Comrade Baltimore Cake
This cake has been on my mind since I started browsing cookbooks for my ill-fated entry in the Retro Recipe Challenge–the Lord Baltimore Cake.
Some history: in 1906, Lady Baltimore cake makes an appearance in Owen Wister’s book, Lady Baltimore, as a substitute for a more traditional wedding cake. It appears to have been a version of a cake served in a Charleston tea room. Contemporary recipes are for a delicate white butter cake, frosted with boiled seven minute frosting, and filled with a mixture of chopped nuts, figs, and raisins. Shortly thereafter, Lord Baltimore cake also became popular; this masculine counterpart is a rich yellow cake frosted with pink boiled frosting and filled with more boiled frosting, this time mixed with macaroon crumbs, chopped pecans, and maraschino cherries.
I hate everything about figs. Everything. I hate their seedy texture, their sticky, mucilagenous mouth-feel, their aperient qualities. Easy choice. So after a long and exhausting day of ferrying Little Sunshine and Tuxedo Boy to their various social engagements (library, birthday present shopping, birthday party, “hanging out” date with friend, and picking up), not to mention returning the towing trailer we rented to bring home the corpse of the white car, picking up a prescription, tidying up, and doing a little laundry–I was ready to grill hamburgers and make a cake.
But my well-known paleo-Fabian principles prevent me from making a Lord or Lady anything. So instead, I give you Comrade Baltimore.
One cookbook I consulted called for a Gold Cake: 8 egg yolks. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it, opting instead for my old reliable 2 egg butter cake. The frosting has Anna’s Orange Thins crumbs instead of macaroons, and roughly double the maraschino cherries originally called for. Pecans (which I had on hand) instead of almonds (which I did not).
It’s good, but heavens above, it’s sweet. I’ve had three cups of coffee since I had my sliver for dessert, and my head is still spinning. In the Old South, they liked their cakes like their belles: frilly, pink, a little nutty, and tear-inducingly, tooth-achingly sweet.
Comrade Baltimore Cake
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 cups unbleached flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Cream butter and sugar until light. Add eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. In another bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Add alternately to the creamed mixture with milk and vanilla. Mix just until blended. Pour into two well-greased 9″ round cake pans and bake at 350 F for about 30 minutes, or until cakes are lightly browned, pull away from the sides of the pans, and spring back energetically when gently pressed. Let cool 5 minutes in pans, then turn out onto wire rack and let cool thoroughly.
Comrade Baltimore Frosting
1 2/3 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup light corn syrup
2 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla
red food coloring
In a heavy saucepan, combine sugar, water, and corn syrup. Bring it to a boil over medium-heat, and cover. Cook, covered, for 3 minutes. Uncover and continue to boil, stirring occasionally, until it reaches 240 F.
In your Kitchen-Aid, beat the two egg whites until fluffy. Continue to beat while carefully pouring the hot syrup in a thin stream into the bowl. Beat until the mixture is stiff enough to hold a peak. Add the vanilla and a few drops of red food coloring–enough to tint the frosting a tender, sweet ballet pink. (Sometimes this frosting is called 7 Minute Frosting, because you have to beat it for 7 minutes. In my experience, using a Kitchen Aid at Mark 10, it ought to be called 17 Minute Frosting. It takes a long time.) It’s marshmallowy, sticky, and gooey beyond belief.
Remove about one-third of the finished frosting to a separate bowl and mix it with 1/4 cup of crushed Anna’s Orange Thins cookies, 1/4 cup of chopped pecans, and 10-12 chopped maraschino cherries.
Use this filling between the layers. Pour the rest over the top of the cake, and coax it gently–GENTLY–over the sides and down to the bottom of the cake plate. Use a fork to coax peaks into the cake top.
Slice very thin, and serve with floods of coffee to lethargic, hungry people.