Alabama lane cake
- March 2014
- Serves 24
- Hands-on time 2 hours, Oven time 25-30 min, plus 4-12 hours soaking and chilling
This traditional Southern cake recipe – as featured in To Kill A Mockingbird – is loaded with liquor. It’s definitely a cake for a celebration.
- 18.5g (11.9g saturated)
- 59.5g (44.3g sugars)
- 220g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
- 375g caster sugar
- 500g plain flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- Large pinch salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 240ml milk
- 8 large free-range egg whites
For the filling:
- 300ml bourbon
- 80g each sultanas and raisins, chopped
- 200g desiccated coconut
- 8 large free-range egg yolks
- 200g caster sugar
- 100g unsalted butter, cut into 2 cm pieces
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
For the frosting:
- 350g caster sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 6 large free-range egg whites
- Soak the fruit: in a pan, heat the bourbon until steaming, then add the sultanas, raisins and coconut. Take off the heat and cover for 4-12 hours.
- When ready to bake, heat the oven to 180°C/fan160°C/gas 4. Grease and base line 3 x 23cm loose-bottomed cake tins. Using an electric hand mixer or stand mixer, cream the 220g butter and sugar in a large bowl for 3-5 minutes until pale and fluffy. In another bowl, mix the flour with the baking powder and salt. In a jug, mix the vanilla and milk. In batches, add the flour and the milk alternately to the butter mixture, beginning and ending with the flour, gently mixing with a metal spoon to end up with a smooth, thick batter.
- Quickly whip the 8 egg whites to stiff peaks, then fold a third into the cake batter to loosen it – it will be hard work. Fold in the remaining whites in 2 additions until combined to a thick, smooth and glossy batter.
- Divide among the cake tins, then smooth the tops with a spatula. Bake for 25-30 minutes until a skewer pushed into the centre comes out clean – don’t worry if the tops aren’t golden. Cool in the tins for 10 minutes, then invert onto racks to cool completely.
- For the filling, put the yolks and 200g sugar in a bowl with a pinch of salt. Whisk with an electric hand mixer for about 5 minutes or until pale yellow and forming a clear ribbon on the surface when you lift the beaters. Melt the 100g butter in a large heatproof bowl set over but not touching a pan of simmering water. Once melted, add the egg mixture and whisk non-stop for 3-4 minutes to thicken.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the soaked fruit and coconut (see tips) with any remaining bourbon, plus the vanilla. Put cling film over the mixture so it’s touching the surface, leave to cool, then chill for 1 hour or up to overnight.
- To make the frosting, mix the 350g sugar and 100ml cold water in a heavy-based saucepan and heat gently until the sugar melts. Turn the heat up and boil until it reaches 120°C on a digital thermometer. When the syrup reaches 110°C, put the 6 egg whites in a large bowl and beat until they form stiff peaks.
- When the syrup reaches 120°C, remove from the heat. With the beaters running, carefully pour the sugar syrup into the egg whites, making sure it doesn’t touch the beaters or the edge of the bowl (or it will solidify or turn into spun sugar). When all the syrup has been added, keep beating for 5-10 minutes until the bowl has cooled to lukewarm (don’t worry if it takes a bit longer).
- To assemble, put a sponge, top-down, on a serving plate and spread with half the filling. Leave a 2cm border so the filling doesn’t squeeze out when you top it. Top with the second cake, also top-down, then spread with the remaining filling, leaving a 1cm border. Top with the final sponge, top-up this time, then cover all over with the frosting. Chill for half an hour, then serve.
A digital thermometer is useful for this recipe.
The frosting is unbaked Italian meringue and will start to set in the bowl. If it starts to look grainy, whisk it briefly to smooth it.
If you don’t have time to soak the fruit, add it to the filling mix without soaking – it will still taste good but the fruit won’t be as plump and juicy.
You can freeze leftover egg yolks. Beat with a pinch of salt (or a pinch of sugar if you’ll use them in sweet dishes), then freeze in containers labelled with the quantity/date. Use the defrosted yolks for custard or lemon curd (pinch of sugar), fresh pasta or mayonnaise (pinch of salt).
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