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Sincere Acts of Sweetness

March 25, 2007

Lady Baltimore Cake

This blog was started because of  Shannon, a special friend of mine. I credit her with the very existence of Dozen Flours because she's the one that encouraged me to start documenting everything I was making.  No matter how rotten a day Shannon was having, she was always positive and smiling and just a joy to be around. She would always give me the most sincere comments all the treats I made too! I only had the good fortune to bake for her on her birthday once before she moved on a new job.

Even though Shannon didn't work with me, I still fully intended to bake her something on her birthday. A week or so before her birthday this year, our mutual friend, Erika had mentioned to me that Shannon had been eying something called a Lady Baltimore Cake. I'd never heard of such a thing but I was intrigued! So I did my usual Internet research and found several promising recipes (here's a bit of history about the cake). Unfortunately, when her birthday arrived my oven was on the fritz! Oh the humanity! I was so sad!

As luck would have it our paths were to cross again at a party were were both going to be attending over the weekend and this time my oven was in full working order. Although her birthday was a several months ago, I figured it was better late than never so I surprised her and made this cake. A more appropriate dessert could not have been made for such a wonderful person. 

I followed the recipe that I found on Epicurious but I did alter it a bit -- here's my version of the recipe:

Lady Baltimore Cake

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract (clear keeps the cake very white)
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (clear keeps the cake very white)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon double-acting baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup full-fat milk
7 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
Filling and Frosting
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup water
8 large egg whites
2 teaspoons clear vanilla
1/2 cup finely chopped dried figs (plus 3 whole dried figs for garnish)
1 cup pecans, toasted lightly and chopped fine
1/2 cup raisins, chopped
1/2 cup dried or candied cherries
    Preheated oven to  325°F. Grease and flour 3 or 4 9-inch round cake pans.

    In a large bowl with an electric mixer, cream the butter with the sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla and the almond extract.

    In a different bowl, stir together the flour, the baking powder, and the salt. Slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in batches alternately with the milk, until well combined.

    In another large bowl beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar and a pinch of salt until they just hold stiff peaks, stir one third of them into the batter, and fold in the remaining whites gently but thoroughly.

    Divide the batter among the prepared pans, smoothing the tops, and bake the cake layers, in batches if necessary, in the middle of the oven for 25 to 35 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Let the cake layers cool in the pans on racks for 5 minutes, turn them out onto the racks, and let them cool completely. The cake layers may be made 1 week in advance and kept wrapped well in plastic wrap and frozen. Let the layers thaw before proceeding with the recipe.

    In a small saucepan combine the sugar and the water, bring the mixture to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved, and boil the syrup until it registers 248°F. on a candy thermometer. Pour sugar mixture into a tempered glass measuring cup. (I suggest this because the pot is very, very hot and heavy!. Transferring the sugar to a glass measuring cups is lighter, cooler, and easier to pour from.)

    While the syrup is boiling, in a large bowl with an electric mixer beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they hold soft peaks and with the mixer running add the hot syrup in a stream. (DO NOT DUMP THE HOT SUGAR MIXTURE DIRECTLY INTO YOUR EGG WHITES! This will cause your egg whites to deflate. However, if this happens all is not lost! Keep mixing the egg whites and they will come back eventually.

    Beat in the vanilla and beat the icing until it is cool - about 10-15 minutes. Transfer 2-3 cups of the icing to a bowl, reserving the remaining icing, and fold in the figs, pecans, cherries, and raisins.

    Arrange 1 of the cake layers, flat side up, on a serving plate, spread it with half the dried-fruit icing, and top the filling with another cake layer, flat side down. Spread the top layer with the remaining dried-fruit icing and top the filling with the remaining cake layer. Spread the top and side of the cake with the reserved plain icing .To garnish, either leave the top of the cake plain, sprinkle with pecans, or to do what I did, take a dried fig and flatten it. Using a very sharp paring knife, cut a "W" out of the top. This will become your tulip! Use log pieces of pecans for the stems. For the ribbon I used big dried cherries that I cut into a strip, and two that I flattened and cut a "V" out of.

    Refrigerate the cake until you're ready to eat it. The frosting is very light and sticky at room temperature, especially if it's warm out (this is not the cake to make anywhere on the east coast during the summer). When it's refrigerated it gets firm and sets a bit better and makes it much easier to transport.


    1. Probably the most delicious and most beautiful cake I've ever had. Seriously. Thank you, Julia! I always knew I loved the name ("Lady Baltimore cake" - sigh), but now I know I love the cake as well. That was a *wonderful* surprise.

    2. And let me just say, it is fabulous!

    3. Baltimore cake -- I love it !

    4. (I am still thinking about this cake on an hourly basis)


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