Lady Baltimore Cake

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My mother used a combination of recipes to make her Lady Baltimore Cake. The cake portion is from a 1991 feature from Gourmet magazine called “A Light Maryland Thanksgiving.” The filling and icing are adapted from John Shields, as published in his “Chesapeake Bay Cooking,” although Mom substituted dried dates for dried figs.  John told me that he, too, often plays with the recipe, substituting genoise for the white cake layers or using native Maryland black walnuts in place of pecans or English walnuts. He likes to decorate the cake with candied violets.

For the cake layers
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon double-acting baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
7 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Line 3 buttered 9-inch round cake pans with rounds of wax paper, butter the paper, and dust the pans with flour, knocking out the excess. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, cream the butter with the sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy and beat in the vanilla and the almond extract. In a bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and the salt. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in batches alternately with the milk, and stir the batter until it is just combined. In another large bowl, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar and a pinch of salt until they just hold stiff peaks, stir 1/3 of them into the batter, and fold in the remaining whites, gently but thoroughly. Divide the batter among the prepared pans, smoothing the tops, and bake the cake layers, in batches if necessary, in the middle of a preheated 325-degree oven for 25 to 35 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Let the cake layers cool in the pans on racks for 5 minutes, turn them out onto the racks, and let them cool completely. The cake layers may be made 1 week in advance and kept wrapped well in plastic wrap and frozen. Let the layers thaw before proceeding with the recipe.

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