As a rule I am not terribly fond of cake, which made it odd that I suddenly had a desire to bake one. Until I realized the fact that my birthday was this week might have something to do with it. You may think baking yourself a cake for your birthday is weird (and perhaps a touch pathetic) but it’s a gift to myself. I enjoy the process of baking and I get the kind of cake I like: three layers (more room for gooey filling), bourbon and coconut. Lane Cake, kind of a Southern version of German Chocolate Cake but without the chocolate. It’s gooey and decadent and I’m surprised there isn’t a restaurant in town serving this. It’s that good!
My inspiration came from one of those supermarket cookbooks strategically placed next to the cash register in order to the capture the attention of someone like me. Of course, the recipe in the cookbook, which had been published in Southern Living Magazine in 1966, was wrong. It took me a couple of tries and some online research to get the proportions sorted out but finally I ended up with a light sponge cake and a lovely bourbon-fruity-caramel filling.
If you are interested in the history of Lane Cake, and the history of Southern cakes in general, here is a link to a good article. Most relevant for me was the throwaway line at the end that the cake was best made a few days before and allowed to “age”. Kind of like a good homemade fruitcake (yes, such a thing does exist), it allows the bourbon and other yummy flavors to seep into the cake itself. How did this step get lost in translation?
One word of caution: this is not the easiest of cakes to make. You can do it. Just take it a step at a time and be confident. And have fun!
Start by making a sponge cake. Separate eight eggs, reserving the yolks for the filling. Beat the egg whites in a clean bowl until they form a little mountain peak when you take the beater out. Don’t beat them so long that they become dry and clumpy.
In another bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until it is light yellow in color and fluffy. This takes about 3-4 minutes in a stand mixer on medium.
In turns, add the sifted flour and the milk.
Put a big dollop of the egg whites in the batter and stir it in to lighten the batter. This will make it easier to gently fold in the egg whites without deflating them. Then carefully fold in the egg whites using a rubber spatula. Turning the bowl a half turn as you go along will make it easier and mix in the whites more evenly.
Put the batter evenly into three prepared, 9” cake tins and bake for about 20 minutes until the top springs back when you touch it and a toothpick comes out dry.
Cool the cake completely before going on to the next step. You can make the cake a day before or even make and freeze it and finish the cake later.
When you are ready to make the filling, it is best to get all of your ingredients together before starting. If you have an insta-read thermometer have it ready too.
Put the eggs in a heavy bottomed medium saucepan and whisk them together. Add the butter and sugar and put it over medium heat.
Stir it constantly until it thickens. The mixture will be ready when it reaches a temperature between 165-175 degrees. (The eggs will scramble when they reach 185 so keep an eye on it). If you don’t have a thermometer you will be able to tell it is ready when you can dip a spoon in it and run your finger down the middle of the spoon and it leaves a clean line.
Remove it from the heat and add all the other ingredients. Let it cool completely in the refrigerator.
Spread the filling between the layers and finish with the top.
You can eat it right away or you can go old style and let it sit for a day or two in cool spot. The filling will seep into the layers and make a lovely moist bite. Either way, this is a great cake!
- 8 egg whites
- 1 cup butter
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 ¾ cups cake flour
- 3 tsp baking powder
- ¾ tsp salt
- ¾ cup + 2 tbsp milk
- 1 ½ tsp vanilla
For the Filling
- 8 egg yolks
- 1 cup sugar
- ½ cup butter
- 1/3 cup bourbon
- ¾ cup diced maraschino cherries
- ¾ cup raisins
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- 1 1/3 cup flaked coconut
To make the cake
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Lightly grease the bottoms of 3 9” cake tins.
- Whip the egg whites until they hold a peak when the beater is removed. They should be moist, not dry.
- In a separate bowl, cream together the butter and sugar for about 4 minutes until it is light and fluffy.
- Sift the cake flour together with the salt and baking powder. Measure the milk and add the vanilla to it.
- In turns add the flour mixture and the milk to the creamed butter and sugar, mixing well between each addition.
- Put a large spoonful of the egg whites into the cake batter and stir it together to lighten the mixture.
- Add the rest of the egg whites and gently fold them into the batter until just mixed in.
- Divide the batter between the three cake tins and bake at 350 degree for about 20 minutes until the top springs back and a toothpick comes out dry.
- Rest the cakes for ten minutes in the pans and then turn them out onto a cooling rack to dry completely.
Make the filling
- Prepare all of your ingredients.
- Put the egg yolks in a medium saucepan and whisk them together well. Place them over a medium burner and add the butter and sugar.
- Stir constantly until the mixture thickens and reaches a temperature of 165-175 degrees. It should coat the back of a spoon and leave a line when a finger is drawn through it.
- Remove from the heat and stir to cool a bit.
- Slowly pour in the bourbon then add the rest of the ingredients. Cool in the refrigerator for an hour or more.
Assemble the cake by placing 1/3 of the mixture between the layers and finishing with filling on top.
The Lane Cake can be eaten immediately or allowed to “ripen” in the refrigerator for one or two days.