Lady Baltimore, the 1906 novel by Owen Wister, might not ring a bell, but you may have heard of the cake that’s described in the story. It’s a real Southern belle of a layer cake, sandwiched together with a creamy filling that’s filled with figs, raisins and pecans, and covered with a thick coating of seven-minute frosting.
According to food historians, the original Lady Baltimore Cake was probably made in Charleston, S.C., by a woman named Alicia Rhett Mayberry. Mayberry gave the cake to Wister, who liked it so much that he wrote about it in his book. In the story, a man enters a tearoom and orders a cake called Lady Baltimore for his wedding. Another customer asks the waitress to bring him a piece of the cake, and he is so taken with it, he writes, “It’s all soft, and it’s in layers, and it has nuts, but I can’t write any more about it; my mouth waters too much.”
That was all readers had to know. Lady Baltimore Cake became an instant hit, and everyone was baking it. Like many Southern desserts, Lady Baltimore Cake is very sweet. Related to Lane Cake or Silver Cake, the batter is made with egg whites, and the layers are pristine white. For the filling, part of the seven-minute frosting is mixed with dried fruits and nuts, and the rest is spread over the cake. Lord Baltimore Cake, which also has an uncertain history, is made with egg yolks, but instead of fruit and pecans, the filling has crumbled macaroons, candied cherries and nuts. They are both showstoppers, and either is perfect for your Easter dinner dessert.
By Jean Kressy, a food writer in Ashburnham, Mass.