, and a raisin filling derived from the 1870s Minnehaha cake. In her rendition, Mrs. Lane instructed: “Bake in four layers, using medium-sized pie tins, with one layer of ungreased brown paper in the bottom of each tin.” The original version contained only raisins (“seeded and finely clipped”) in the custard filling, but subsequent cooks commonly embellished it with pecans and frequently coconut and candied fruit reminiscent of a fruitcake. Lane directed “one wine-glass of good whiskey [denoting bourbon] or brandy” for the filling. The liquor helps to cut the cloyingness of the filling and to moisten and preserve the cake akin to a classic fruitcake. Mrs. Lane insisted that the cake named after her “is much better made a day or two before using.”

As in To Kill a Mockingbird, distinctive layer cakes were whipped up by Southerners for significant life events and company. In many Southern homes, Lane cake became, in particular, a traditional Christmas treat as well as a favorite at Thanksgiving, Valentine’s, birthdays, anniversaries, bridal showers, church suppers, and other noteworthy occasions. Lane cake is truly a taste of the Deep South with more than enough sugar and shinny to lift anyone’s spirits.

 

 

Lane Cake [My notes are in bold ]

One 9-inch 4- or 3-layer cake, 12 to 16 servings

Kosher Key: Dairy

Prep Time: 45 Minutes

Cook Time: 30 Minutes

Total Time: 48 Hours

CAKE BATTER INGREDIENTS

  • 3 1/2 cups sifted cake flour or 3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted (12.25 ounces/350 grams)
  • 3 1/2 tsp double-acting baking powder I used regular baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg (optional) I used it!
  • 2 cups granulated sugar (14 ounces/400 grams)
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened (65 to 67°F) (2 sticks/8 ounces/455 grams)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract, or 1 teaspoon vanilla and ½ teaspoon almond extract or 1 teaspoon orange extract
  • 1 cup milk (8 fluid ounces/8.5 ounces/240 grams)
  • 8 large egg whites (1 cup/8.5 ounces/240 grams)

FILLING INGREDIENTS

  • 8 large egg yolks (9 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon/5.25 ounces/150 grams)
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar (8.75 ounces/250 grams)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened (65 to 67°F) (1 stick /4 ounces/115 grams)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup bourbon or brandy (4 ounces/115 grams) I used brandy
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup finely chopped raisins (5 ounces/145 grams) I didn´t chop the raisins.
  • 1 cup finely chopped pecans (4 ounces/115 grams) I chopped mine finely except I reserved whole ones for the topping.
  • 1 cup grated coconut, preferably fresh (3 ounces/90 grams) (optional) I used dried grated coconut.
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped candied, dried tart, or maraschino cherries or pineapple (4 ounces/115 grams) (optional) I did not use these
  • I also added a teaspoon of grated orange zest. (Check out the variations on the recipe noted below)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (7 ounces/200 grams)
  • 1/3 cup water (2.75 ounces/80 grams)
  • 2 large egg whites (¼ cup/2.125 ounces/60 grams)
  • Pinch salt, or ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar I used cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

YOU WILL ALSO NEED:

  • Three 9- by 1½-inch round baking pans or two 9- by 3-inch round baking pans or springform pans, parchment paper, mixing bowls, stand mixer or hand mixer, cooling rack, 2-quart saucepan, wooden spoon, candy thermometer
  • Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F (325°F for a convection oven). Grease three 9- by 1½-inch round baking pans or two 9- by 3-inch round baking pans or springform pans, line the bottoms with parchment paper or wax paper, grease again, and dust with flour.
  • To make the batter: Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and, if using, nutmeg.
  • In a large bowl, beat the butter on low speed until smooth, about 2 minutes.
  • Increase the speed to medium, gradually add the sugar, and beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the vanilla.
  • Add the flour mixture and milk alternately (4 portions for the flour; 3 portions for the milk) beginning and ending with the flour.

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  • In a large bowl, beat the egg whites on low until foamy, about 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium and beat until soft leaks form, 5 to 8 minutes. Fold one fourth of the egg whites into the batter, then gently fold in the remaining whites.

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  • Divide the batter equally between the prepared pans. Bake until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean and the cake springs back when lightly touched, 20 to 25 minutes for 3 pans or about 30 minutes for 2 pans.
  • Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then remove to wire racks and let cool completely, at least 1½ hours. The cake can be wrapped and stored at room temperature for up to 1 day.
  • To make the filling: Place the egg yolks in a 2-quart saucepan and lightly beat. Add the sugar and beat until smooth. Add the butter and salt and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until thick enough to coat the back of the spoon and almost translucent, about 10 minutes. Do not boil.
  • Remove from the heat and gradually stir in the bourbon and vanilla. Add the raisins, pecans, and, if using, coconut and/or cherries. Let cool, but do not chill before spreading.
  • To assemble: If using 2 larger pans, use a serrated knife to cut each cake in half horizontally.

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  • Arrange a cake layer on a serving plate and spread with a third of the filling, about 1 cup. Top with a second cake, spread with half of the remaining filling, and place the third cake layer on top. If making a 3-layer cake, spread the remaining filling on top; for a 4-layer cake, leave the top bare and cover later with frosting. Place in a covered container. Let ripen in a cool place or the refrigerator for at least 2 days and up to 2 weeks, daily spooning any of the filling that seeps out back over top of the cake. For long term storage, place in the freezer for up to 4 months.
  • To make the frosting: In a small saucepan, stir the sugar and water over low heat until dissolved. Stop stirring, increase the heat to medium-high, and boil until it reaches the soft-ball stage and registers 238°F on a candy thermometer.
  • Meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat the egg whites on low speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Add the salt or cream of tartar, increase the speed to medium-high, and beat until soft peaks form, about 1 minute.
  • In a slow, steady stream, beat in the hot syrup. Be careful the syrup does not touch the beaters or it will spin into threads. Add the vanilla and beat until cool.
  • For a 3-layer cake, spread the frosting over the sides of the cake; for a 4-layer cake, spread over the sides and top. If not serving on the same day or for leftovers, store in the refrigerator covered with a cake keeper, a tent of foil, or a bowl with a knife or other flat utensil wedged under it. Serve at room temperature.
  • VARIATIONS
  • Orange-Spice Lane Cake: In the filling, add 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest, ¼ teaspoon ground mace, and 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom.
  • Alcohol-Free Lane Filling: This does not have the keeping power, due to the absence of liquor, as the traditional version. In the filling, omit the bourbon and increase the sugar to 1½ cups (10.5 ounces/300 grams). Add 1 cup evaporated milk with the butter and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened. Stir in the fruits and nuts. Store the cake in the refrigerator.

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See the full post:http://Tori´s Kitchen

As I said before, I loved making this cake and my husband was just over the moon when he tried it. I never would have known about this cake or any other of the cakes I have made for this challenge if my friend Lina hadn´t been so inspired. Thank you Lina! I am posting this third and last recipe feeling pretty great and am looking forward to seeing what goodies the other participants have brought!

Since writing this post, I have learned that Harper Lee has passed away. Here is a lovely list of some her best writing. May she rest in peace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

66 thoughts on “A tribute to an American cake and to Kill a Mockingbird

  1. Wow what a wonderful history…totally got me awake though I was really sleepy! After seeing this I really had to stop by and congratulate you for the wonderful contribution! From your posts it looks like someone really has enjoyed! I totally admire you for your talent and dedication and love to cookking☺

    1. Thank you so much! That is such a lovely thing to say. Making these things took my mind off of things that have been driving me nuts lately! Thank YOU for the inspiration to make these! My husband is pretty grateful haha! Looking forward to seeing your film! 😙😙😙❤❤❤😙😙😙❤❤❤

    1. Thank you so much! It was a peculiar coincidence! I hadn’t thought of the book or movie in years and reading about the cake was so interesting. A reminder of a great piece of literature and a great movie! 😙😙😙😙

    1. It is such a beautiful movie! I always cry when I watch it but I love when a movie can really touch you that way! This is looks like a laborious job but it isn´t! Thank you so much!! xxxx

  2. What a wonderful history, culture and cooking lesson! I love To Kill a Mockingbird and this is a lovely tribute to Harper Lee and her beautiful book.

    1. Thank you so much Elena! I knew nothing about this cake and then just by searching on the internet, I learned so much! Lane Cake seems like such a dull name for it though! Nothing against the creator of the cake, but it does not sound interesting! Maybe Mockingbird cake …I don´t know! Thanks again!! xxxxx

  3. This is such a gorgeous and delicious sounding cake. Particularly that filling–enough brandy for flavour and moisture, but not enough to make you tipsy, haha 🙂 To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favourites.

    1. Hahaha…no way to get tipsy with this one! The pecans and the rest of the fruit mixture are what really make this cake incredible. The brandy brings out the flavours but doesn´t drown them. It is a great book and a great movie! Thank you so much xxxxxx

  4. Natascha, you have outdone yourself! This cake is absolutely beautiful – from the cake to the filling to the frosting and delicious toppinng! Incredibly perfect for a special occasion. I must admit that I haven’t watched that movie and even read the book, but I heard that the book is brilliantly written.

    Again, congratulations for a job well done!

    1. Hi! thank you so so much! I loved making it. I loved that there was a history behind it! the book is wonderful and if you don´t have time to read it, the movie is worth it. Gregory Peck is easy on the eyes but he had the talent to match. this cake has gotten me interested in vintage recipes for cakes. I will definitely recommend making it to anyone because it looks like a mountain of work but it just numerous steps, not laborious steps. you end up feeling so happy and the people you make it for are even happier! Thank you again, my friend xxxxxxxxx

  5. Great post all around Natascha! The cake looks gorgeous and I am so impressed that you made 3 different cakes. I totally agree with you on the culinary history of Canada and the US…it is so true 🙂 By the way, I love the part about one layer for each decade… you are too funny!

    1. Thank you!! I can’t believe I made 3 either! They were so interesting to learn about! Loved it! Haha…the layers were intimidating at first but once you get started, it is not as hard you think! Age is like that too…most of the time😂👍😙❤

  6. Congratulations on completing not 1 but 3 splendid cakes for your friend’s challenge Natascha! I am so impressed. I learned so much about the history of the 3 cakes and their country of origin. I was especially fascinated with the Lane cake from To Kill a Mockingbird, one of my all time most beloved books. Never remembered that line but so happy you included the passage and shared the history of the cake in the south. I love raisins and white cakes so I know I would be swooning on the first bite! The cheesecake looks so light and pillowy, a perfect adaptation of our versions of cheese cake to make me like it too. Have you been to the Washington DC cherry blossom festival? It is magnificent! Finally the Opera cake history was fascinating to read and kudos for your success making it. I am always amazed when recipes endure so long and all of your choices were great tributes!

    1. Thank you so, so much! They were fun to make because of their history! My favourite was the Lane Cake too. It was so beautiful and I have fond memories of reading To Kill a Mockingbird. I read it a ling time ago! And I love the movie too. I have never been to the cherry blossom festival but I would love to go!! Seeing so much pink and gobbling cherries would make me so happy! Thank you again for such a lovely comment. ❤❤❤❤❤

  7. you are super awesome.. Three cakes and loved your detailed research. I totally agree with the American Food history. Its not known that well. Amazing cake. And kudos.. 3 cakes I am super awwwwed

  8. I have become really interested in Southern cuisine lately – much of it ignored for decades and now coming back into fashion. This is a good example of that. Thanks for a lovely post and recipe.

    1. You’re welcome and thank YOU! Southern cooking must be lovely, as well as traditional southern baking. The use of pecans in this recipe got me thinking of how delicious southern recipes must be. Pecans are hard to find here! This is almond country! Your nougat post looks fantabulous but the way!!!! 😍😍😍

  9. Oh Natascha this looks so yummy! I can tell you are passionate about this. Ib want to try it! I’m a level 1 baker:). I will let you know of I do.

    1. Thank you so much!!! I am no baking expert either but you CAN do this! The instructions are so well written (I did not write them!) that the cake ends up being quite simple. Just a bit time consuming but it is worth it. The taste is just fantastic and you feel so proud of yourself afterwards! Just remember that the baking time for the cake can vary according to your oven. Keep an eye on it and if you know that the cake is not fully baked and the top is getting too brown too quickly, don’t worry. Loosely cover it with foil. That is to say, place a sheet of foil over the cake. No wrapping or anything. That will prevent the top from burning! I hope you try this and do let me know if you do. Any questions,I can help!! 😊😊😊😊

  10. Wow, another masterpiece, each better than the next! I love Lane cake, but have only had it once. Now maybe I’ll be inspired! Thanks for bringing this by Throwback Thursday, too!

    Mollie

    1. Thank you again! This was my favourite. It is similar to fruitcake but not as rich. I love its layers and pecans are a wonderful addition to a cake! It was lovely. The recipe is very easy. 👍👍👍❤❤❤👏👏😘😘😘

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