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
Created by Emma Rylander Lane
Main ingredients Sponge cake, candied fruit, raisins, pecans, coconut, bourbon
Cookbook: Lane cake  Media: Lane cake

Lane cake, also known as prize cake or Alabama Lane cake, is a bourbon-laced 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, A Few 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 three or more layers of white sponge cake, separated by a filling that typically includes pecans, raisins and coconut soaked in a generous amount of bourbon, wine or brandy. It may be frosted on the top, on the sides, or both.

Lane cake is often found in the South at receptions, holiday dinners, or wedding showers.[3]

Recipe[edit]

The cake has a reputation as being difficult to make, but this is no longer as true as it once was.[4] 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. The pecans, raisins and coconut had to be chopped by hand or, more often, put through a meat grinder.[5] The filling ingredients can be chopped in an electric food processor today. 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. Even with modern conveniences, making a traditional Lane cake is still quite a task to undertake. It is still a special cake, best made several days in advance of an important family event, so the flavors have time to mingle. During the war, Lane cakes were a favorite among service men lucky enough to receive one for Christmas. By the time the cake arrived overseas, the spirits, raisins and cake had fermented into a special delight. Many southern families have stories of "the best cake ever tasted".

Recipes for Lane cake vary because so many Southern Cooks who made Lane cake for special occasions fiercely guarded their recipe. Some lucky cooks use a recipe passed down from generation to generation, while many others rely on vague instructions and a variety of sources in an attempt to recreate the family tradition. One such cook, Atlanta baker and Alabama native, Lise Ode, wrote about such an attempt and shares the recipe she created on her blog.[6] Professional chef, Tori Avey, includes a recipe for Lane cake on her website[7] complete with pictures of each step. Although it is difficult to locate a copy of Emma Rylander Lane's original cookbook or the revised edition, Some Good Things to Eat that was published in 1989, the recipe can be found in many older cookbooks. One such cookbook, The Purefoy Hotel Cook Book[8] published in Talladega, Alabama in 1953 has been digitized and can be accessed through the Digital Public Library of America. The recipe for Lane cake appears on page 123–124.

Krystina Castella and Terry Lee Stone include a recipe for Lane cake in their cookbook Booze Cakes: Confections Spiked With Spirits, Wine, and Beer[9] 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.

The original recipe for Lane cake called for 1/4 cup Bourbon added to the filling mixture only, although the bourbon was sometimes replaced with grape juice by cooks who did not believe in partaking alcohol. Whisky, Wine, and Brandy are mentioned in other recipes. Still other Lane cake cooks took great pride in using a homemade liqueur, such as Scuppernong Wine, making their cake all the more special and harder to duplicate. Most cooks placed the finished Lane cake in a covered tin and allowed it to "set" for up to a week before serving,[10] in order for the spongy cake to "soak up" the flavor. Some also wrapped the unfrosted cake in a cloth that had been soaked in the bourbon, brandy, wine or grape juice while it set in a cool place, often in a bowl set inside a dishpan and then covered. It was then frosted with 7-minute boiled icing or other whipped white frosting, usually a day or more before serving.

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. “Mr. Avery will be in bed for a week—he’s right stove up. He’s too old to do things like that and I told him so. Soon as I can get my hands clean and when Stephanie Crawford’s not looking, I’ll make him a Lane cake. That Stephanie’s been after my recipe for thirty years, and if she thinks I’ll give it to her just because I’m staying with her she’s got another think coming.”[11]

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." [12]

In May 2016 Lane cake became the official state cake of Alabama.[13]

See also[edit]

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. ^ "THE HISTORY OF LANE (DRIVE) CAKE - Alabama Chanin Journal". Alabama Chanin Journal. Retrieved 2016-04-10. 
  4. ^ Loaded with Shinny: Lane Cakes & To Kill A Mockingbird
  5. ^ "Granny Lessons: Lane Cake and Old Fashion Whiskey Nut Cake For the Holidays..." grannylessons.blogspot.com. Retrieved 2016-04-10. 
  6. ^ "Alabama Lane Cake - Mom Loves Baking". Mom Loves Baking. Retrieved 2016-04-10. 
  7. ^ "American Cakes - Lane Cake History and Recipe". Tori Avey. Retrieved 2016-04-10. 
  8. ^ Purefoy, Eva Brunson (1953-01-01). Purefoy hotel cook book :true and tried recipes of real Southern cooking / (Rev. ed.). Talladega, Ala. :. 
  9. ^ Booze Cakes: Confections Spiked With Spirits, Wine, and Beer, Quirk Books (2010) ISBN 978-1-59474-423-5
  10. ^ "Lane Cake". Oprah.com. Retrieved 2016-04-10. 
  11. ^ "Miss Maudie's Lane Cake Recipe". Scout Finch's Scrapbook. Retrieved 2016-04-10. 
  12. ^ Christmas in Plains: Memories, by Jimmy Carter and Amy Carter, 2004. Simon & Schuster, ISBN 978-0-7432-2715-5
  13. ^ "Sweet! Lane cake becomes official state cake of Alabama". WAFF. Retrieved 2016-05-11.