Lane cake is a Southern tradition

Published 12:06 am Saturday, May 2, 2015

We happened to be in New Orleans when the Southern Food and Beverage Museum was opening in its new location at 1609 Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard; that is a mouth full, so they just say OCH Blvd. It is a great place to see the evolution of Southern food and there is an exhibit from every Southern state with the better known foods from that state. There is a $5 admission per person but it is worth it.

I especially looked at what they had to say about Alabama and there was a big exhibit about Big Bob Gibson’s Bar-B-Q, established in 1925. He sold barbecue in his backyard before he started his restaurant in Decatur, Ala. which has involved four generations of family. Big Bob, who was 6’4” tall and weighed 300 pounds, kept moving his restaurant as it grew. He was known for his hickory fired pit barbecue, as well as his special white sauce. Big Bob’s daughter, Catherine (nicknamed Punk), added tasty pies and potato salad to the menu in the 1950s. In 1992, a new restaurant on the south side of Decatur was opened by a great granddaughter, Amy. She began bottling and selling their signature white sauce. It is sold in eight states. They also developed an award winning red sauce.

The Lane cake, one of Alabama’s more famous culinary specialties, was created by Emma Rylander Lane of Clayton, Barbour County. It is a type of white sponge cake made with egg whites and consists of four layers that are filled with a mixture of egg yolks, butter, sugar, raisins, and whiskey. The cake is frosted with a boiled, fluffy white confection of water, sugar, and whipped egg whites. The cake is typically served in the South at birthdays, wedding anniversaries, and other special occasions. The recipe was first printed in Lane’s cookbook, Some Good Things to Eat, which she self-published in 1898. It was first called a ‘Prize Cake’ since it had won a prize at the Alabama State Fair.

Now I got to try the famous Lane Cake at the restaurant Purloo, which is in the same building as the Southern Food and Beverage Museum. Of course it serves Southern food, and we had fried chicken, fried catfish, mac’n cheese, grits with smoked tomato gravy. The food was very good and the blue plate special was only $15. Pretty good for New Orleans! The Lane Cake was delicious and had raisins and whiskey to give it a kick. Of course we shared one piece since I rarely do dessert, but I felt I just had to give this cake a try. The name Purloo means a stew of rice and chicken or some other game, but none of that is on the menu. The chef is going to change that because everyone is always asking about the name.

There are many recipes for Lane Cake but I found one that seems easy to do. It is a delicious cake and you should give it a try.

Alabama Lane Cake Classic

3 ¼ c. sifted cake flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1/8 tsp. salt

1 c. butter, softened

2 c. granulated sugar

2 tsp. vanilla

8 egg whites, divided by twos

1 c. milk

Sift flour, baking powder, salt. Cream butter, add sugar, beat in vanilla. Add two egg whites at a time and beat until all 8 are added. Fold in flour mixture alternately with milk. Begin and end with flour. Turn into four ungreased 9-inch cake pans lined with baking paper or waxed paper. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Cool in pan a bit, then turn out and peel off paper.

Lane Cake Filling:

8 egg yolks

1 c. granulated sugar

½ c. butter

1 c. raisins or dates, chopped

½ c. bourbon or brandy

1 tsp. vanilla

Beat egg yolks in large pan. Beat in sugar. Add shortening. Cook and stir over moderate heat until thick, about six minutes. Remove from heat and stir in fruit, bourbon, and vanilla. Cool and spread between layers. Ice with boiled, or seven-minute frosting, or your favorite.