The inspiration for Classic Lady Baltimore Cake comes from my copy of the 1941 Better Homes & Garden Cook Book. The Lady Baltimore Cake appears in a full-color illustration of several vintage cakes that I just love. While I dream for the day to have all six cakes completed on the same day to take a photo such as that one, finishing all the steps involved for just one of these cakes takes a good bit of time.
I have taken this 1941 recipe for Classic Lady Baltimore Cake and baked it modern by using homemade buttermilk (1 T. vinegar with whole milk) instead of just milk and water, added oil in addition to the butter to keep it moist, added more salt which our modern palettes are accustomed to and some lemon zest to pump up the flavor.
Origins of the Classic Lady Baltimore Cake:
Surprisingly, this cake actually has nothing to do with Baltimore. In 1903, author Owen Winster wrote a novel titled Lady Baltimore set in Charleston, South Carolina. The narrator is served a slice of Lady Baltimore cake at a local bakery and falls in love with the woman who made it.
“I should like a slice, if you please, of Lady Baltimore,’ I said, with extreme formality … she brought me the cake, and I had my first felicitous meeting with Lady Baltimore. Oh, my goodness!… It’s all soft, and it’s in layers, and it has nuts… Delighted surprise caused me once more to speak aloud and with my mouth full. “But, dear me, this is delicious!”‘from Lady Baltimore by Owen Winster, 1903
Lord Baltimore Cake is a popular variation on the Lady Baltimore Cake. The main difference between the two cakes is primarily with the incorporation of the eggs. The Lady is made just with egg whites, and the Lord uses just egg yolks. The fillings are also slightly different. Lady cake calls for dried fruit and nuts, while Lord cake calls for crushed macaroon coconut cookies, nuts, and cherries.
Try my Classic Lord Baltimore Cake too!
Bakers tips for Classic Lady Baltimore Cake:
Combine butter for flavor and oil for a tender cake:
Using butter in a cake provides flavor, while using oil makes it super moist cake. Canola oil is perfect since it has a neutral and light flavor. I like to use a combination of canola oil mixed with extra light virgin olive oil. If your cake recipe calls for butter, you can always use all oil or if you still want to get flavor from butter use a combination of oil and butter together.
The filling ingredients vary among vintage recipes, but typically it has raisins, dried figs and pecans. Some recipes call for candied cherries so you can add dried, candied or maraschino cherries depending on your taste. Soak the raisins in a bit of rum before you add them to the filling. This will lend extra flavor and plump them up.
Use the proper baking sheet:
When baking, always use aluminum cake pans since they conduct even heat. My favorite brand of baking pans are Nordic Ware or Fat Daddios. To showcase the filling between layers, bake this cake in three 8″ round cake pans.
Lock-in moisture in your cakes:
After you pull your cakes from the oven, cover the cake pan with a baking sheet and let cool for only about 5 minutes. If your pan was well-greased, run a knife around the edges and turn the cake out onto a piece of parchment paper. Then wrap right away in saran wrap to seal in moisture. Since you are locking in the moisture, you can use later in the day or even freeze the cakes to make another time.
Tips for the 7-minute frosting:
While doing research, I found that 7-minute frosting was often referred to as divinity frosting. I can see why…once you add the fruity nut filling to the 7-minute frosting it tastes just like divinity we typically make at Christmas. Many find seven-minute frosting tricky to make. Some recipes call for the addition of corn syrup, however, looking through old recipes, they listed corn syrup or cream of tarter, so I choose to use the later. I also add cornstarch to help stabilize the frosting. Recipes suggest to beat the frosting over the stove (how my Nana did), but I prefer to whisk it for a few minutes and then move it to the stand mixer. Once you move the bowl to the mixer, just put on high speed and beat until it is shiny with stiff peaks.
Keep vintage cake decorating simple:
After you make the frosting, take out 1/3 to add to it the filling. Put first layer down on cake plate and place some parchment paper along the sides to keep plate clean. Use an off-set spatula and spread filling on the first layer. Place on the second layer and spread on filling. Place on the last layer (upside down) so you have a nice flat top layer to frost. Cover top with last bit of filling. Then place a heaping amount of frosting on the top layer and then pushing down onto to coat the sides. Finish the old-fashioned look with a simple garnish of ingredients that were in the filling such as pecans or dried figs.
Looking for more vintage cake recipes? Try my Classic Lord Baltimore Cake OR Vintage Banana Cake
Classic Lady Baltimore Cake
- 2 2/3 c. unbleached flour
- 1 2/3 c. sugar
- 1 T. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. salt
- 3/4 c. unsalted butter room temp
- 3 T. oil
- 1 c. buttermilk or milk
- 6 egg whites beat separate
- 1 tsp. lemon zest
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1/2 tsp. lemon extract
- 1/2 c. raisins soaked in 2 T. rum
- 1/2 c. pecans finely chopped
- 1/2 c. dried figs finely chopped
- 2 tsp. lemon juice
- 1 1/3 c. superfine sugar
- 1/3 c. water
- 1/2 tsp. cream of tarter
- 1 T. cornstarch
- 3 egg whites
- 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
- 1/8 tsp. sea salt fine
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease (3) 8" round cake pans.
- Mix dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
- Finely chop dried figs and pecans.
- Place raisins in rum and set aside.
- Zest and juice 1 lemon into separate bowls and set aside.
- Separate out 6 egg whites, beat until stiff and set aside.
- Prepare your own buttermilk by placing 1 T. vinegar in a liquid measuring cup and fill with whole milk to the 1 c. line.
- Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add oil.
- Add dry ingredients.
- Add buttermilk.
- Gently fold in egg whites by hand and blend until just combined.
- Pour batter evenly among greased cake pans and bake for 25-28 minutes. Place toothpick in center comes out clean.
- After cakes come out of oven, cover with a baking sheet and let cool 5 minutes. Then remove from pans and wrap right away in plastic wrap.
- Mix together raisins, pecans, dried figs and lemon juice.
- In the mixing bowl of stand mixer, place egg whites, sugar, cream of tarter, cornstarch, and water. Whisk for about 4 minutes until sugar is dissolved.
- Move bowl to mixer stand with whisk attachment, add vanilla and pinch of salt and beat on high for an additional 3-4 minutes until glossy and stiff peaks.
- Take 1/3 of the 7-minute frosting and add it to the filling. The remaining 2/3 will be used to frost the cake.
- Take bottom layer and place on cake plate. Place wax or parchment paper around edges of cake in order to frost neatly.
- Place filling on top of the first layer and spread with off-set spatula.
- Place middle layer on cake.
- Place filling on top of the middle layer.
- Add on the last layer with the bottom-side down so you have smooth top. Add a very thin coat of filling on top.
- Place the frosting on the top and swirl around pushing it down onto the sides. Use an off-set spatula to guide the frosting.
- Garnish simple with nuts or other components of the filling such as dried figs.