If 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…
OK, so you’re back?
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.Calling 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.Though. 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.Finally, 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.
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!