50 State Desserts: Alabama Lane Cake

[Video transcript edited for blog readability]

So just to be clear, I do not intend for this to be a baking channel, but I have read Reader's Digest my entire life. I started reading it at my grandmother’s. In July of this year, they reprinted from Taste of Home this Best Dessert in Every State article.

I've always wanted to be a person who baked. It's sort of one of those aspirational things. So, I got the idea that I was going to bake my way - well, “dessert” - my way through the 50 states, because they're not all baking. One state is Jello. I'll let you guess which one that is. You can put in the comments if you know which state the best dessert in the state is Jello (don't cheat and read the article first!).

The states are listed in alphabetical order, which brings us to Alabama first. I lived in Alabama for 15 years from the age of 10 to the age of 25. And I never, in all of my time living in Alabama, heard of this cake. We lived down on the Gulf Coast and the Gulf Coast does have a slightly different culture to it than the rest of the state because it's a coastal beachy area.

And so Alabama's best dessert is the Alabama Lane Cake, which was named for the woman who first made this cake popular. The filling is really the big thing with it. It is a boozy filling with raisins, pecans, coconut, and bourbon.

Now, one of the challenges that I had with making this cake was that I do not own three, eight-inch round cake pans. Nor am I going to purchase three, eight-inch round cake pans to make this one cake. I am trying to declutter, not re-clutter. I love Bundt cake pans. And so I'm going to make it in a Bundt cake pan instead, and then use the bourbon filler as a glaze. I'm going to thin it out a little bit more and pour it as a glaze over the Bundt cake.

Most of what I know about cooking was self-taught as a result of trial and error. On more than one occasion, I have started a recipe without having gathered all of the ingredients first, only to discover part way through that I was missing something. As a result, I am really good at coming up with substitutions! However, for something like this, I wanted to make sure I had everything. So I got out all of my ingredients before I started. I used a vintage Bundt pan. I had a newer pan at one point and I just did not love it. I inherited the one I use now from my grandmother. It is my go-to cake pan.

I do not use a lot of vegetable shortening except for greasing my cake pans. However, you might know alphabetically that Alaska comes after Alabama and the Alaska dessert, Akutaq, will use it. The original Akutaq recipe used reindeer fat and seal oil and other things that even if I could get them where I live in the central United States I am not going to. The substitute for the modern version of Akutaq is vegetable shortening. Since that would be a prime ingredient for the dessert, I will buy a new tub of Crisco and not use the Great Value brand I have now that has had many a paper towel dipped in it in order to grease the inside of a pan.

I don't own a lot of cake pans because I do substitute sizes a lot. If I can, I almost always use a Bundt pan. I think it just immediately makes a cake look a little higher level. That's my personal opinion. And they're really easy. I know a lot of people struggle with Bundt pans because they can stick, but get a good one that's really nice and solid. That's why I traded for this vintage one. My newer one, even though the new one was non-stick, had issues, but I've never had problems with my vintage one. It's a nice, heavy metal and it heats evenly. Greased up with some vegetable shortening and (knock on wood) I have never had a cake stick in it.

I have a lot of recipes that I've written over the years, but not really for baking because it's not something I have done enough to do without a recipe. There are a few things I can make without a recipe, such as this one type of bread I make all the time. For this cake, I had to look up a recipe.

I asked on my Instagram story, whether I should make a frosted Alabama Lane Cake or an unfrosted Alabama Lane Cake, and then promptly labeled the pictures backward. Then there was some confusion over whether people were voting for the frosted one that was tagged to a photo of an unfrosted cake or vice versa. The final vote was one vote apart. And my daughter said that she wanted it unfrosted but had voted for frosted. So I decided that that was the tiebreaker to the direction of unfrosted, partly because I don't really care for frosting all that much. So it was easy for me to say, let's do unfrosted. I went with the unfrosted Alabama Lane Cake recipe I found on Mom Loves Baking. I will not reprint her complete recipe here so be sure to check out the complete recipe on her site.

Preheat oven to 350. I always check the oven before I turn the oven on. My family of origin always stored things in the oven. We don't really store things in the oven now, but we do make homemade pizza a lot. And so our pizza stone is often in the oven and I take it out for baking. Honestly, I recommend that for everyone, because you never know what somebody has hidden in your oven and you didn't know about it. Check your oven before you turn it on.

The recipe calls for sifting the 3 cups of cake flour, which I never do, but we're going to do it. I have never used cake flour either. I've always used organic, all-purpose flour for nearly everything. Occasionally, I will make something that uses bread flour, but I decided to go ahead and get the cake flour. My husband looked up the difference and cake flour has a finer grain with less protein.

I own an amazing vintage sifter, but I don't really use it. I find on the rare occasion I sift flour when it calls for it, because most of the time I don't, I just use a fine-mesh sieve. It works like a champ. [I was going to insert a photo of the vintage sifter here... alas, it is packed up in preparation for my antique cabinet being rehabbed. I'll add a photo once it gets unpacked].

The cake flour I bought came in a plastic bag inside a paperboard box. It's a little bizarre having flour in a plastic bag - not super great for someone who tries to reduce her plastic use. But I have a feeling that some of that reduction of plastic use is going to go right out the window when it comes to these desserts.

I am a confident enough baker that I don't get super crazy about being precisely, precisely exact over all of my measurements if I’m using a recipe with volume measurements. I do spoon flour. I don't scoop flour. My favorite bread recipe is by weight (or mass). Then you don’t have to worry about whether your flour is compacted or not, because it weighs the same, whether it's compacted, or whether it's not compacted. I really love baking by weight instead of by volume. However, in the United States, it is very rare to find a recipe that is expressed in terms of weight instead of volume.

So one theme of my videos is there will almost always be the sound of cats and kittens in the background (and our dog at the beginning of this particular video). We have fostered kittens for two and a half years for two different local rescue groups. This year has been the worst year in terms of an overabundance of cats and kittens that any of my rescue friends have ever seen. We are currently "between rescues" as I help start a new cat-only rescue group that is partnering with a local cat cafe opening soon.

We rarely have a foster kitten for more than two months max. And that's if they came to us at five weeks of age. Right now, Gummy Bear has been with us for six months. We have two others who have been with us for about two months now, but they're six months old. Every rescue group is in the same ballpark. Consider adopting a pair of kittens!

Next, two cups of granulated sugar. If you are new to baking and new to cooking, I do not recommend measuring over your mixing bowl. I've been doing this for a while, so I am confident that I can measure over the mixing bowl without causing myself too much grief. Next, one tablespoon baking powder and a half teaspoon of salt.

For salt, I will measure out over another cup and not over the mixing bowl, just because you never know when there's a clump of salt in your salt container that causes an avalanche. The cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt are in the bowl. I will set my electric mixer on low for 20 seconds to combine the dry ingredients.

I use a Kitchenaid Artisan in cobalt blue and I love it! I know we got ours around when we got married, but I don't remember now (because that was more than 20 years ago) whether or not we got it as a present or if we used gift cards to get it, but it has been fantastic. I love it.

Next is one cup of unsalted butter. I chopped the butter into small pieces and kept it in the refrigerator to keep it chill. With the mixer on low, add the butter one cube at a time. Mix on low until you have achieved fine crumbs.

With the mixer on low, add the milk and vanilla. Continue to mix on low for five minutes. While the milk and vanilla are doing the five minutes mixing, I will work on separating the egg whites. I will use the egg yolks for the filling, so they will not go to waste.

One of the challenges I will say about eggs for me is that I buy farm-fresh eggs, which means they're not consistent sizes. I have to go through and pick the mid-size eggs to make sure that I don't throw off a baking recipe with eggs that are too large or too small.

We rarely have real milk in my house because three members of my house are intolerant of all proteins related to a cow. However, if it's baked and if it's organic, it doesn't seem to bother them as much. Because I was trying to stick as closely to the actual ingredients of the recipe as possible, even though I'm not in terms of the baking pan that it's going in, I went ahead and bought the organic whole milk.

After five minutes on the flour and vanilla, I've got my eggs separated. One other thing about farm fresh eggs, you have to be careful that they're not bad. I have had maybe two bad eggs in all the years I've been buying from the farmer I currently buy from, but you always run the risk of having a bad egg. Always crack or separate farm fresh eggs into a separate dish first, before putting it into the collective bowl or your mixing bowl. You don't want to have to throw the whole thing out if it was either a fertilized egg or a bad egg. Cracking them into another vessel prevents a bad egg from ruining all of the other ingredients.

I'm going to add the egg whites into this mixture, continuing to mix on low. Add a little bit at a time then allow to mix for three more minutes. Then it's ready to go in the pan and I can work on the filling.

I poured the batter into my prepared Bundt pan. The recipe says bake twenty-five minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Bundt pans tend to take longer to cook than a thin round pan. This cake wound up taking around 35 minutes. I think if I had put all the batter into my Bundt pan (it would have fit), rather than making 8 cupcakes too, it would have taken longer than that.

The batter looks really interesting. It does not look like any cake batter that I am used to seeing. It's very fluffy from the egg whites. Maybe similar to angel food cake? I don't really care for angel food cake so I don't know how it's made. I prefer thicker, heavier cakes, like pound cakes or cheesecakes. Is a cheesecake really a cake? Hmmm. How sad is it that I can no longer make my favorite dessert, cheesecake, due to food intolerances in my family? That used to be my go-to fancy dessert to make.

My husband, son, and mother-in-law (who lives with us) are all intolerant of dairy to some degree. They can eat organic dairy in moderation and they can eat sheep and goat dairy. They can eat organic beef but not conventionally farmed beef as it will also make them not feel good. But cheesecake? I don't care how organic it is. That's just not going to fly. That's too much cheese.

I checked the volume conversions so this should fit in this Bundt pan, but I am still going to put a baking sheet on the next row, below the Bundt pan, just in case we have a catastrophe. Getting into pouring though, I’m worried about overflow so I’m going to make a few cupcakes too to help prevent overflow.

I remember being a girl and my mom or my grandmother or somebody was baking a cake, the kids were all told that we couldn't jump around in the house because the cake might fall. That doesn't seem to be a thing anymore. Now I wonder, was that just something our parents told us to get us to be calm for a few minutes a day? Or has something changed from the 1970s so now the cakes don't fall anymore? Do you know the answer to that question? If so, please leave the answer in the comments below.

I have moved to the stove to make the filling. Combined the whole egg and the eight egg yolks. I really hate recipes that have you waste egg yolks or egg whites. If I have egg yolks or egg whites leftover, I will cook them and feed them to the pets.

Add two cups of granulated sugar, half of a cup of unsalted butter, and one-quarter of a cup of whole milk. When you are cooking eggs, you have to do it slowly and you have to stir a lot or you wind up with scrambled eggs, which I don't know about you, but I do not want to glaze my cake with scrambled eggs. That sounds pretty gross.

I am using a vintage Vita Craft saucepan. I have quite a lot of Vita Craft that I inherited from my grandmother. Alas, when I looked up a link to share to order Vita Craft, it looks as though the company went out of business after filing a Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2019. Better check Ebay now! This is really good cookware… the kind handed down for generations.

The filling is pretty interesting looking. The shade of yellow is so gorgeous. Probably because these are farm fresh eggs. The yolks in particular are really different on farm fresh eggs than on store-bought eggs. We are going to stir constantly and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Once it's boiling, we will continue stirring vigorously for two to three minutes, remove it from the heat and cool it for five minutes before adding in all of the glorious, yummy pecans, coconut and raisins, and the all-important bourbon.

The Alabama Lane Cake is mentioned in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, a version that is so boozy that Scout, the main protagonist of To Kill a Mockingbird, feels the effects of the booziness of the cake. Fun fact: To Kill a Mockingbird is my favorite book.

The cake timer just went off to reveal the moment of truth. It looks really nice. A toothpick inserted is supposed to be clean and it is! It looks amazing. It looks like angel food cake. The instructions say to let the cakes cool in the pans for 15 minutes. I normally cool a Bundt cake for 20 ish minutes because it needs time to fully sort of set and stabilize. If you try to take it out too soon, that's when your Bundt cakes fall apart. If you wait too long and then they are completely cool, the cake cements into the cake pan. There's a nuance there. I’m going to give it 20 minutes and pop it out and see how it is.

The filling has rested for five minutes so now I'm going to add the remaining ingredients. Then it has to chill for an hour before using it. First, stir in one teaspoon vanilla extract and half a cup of bourbon. Once well blended, add one cup of golden raisins, two cups of chopped pecans, and one cup of shredded coconut. The recipe called for sweetened coconut but I used unsweetened without any issue. I don't have a super sweet tooth. If somebody really had a sweet tooth, they might notice the difference. I premixed the raisins, pecans, and coconuts then stirred in a little at a time. The last ingredient in the recipe is Maraschino cherries to decorate the top of the cake.

I am certain if I made the cake as a layer cake that I would have used more of the filling. Since I only glazed a Bundt cake with it, there was a lot of leftover filling. My mother-in-law was very happy about the fact that there is so much of this filling because it really is amazing. Unfortunately. it uses eight egg yolks. So you would need something to use the egg whites for, so maybe not make it all by itself.

As a Bundt cake, I think it looks really beautiful. The maraschino cherries make for a quintessential Southern dessert. That is one thing in my 15 years in the south, everyone had a jar of Maraschino cherries in their refrigerator for fancying up your dessert.

The cake is really nice. Not crunchy per se but it definitely has some texture to the outer layer. It's almost like a thick angel food cake. It looks beautiful. The topping is tasty. My mother-in-law and daughter both gave it a thumbs up.

While the cake looks airy, it is really quite heavy and stands up well to the heavy filling. I highly recommend Mom Loves Baking’s Alabama Lane Cake. Let me know in the comments if you make it too! Cheers!

Be sure to check out Alaska's dessert by clicking here.