Sep 18, 2014
A few weeks ago, my Momma sent me a recipe, which she does from time to time when she stumbles on something she thinks would be tasty. But, this one had a caveat because it was a recipe she remembers her own grandmother making when she was a little girl. My great grandmother had three sisters, and they all had varying opinions on the cake: Aunt Ovada refused to eat it because of the special ingredient, Aunt Loreen just played coy about it, and the third, Aunt Nell Jo, laughed at all of them and had seconds. Now that's a story for me! And what kind of cake would bring such a memory...
Lane Cake! The official cake for the state of Alabama!
As the story goes, Lane Cake was named after its creator, Emma Lane, who entered her cake into a county fair competition in Columbus, GA in 1898. The cake was so good that the recipe was published and its popularity became so wide that it's even mentioned in the famous novel To Kill a Mockingbird.
Generally speaking, Lane Cake is vanilla sponge cake layered with a fruit and nut filling and frosted with vanilla meringue. But, the secret ingredient is what really brings it home...drum roll please...
That's right. That filling is more specifically a whiskey custard with coconut, dried fruit, and nuts. YUM.
Here's the recipe I used...
Vanilla Sponge Cake
8 egg whites
2 1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cup butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 1/3 cup cake flour, sifted
4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup whole milk
First things first, you gotta grease three 8in. round cake pans. I would recommend, and you'll see this in many recipes for sponge cake, that you also cut out parchment paper to line the bottom of the pans too. It's a good safety measure for any cake so you know it won't get stuck to the bottom of the pan, but it's particularly good for this kind of cake, which can be more difficult to remove from the pans than others. Oh, and pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees. Next, sift together the dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. The next step is to beat the egg whites into soft peaks. And, save those 8 egg yolks cause you'll use them to make the filling!
Next, you can cream together the butter and sugar in a standing mixer, and then add the vanilla once it's light and fluffy. You know what's next. Add the flour mixture and the milk alternately until just incorporated. Then, by hand with a spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the batter.
Heck yes, cake batter. Get it in the pans!
Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until wooden toothpick comes out clean. Or a cake tester, if you're fancy. Once baked, let them rest in the pans for 10 minutes, then remove and let them completely cool on racks.
In the meantime, while the cake is baking, it's time to get to the good stuff.
Lane Cake Filling
8 egg yolks
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup whiskey
1 cup raisins
1 cups toasted and chopped pecans
1 cup coconut
That's right. You read 1 cup of whiskey. We're not playing around here.
To get started, melt the stick of butter in a sauce pan, and then add the sugar and whiskey. Bring the mixture to a low boil and simmer until the sugar as dissolved. In a smaller seperate bowl, beat the egg yolks until smooth. Then, you're going to temper the eggs by slowly pouring in a small amount of the hot whiskey mixture while whisking. This helps to bring the eggs up to temperature so you don't end up with scrambled eggs in whiskey and sugar, which sounds horrible. Once the eggs are tempered, you can slowly add all of the eggs to the whiskey pot, stir it all together, bring it back to a low simmer, and cook for about 5 minutes until the mixture thickens.
Then, remove the pot from the heat and stir in the coconut, toasted pecans, and raisins. The consistency will thicken as it cools, but you're going to be looking for thin enough to spread, but thick enough to hold its place.
This delicious mixture will also need to come to room temperature before you start assembling the cake, but once that happens, it. is. on.
Level your cake layers and then snack on the leftovers while you work on the rest of the assembly, which is just layering half of the whiskey filling between each layer of sponge cake.
Ugh. I want a piece of that all ready and it's not even frosted yet. Which reminds me...
7- Minute Meringue Frosting
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tbs. light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
6 large egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Separate your egg whites into a heat-proof glass mixing bowl or the top bowl of a double boiler, again, if you're fancy, and add the sugar, corn syrup, and water. At the same time, bring a pot of water onto simmer. If you're like me, and you forget to bring the water to a boil before you put the egg white bowl on top of the pot, this will take much longer than seven minutes and more like fifteen. But, you know, you do you, boo.
You're looking for the egg whites to get up to 160 degrees. Just hot enough to get them a good temperature, but not hot enough to make scrambled egg whites, which are great for veggie omelets, but bad for making frosting. Use that thermometer! Once they've reached 160, immediately remove them from the heat, and, using a hand mixer on high, beat the egg whites into soft peaks. Add the vanilla, and beat a few more minutes into hard peaks.
Then, frost that cake!
I topped mine with toasted pecan halves, but you could use some of the extra raisins or coconut, or nothing at all.
I recommend making this cake the day before serving because the flavors in the filling will get better after they've had even more time to marry together. But, when you just can't stand it any more, cut a slice and dig in. You know I did!