Lady Baltimore cake is a glamorous American classic that, while certainly delicious at any time of year, is tailor made for serving during the hot, humid days of the spring and summer. Fluffy layers of vanilla chiffon cake sandwich a filling of toasted nuts and sweet fruits, and then the entire thing is wrapped in an ethereal Southern confection known as “boiled icing”—a misnomer that seriously undersells the fact that it’s a light-as-air pillow of fresh vanilla marshmallow.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the bottoms of three 8-inch cake pans with parchment, then lightly grease and flour the sides.
- In a clean stainless steel or glass bowl, beat the egg whites with a pinch of cream of tartar to stiff, but not dry, peaks. Set aside.
- With a stand or hand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Sift the flour and baking powder together. In measuring cup, stir together the milk, salt, and vanilla. On low speed, alternate adding the dry and wet ingredients, stopping the mixer once it’s fully combined. Gently fold in egg whites until batter is smooth.
- Divide cake batter equally between the three pans. Bake in the center of the oven for approximately 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centers pull away cleanly. Move to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before making the icing.
- For icing: In a large stainless steel bowl, beat the egg whites to soft peaks and set aside.
- In a medium saucepan, gently stir together the water, sugar, corn syrup, and cream of tartar. Wipe down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush or paper towel to remove any sugar crystals. Insert a candy thermometer and cook over high heat until the mixture reaches soft ball stage: 235°F.
- Continue beating the egg whites on medium speed while very slowly streaming in the boiling sugar (you can increase your rate of speed as the egg whites get hotter, but you must begin slowly to make sure you don’t end up with scrambled eggs). The mixture will swell considerably. Continue beating until the whites are cool, then add vanilla and continue beating for an additional minute.
- Divide the frosting between two bowls. In one half, stir in pecans and dried fruit to make the filling.
- To assemble the cake: trim the cake layers so they’re even. Put half the filling on the first layer, top with the second, then place in the freezer for five minutes to allow to set. Repeat with the remaing filling and third layer.
- Remove cake from freezer and frost with remaining boiled icing. Allow to sit at room temperature to set for at least an hour before serving.
Allison Robicelli is a D-list celebrity-chef chef, author, humorist, entrepreneur, general polymath, and all-around good time. You may remember her from such places as Food52, Eater, Food Network, VH1, and many other quirky corners of the food Internet. She is the author of the critically acclaimed cookbook/memoir Robicelli's: A Love Story, With Cupcakes, which has been called one of the funniest food-related books of all time. You should buy it.