This striking Southern dessert, with its three rose-water infused layers and Italian meringue frosting studded with pecans, raisins, dried figs, and candied orange peel, seems born for elegant tea parties. It first gained popularity after the release of Owen Wister’s 1906 romance novel Lady Baltimore; upon tasting a slice, the book’s narrator says of the cake, “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.” This recipe also appears in the SAVEUR New Classics Cookbook.
Ingredients for the cake
- 3 1⁄2 cups cake flour
- 4 tsp. baking powder
- 1⁄2 tsp. kosher salt
- 2 cups sugar
- 16 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened, plus more
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1⁄2 tsp. rose water
- 8 egg whites
Ingredients for the icing
- 4 cups sugar
- 6 egg whites
- 1⁄2 tsp. rose water
- 1 1⁄2 cups roughly chopped pecans
- 3⁄4 cup raisins, minced
- 2 tbsp. minced candied orange peel
- 5 dried figs, minced
- Make the cake: Heat oven to 375°. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Cream sugar and butter in a stand mixer on medium-high until fluffy. With the motor running, alternately add dry ingredients in 3 batches and milk in 2 batches. Add rose water; increase speed to high and beat until batter is smooth, about 5 seconds. In a separate bowl, whip whites until stiff peaks form; fold into batter. Divide batter between 3 greased 9″ round cake pans; bake until a toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean, 25–30 minutes. Invert cakes onto wire racks; let cool.
- Make the icing: Boil 2 cups water in a 4-qt. saucepan. Stir in sugar; cook until dissolved, about 5 minutes, and set syrup aside. In a stand mixer, whip whites until stiff peaks form. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in reserved syrup; whip until icing is room temperature, about 10 minutes. Beat in rose water. Transfer 3 cups icing to a bowl; mix 1⁄2 cup pecans, the raisins, orange peel, and figs into remaining icing.
- To assemble, place one cake layer on a cake stand; spread with one-third the fruit-and-nut icing. Repeat with remaining layers and fruit-and-nut icing, ending with icing. Spread plain icing over top and sides of cake; press remaining pecans onto sides of cake. Chill 20 minutes before serving.
As Seen In:
SAVEUR is devoted to following food to its source. For more than 20 years, we’ve been sharing and celebrating authentic cuisine from across the globe. Now, in The New Classics Cookbook, our editors have collected 1,000+ of our all-time favorite go-to recipes in one essential volume. It will bring a world of inspiration to your home kitchen for years to come.