Thursday, May 15, 2014

Lady Baltimore Cake

Lady Baltimore Cake, which was a popular American cake from the 1920's to the 1950's, has some very disputed origins. Like many old American favorites, the beginnings of this recipe and its locale are in doubt. One thing is certain, it does NOT date back to the actual Lady Baltimore, Charlotte Lee (1678-1721) an English noblewoman who was married to Baron Baltimore ("Lord Baltimore") and was the mother of the future Governor or Maryland. Cakes back in her day were not as light and delicate as the "lady cakes" popularized much later. Incidentally, there is a Lord Baltimore Cake, which is a yellow cake.

Anyway, a Lady Baltimore cake is a delicate white cake, layered with a filling of dried fruits and nuts in the middle, then frosted with a fluffy boiled icing.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray pans with cooking spray and line with parchment. This cake will do three 6" or two 8" round layers, so it is up to you whether to make a two or three-layer cake.

Have all ingredients at room temperature before starting:

1 3/4 Cups Sifted Cake Flour

2 teaspoons Baking Powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 Cup granulated sugar
1/2 Cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 Cup milk
1/4 Cup Sour Cream
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
4 egg whites

Mix all dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl and stir well (if you have a KitchenAid mixer, go ahead and put it in that bowl and mix on low speed with the paddle to combine.)

Add the softened butter (in small chunks) with the milk into the dry ingredients. Mix on low until combined, then turn the mixer up to medium and beat for about 60 seconds to aerate. Stir the Almond extract into the sour cream and add this to the batter. Mix on low until just combined (about 15 seconds). Add the last of the sour cream and mix on low again, until just combined. Scrape the bowl down good.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with a wire whisk until they are stiff but still a bit moist. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter, just until they are incorporated. At first it will look like these two will not come together, since the batter is thick. Keep folding in, turning the bowl as you go. You will still see streaks of white when it is done, that's okay. Immediately fill pans and bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes, until the center springs back when touched gently with a finger.

Cool completely before frosting.

*I made a two-layer cake, so double this recipe for a three layer cake

1/2 Cup chopped dried fruits (I like dried cherries and dates, but you could use figs, raisins, apricots or maraschino cherries)
1/2 Cup chopped toasted pecans
2-4 Tablespoons of the boiled icing (have the fruits and nuts ready to go and make the filling after you have made the icing)

Soak the dried fruits in warm water or Brandy for about fifteen minutes to soften them. Drain and blot dry. Mix with nuts and icing just before spreading between layers.

I like a standard Seven-Minute Icing for this:
2/3 Cups Sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
pinch of salt
1/4 Cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons light corn syrup
1 Egg white
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Put sugar, cream of tartar, salt, water, and corn syrup in a saucepan. Cook, while stirring, over medium heat until sugar is dissolved.

Put egg whites in a mixing bowl. Whip on high speed about 45 seconds, or until egg whites begin to hold their shape. With the mixer on high, slowly pour the hot sugar syrup in a stream into the egg whites and continue to whip for another minute to a minute and a half. Add vanilla and whip about five or six more minutes, until the frosting can stand in very stiff peaks. Frost cake right away.

This is what my cake looked like sliced - messy, but tasty: