to kill a mockingbird with white mountain frosting

20180221_133724.jpgIf you have been here before, thank you much for returning despite it being a good amount of time since I’ve posted last. Great-aunt Helen’s recipes are important to me and I want to continue putting them out there. That said, life has a way of getting in the way.

My girls—now a tween and a teen—keep me plenty busy and I also work all that I can because 1) I love what I do and 2) work brings in $$. But again, my Great-aunt Helen’s recipe boxes ended up in my hands and they seem a good thing to share.

Should this be your first time here (and if it is, thank you for coming by!), you might want a bit of background on this series, so go ahead and check this out. When you return, we’ll talk about a recent baking project. In the meanwhile, let’s pass slices of Lane Cake to munch while we wait for your return…

20180221_111551.jpgOK, so you’re back?

Great!

The cake, then. I say my girls keep me busy, but they also keep me inspired. My 10th grader read To Kill A Mockingbird in her Language Arts class and having not read it before, I picked up a copy and read alongside. This isn’t a literature blog, so I won’t go into how much I enjoyed the book, but I will note that repeated mention of a Lane Cake had me curious. As a Northerner, I am not well-versed in Southern cakes. Had I been, I’d have known, per Wikipedia, that Lane cake, also known as prize cake or Alabama Lane cake, is a bourbon-laced baked cake traditional in the American South.

It sounded fabulous and anyone who has been here before knows that the mention of bourbon sucks me in. Lane Cake would be mine.

An authentic recipe was easy enough to find thanks to PBS.org and I forged ahead. Though I am not normally a fan of raisins in baked goods, to soak them in a bourbon-based syrup redeemed them here.20180220_140245.jpgCalling out “boiled white frosting” got me thinking about Helen’s recipe collection. I remembered something similar and went hunting. Sure enough, she had a White Mountain Frosting recipe that could do the trick.20180220_140330.jpgThough. It took me a few tries to get where I wanted to go. I’ve had trouble with sugar syrups before, most notably a Divinity Disaster last December. Boiling a sugar syrup to a certain temperature (in this case, 238°F) seems a slam-dunk with a digital thermometer, but I still couldn’t get the frosting to set even after following directions exactly. So I tried it again. And again.20180220_140324.jpgFinally, my 11-year-old (and future scientist), figured out that if I divided the frosting into two smaller batches before beating, I had a better shot of whipping them to a more stable consistency. Sure enough, I got the frosting just stiff enough to spread and not drip down the side of the cake. With time, the frosting dried to a shatteringly crisp texture, which made a great CRUNCH when biting into the moist and syrupy cake.20180221_111441.jpg

So I don’t know exactly what I did wrong with Helen’s frosting recipe. It’s an older recipe and maybe it’s about humidity or ingredients or who knows what else. But I do know that with a bit of persistence (and my daughter’s willingness to think outside of the cake box), I was able to pull it off. Better yet, what a fun project!

The cake itself was divine. Four simple feathery white cake layers (no booze in those) sandwiched around a rich (8 egg yolks and a stick of butter) and boozy filling, it was good enough to eat sans topping. But the marshmallowy sweet and brittle white frosting provided the perfect texture contrast. This cake, along with the book, comes highly recommended.

Next, we need something to drink with our cake, so check back again soon for another Cocktail U post where we’ll raise our glasses and toast to Great-aunt Helen’s recipe box!

13 thoughts on “to kill a mockingbird with white mountain frosting

  1. Nice to see you back with a great aunt Helen recipe! And To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favorite books, as a lawyer. This cake!!! Oh man. And this frosting…a bourbon cake would suck me in every time! This looks lovely and so old fashioned but also oddly modern. Great to see you here!

    • Thank you for being the first to comment here, Amanda! Will be glad to see what you’ve been up to in the kitchen as well 🙂 The cake is phenomenal and made me wish I was a Southern Belle. And of course you would like the book! Atticus rocked and even impressed my teen. (And very little does these days, lol.) So happy to have you here.

  2. Welcome back, nice to see you posting again! It’s funny, but I remember wondering what a lane cake was while reading To Kill A Mockingbird. Looks delicious! I am curious what you will serve to drink with it. Hope you’re well!

    • You!!!! You don’t know how glad I am to see you here 😀 Looked once last time I was in the blogosphere (a year ago?) and didn’t see any recent posts and was afraid I’d lost you. Enjoyed meeting you and your family and hanging with you in Chicago so very much and hope to keep tabs going forward. How is your son? Still same place near downtown?

      We traveled your way last summer to see Hamilton and stayed in the Pittsburgh Building on Washington just off of Michigan. Fun trip for sure, but had the whole family (and my parents) so it was a different sort of trip. Please let me know how you’ve been 🙂

      Thank you so very much for stopping by in my first trip back in way too long.

  3. so good to see and aunt helen once again. i love that your daughter is helping out with the crazy science of baking and i have to say that i reread that book last year and it is one of my favorites.

    • Hello my Michigan friend 🙂 Good to see you again, Miss Beth. How goes the school year? Great book for sure. Cool that you re-read it only recently. I thought for sure I’d read it in school, but got as far as the first page and realized it was all new to me. I read it as an e-book, which was weird, but a story is a story. Thank you for being here!!!

  4. My stars, you are a good post writer. Having not Harper’s book since 10th grade, I recall no mention of lane cake, and have never heard of it myself. But it looks just like the sort of cake one might have at a tea or country club–or even a derby! I spent the better part of the morning looking at Easter dresses at Macy’s, and they seem the perfect outfit with which to pair this cake on some nice china. Who could pass up boozy filling?

    • Aw shucks, thanks Sash. It was a crazy good cake (your birthday cake, remember 🙂 ) and no one else in my family liked it which meant I got to eat every. single, slice. I stretched it out a while and the cake did dry out a bit, but the filling kept it delish. The frosting was falling off in sheets in the end and all I could do was pick the pieces up and eat them 🙂

      The answer to your final question is everybody in my house except for me. Once again, a reason to be neighbors. We could’ve enjoyed slices while sipping something on our front porch. Which we’d have to build, but I would build one if you would come to Minnesota.

      Thank you for coming to my blog!

    • Hey, Fannie – thanks for being here! Good to see your smiling face/avatar. Funny about the plate – it’s a cardboard cake round. Bought a bunch last summer when my oldest made a cake for my parent’s 50th. Now I have lots of fancy cake stuff 🙂

  5. Hi, Liz–welcome back! I, too, have lived through Divinity Disasters as well as Boiled Icing Botches. Yes, it has to do with humidity and ingredients and the fact that I really don’t think any thermometer can be trusted! The cake looks yummy and it’s good, finally, to know what a Lane Cake is.

    • Thank you, Kerry! Thrilled you are here. Am in awe of the folks who stick it out year after year and keep showing up. Love it. Good to know I am not the only one messing up the boiled sugar syrups. Definitely a touchy thing. Going to go for another one to frost an Easter bunny cake so wish me luck. Hope all goes well in your world 🙂

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