Lady Baltimore Cake

Lady Baltimore Cake
I made the Lady Baltimore Cake from the Cook’s Illustrated Holiday Baking Issue.  I remember reading about this cake as a kid in the Betsy-Tacy books and this is the first time I found a recipe and had a chance I had to make one.   According to Cook’s Illustrated, it was popularized by the publication of Owen Wister’s Lady Baltimore, a romance novel  from 1906 that inspired people to start making the cake.  I’ve always found the fiction can influence what I want to bake.

I  forgot to take a picture of the inside of the cake, but it was pretty with all the layers and the dried fruit added a lot of color.   This started falling apart a bit when I started cutting it, perhaps I did not build this as well as I could have.  I really enjoyed this cake.  The frosting was exactly as I remembered for a seven minute frosting, it reminds me of marshmallows.   I should have made a companion recipe to use all the leftover egg yolks, next time I’ll make some ice cream to go along with it.  I didn’t quite use all the sugared pecans, but they were good on their own.  This was a tall cake and my cake stand cover was too short and I had to improvise a covering.

Lady Baltimore Cake
from Cook’s Illustrated Holiday Baking, Holiday 2008

If you’ve ever forgotten to bring the milk and egg white mixture to room temperature, set the bottom of the measuring cup containing it in a bowl of hot water and stir until the mixture feels cool rather than cold, around 65 degrees.  The cake may be prepared up to 3 days ahead of time and wrapped tightly in plastic wrap.  When preparing the icing, you can speed up  the cooling process by transferring the hot egg white mixture to a stand mixer and beating on medium-high speed until thick and stiff, about 5 minutes.

2 1/4 cups (9 ounces) cake flour, plus extra for dusting pans
1 cup whole milk, room temperature (see note)
6 large egg whites, room temperature (see note)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups (12 1/4 ounces) sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, but still cold

1 1/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) sugar
4 large egg whites
3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
Pinch table salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup mixed dried fruits (any combination of cherries, dates, figs, pineapple, and raisins) (I used ~45% raisins, ~45% cranberries, ~10% apricots)
1/4 cup pecans (about 1 ounce), toasted
2 tablespoons rum, bourbon or water
1 recipe Sugared Pecans (recipe follows)

1. For the Cake: Adjust oven rack to the middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray three 8-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray, dust with flour, and tap pans to remove excess flour. Mix milk, egg whites, and vanilla together in 2-cup measuring cup.
2. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together in bowl of stand mixer fitted with flat beater at low speed. Add butter and beat at low speed until mixture resembles moist crumbs, with no powdery streaks remaining.
3. Add all but 1/2 cup of milk mixture to crumbs and beat at medium speed for 1 1/2 minutes. Add remaining 1/2 cup of milk mixture and beat 30 seconds more. Stop mixer and, using rubber spatula, scrape sides of bowl. Return mixer to medium speed and beat 20 seconds longer.
4. Divide batter evenly among 3 prepared cake pans and, using rubber spatula, spread into even layer. Arrange pans at least 3 inches from oven walls and 3 inches apart. (If oven is small, place pans on upper-middle and lower-middle racks in staggered fashion to allow for air circulation.) Bake until thin skewer or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 21 to 25 minutes.
5. Rest cakes in pans 3 minutes, then loosen from sides of pans with paring knife. Invert cakes onto large plate, then reinvert onto wire racks. Cool cakes completely, about 1 1/2 hours.
6. For the Icing: Bring 1 inch water to simmer in medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk sugar, egg whites, water, cream of tartar and salt together in medium bowl large enough to rest on sides of saucepan, but not deep enough to touch simmering water inside. Place bowl over barely simmering water and, using hand-held mixer, beat egg white mixture on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form, 6 to 8 minutes.
7. Remove bowl from the saucepan, add vanilla, and continue to beat until mixture is cooled to room temperature and icing is very thick and stiff, about 8 to 10 minutes, set aside.
8. For the Filling: Process dried fruits and pecans in food processor until finely chopped, about 20 seconds. (Alternatively, fruits and nuts can be chopped very fine with knife.) Transfer mixture to medium bowl and mix with rum. Stir 2 cups icing into fruit and nut mixture.
9. To assemble the cake: Place 1 cake round on serving platter. Spread half of fruit and icing mixture over cake. Repeat with another cake round and remaining fruit and icing mixture. Top with remaining cake round. Spread remaining plain icing over top and sides of cake, using back of spoon to create attractive swirls and peaks. Decorate with sugared pecans.

Sugared Pecans
Makes 2 cups
Depending on how many pecans you use to decorate the cake, you may have some left over. Nuts can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature up to 5 days. Choose pecan halves that are not broken.

2 cups (10 ounces) raw pecan halves
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon rum, bourbon, or water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon light brown sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Spread pecans in even layer on rimmed baking sheet and bake, tossing nuts occasionally, until fragrant and deepened in color, 6 to 8 minutes.
2 While nuts are toasting, stir sugar and salt together in medium bowl.
3. Bring rum, vanilla, brown sugar, and butter to boil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat, whisking constantly. Stir in toasted pecans and cook, stirring constantly, until nuts are shiny and almost all liquid has evaporated, about 1 1/2 minutes.
4. Toss pecans in bowl with sugar and salt mixture and return to baking sheet to cool completely, about 15 minutes.