Updated date:

Lord and Lady Baltimore Cakes: History and Recipes

Author:

Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes, one ingredient at a time.

The Lady Baltimore, a delicate cake with fluffy icing, filled with nuts and dried fruits.

The Lady Baltimore, a delicate cake with fluffy icing, filled with nuts and dried fruits.

The Story of the Lady Baltimore Cake

Owen Wister was a man of many talents—or at least varied interests.

As a student at Harvard, he was a member of the Hasty Pudding Theatrical group. Upon graduation, he spent several years following a career in music. He studied at a conservatory in Paris.

Wister then switched to banking in New York City. As (our) luck would have it, banking was not his cup of tea either. He returned to Harvard where he studied law, followed by a brief stint practicing as an attorney with a Philadelphia law firm.
Next, Owen tried his hand as a novelist; his The New Swiss Family Robinson was published in 1882 and received recognition and praise from none other than Mark Twain.

And Wister was an outdoorsman; he spent several summers in the “American Wild West.” Like his friend Teddy Roosevelt (yes, that Teddy Roosevelt), he admired the romance of fishing, big-game hunting, and meeting Native Americans; a new career was born. Wister combined his fascination with the frontier and his writing abilities and in 1902 penned The Virginian, to this date still his most famous work.

A lesser-known novel was written in 1906; Lady Baltimore was presented as a glimpse of post–Civil War life in Charleston, a rather unremarkable romance novel, but it was the genesis for the two luxurious desserts featured in this article.

Wister tantalized his readers with this description of a dessert:

I stepped forward to the counter, adventurous, but polite. ‘I should like a slice, if you please, of Lady Baltimore,' I said, with extreme formality ... I returned to the table and she brought me the cake, and I had my first felicitous meeting with Lady Baltimore. Oh, my goodness! Did you ever taste it? It's all soft, and it's in layers, and it has nuts—but I can't write any more about it; my mouth waters too much.'

— Owen Wister

But in reality, there was no Lady Baltimore Cake—at least, not then. According to food historians, the managers of Charleston’s Lady Baltimore Tea Room were acquainted with Wister and shipped a “Queen Cake” to him each year at Christmas. (He was not the sole recipient; they shipped hundreds of cakes throughout the country, and Wister was on the list of subscribers.)

Lady Baltimore is a delicate dessert often prepared as a wedding cake. Granulated sugar and butter are creamed together until light and fluffy. Cake flour (a low-gluten flour made specifically to create a tender, moist crumb) and baking powder are carefully stirred into the sugar/butter mixture along with whole milk and almond extract.

What sets the Lady Baltimore apart from most other cakes is that only the whites of the eggs are used, beat to luxurious stiff peaks, and folded in to make a cloud-light pure white cake.

Lady Baltimore's Twin Brother, Lord Baltimore

Lord Baltimore is similar but not identical to his fraternal twin sister. As explained above "egg-whites-only" creates the delicate batter of the Lady. The Lord uses whole eggs, so the resulting cake is richer and more dense, buttery and pound cake-like.

Ingredients for the Cakes

 Lady BaltimoreLord Baltimore

Cake flour

1 3/4 cups

1 3/4 cups

Baking powder

2 teaspoons

2 1/2 teaspoons

Salt

1/4 teaspoon

1/4 teaspoon

Butter, softened

1/2 cup

1/2 cup

Granulated (white) sugar

1 1/4 cups

1 cup

Almond extract

1/2 teaspoon

none

Whole milk

3/4 cup

1/2 cup

Egg yolks

none

5

Whole egg

none

1

Egg whites

3

none

Vanilla extract

none

2 teaspoons

Instructions

Beginning Instructions for Both Cakes

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Grease and flour two 8-inch round cake pans.
  3. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt and sift together onto a sheet of parchment paper; set aside.
  4. Put the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl. Beat together until smooth and creamy.

How to Complete the Lady Baltimore

  1. Stir the almond extract and milk together. Add to the butter-sugar mixture in two stages alternately with the flour mixture, beating until the batter is well-blended and smooth.
  2. In a separate mixing bowl beat the egg whites until they are stiff but still moist. Gently stir one-third of the beaten egg whites into the cake batter. Then scoop of the remaining whites, drop them onto the batter, and fold them in.
  3. Divide between the prepared cake pans. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pans for 5 minutes, then turn them out of the pans onto a cooling rack to cool completely. Fill with the Lady Baltimore filling and frost with the seven-minute frosting.

How to Complete the Lord Baltimore

  1. Add the egg yolks and whole egg to the batter and beat for 2 minutes, until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the milk and vanilla and blend well.
  2. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the batter and stir to blend; then beat until the batter is smooth.
  3. Divide between the prepared cake pans. Bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pans for 5 minutes, then turn them out of the pans onto a cooling rack to cool completely. Fill with the Lord Baltimore filling and frost with the seven-minute frosting.
Fluffy seven-minute frosting for the Lady and Lord Baltimore cakes

Fluffy seven-minute frosting for the Lady and Lord Baltimore cakes

Seven-Minute Frosting

The frosting for the Lady and Lord Baltimore cakes is not your typical buttercream. It’s named seven-minute icing because it takes about seven minutes of whipping to bring it to its fluffy, ethereal glory. This recipe is from the revised Fanny Farmer Baking Book by Marion Cunningham.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Combine the sugar, cream of tartar, salt, egg whites and water in a mixing bowl of at least 2-quart capacity or the top of a large double-boiler. Set over simmering—not boiling—water on low heat. Beat with a rotary or electric hand beater until the frosting stands in peaks, about 5 to 7 minutes.
  2. Remove from the water and continue beating for a few minutes to stiffen the frosting a bit more; it should stand in smooth, billowy peaks. Beat in the vanilla.

Recipes for the Fillings

The filling of the Lady Baltimore cake is typically made of dried fruits and nuts, chopped very finely and mixed with a portion of the frosting.

The Lord Baltimore is more bold, with alcohol added to the mixture. I have found widely varying recipes. The tamest of them all contained just a tablespoon of cream sherry; at the other end of the spectrum was an extremely boozy filling with dried fruits steeped in a full cup of dark rum.

For both cakes, there are many flavor combinations possible but the most common dried fruits are figs, raisins, and candied cherries (note that these are the cherries used in fruitcake, not maraschinos). Almonds, walnuts, and pecans all work nicely, but please toast them gently in the oven before chopping and measuring.

Filling Ingredients

 Lady BaltimoreLord Baltimore

Seven-minute frosting

2 cups of the frosting

1/3 of the frosting

Golden raisins

1/4 cup

none

Sweetened flaked coconut

3/4 cup

none

Candied cherries

1/4 cup, chopped

2/3 cup, chopped

Almonds

1/2 cup, chopped

1/2 cup, chopped

Pecans

1/4 cup, chopped

1/2 cup, chopped

Macaroon crumbs

none

1/2 cup, finely crushed

Sherry

none

1 tablespoon

Lemon juice

1 teaspoon

2 teaspoons

Filling Instructions

In a medium bowl, combine all of the ingredients until thoroughly mixed.

Sources

© 2021 Linda Lum

Comments

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on February 28, 2021:

Flourish, I loved the history of this, even more than the cake. Thank you for finding me.

FlourishAnyway from USA on February 28, 2021:

Oh, I finally found this again to comment on it! I like how you compared the Lord and Lady (I'll take the Lady), although I admit I will be picking out the dried fruits and nuts and stuff and putting them to the side. I love the history here, too.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on February 22, 2021:

Shauna, I've honestly never been a big fan of seven-minute icing (I don't like meringue either), but my brother absolutely LOVES it. His birthday cake is chocolate with seven-minute icing. Swapping out the white sugar for brown sounds wonderful.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on February 22, 2021:

Sp Greaney, cake flour has less gluten than all-purpose flour or bread flour. Less gluten makes for a more tender crumb. I'm glad you liked the history lesson.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on February 22, 2021:

Once again, you've presented cakes I've never heard of, although I loved reading the history behind them.

Seven minute frosting is my go-to when baking a cake. When I bake banana cake (cake, not bread) I swap light brown sugar for the granulated sugar. It's called seafoam icing and pairs beautifully with the banana cake. It also pairs well with devil's food. Yum!

Sp Greaney from Ireland on February 22, 2021:

I love the backstory you gave prior to sharing the receipe. I didn't know there was a flour like that for cakes. Bet it tastes great.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on February 22, 2021:

Rachel we are doing well. Thanks so much for your kind words and taking the time to leave a comment (I know it isn't easy anymore). Enjoy.

Rachel L Alba from Every Day Cooking and Baking on February 22, 2021:

Hi Carb Diva, Your cake looks and sounds amazing. I love either version and will be printing it out and pinning it. Thanks for sharing this beautiful cake recipe. Hope you and your family are all good.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on February 22, 2021:

Pamela, good morning to you and thank you for your kind words. If you will read the comments (below) from Manatita, he has a special request for a medical topic. I've heard of "leaky gut" but am certainly not qualified. I'll leave that one to you, OK?

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on February 22, 2021:

Eric, if you buy one at a bakery be prepared to pay dearly. But, for a special occasion? Why not?

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on February 22, 2021:

Good morning Manatita. Yes, I know you have a sweet tooth (it matches your nature). I am not the medical person in the house--I'll pass along your suggestion to our friend Pamela.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on February 22, 2021:

Well Bill, if not for this silly virus...one of these days we will see each other again.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on February 22, 2021:

Ann, you and I will have to "talk." Just weeks ago I had the birthday that precedes your "significant" one. We're almost twins! Yes, this would be the perfect way for you to celebrate.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on February 22, 2021:

Miss Dora, I'm not much of a cake fan (I prefer pie), but I do think I will need to make one of these soon. That filling sounds amazing, doesn't it?

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on February 22, 2021:

Thank you Mary. It's good to see you here.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on February 22, 2021:

Thanks John. That for me was the best part as well.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on February 22, 2021:

Well we learn something new every single day, don't we? I had never heard of Baltimore cakes, so thanks for the education. Now, if you could please deliver one to Olympia, it would be greatly appreciated.

Stay dry and safe, my friend.

manatita44 from london on February 22, 2021:

Interesting names, if nothing else and history too. One of my temptations is sweet things, but the sugar makes me weak. So when I see your 'granulated' I worry. I have just ordered a remedy for 'leaky gut' Clutching at straws here. Haha.

Here's a thought. Why don't you write something on Leaky Gut? You'll be unto a winner here, as so many Americans suffer from this interesting syndrome.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on February 22, 2021:

Wow that is fantastic. What a cool history for Wister and well done choice for the history. Well I suppose I will have to buy one as my baking skills are hidden from me.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on February 22, 2021:

This is a great article, Linda. Wister had such an interesting life. I enjoyed reading about Wister's life, and I appreciate the recipes. Thanks for sharing all of this great information.!

Have a good week, Linda

Ann Carr from SW England on February 22, 2021:

Wow! What a stupendous cake! It looks too good to cut. I'll keep a copy of this in my recipe file for when I need a stunning cake for an occasion - maybe my next birthday (a significant one - say no more)!

Love the history behind this, especially with the literary slant and the 'twins'!

Excellent!

Hope you're well, Linda.

Ann

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on February 22, 2021:

Very interesting. With such an exotic history and rich ingredients, these cakes would make any occasional special. Thanks for the stories and the recipes.

Mary Wickison from Brazil on February 22, 2021:

I don't know why I haven't heard of these before. Thanks for the history. Isn't it amazing the power that words can have.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on February 22, 2021:

I am not a cake connoisseur, Linda, but I enjoyed reading about Owen Wister and the history behind these cakes.

Related Articles