Lady Baltimore cake, rumored to have originated in Charleston, is a classic American dessert with vanilla cake layers, coconut and Maraschino cherry and oatmeal cookie filling, and swirls of snow white meringue on top. It’s no surprise it’s still a classic in Charleson, where the sweet creation is often reserved for special occasions. In true Southern fashion, it’s quite hospitable.
☞ Table of Contents
Lady Baltimore Cake
For the cake
- 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter softened
- 2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 cups milk (preferably whole or 2%)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 3 cups self-rising flour
- 6 large egg whites
For the filling
For the frosting
- 3 large egg whites
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup cold water
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
For the garnish
- Oatmeal cookie crumbs
- About 4 maraschino cherries halved or whole
Make the cake
- Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Butter and lightly flour three 9-by-2-inch round cake pans, tapping out any excess flour. Line the bottom of each pan with waxed paper cut to fit.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high until fluffy, about 3 minutes.
- In a small bowl, combine the milk and the vanilla and almond extracts.
- Add the flour to the butter mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the milk mixture, beating well after each addition.
- In a separate bowl, on the high speed of an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gently fold into batter, making sure no streaks of white are showing. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared pans.
- Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pans on wire racks for 10 minutes. Remove from pans and cool completely on wire rack.
Make the filling
- In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the milk with the sugar and flour until thoroughly combined. Cook and stir constantly over medium-high heat until thickened and bubbly, about 5 minutes.
- Remove the pan from heat and add the coconut, cookie crumbs, almonds, and cherries. Stir in the vanilla and almond extracts. Cool to room temperature.
- When the cake and filling have cooled, place 1 cake layer on a cake stand or a platter. Spread half the filling on top of the first cake. Top with the second cake and then slather the rest of the filling on top of that cake. Place the third cake on top. The cake should be assembled so it can be frosted as soon as the frosting is completed.
Make the meringue frosting
- In the clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the egg whites and vanilla.
- In a heavy-bottomed saucepan over high heat, combine the water, sugar, and cream of tartar. When the mixture begins to bubble at the edges, stir once to make sure the sugar is dissolved completely. Then let it come to a rolling boil, which will take 2 to 5 minutes.
- While the sugar mixture boils, with a mixer on medium speed, beat the egg whites and vanilla extract with the whisk attachment until foamy, about 1 minute. Without turning off the mixer, pour the sugar syrup into the beaten egg whites in a thin, steady stream. Turn the mixer up to medium-high and continue to beat constantly until stiff peaks form, 5 to 10 minutes. Use the frosting immediately.
Assemble the Lady Baltimore cake
- Frost the top and sides of the cake with the meringue frosting, making lavish swoops and swirls.
- Generously sprinkle the top of the cake with cookie crumbs and place halved cherries on top in a decorative fashion. Originally published June 21, 2001.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This is a classic cake and was fun to test. My guests loved the frosting. I liked the filling but found the frosting to be a bit too sweet for my taste although I think it’s really a matter of taste.
If I made it again, I would probably soak it in a simple syrup.
The cake is really good. I liked the flavor of the filling and the cake was light. My brother-in-law has eaten many of these and said that he thought this one was good.
I have one 9-inch cake pan but I actually have two 6-inch, two 8-inch, and 2 10-inch cake pans as well as unusual sizes, etc. I think it could be made in 8-inch pans.
There was a lot of frosting. I think it could be reduced by 1/3. I think that the cake and the frosting could be made ahead to save time.
This gorgeous cake is moist, delicious, and bursting with flavor.
Originally published June 02, 2019