Alabama - Lane Cake

Alabama - Lane Cake 

So Alabama - since you’re up first, I’m basing my selection for your State Sweet on The Encyclopedia of Alabama and a quote from To Kill A Mockingbird .  I hope this suits y’all, but if not - we can have a second entry so let me know.

OK, According to the Encyclopedia of Alabama, the Lane Cake was created by Alabama native, Emma Rylander Lane and was included in her cookbook, Some Good Things to Eat, in 1898.  The consists of white sponge cake layers with a filling made of egg yolks, butter, sugar, raisins and whiskey then frosted with a fluffy white frosting.

Harper Lee, author of To Kill A Mockingbird was an Alabama native and mentions the Lane Cake twice in her novel  - leading me to believe it was a well known dessert in her state, especially around 1960 when the book was written and homemade cakes were more common.  In the book Scout says “Miss Maudie baked a Lane cake so loaded with shinny it made me tight.”  (Shinny is slang for liquor!)

Sounds like whiskey must be a dominant flavor in this cake.

Like many traditional Southern cakes, the Lane Cake is a labor of love and was most often made for special occasions like Birthdays, Christmas, or when company came for supper.  Miss Maudie baked another Lane Cake in To Kill A Mockingbird as a thank-you to one of the men that helped fight the fire that burned her house down.

The Recipe
When I started looking for Lane Cake recipes, the amount of whiskey included was an important factor.   I’ve read that Mrs. Lane’s original recipe included “one wine glass of good whiskey or brandy” and obviously Miss Maudie’s recipe contained a heavy pour, so I set out to find a filling recipe that contained at least 1 (measuring) cup of whiskey. I couldn’t find one recipe that had everything I was looking for, so I ended up blending together three versions to make my Lane Cake.

Cake Layers
Here are the ingredients for the white sponge cake layers:

8 egg whites
2  1/4 cup sugar
1  1/4 cup butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3  1/3 cup cake flour, sifted
4  1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1  1/2 teaspoon salt
1  1/2 cup whole milk

❉ Butter and flour three 8 inch cake pans
(I recommend lining the pans with parchment paper as well.  So, butter the bottom and sides of the pan, cut out a circle of parchment to fit the pan, place it in the bottom, butter the parchment and then flour the entire pan.)

❉ Preheat oven to 375 degrees
❉ Beat the egg whites until stiff and set aside
❉ In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar thoroughly until light and fluffy
❉ Add vanilla and mix just until incorporated
❉ Sift together the cake flour, baking powder and salt
❉ Add the dry ingredients to the butter and sugar alternately with the milk, mixing after each addition
❉ Gently fold the beaten egg whites into the batter, be careful not to over mix
❉ Bake at 375 for 20 - 30 minutes until layers pull away from the sides of the pan, spring back to the touch and a wooden pick comes out clean.
❉ Let cakes cool completely on wire racks.  Remove parchment from layers.

The Filling 

8 egg yolks
2 cups sugar 
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup whiskey 
1 cup raisins
1 cups toasted and chopped pecans
1 cup coconut 

❉ In saucepan melt butter
❉ Add sugar and whiskey and bring just to a boil to dissolve the sugar
❉ In another bowl, beat the egg yolks slightly
❉ Temper the egg yolks with small amount of the hot liquid
❉ Add tempered mixture back to saucepan and stir vigorously
❉ Cook over low heat, stirring until thickened 
❉ Remove from heat and stir in raisins, pecans, coconut and vanilla
❉ Mix well and cool to room temperature 

Before I move forward, a note about old recipes vs. new recipes:  I’ve noticed that old recipes don’t give the amount of detail that newer recipes do.  For instance, in the filling recipe it just says to cook over low heat until thickened?!  What does that mean?  How thick?  How many minutes?   I guess my Grandmother’s generation just knew those things and could read a recipe that said to bake something in a “moderate” oven and knew what that meant.  Guess I’m just accustomed to more detail.  Anyway, if you do make this cake - just so you know, the filling mixture will be somewhat thicker, but still pretty liquid when you add the pecans, coconut and raisins.  It will thicken a bit as it cools so you are just looking for a consistency that will be easily spreadable and won’t slide off the cake.

7 Minute Frosting 

Two Options...
I’m including two different recipes for 7 Minute Frosting - one traditional, one more modern.  You can decide which works best for you.  I’ve had mixed results with the traditional method - made it at Christmas and it was gorgeous.  Made it for this cake - not so good.  Which is what led me to make the more modern version which was beautiful!  I think the modern method is a bit more user friendly and has less room for error.  

Traditional Method
2 egg whites
1  1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup water
2 Tablespoons light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 jumbo marshmallows, quartered 

❉ Combine egg whites, sugar, water and corn syrup in a saucepan
❉ Whisk just until combined
❉ Place over medium heat and beat with hand mixer until mixture is light and fluffy and holds it’s shape (about 7 minutes)
❉ Remove from heat and add vanilla and marshmallows 
❉ Continue beating until frosting stands in peaks 

Modern Method 
Thank you Martha - recipe from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook 

1  1/2 cups sugar
2 Tablespoons light corn syrup
6 large egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

❉ In the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer set over a saucepan of simmering water, combine sugar, corn syrup, 1/4 cup water, and the egg whites.  Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture registers 160 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer, about 2 minutes.  (Check out those details! Martha must be a detail gal too!)
❉ Remove from heat, attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Beat the mixture on high speed until glossy and voluminous, about 5 minutes.  Beat in the vanilla.  Use immediately.  

❉ Place a cake layer on cake pedestal or serving piece - choose a good lookin’ one because you’ve spent a lot of time on this and it deserves a nice display! 
❉ Spread filling onto the top of the cake layer.  Place second cake layer on top and secure the layers with toothpicks.  Repeat, then place third cake layer on top.  
❉ Spread filling onto the top of the third cake layer.  
❉ Cover the sides of the cake with the 7 Minute Frosting.  

So - looks great, but how does it taste?
Pretty dang good!  The cake layers have such a nice texture and mild vanilla flavor.  Doesn’t take long for the whiskey flavored filling to hit you, but there is a nice contrast in texture from the pecans, raisins and coconut.  The fluffy 7 Minute Frosting is very sweet, but it works well with the other flavors in this cake.  I would say Mrs. Lane’s cake is worth all of the work for a special occasion, but if you aren’t a fan of whiskey flavor, probably not the cake for you!  

I hope you enjoyed this first post on Sweet State of Mine!  I look forward to getting your input on State Sweets for the remaining 49 states!  


Being from Alabama, I'm ashamed to say that I've never heard of the Lane Cake, even though I've read To Kill a Mockingbird more times than I've birthed babies.  I guess I need to read it again, but I ain't having no more babies.

It looks delicious, Meredith. What are your thoughts on not adding coconut?  The mister and I are not fans, so what would be a good substitution?  And whiskey, too?  You know what whiskey does to those PC boys.  Maybe I should stick with the King Cake...Mardi Gras originated stateside in Mobile, ya know.  

Keep up the good work!  I look forward to following it
Wednesday, March 2, 2011 - 10:28 PM
Hey Emily - 
Thanks so much - I'm glad you are enjoying the blog!  I have seen versions of the Lane Cake that omit the coconut and have more dried fruits and nuts in the filling as well as some that use a brandy extract or apple juice instead of the whiskey.  

Like most cakes, the Lane Cake has many variations, so you can taylor it to suit your taste!   

I think I will re-read To Kill A Mockingbird as well!  It's been too long and it's such a great, timeless book!   

Hope you and your family are well!