Lane Cake

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Lane Cake
Thank you, Emma Rylander Lane, for creating and sharing this wonderfully delicious, and elegant cake. The recipe for Lane Cake was first printed in Lane’s cookbook Some Good Things to Eat, which she self-published in 1898. Lane cake is mentioned several times in Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize winning American classic To Kill a Mockingbird.

My version is a 6-layer masterpiece. Following tradition, this recipe is made with a white cake using a large amount of egg whites. Each layer is topped with a generous portion of a cooked egg yolk based filling loaded with pecans, raisins, coconut, and of course a heavy dose of bourbon. A thick layer of Seven Minute Frosting adds the final embellishment.

Lane Cake is truly a celebration and holiday cake; it takes a bit of time and planning, however the results are extra scrumptious.

From the Encyclopedia of Alabama:
The original Lane Cake recipe states that the cake should be baked in medium pie tins lined on the bottom with ungreased brown paper, rather than in cake pans. She specified “one wine-glass of good whiskey or brandy” for the filling and that the raisins be “seeded and finely clipped.” She also insisted that the icing be tested with a clean spoon. In Lane’s time, the cake would have been baked in a wood stove. Lane also suggested that the cake is best if made a day or so in advance of serving, presumably to allow the flavors to meld.

In Alabama, and throughout the South, the presentation of an elegant, scratch-made, laborious Lane cake is a sign that a noteworthy life event is about to be celebrated. In the novel To Kill a Mockingbird by Alabama native Harper Lee, character Maudie Atkinson bakes a Lane cake to welcome Aunt Alexandra when she comes to live with the Finch family. Noting the cake’s alcoholic kick, the character Scout remarks, “Miss Maudie baked a Lane cake so loaded with shinny it made me tight.” Shinny is a slang term for liquor.
Recipe type: Layer Cake
Serves: 10 to 12
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Recipe Notes
Ingredients
Filling:
  • 12 large egg yolks
  • 1½ cups granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, melted, then cooled
  • 1½ cups toasted pecans, finely chopped
  • 1½ cups raisins, finely chopped
  • 1½ cups shredded or flaked sweetened coconut
  • ½ cup bourbon
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Batter:
  • 3½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk, room temperature (preferably whole milk)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 8 large egg whites
Seven Minute Frosting:
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 1½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • ⅓ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Instructions
Filling:
  1. Place egg yolks in a large bowl of an electric mixer; beat on medium high speed about 3 minutes. Gradually add the sugar and beat for 5 to 8 minutes or until the mixture is very thick and drops in ribbons when the beater is lifted. Reduce the mixer to low, gradually stream in the melted butter while continuing to beat until the mixture is blended.
  2. Place the bowl with the beaten egg yolks in top of a double boiler over simmering water. Cook the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly with a wire whisk until mixture reaches 170 degrees on an instant read thermometer, about 15 minutes. Remove pan from heat.
  3. Stir in pecans, raisins, and coconut. Let mixture cool, then add the bourbon and vanilla; stir until thoroughly combined.
  4. Refrigerate until completely chilled, at least 6 hours or overnight. Tip: Plan on making the filling at least one day in advance to give yourself enough time to prepare the cake.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare three 8 inch round layer cake pans; lightly grease the pans with shortening and dust with flour. Tip: to make baked cake easier to remove from pan, lightly grease the pan, line the bottom with parchment paper, and then lightly grease the top of the parchment paper and dust the pan with flour.
Batter:
  1. In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt; sift or whisk together to mix. Set aside.
  2. In a small mixing bowl, stir the milk and vanilla extract together. Set aside.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 milk mixture, blending just until mixed. Scrape the bowl down again and continue alternating with the flour mixture and milk mixture, ending with the last portion of the flour, and stirring just until blended. Set aside.
  5. In a large 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.
  6. Bake: Spoon the batter into the prepared pans and smooth the surface with the back of a large spoon. Bake 25 to 30 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.
Assembly:
  1. Using a long serrated kitchen knife, split each cake into 2 horizontal layers. Tip: Cut one of the cake layers so that the bottom half is thicker than the top half, and use the thicker bottom half as the 1st layer to provide a good base to support the upper layers.
  2. Place the thicker bottom half of the layers on a cake plate. Using an offset spatula spread about ⅔ cup filling over the layer. Repeat with the next four layers. Place the last cake layer on top. And spread remaining filling over the top layer.
  3. Refrigerate the cake at least one hour to stabilize the cake and filling before frosting.
Seven Minute Frosting:
  1. In top of a double boiler, combine egg whites, sugar, corn syrup, cream of tartar, and water. Beat on high speed 1 minute with a hand-held electric mixer. Place pan over simmering water (the upper pan should not touch the water.) Cook, beating constantly with mixer on high speed about seven minutes or until stiff peaks form. Remove from heat; add vanilla. Beat 1 minute longer to thoroughly combine. Frosting should be used immediately. Tip: Create a double boiler by filling a saucepan with 2 inches of water and bringing it to a simmer. Place a stainless steel, ceramic, or glass bowl on top of the simmering water, the upper pan should not touch the water.
  2. Using an offset spatula spread the frosting thickly onto the sides of the chilled cake. Tip: You don’t have to use all the frosting, but this is the type of frosting most people love and will appreciate the thick layer.
  3. Refrigerate the cake 30 minutes before serving to firm the frosting before serving. Refrigerate leftovers.
Source: Classic Southern Desserts, Oxmoor House, Iowa, 2010
Encyclopedia of Alabama

Lane Cake

Lane Cake

Lane Cake recipe