“I should like a slice, if you please, of Lady Baltimore,” I said with extreme formality.
I thought she was going to burst; but after an interesting second she replied, “Certainly.”
… I returned to the table and she brought me the cake, and I had my first felicitous meeting with Lady Baltimore. Oh, my goodness! Did you ever taste it? It’s all soft, and it’s in layers, and it has nuts–but I can’t write any more about it; my mouth waters too much.
Delighted surprise caused me once more to speak aloud, and with my mouth full. “But, dear me, this is delicious!”
Owen Wister, Lady Baltimore, 1906
These words, spoken by a fictional character in Owen Wister’s book, inspired his readers to search for the Lady Baltimore cake recipe. According to legend, Wister had once tried a piece of this cake thought it so delicious that he decided to incorporate it into his novel. Lady Baltimore is traditionally a white cake with a white meringue frosting, and a filling of meringue, dried figs, raisins, and nuts. This holiday version includes cranberries to give it a festive flair. If you prefer the traditional version, just omit the cranberries
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- 3 cups sifted cake flour
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon pure almond extract
- 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 5 large egg whites
- ¾ cup golden raisins
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- ½ cup dried figs, chopped into ¼ inch pieces
- 2 tablespoons orange flavored liqueur, such as Grand Marnier or Triple Sec
- ½ cup pecans, broken by hand into ¼ inch pieces
- 6 large egg whites
- 1¾ cups granulated sugar
- ¼ cup water
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
- ¼ cup dried cranberries
- ¼ cup golden raisins
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt; sift or whisk together to mix. Set aside.
- In a small mixing bowl, stir the buttermilk, vanilla extract, and almond extract together. Set aside.
- In a large bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Tip: To cream, start by placing the butter in the bowl, with an electric mixer on medium speed begin by beating the butter about 1 minute until it is smooth and light in color. With the mixer still on medium speed, slowly add the sugar to the butter, either one tablespoon at a time, or in a very slow steady stream, taking from 4 to 8 minutes to add all of the sugar, and beating until the butter and sugar are fully incorporated and the mixture is a light, or pale yellow color, with a fluffy texture. While adding the sugar, stop the mixer occasionally to scrape the mixture off the paddle and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula so the mixture blends evenly.
- With the mixer on low speed, add about one third of the flour mixture, mix just until the flour is almost completely blended. Scrape the bowl down, and add about one half of the buttermilk mixture, blending just until mixed. Scrape the bowl down again and continue alternating with the flour mixture and buttermilk mixture, ending with the last portion of the flour, and stirring just until blended. Set aside.
- In a medium mixing bowl and using clean beaters, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Using a balloon type wire whisk or large rubber spatula, gently fold about ¼ of the beaten egg whites into the batter to lighten the batter, and then fold in the remaining egg whites.
- Bake: Spoon the batter into the prepared pans and smooth the surface with the back of a large spoon. Bake 20 to 22 minutes or until a long toothpick, wooden skewer, or cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Place pans on a wire cooling rack to cool for 10 to 15 minutes then remove cake from the pans and place the cake on the wire cooling rack to finish cooling.
- In a medium bowl, combine raisins, cranberries, figs, and liqueur. Set aside to let the fruit soak for 20 minutes.
- By hand, bread the pecans into ¼ inch pieces. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl and using clean beaters, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
- In a small heavy-bottomed pan combine sugar, water, and corn syrup to create syrup. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until sugar has dissolved and syrup is clear. Increase heat to high and bring syrup to a boil. Boil without stirring until syrup reaches 248 degrees on a candy thermometer, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
- With the mixer at medium-high speed, pour the hot syrup slowly, in a thin steady stream into the beaten egg whites. Continue beating until the mixture is cool, thick, and shiny, 10 to 12 minutes. Frosting must be used immediately.
- Add about 2 cups of the Meringue Frosting to the fruit mixture, stir in the nuts. Using an offset spatula, spread the fruit and nut filling evenly between the cake layers. Spread remaining frosting on sides and top of cake. Refrigerate leftovers.
- In a small bowl, combine cranberries and golden raisins. Toss with sugar to coat. Arrange around base of frosted cake.