You might call Southerners shameless name-droppers. After all, we have a habit of honoring people and places by naming cakes after them. Take, for instance, the Lane Cake, which likely has its most famous mention in Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird as Scout describes eating one “so full of shinny it made me tight.” “Shinny,” as any Southerner knows, refers to bourbon, which is the dessert’s essential ingredient. The bourbon improves the flavor in the cake as it ages and mellows. With the recent release of Go Set A Watchman, we thought we’d take a look at the history behind this Southern classic (get the recipe here!).
In the late 1800s, Emma Rylander Lane, of Clayton, Alabama took her first prize at the county fair with her sponge cake iced with a fluffy white frosting. She originally called the recipe Prize Cake, but friends convinced her to make the cake her namesake. She featured her Prize Cake in her self-published cookbook, which was appropriately called Some Good Things to Eat. Today you’ll likely find Lane Cake served at a family’s noteworthy occasions or church suppers. Southern Living first published a recipe for Lane Cake in the second issue in 1966.
Perhaps one of our of favorite versions of the Lane Cake comes from Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock, two of the most respected experts on the art of Southern cooking. The recipe and the story behind the cake can be found in The Southern Living Community Cookbook.