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A Lady Baltimore Cake is a multi-layered white cake that has boiled white frosting in between its layers and coating its top and sides. What distinguishes it from a plain white layered cake is the addition of chopped nuts and minced candied or dried fruits mixed into the frosting. It was a popular wedding cake during the early 20th century and remains among the top choices of many brides today.
The story of how the Lady Baltimore Cake got its name varies. Since there is no mention of it in literature or evidence of it being a recipe prior to 1906, it is unlikely it had anything to do with the real Lady Baltimore. Ann Arundel, who died in 1649, was called Lady Baltimore because she was married to an Irishman man who inherited the whole state of Maryland in the United States (U.S.), including its large city of Baltimore, from his father. Interestingly, she never visited the North American continent, just as Lord Baltimore never did.
The most likely origin of the Lady Baltimore Cake was a romance novel entitled Lady Baltimore, written by Owen Wister and published in 1906. Legend has it that prior to writing the book, Wister had been given a cake by a southern belle from Charleston, South Carolina, named Alicia Rhett Mayberry. The confection so impressed him that he included it in his novel, claiming in the story that he purchased a cake for his own wedding in a tearoom from a lady named Lady Baltimore and then named the cake in her honor.
Wister’s description of the cake’s appearance and taste was so appealing that readers of the novel were desperate to get the recipe. Since it had not been created, bakers set out to create a cake that mimicked Wister’s excited yet vague description from the book. All they had to go on was the passage, “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!'"
The first recipe for Lady Baltimore Cake was published shortly thereafter. On December 24, 1906, the Daily Gazette and Bulletin newspaper based in the U.S. in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, published the version that is still in print today. The only variations over the years have been the frosting ingredients, which have frequently included chopped figs and raisins as well as crumbled macaroon cookies.
A recipe for this cake appears in the 1961 "Progressive Farmer" cookbook. I don't remember the exact story of its origin, but it's similar, I'm sure.
I'm equally sure that the Lady Baltimore cake and the lane cake share a common heritage, both being white cakes and having a candied fruit and nut filling, along with a white divinity frosting. The main difference is that the lane cake calls for the layers to be soaked in bourbon, and bourbon is added to the cooked filling. Also, wedding cakes of the day were more apt to have fruit in them, so the recipe probably drew inspiration from there, also.
I'm not really crazy about white cake, so I use a yellow cake recipe for my lane cakes, which would make the Lady Baltimore a Lord Baltimore cake.
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