SOUTHERN CHRISTMAS CAKES
---By Chef Linda
Weiss, December 2009---
Coconut is synonymous with
southern. My mother never had Christmas dinner without ambrosia, which contains
coconut. My grandmother never finished a Christmas dinner without a Lane Cake
full of coconut for dessert. And, Iíll never have another Christmas dinner
without this delicious and easy coconut cake recipe from Linda Taylor.
This article is about my grandmotherís Lane Cake. It was originally
published back in 2001 for The Art of
Fine Living. Since then, Iíve had the opportunity to taste a delicious
coconut cake thatís a little easier to make. The most recent one is from my new
friend, Linda Taylor of Marengo County Alabama. Linda was a saving grace at my
fatherís funeral recently. Not only did she bring delicious cakes, but also she
coordinated the other food that came from the churchwomen. Iíll never be able
to thank her enough for her kindness and graciousness. But, what I can do is to
tell you that she has a coconut cake recipe that she has allowed me to share
with you.† The good thing about this cake
is that you can make it several days before Christmas and store it in the
fridge. In fact, a couple of days in the fridge make it taste even better. See
Lindaís recipe below.
MAMA IRENEíS LANE CAKE
My friends know that I like cooking magazines and one of them recently
gave me a copy of Saveur. To my
delightful surprise, it contained a recipe for Lane Cake. Edna Lewis and Scott
Peacock had resurrected this Southern beauty to share with a new generation who
love to cook. This prompted me to search through my box of newspaper clippings
and old recipes to find my grandmotherís recipe for Lane Cake.
†For those of you who have never had
the pleasure of having this delectable dessert, itís a white cake, with a
cooked filling of coconut, raisins, and pecans.†
For those of you who have had Lane Cake, I know that you are thinking of
your grandmother right now, too.
My grandmother lived in a Victorian farmhouse. It was built high off the
ground before the turn of the century, and overlooked the town. It was a large
old house. Grandmother had decided long ago that the dining room table and
sideboard would be in the long hall that went through the center of the house. It
was cool in winter and summer and would seat the entire family when we gathered
for the holidays. In the winter, the long table was the perfect place for her
wonderful cakes and especially, the grandest lady of them all, the Lane Cake.
Unlike Mrs. Emma Rylander Laneís original Lane Cake recipe, my
grandmother embellished her cake. Instead of following the recipe and just
putting the filling between the layers, she also covered the entire cake with
filling, and then iced the cake with seven-minute frosting. It was glorious on
a tall pedestal cake stand. It was Christmas! It was Southern!
I know that every family has developed its own tradition over the years,
but I also believe that Lane Cake is one of the most Southern desserts during
the holidays. Unfortunately, I have made Lane Cake only once for my family, and
I have not seen it on another table or sideboard since before my grandmotherís
death in the 1970ís.†
Food has always been a part of our heritage in the South.† Whether itís talking about food, or writing
about food, we have memories attached. Itís important to keep those memories
alive. So this year, if I can get my family together for the holidays, I am
going to make a Lane Cake. I think that I would like to share my childhood
tradition with them, and I have a feeling that they might enjoy the tradition
more than the cake.†
I hope that during the holidays you will also share one of your childhood
traditions with your family. Because when I think about it now, I realize that
it took my grandmother hours to make that cake. And, I know that it was really
her love that she was sharing with us.
This is my grandmotherís Lane Cake recipe if you would like to share it
with your family.
Mama Ireneís Lane Cake
(Exactly as written)
2 cups sugar
1/2 lb butter
1-1/3 cups sweet milk
3 teaspoons baking powder
3-1/2 cups cake flour
7 egg whites, stiffly beaten
1 teaspoon flavoring (vanilla-or some people used bourbon)
Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Sift all dry ingredients. Add dry
ingredients to butter mixture alternating with the milk. Add flavoring and
beaten egg whites last. (There is not a temperature or time or pan size so,) Ö
preheat oven to 325į. Grease and flour 3 (8-inch) cake pans. Line bottoms of
pans with buttered or greased parchment paper. Bake for approximately 20
minutes and check to see if cakes are cooked by putting a toothpick or cake
tester in the center of the cake until it comes out clean. Let cool in pans for
10 minutes and remove to wire racks to cool completely.
1-1/2 cups sugar
7 egg yolks
1/2 lb butter or margarine
Cook in double boiler until thick and mixture coats the back of a spoon;
1 cup raisins
1 cup pecans (chopped and toasted)
1 cup crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup coconut (optional)
Cook for another minute and remove from heat. Cool only slightly.
Spread filling between layers and on top and sides of Cake.
When completely cooled, ice cake with your favorite 7 minute icing on the
top and sides of cake.
Seven minute Icing
1-3/4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon corn starch
Pinch of salt
1/3 cup water
3 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla
Set the mixture, except the vanilla, in the top of a double boiler, over
simmering water. Beat for 7 minutes with an electric mixer. Beat in vanilla.
Spread on sides and top of cake.
Linda Taylorís Deliciously Good
For the cake: use 1 box of
butter recipe golden cake mix and make it just like the box says but substitute
1/3 cup whole milk and 1/3 cup buttermilk for the water. Bake 2 cake layers
according to directions on box.
Icing: Mix 1 (12-ounce)
container of the Frozen Whipped Topping (thawed) with 1 (8-ounce) container of
sour cream together. Mix in 3 packages thawed fresh coconut (found in the
freezer section and made by Tropicana). Split each cake layer and ice between
each layer, sides and top. Keep refrigerated.
Mama Ireneís Lane Cake is
delicious, but if youíd like to make an easier version, try this version made
with pineapple cake from my cookbook and embellished with pecans and raisins in
the icing, then add Linda Taylorís icing over that. So easy and so delicious.
Make the pineapple cake below. Cool the cake. Make the icing for the
pineapple cake, but add about 1/3 cup raisins while the icing is hot. Spread
the icing between the cake layers and on top of the cake. When the icing on the
cake has cooled, make Ĺ the icing
amount in Linda Taylorís coconut icing above. Spread the coconut icing on top
and sides of cake. Serves 12-15.
2 cups sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 20-ounce can crushed pineapple with juice (I used Dole)
1 teaspoon baking soda
In a medium bowl, combine all of the ingredients.
Prepare three 9-inch cake pans by spraying with Bakers Joy or greasing and
flouring. Divide the mixture between pans. Bake in a 350į preheated oven for
approximately 22 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean from the center
of the cake. When the layers have cooled and you can handle them to stack,
spread about Ĺ cup icing between layers and place the remaining icing on top.
1 cup sugar
1 stick butter, softened
2/3 cup evaporated milk (1 small can)
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup toasted pecans, chopped
1/2 cup coconut
In a saucepan, combine the sugar, butter, milk and salt. Bring to a boil
and then lower the heat. Cook and stir for 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the
heat. Add the pecans and coconut. Pour the icing over the hot cake and allow it
to cool before cutting. 12-15 servings.