Monday, September 9, 2013

Lady Baltimore Cake

Described in the novel Lady Baltimore (1906) as "all soft, and it's in layers, and it has nuts,"  the Lady Baltimore Cake has more to do with Philadelphia than Baltimore or even Charleston (before the book was published).   ...


Owen Wister (1860-1938), a Philadelphian, wrote an immensely popular western set on a Wyoming cattle ranch The Virginian in 1902.  In his novel, Lady Baltimore, 1906, the narrator observes a young man order a Lady Baltimore Cake for his wedding at the Woman’s Exchange in King’s Port [Charleston, SC].   The narrator asked for a slice of the cake to sample...

“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!"

Although the novel was not as successful as The Virginian, the cake became a hit.  Recipes started to appear in magazines [the image is from an ad run in 1926] and cookbooks.   The Lady's Exchange in Charleston, SC picked up on the popularity by selling large numbers of the Lady Baltimore Cake to visitors and received orders from as far as Russia and China. 

And the Philadelphia connection?  A recipe for Lady Baltimore Cake appeared in a Philadelphia magazine  AND  Wister was born, raised and then lived in Philadelphia with his wife and family. A later magazine article suggested that the cake was named for a lady from Baltimore who came up with the cake recipe.  Although it could have been named for one of the Lady Baltimores (the last died in 1758) they certainly did not create the cake.

LADY BALTIMORE CAKE No. 2.     1909 recipe
(Sanctioned by Owen Wister).

Take one cupful of butter, two cupfuls of sugar, three and one-half cupfuls of flour, one cupful of sweetmilk, the whites of six eggs, two level teaspoonfuls of baking powder, and one of rose-water. Bake in three layers.

Filling for the cake: Three cupfuls of granulated sugar dissolved in boiling water, cook until it threads, then pour slowly over the whites of three eggs, beating vigorously. Add to this frosting one cup of chopped raisins, one of pecans, or whatever nut is procurable (pecans are the most delicate), and five dried figs cut in very thin slices. lce sides and top.
—Mrs. Rosa Guerry Snowden.
Macon Cook Book ... by Wesleyan College (Macon, Ga.).   1909

Woman’s Exchange of Charleston     1913

"On our arrival in Charleston ... Woman's Exchange, a most useful institution with all sorts of interesting objects for sale, authentic antiques, carved looking-glasses, good specimens of genuine Sheffield plate and good copies of old furniture. [A lunch is served daily, except Sunday.]  The "Lady Baltimore" cake, the chef d'oeuvre of the Exchange, so toothsomely described by Owen Wister, is now known all over the world. The ladies there receive orders from Russia, China, Japan, and I daresay, even from the Balkans. My kind hostesses, hearing of my sad loss, gave me a little surprise that evening, a "Lady Baltimore" cake all my own. It was exceedingly good, but very rich, being made with layers of delicate white cake filled between with a thick sugared paste of divers sorts of nuts and citron. The top is of richly flavoured icing, and covered with candied flowers."
My Beloved South by Elizabeth Paschal O'Connor,   NY: 1913

©2013 Patricia Bixler Reber
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1 comment:

  1. In my Grandmother's old Purity Cookbook they had a recipe for a Lord Baltimore Cake too.

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