Lane Cake first appeared in Emma Rylander Lane’s (of Clayton, Alabama) self-published Some Good Things to Eat (1898). Half a century later, her “Prize Cake” was popularized with the theatrical release of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. As Scout explains “Miss Maudie Atkinson baked a Lane cake so loaded with shinny [moonshine] it made me tight.” The lauded ingredient—bourbon—shows up (strongly) in the filling. Everywhere we take this cake, we take the prize. The bourbon you choose will have a strong impact on the flavor of the filling – so choose carefully. Whiskies or ryes will work; just keep their flavor profile in mind. Of course, you’ll need to test – perhaps often & liberally – to choose the correct spirit. The recipe below is adapted from Cook’s Country (membership required) for a 2-layer 9″ square cake.
- 1¼ cups whole milk – room temperature
- 8 large egg whites – room temperature
- 2½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- 12 ounces cake flour
- 15½ ounces granulated sugar
- 5 teaspoons baking powder
- 1¼ teaspoons salt
- 7½ ounces unsalted butter, cut into about 16 pieces
- 10 Tablespoons bourbon
- 2 Tablespoons heavy cream
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch (or tapioca starch)
- Dash salt
- 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
- 1½ cups pecans (“cookie pieces” are fine)
- 1½ cups golden raisins
- 4 ounces unsalted butter (1 stick)
- 1½ cups sweetened condensed milk (a whole can)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 large egg whites – room temperature
- ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1⅓ cup light corn syrup
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
What to do with left-over egg yolks?We store them for up to a day by pushing plastic wrap against the top of the yolks. Normally since cake and ice cream go so well together we make an ice cream. We’ll post a recipe – and link it here – soon.
Do Ahead Hint: Make the filling and store it for up to 2 days in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator. Allow it to come to room temperature before attempting to fill the cake. Completely cooled cakes can also be baked up to 2 days ahead of time and stored (tightly wrapped) at room temperature.
- Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.
- Butter the bottom of 2 9“ square cake pans. Line each pan with parchment paper. Butter parchment paper & sides of pan. Lightly flour pans. Set aside in cool place.
- Whisk milk, egg whites and vanilla in small bowl or medium-size measuring cup.
- Place flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in bowl of stand mixer (preferred: read the next step) or whisk with a hand whisk.
- With mixer on low speed add butter, 1 piece at a time, until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
- Add &fac12; of milk mixture and increase speed to medium-high once incorporated.
- Beat 1-2 minutes until light and fluffy.
- Reduce mixer to medium-low speed and slowly add milk mixture.
- Return mixer to medium-high and beat about 30 seconds.
- Scrape equal amounts of batter into greased baking pans.
I have a difficult time eye-balling ‘divide equally’…so I use a kitchen scale to weigh pans as I add batter. First, I know that my mixer bowl weighs 4lbs 6oz. When I’m done mixing, I weigh the completed mixture – subtract the bowl weight – and divide by 2 (or as many pans as I’m using). Then I set the first pan on the scale, reset the weight to zero by pressing the “on/off” button and scrape 1/2 the calculated weight of the prepared batter into the first pan and repeat with the second. By doing this my cake layers turn out almost exactly the same thickness and cook evenly.
- Place into oven and immediately reduce temperature to 325°F.
- Bake for ~25 minutes until a toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean. It takes about 35 minutes in my oven – but don’t overcook. Check only about every 5 minutes or your cakes will stop cooking if you cool the oven down too much…
- Remove cakes to cooling racks for 10 minutes, then run a knife around the perimeter of each cake and turn out onto the wire rack to cool completely – at least 1 hour. Completely cooled cakes can be tightly wrapped and stored at room temperature for up to 2 days.
- In a small bowl whisk bourbon, corn (or tapioca) starch, and salt together until smooth. (Hint: put starch & salt in bowl, add a Tablespoon of bourbon and whisk until you have a thick paste. Then slowly add more bourbon, whisking constantly.) Set aside.
- Add coconut to bowl of food processor and process for about 30 seconds until finely ground. I don’t like the texture of dried coconut so I tend to go a little wild here and head toward a stickily coconut flour.
- Add pecans and raisins and pulse until coarsely ground. Again, I don’t like chunky pecan pieces so I get wild here and make a fairly smooth paste. Pulse to your preference.
- Melt butter in a non-stick 10″ skillet.
- Add coconut mixture and cook stirring occasionally until golden brown and very fragrant. Cook’s Country says about 5 minutes. On our crappy cooktop it takes about 10 minutes.
- Remove from heat, stir in bourbon mixture (whisk first) and bring to boil. Boil about 20 seconds to remove alcohol.
- Remove from heat and add sweetened condensed milk and vanilla.
- Scrape into a bowl and set aside. Filling can be stored, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 days but bring filing to room temperature before using or you’ll destroy your bottom layer trying to spread the cold bourbon glop.
This can only be done when you’re ready to frost the cake. No do-aheads.
- Add egg whites and cream of tartar to mixing bowl (preferred: stand mixer. You can thank me later.)
- Fit whipping attachment to mixer and turn mixer to medium-high.
- Whip for 30-45 seconds until frothy
- With mixer still running at medium-high, slowly add sugar to egg mixture – until soft peaks form. Usually about 2 minutes, but temperature and humidity will affect this time. Turn mixer off.
- Add corn syrup to small saucepan over medium-high heat (7’ish on my stovetop) and bring to a boil – when large bubbles begin to form at edges of pan. This usually takes about 90 seconds to 2 minutes. But be sure you have BIG bubbles.
- Turn mixer on medium and SLOWLY pour corn syrup into egg whites. (This should take about a minute or so – don’t rush it or your frosting will cool prematurely.)
- Turn mixer to ultra-low (there’s actually a half-speed below low on Kitchen-Aid mixers) and add vanilla. Return to medium-high and whisk for about 30 second sot incorporate.
- Beat for 3-5 minutes until frosting has cooled. It will be very thick and very shiny. It takes about 5 minutes in my hot, crappy, Texas kitchen. Don’t overwhip or your frosting will turn dull and tough. This is NOT an exact science since your kitchen is probably not as crappy or hot as mine.
If your cakes domed A LOT use a large bread knife to trim the top off of each layer to make a ‘relatively’ flat cake layer. But don’t fret about this. This is a homemade Southern cake. It ain’t s’posed to be perfect, ya’ hear? Don’t make me stop this kitchen…
- Put a dollop of frosting on your serving platter to anchor the cake down. (Again, you’ll thank me later.)
- Place first layer, top up, in center of serving platter.
- Arrange 3″ wide parchment strips under edge of first layer so cleanup is easier later.
- Spread a 1/4 – 1/3 inch thick layer of room-temperature filling on bottom layer. Leave about 1/4″ gap at edges.
- Place – and center – top layer top down on bottom layer.
- Scoop frosting onto top layer, spread down sides and make it as pretty as you like. Be sure to “seal” the edges of the frosting to the parchment paper.
- Slowly remove parchment paper guards using a lightly-dampened paring knife to keep the sticky marshmallow-like frosting from following.