Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Lane Cake- A Southern Christmas Tradition

My grandmother, Flora Carter Tidwell, was an excellent cook. She often made Lane Cake for the holidays. It was one of my mother's favorites.
Flora Jane Carter Tidwell

Tradition has it that Emma Rylander Lane, of Clayton, Alabama, won first prize with her cake at the county fair in Columbus, Georgia. She published a cookbook, Some Good Things To Eat, in 1898, and she included the recipe as "Prize Cake".

Lane Cake was mentioned several times in To Kill a Mockingbird. Scout Finch said, “Miss Maudie Atkinson baked a Lane cake so loaded with shinny it made me tight.” (Shinny is slang for liquor.)

Ready to get some bowls and pans dirty? (Really, it takes a ridiculous amount!) I honestly can't even fathom making this without an electric mixer as Miss Emma and contemporaries did. I have even seen some versions of the recipe calling for 16 layers!

Here's my version:


- CAKE –
3 cups sifted cake flour
1 tablespoon double-acting baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
8 egg whites*
1 cup milk

*Separate eggs, placing 6 whites in a large mixing bowl, 2 whites in a small bowl and all the yolks in a saucepan (yolks will be used for the filling, the 2 remaining in the frosting)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.

In a large bowl of mixer beat 6 egg whites and salt until foamy; gradually add add 1/2 cup sugar and beat until stiff. Set aside.

In a separate large mixing bowl, cream the butter, remaining sugar and vanilla. Add the flour mixture a little at a time, alternating with the milk. Remove bowl from mixer and fold in the egg white mixture gently but thoroughly.

The choice of pans are yours. The original recipe was baked in pie tins. You want to end up with at least 3 layers. You can use a bundt pan (my personal choice), or 8 or 9 inch round pans. You can cut the layers after baking into additional layers. Divide the batter between 2 or 3 or 4 pans if using round pans. Grease and flour whichever pans you choose.

Bake in a 350-degree oven until edges shrink slightly from sides of pans and tops spring back when gently pressed with finger, or toothpick inserted in center comes out clean — about 20 minutes depending on which size pans you choose. (The thinner the layers the faster it cooks). Place pans on wire racks to cool for about 5 minutes.

Turn out on wire racks; turn right side up; cool completely.


8 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1 cup shredded coconut
1 small jar maraschino cherries, drained (reserve a few cherries for the top)
1 cup raisins, finely chopped
½ cup butter, at room temperature
1 – 3 cups bourbon or brandy
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup pecan pieces

In a large saucepan, combine egg yolks, sugar, coconut, cherries, raisins and butter. Cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly until very thick. and mixture mounds when dropped from a spoon. Remove from heat; stir in bourbon, pecans, and vanilla. Cool slightly.


Depending on which size pan you chose, slice bundt or layers diagonally to make 3 or four layers. A bread knife works well for this. The filling is placed between layers, not on the top or sides. Filled cake can be stored 1 week ahead if stored airtight in a cool place. If refrigerated, allow to stand at room temperature for half a day before serving because the texture is best when cake is not served chilled. Frost top and sides with boiled white frosting. I like to decorate the top of mine with a few maraschino cherries and pecan halves.


1-1/2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup hot water
2 egg whites

Beat egg whites in a large bowl of mixer until stiff.

Combine sugar, cream of tartar, salt, and water in a saucepan. Cook rapidly without stirring to soft-ball stage (240 degrees on a candy thermometer), 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat. With the mixer on, pour hot syrup in a thin stream into egg whites, beating constantly at high speed until frosting is shiny and smooth and will hold stiff peaks.
Put layers together (on a cake plate) with Lane Cake Filling, stacking carefully; do not spread filling over top. Cover top and sides with Boiled White Frosting. The frosting is thick enough to make beautiful swirls.
Before you go running from the kitchen, I have also successfully cheated by using a white cake mix for the cake, and then assembled using the filling and frosting. The filling and frosting are what really makes the cake!

I would love to see some links to your traditional recipes!