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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)

Cake:

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.

Filling:

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; now add

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 Coconut Cake

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.

Pineapple Cake

Cake:

2 cups sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 eggs

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.

Icing:

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.

 

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