The Lady Baltimore Cake is a Southern specialty. A favorite wedding cake, this mountainous cake, of several layers, is a white cake topped with a boiled or “Seven Minute Frosting.” What makes the Lady Baltimore Cake so distinctive is the combination of chopped nuts and dried or candied fruits in its frosting. This cake has complex flavors and is very unique.
History of Lady Baltimore Cake:
Historians have not been able to find any recorded mention or recipe for the Lady Baltimore Cake until 1906 when it began showing up in newspaper articles. So, who actually invented or first made this cake is a matter of dispute. Following are some claims:
(1) Owen Wister (1860-1938), a popular novelist, picked Charleston, South Carolina, as the setting of his new romance novel. He modeled the central character, Lady Baltimore, after one of the city’s former belles, Alicia Rhett Mayberry. In the novel, Lady Baltimore created a cake also called “Lady Baltimore.” Wister’s description of the cake sent readers of his novel scrambling to find the recipe, which had not been created yet. In his novel, Wister wrote:
“I should like a slice, if you please, of Lady Baltimore,” I said with extreme formality. I returned to the table and she brought me the cake, and I had my first felicitous meeting with Lady Baltimore. Oh, my goodness! Did you ever taste it? It’s all soft, and it’s in layers, and it has nuts – but I can’t write any more about it; my mouth waters too much. Delighted surprise caused me once more to speak aloud, and with my mouth full, “But, dear me, this is delicious!”
(2) According to historians, Florence and Nina Ottelengui, who managed Charleston’s Lady Baltimore Tea Room for a quarter of a century, developed the cake toward the end of the nineteenth century from a version of the common “Queen Cake” of that period. They are said to have annually baked and shipped a cake to Owen Wister. At Christmas time, they shipped hundreds of white boxes carrying tall, round fragile gift cakes to all parts of the country.
(3) According to the research of Janet Clarkson of The Old Foodie blog, the first recipe appeared on December 24th 1906 in the Daily Gazette And Bulletin newspaper of Williamsport, Pennsylvania:
Lady Baltimore Cake
Beat the whites of six eggs. Take a cup and a half of granulated sugar, a cup of milk, nearly a cup of butter, three cups of flour and two teaspoonfuls of good baking powder. Sift the flour and baking powder together into the other ingredients, adding the eggs last of all. Bake in two buttered pans for fifteen or twenty minutes.
For the frosting: Two cups of granulated sugar and a cup and a half of water, boil until stringy, about five minutes usually does it. Beat the whites of two eggs very light, and pour the boiling sugar slowly into it, mixing well. Take out of this enough for the top and sides of the cake, and stir into the remainder for the filling between the two layers, one cup of finely chopped raisins and a cup of chopped nuts. This is delicious when properly baked.
Lady Baltimore Cake Recipe:
Source: I adapted this recipe from a 1950’s Betty Crocker Cookbook.