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Lots About Lane Cake, TKAM, And A Carrot Cake Recipe

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Yesterday for St. Patrick's Day, for whatever reason, instead of making corned beef and cabbage or boxtys or anything else, I made a cake.  A carrot cake.  


Outside, the daffodils have been blooming and I know the azaleas aren't too far behind...it just feels like Spring and Spring means food like carrot cakes.

Well, actually I've been in the mood to make a Lane cake (it's also called "Prize Cake") but at the moment I can't have any alcohol, so...no alcohol, no Lane cake.  For now.  Anyway, Lane cake is a special-occasion cake.  It is *the cake* of Alabama.  

And one thing about Lane cake is that it is made in pie tins rather than cake pans.  I was wondering if I remembered that right, and sure enough they mention it in the Encyclopedia of Alabama article as well as this really-really fantastic thing I found: the Southern Food and Beverage Museum put together a lesson plan called "Food in To Kill A Mockingbird".

It's wonderful!  It includes quotes in TKaM about food/eating, like:
“If you can’t act fit to eat at the table, you can just set here and eat in the kitchen!”
(Calpurnia to Scout)

“Soon as I can get my hands clean and when Stephanie Crawford’s not looking, I’ll make him a Lane Cake. That Stephanie’s been after my recipe for thirty years,
and if she thinks I’ll give it to her just because I’m staying with her she’s got
another think coming.” (Miss Maudie)

“Sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whiskey bottle in the hand of another.” (Miss Maudie to Scout and Jem)

“Your fat streaks are showin’.” (Jem to Scout, referring to the white lines in her Halloween costume)

“They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs.” (Miss Maudie to Jem and Scout about mockingbirds)

And then, there are 37 multiple-choice questions, like:

Aunt Alexandra comes to Maycomb to live with the Finch household. To celebrate the occasion, Scout notes that: “Miss Maudie Atkinson baked a Lane Cake so loaded with shinny it made me tight.” What does “shinny” mean?
A. It’s a slang term used in the 1920s and 30s for illegal liquor.
B. It means to maneuver up a tree or post.
C. It’s coffee that is very strong and bitter.
D. It’s a type of orange juice that is very sour.

There are also questions and discussion topics on food and social justice in TKaM, gender roles in TKaM, a food timeline, a crossword puzzle, and more.

One section is about Lane cake:
Lane Cake is a symbol of the South
The first recipe for Lane Cake was first printed in Some Good Things to Eat, by Mrs. Emma Rylander Lane, which she self-published in 1898. It was originally called Prize cake because it placed first in a baking contest at a county fair in Columbus, Georgia, where Mrs. Lane was demonstrating ranges.

For more than a century, it has been a special occasion cake in the South and the pride of the state of Alabama.

Lane Cakes look simple from the outside but there is more to this cake than meets the eye.

Lane Cakes generally are considered by many to be difficult to make due to the complicated preparations and multiple ingredients.

A traditional Lane Cake is a white cake, a type of sponge cake, made in layers. It has four layers separated by filling. Each layer is supposed to be made in a pie tins instead of cake pans, making each layer smaller. The layers each have different ingredients, which is what makes the cake unique – and more labor-intensive. For example, coconut, dried fruit, and nuts are common additions, but they are not included in the original recipe.

The outside usually has a white frosting made of water, sugar, and whipped egg white. It has a filling of butter, raisins, and whiskey. and each layer has different ingredients. For example, one layer may have pecans and coconut, the next layer almonds and raisins. The recipe has been modified many times through the years.

Well, anyway, I'll next make a Lane cake when I can load it up with so much shinny it makes people tight!  Here is the recipe for the carrot cake I made yesterday (and like Lane cake, it actually gets a little better after a day or two).

Carrot Cake Ingredients for a 2-layer cake:

for the cake:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. oil (you can use a very mild oil like canola or peanut, I even use a mild olive oil)
2 eggs
1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
5 medium carrots, shredded
1 cup chopped pecans (in nice-size chunks - not too big, but not too fine!)
2 cake pans buttered with a circle of parchment paper in the bottom (like a Lane cake, I use pie tins sometimes)

Icing:
8 tbsp butter, cut into pieces
16 oz cream cheese (2 blocks), cut into pieces
2 cups confectioner's sugar (once you're making the icing, taste and see if you want to use more)
2 c. chopped pecans (same size as in the cake batter)

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350*.

In the Kitchenaid, mix together the white and brown sugar plus the oil:

Next, mix in the eggs one at a time until incorporated.  Now, the vanilla.  Now add the flour, baking soda, and salt.  Don't mix too much, just until it comes together:

Here are the grated carrots I did in the Cuisinart:

Add those carrots plus the pecans, mix, and pour evenly in each of the cake pans or pie tins:

After 25-30 minutes, the cake should be done:

Once these are cool, make the icing.  In a clean Kitchenaid bowl, mix together the butter and cream cheese, then when that comes together well, the confectioners sugar.  It will take a while of mixing in the Kitchenaid for it to reach a good spreading consistency (probably about 6 or 8 minutes).  Add in the pecan pieces, mix again:

Flip the cake over onto a plate, spread the icing on top, then the next layer of cake, and spread the rest of the icing all over the top and sides:

I doubled this recipe and made a four-layer cake this time (which you only do if you're feeding a crowd or just feel like being a showoff):
It's sooo good!

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