In looking to great- great- grandma Nellie's Christmas Menu from 1937 I see that she served roast turkey and dressing, mashed potatoes, a pineapple-cabbage-banana salad, hot rolls with preserves, candy cups, ice cream, and Lady Baltimore Cake.
HOLD THE PRESSES. What is Lady Baltimore Cake? A quick Google search (thank goodness for Google) tells me it's a southern delicacy known for the delicate layers of cake, the meringue style of icing, and the fruit and nuts added to the cake. It sounds delicious. It sounds heavenly. It sounds like just the thing to serve on Christmas.
I've searched and searched Nellie's recipe books, recipe boxes, and her handwritten journals. I cannot find her original recipe for this cake, so I've adapted the following recipe and think I've come up with one that she would be proud of...or at least I hope she would be. I wish I could take a trip back to 1937 and join her for Christmas dinner. I'd love that so very much.
Merry Christmas, friends. From my table to yours - enjoy this Lady Baltimore Cake.
I've put an * by the items I can purchase at my Illinois farmers market.
For the cake
3 1/2 cups cake flour, sifted
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
2 sticks of butter, softened
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
8 egg whites*
For the icing
2 cups water
4 cups sugar
6 egg whites*
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups roughly chopped pecans*
3/4 cups raisins, finely chopped
2 teaspoons candied orange peel, finely chopped
5 dates, pits removed and finely chopped
Heat oven to 375°.
Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.
Cream sugar and butter in a mixer until fluffy.
Add the dry ingredients in about two or three batches and milk in a couple of batches, as well. Beat until batter is smooth.
In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form and then gently fold into batter.
Divide the batter into 3 greased 9 inch round cake pans.
Bake until a toothpick inserted comes out clean, which is about 25–30 minutes.
Immediately flip the cakes over onto a wire rack to allow to fully cool.
Now, time to make the icing! Start by boiling the water in a large saucepan.
Stir the sugar into the boiling water and cook until dissolved...which is about 5 minutes. Set aside to fully cool.
With your mixer, whip the egg whites until they form stiff peaks.
Next, slowly add the cooled sugar water and continue to whip with the mixer for about ten minutes.
Transfer about three cups of the icing into a new bowl.
With the remaining icing in the mixing bowl, fold in half of the pecans, the raisins, orange peel, and the figs.
Lastly, let's assemble this lady's cake! Put one cake layer on a cake stand and spread a third of the fruit-nut icing.
Repeat with remaining layers and fruit-nut icing.
Spread the reserved plain icing all over the top and sides of cake.
With the remaining pecans, use them to decorate the top or side or edges of the cake. However you wish!
Put the whole cake in the fridge to allow to cool and set.
Serving size: Serves about 12-15 people.