Lane cake

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Lane cake
Slice of lane cake.jpg
A thick slice of lane cake
Alternative names Prize cake, Alabama lane cake
Type Cake
Place of origin United States
Region or state American South
Creator Emma Rylander Lane
Main ingredients Sponge cake, candied fruit, raisins, pecans, coconut, bourbon
Cookbook:Lane cake  Lane cake

A Lane Cake, also known as a 'Prize Cake' or an 'Alabama Lane Cake' is a bourbon-laden baked cake traditional in the American South. According to food scholar Neil Ravenna, the inventor was Emma Rylander Lane, of Clayton, Alabama, who won first prize with it at the county fair in Columbus, Georgia.[1] She called it Prize Cake when she self-published a cookbook, "Some Good Things To Eat" in 1898.[2] Her published recipe included raisins, pecans, and coconut, and called for the layers to be baked in pie tins lined with ungreased brown paper rather than in cake pans.

The Lane Cake is sometimes confused with the Lady Baltimore cake, which also is a liquor-laden fruit-filled cake, but of different pedigree.[1]

Many variations of the Lane Cake now exist, with as many as thirteen layers of white sponge cake, separated by a filling that typically includes candied fruit soaked in a generous amount of bourbon or sometimes brandy. It may be frosted on the top, on the sides, or both.

Recipe[edit]

Although the cake has a reputation as being difficult to make, this is no longer true.[3] When the recipe originated, there were no stand mixers, nor electric hand mixers, and even hand-crank eggbeaters were not universally available, which meant a lot of hard labor beating egg whites to frothy soft peaks. The wood-fired ovens of the time had no thermostats, making it difficult to produce a white cake. Modern refrigeration also makes it easier to produce a stiff filling, allowing one to build an orderly multi-layer cake, rather than a sticky, lopsided dessert.

Krystina Castella and Terry Lee Stone include a recipe for Lane Cake in their cookbook Booze Cakes: Confections Spiked With Spirits, Wine, and Beer[4] which uses 2 tablespoons of bourbon in the cake, 1 cup in the filling, and a buttercream frosting made from 1 cup unsalted butter, 1/4 cup half-and-half, 3 cups confectioner's sugar, 1/4 cup bourbon, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Lane Cakes in American Culture[edit]

In Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, a Lane Cake is given as a welcome gift to Aunt Alexandra by Miss Maudie Atkinson. The narrator in the story is the young daughter, Scout, of Atticus Finch. Scout reports, "Miss Maudie baked a Lane cake so loaded with shinny it made me tight."[1] "Shinny" is a slang term for liquor. Also in To Kill a Mockingbird, Miss Maudie bakes a Lane Cake for Mr. Avery, who was severely injured in an attempt to put out a fire in her home.

In Jimmy Carter's memoir Christmas in Plains, he writes: "I guess it would be more accurate to say that Mama never liked to cook, and welcomed my father into the kitchen whenever he was willing. He was always the one who prepared battercakes or waffles for breakfast, and he would even make a couple of Lane cakes for Christmas. Since this cake recipe required a strong dose of bourbon, it was just for the adult relatives, doctors, nurses, and other friends who would be invited to our house for eggnog." [5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Encyclopedia of Alabama: Lane Cake
  2. ^ Lane, Emma Rylander. Some Good Things to Eat. 1989. Reprint, Clayton, Ala.: The Clayton Record, 1976.
  3. ^ Loaded with Shinny: Lane Cakes & To Kill A Mockingbird
  4. ^ Booze Cakes: Confections Spiked With Spirits, Wine, and Beer, Quirk Books (2010) ISBN 978-1-59474-423-5
  5. ^ Christmas in Plains: Memories, by Jimmy Carter and Amy Carter, 2004. Simon & Schuster, ISBN 978-0-7432-2715-5