Day 44 Recipe 41
ORIGINAL RECIPE: From an online Saveur article*
TIMING: An afternoon, between all the cooling and assembling
DIFFICULTY: Baking this cake needs all the experience it can get
TOOLS: Two round cake pans, parchment paper, a cake stand, a mixer with whisks, and lots of other basic things
COOK TYPE: Oven and stove top, baking and double-boiling, etc.
HEALTH: We don’t even need to talk about this. It is a cake for special occasions, and is not for you at all if you are diabetic or a recovering alcoholic.
EXPERIENCE: This is a cake steeped in both regional and literary history. For a long time, it was a Southern thing, more specifically an Alabama thing. But then To Kill a Mockingbird became an instant classic, and it became a Harper Lee thing. With the recent publication of Go Set a Watchman, this cake is popping up everywhere, and the reason I made it (my husband’s birthday was just an excuse) was to post it on my real blog, The Starving Artist, after reviewing both books. For my post there, click HERE.
I have recently gotten much better at making cakes. It has taken years of trial and error to get where I am, and I suggest that you either have experience when making this cake or think of it as a trial which may be fraught with error. The truth is, successful baking is full of a million little things that you just have to know, like to keep your bowl for whipping egg whites cool and debris-free, or, for that matter, how to separate an egg. But once you get there, making decadent, fancy cakes for celebrations can be the most loving gesture of a home chef.
NOTES: Some people include candied cherries in their filling or on top of the cake, and some people use pecan filling on the top instead of white frosting, just frosting the sides. Also, some recipes do not use any coconut. I also acknowledge that this cake would do well with omitting some butter and using coconut oil instead. However, I wanted to keep it real classic.
- Preheat your oven to 350F. Grease 2 9-inch cake pans with coconut oil, then fit them with 2 rounds of parchment paper, then grease again and flour. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together 1 cup unsalted butter, 1 2/3 cups granulated sugar, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract until pale and fluffy.
- In a large mixing bowl, sift or whisk together 3 1/2 cups all purpose or cake flour, 4 teaspoons baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
- To the butter mixture, add 1 cup milk and the flour mixture, alternating between them as you mix. Move the firm batter to the large mixing bowl and set aside, then clean and re-assemble your stand mixer, making sure the bowl is cool and free from all debris.
- With the whisk attachment, beat on medium-high 8 egg whites with 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Slowly add in 1/3 cup granulated sugar and continue beating until firm peaks form.
- Gently (and awkwardly) fold the egg whites into the cake batter just until it is generally combined. Pour this mixture evenly into the cake pans and carefully smooth the tops.
- Bake for 40 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Turn off the oven and let cool 30 minutes then un-mold the cakes and set on a cooling rack.
- Meanwhile, in a small, heavy-bottomed sauce pan, whisk together 1 cup granulated sugar and 8 egg yolks (which you have saved from step 5). Stir in 1/2 cup cubed, unsalted butter and 1/2 cup bourbon (or brandy). Heat over medium heat, whisking constantly, until 2 minutes after it comes to a simmer. Set aside.
- In your (now cleaned) mixing bowl, combine 1 cup chopped pecans, 1 cup grated coconut, and 1 cup raisins. Mix in the egg yolk mixture and 3/4 teaspoon salt (unless your pecans are very salty–if so, omit the salt).
- Using a long, serrated knife, cut the cakes in half long-ways (like a hamburger bun). Set your bottom cake layer on a platter or cake stand, and spread with 1/3 pecan mixture. Do next two layers the same, then end with the last cake layer (and no filling).
- Meanwhile, clean out that stand mixer again and make sure its cool and debris-clean again.
- When your cake is cool, mix 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons light corn syrup, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 4 egg whites (yes, more) in the stand mixer bowl.
- Fill a sauce pan with an inch or two of water and bring it to a simmer. Set the stand bowl over the simmering water so that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Insert a candy thermometer into the mixture and whisk until the temperature reaches 140F.
- Immediately move the bowl back to the stand and whisk on medium-high until very stiff peaks form.
- Frost the layer cake with the white, fluffy clouds of frosting. Smooth it all down and then swirl it up into whatever patterns come to your imagination.
- Chill 30 minutes before serving, with coffee.
Serve with hot coffee.
*Recipe changed from the original.