And now, for something completely different.
I do realize that it’s Thanksgiving, but a dear friend just asked me for this recipe, bringing up all the very rich memories that go with this very rich cake. And I just felt like sharing it here. I will be celebrating Christmas quite early this year, so it’s not too soon to think about it.
Lane Cake is one of those things that is as much an event as it is a dessert. It is an incredibly rich butter cake, almost a pound cake, with an intense bourbon filling. This cake is not for the faint of heart! But it always wows the crowd.
This cake is not for the faint of heart! But it always wows the crowd.
My mother was from the deep South, and this cake was a tradition in our family at Christmas. Before my best friend, whose birthday it is today, moved away, he always asked me to make it for Christmas dinner. My mother used to make the amazing decorations shown in the photo: red and gold roses made from white chocolate. But that is almost gilding the lily. I’m no good at fancy decorating, so I just make plain white boiled frosting and sprinkle it with edible white glitter.
This Southern tradition gets its name from Emma Rylander Lane of Clayton, Alabama, who won a prize for it in the state fair. She first published the recipe under the name “Prize Cake” in her 1898 cookbook Some Good Things To Eat.
Notes: This cake MUST be made from scratch; you cannot substitute a mix in any way. And if you substitute anything else for the bourbon, don’t call it a Lane Cake.
Equipment Notes: You must use 8-inch round cake pans which are smaller than the standard size, so you may need to buy them (you need three); Williams Sonoma carries them. A stand mixer is necessary; hand-held mixers generally don’t work on the frosting. A candy thermometer is helpful for the frosting. For decorating, buy edible white glitter and/or red/green/gold Luster Dust or Shimmer Dust where cake decorating supplies are sold.
3/4 c. raisins
1/2 c. shredded coconut
1/2 c. pecans
1/2 c. butter
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. bourbon
8 egg yolks
1 t. vanilla
Chop raisins and chop pecans finely. Melt butter; add sugar and bourbon; bring just to boiling to dissolve sugar. Beat yolks slightly; add a small amount of hot mixture to yolks, stirring vigorously; then add yolks back to hot mixture, stirring vigorously. Cook over low heat, stirring, until thickened. Remove from heat. Stir in raisins, pecans, coconut, and vanilla. Mix well. Cool to room temperature (no cooler or it will be too stiff to spread). While filling cools, make cake.
8 egg whites
2-1/4 c. sugar
1-1/4 c. butter, softened
2 t. vanilla
3-1/3 c. cake flour, sifted
4-1/2 t. baking powder
1-1/2 t. salt
1-1/2 c. milk
Lightly grease and flour three 8″ round cake pans. Heat oven to 375º. Beat egg whites until stiff; set aside. Cream sugar and butter thoroughly until light. Add vanilla; mix. Sift dry ingredients together; add to batter alternately with milk, beating after each addition. Fold in whites carefully. Bake at 375º 18-20 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Carefully remove cake from pans to cake racks and cool completely. While cake cools, make frosting.
2 c. sugar
few grains salt
1/3 c. corn syrup
2/3 c. water
2 egg whites
1 t. vanilla
In saucepan, combine sugar, salt, syrup and water. Cook over low heat, stirring, until sugar dissolves. Cook over low heat, covered, without stirring, for 3 minutes; uncover and continue to cook over low heat until syrup spins a thread from spoon (240º on candy thermometer). Beat egg whites until stiff. Pour the syrup slowly over the egg whites, beating constantly. Beat until frosting begins to lose gloss and hold shape. Stir in vanilla. A drop or two of hot water can be added if frosting becomes too thick.
Fill cake and frost. Decorating ideas: Christmas Ribbons & Roses (see separate recipe below), sugared pecan halves, or white Cake Sparkles glitter.
Christmas Ribbons & Roses
The recipe below produces a taffy-like pliable material that you can sculpt and cut into various shapes. You can color it (use paste, not liquid food color) and add Luster Dust or Shimmer Dust for a frosted effect. To make the decorations shown here:
20 oz. white chocolate
1/4 c. light corn syrup
1/4 c. (or less) vodka
Gold Luster Dust (two 2g jars)
Green Luster Dust (two 2g jars)
Red Luster Dust (one 2g jar)
Paste food colors: green, red
1 c. icing for decorating
large silver dragees
small clean new paintbrush
Melt white chocolate in double boiler over low heat. Remove from heat; add syrup. White chocolate will separate. While still warm, divide mixture into thirds, and place the portions in separate bowls. Using paste food color, tint one third green, and one third red. (Do not use liquid food color, or material will be too soft to shape.) Knead each mixture by hand until color is blended in and material is cohesive and elastic. Discard the excess cocoa butter that comes out. Wrap portions in paper towels and plastic wrap and chill 15-30 minutes, or until firm but pliable.
While shaping roses and ribbons, if material becomes too firm, microwave 5 to 10 seconds. If it gets too soft, refrigerate 15-30 minutes, and keep batches chilled until ready to use. Your hands will get very oily; keep paper towels handy to wipe.
Make ribbons: Between sheets of foil or plastic wrap, roll out green mixture to 12 by 8 inches. Cut into eight 12-inch by 1-inch ribbons. Chill until firm. Cut four strips in half and shape into loops. (Important: shape loops first, then paint them.) In cup or shot glass, mix green Luster Dust powder with a few drops of vodka to thin to painting consistency. Brush onto one side of ribbons and both sides of loops. If paint dries as you work, thin with a little more vodka. Set aside or chill until dry (it dries rather quickly).
Make roses: Shape untinted white chocolate mixture into 1/2 inch balls. Cover baking sheet with plastic wrap or wax paper; working with 20 balls at a time, flatten balls into 1-1/2 inch discs. To form a rose, first roll one disc into cone shape to form center of rose; attach each of five more discs around bottom of center cone for petals. Make some smaller roses using only five discs. Blend gold Luster Dust powder with a few drops of vodka to painting consistency. Paint roses gold. Set aside or chill until dry. Repeat with red mixture to make red roses, painting with red Luster Dust powder. If desired, place one silver dragee in center of each rose.
Pipe icing shells around bottom and top edge of cake; dot shells with a silver dragee between each. Arrange loops and ribbons on top of cake and flowing out over edge of cake. Top with red and gold roses, using icing as glue, or toothpicks as needed to position roses.
Happy Birthday, Jax!