Lady Baltimore Cake

My Grandma Kate makes a chocolate cake with white, fluffy, sweet, gooey Seven Minute Frosting.  I remember her only making this treat a few times for family birthday parties, but it was very memorable and I find myself craving it. Every time I make butter cream frosting and get to the meringue stage of the process, I think about that cake.  So, when I started to read about Lady Baltimore Cake, I knew that it was going to be one that I would love.

I think I first came across a recipe for this cake in one of the southern cookbooks that I was constantly flipping through while working at HM.  I am not sure why I never made it, I then came across a recipe on the Martha Stewart website.  I have found references to it originating in Charleston, but as far as an answer as to why it is called Lady Baltimore, I do not know.  (Apparently, LORD Baltimore Cake is a version that uses egg yolks, as the LADY is made with whites only).  Anyway, the picture and description on the Martha site was enough to make me want to make it.  As I was hunting for menu items for a party we were hosting this past weekend, it found its way to the top of the list.

This cake is serious, regal and very grown up.  Dried figs, raisins, pecans, bourbon, vanilla and almond extract bring complexity of flavor, I also added a little cinnamon which I think rounded them all out beautifully against the sweet marshmallow like frosting.  I decided to increase this recipe by half so that it yielded 3 layers of cake and a generous amount of frosting.  This was the tallest cake I have ever made! It ended up not remaining all that elegant as I served it, but for what it lacked in presentation it made up for in taste.  It was a big hit! When our friend Donald asked me what kind of cake it was and I answered “Lady Baltimore”, his response was “Oh, I hope I really love it so when people ask me what my favorite cake is I can say “Lady Baltimore”, that is so much more interesting than chocolate!!!”

The frosting, as mentioned, is reminiscent of marshmallow and is best eaten the day it is made.  I made the cake layers on Friday and made the frosting and assembled on Saturday morning, for eating on Saturday night.  The assembled cake benefits from a few hours sitting at room temperature, as it sits it firms up enough to slice without all of it squashing out of the layers.  I had a slice for breakfast on Sunday morning and it was still yummy, but I wouldn’t recommend keeping it for more than a day, and don’t chill it.

Lady Baltimore Cake
adapted (slightly) from Martha Stewart and Amy Sedaris 

For the cake:

4 ½ cups cake flour (not self-rising)
6 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch salt
2 cups milk
3 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
1 ½ tsp almond extract
1 cup shortening
1 ¾ cup sugar
9 large egg whites

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray three 8-by-2-inch round cake pans with cooking spray and line with parchment paper rounds; set aside.
Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl; set aside. In another bowl, whisk together milk and vanilla; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the shortening and 1 cup sugar. With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture in three parts, alternating with milk mixture and beginning and ending with flour; beat until just combined.

In the clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites on low speed until foamy. With mixer running, gradually add remaining 3 tablespoons sugar; beat on high speed until stiff, glossy peaks form. Do not over beat. Gently fold a third of the egg-white mixture into the flour mixture until combined. Gently fold in remaining egg whites.

Divide batter evenly between prepared pans, smoothing with an offset spatula. Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until cakes are golden brown and a cake tester inserted into centers comes out clean, about 25 minutes.

Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool 15 minutes. Invert cakes onto wire rack; peel off parchment. Re-invert cakes and let them cool completely, top sides up.

For the frosting:

3/4 cup raisins, chopped
1/4 cup warm tea
3 tbsp bourbon
3 cups sugar
6 large egg whites
Pinch salt
3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup chopped dried figs
1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon

Place raisins, figs, liquor and tea in a small bowl; set aside (I soaked mine overnight). In a small saucepan, bring sugar and a little more than 3/4 cup water to a boil. Continue boiling until syrup reaches 234 degrees to 238 degrees on a candy thermometer (soft-ball stage).

Place egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and beat on low speed until foamy. Add salt and beat on medium-high speed until stiff but not dry; do not over beat.

With mixer running, add syrup to whites in a slow stream (I make sure to pour it between the whisk and the edge of bowl, careful not to let it touch either) beating on high speed until no longer steaming, about 3 minutes. Add vanilla and cinnamon, beat until well incorporated.

For the filling, transfer one-third of the frosting to a medium bowl.  Drain raisins and figs, stir into the frosting along with walnuts.

Using a serrated knife, trim tops of cakes to make level. Place four strips of parchment paper around perimeter of a serving plate or lazy Susan. Place the first layer on the cake plate. Spread the top of the first layer with the filling. Top with next layer, add then more filling.  Finish with the remaining layer, bottom side up. Spread entire cake with plain frosting; remove parchment paper strips.  Decorate with toasted whole pecans and whole dried figs.


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