If you can read, you can cook. My mother subscribed to this policy, and if it was good enough for her then it’s good enough for me.
I am not great in the kitchen. I can hold my own, but don’t have a genuine passion for whipping up fabulous meals or delectable sweets. After working an eight-hour day, dinner most nights is something hastily thrown together or prepared from convenience foods. It’s not that I can’t cook – it’s just that I often don’t have time and choose not to make a great deal of effort – although I can make a killer Beef Stroganoff.
So last week, my reading and cooking converged. Our book group decided that this month’s book would be To Kill a Mockingbird. We had all read it, but not since 8th or 9th grade, and re-reading books from your childhood as an adult really shines a new light on them.
Perhaps I should explain that our book group doesn’t just read the book and then talk about it. We usually have a little wine during our book discussions, and either dessert or a pot-luck dinner. We take turns hosting these events and though some of us didn’t know one another when we started this group, we have built some friendships and enjoy each others company.
This time, our very creative hostess encouraged each of us to bring a food that is mentioned in the book: ham, baked beans, cornbread pudding, biscuits, “Boo” berry salad, and Lane Cake. She also provided Coca Cola which we drank through straws, with the bottles hidden inside brown paper bags. It is a joy to be in the company of such interesting women!
“Miss Maudie Atkinson baked a Lane cake so loaded with shinny it made me tight.”
Now, I have never been to Alabama, am not at all a southerner, truly am a Yankee, and not much of a baker. But I do enjoy a good challenge, and Lane Cake was mentioned a couple of times in the book, so I looked it up online and found a recipe that looked manageable on the Southern Living website.
Lane Cake is basically a white cake made in three or four layers, with a rich filling between each layer. To make the filling, you cook a lot of egg yolks, sugar, and butter, and then mix in coconut, raisins, chopped pecans, and bourbon. Then the entire cake is covered with a creamy, white, seven-minute frosting. (My attempt at making the frosting in a double boiler was a huge disaster, so I cheated and used canned whipped frosting.) After about two hours in the kitchen, I had myself a Lane Cake.
You would think that two hours, eight separated eggs, more sugar than I can recall using ever before in a single recipe, and the bourbon would produce something pretty spectacular. But, again, I am not a baker. So here’s my assessment: it was fun to try, the cake by itself was a little bland so the decadent filling had to work extra hard to make up for that, and I will never make it again. If I am going to bake with booze, I really prefer rum cake, which is much easier to do and always turns out moist and delicious.
As for the remaining bourbon, I’ll have a little on the rocks while I’m reading the next book.