The Joy of Cooking Milhouse

“Grade School Confidential” season 8, episode 19

This season 8 episode has a number of good food moments, like Martin’s birthday oysters and Edna’s applesauce dessert (I’m sure I’ll revisit these later), but there’s so much cake on this show it’s high time I made another cake.

The overall plot of “Grade School Confidential” revolves around Edna Krabappel and Seymour Skinner secretly dating, all the while using Bart as their over-worked cupid. There’s some great stuff in there, including one of my favorite Simpsons moments ever: Ralph telling his dad what he saw Edna and Seymour doing in the closet (“and the baby looked at me!”). Plus, it was written and directed by women! Rachel Pulido and Susie Dietter, respectively.

Let’s get to the cake already. Bart gets stuck hanging out with Agnes Skinner while Seymour goes out on a date. She collects pictures of cakes that she finds in magazines going all the way back to the 40s. She doesn’t have any real cake, oh my no, just scrapbooks of cut-out photos. We’re going to focus on loooovely Good Housekeeping cake: the Lady Baltimore Cake.

Lady Baltimore Cake is a real cake you may not have heard of—it’s an old-fashioned, Southern cake that consists of fluffy white cake layered with dried fruit and nuts and covered in a whipped meringue frosting. The filling can vary, with dried fruit like raisins, figs, and cherries and nuts like walnuts and pecans. Some contain coconut, others include rum or liqueurs. They’re all very pretty and very sweet and a little challenging to slice.

For my take on the layer cake, I start with a boxed cake mix for the sheer ease. Next, I make an easy marzipan frosting, spike it with rum, and add in dried, soaked cherries. A little almond extract in the whipped meringue frosting adds extra nutty flavor along with (optional) toasted nuts on top. If you have brandied cherries, stick a few of those on top, too.

If you’re tired of just looking at cakes, make this show-stopper for your birthday instead of serving oysters.

Lady Baltimore Cake
makes one 2-layer cake

1 box white cake mix, prepared and baked in 2 (8-9″) round cake pans and cooled (or your favorite white cake recipe)
1/2 cup dried cherries
3 tablespoons spiced rum, divided
3/4 cup fine almond flour
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
3/4 teaspoon almond extract, divided
3 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup cold water
1 tablespoon corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
Brandied cherries and toasted almonds, for decorating (optional)

  1. Place the dried cherries in a small, heat-safe bowl and top with 2 tablespoons of rum. Microwave for about 20 seconds, just until steaming. Toss and set aside.
  2. Add the almond flour and butter to a medium mixing bowl. Beat with a hand mixer for about 2 minutes, or until fluffy.
  3. Add the powdered sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon almond extract. Beat until well mixed. Add about 1 tablespoon of rum or so to achieve a smooth, fluffy texture that can be spread. Fold in the soaked cherries. Set aside.
  4. In the top of a double boiler or a medium bowl that will fit over a pot of water, combine the egg whites, sugar, water, corn syrup, cream of tartar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
  5. Beat with an electric hand mixer for about a minute just to combine.
  6. Set the bowl over about an inch of simmering water and beat on high with the mixer for 7 minutes. The mixture should be thick and glossy and register at least 160°F on a thermometer.
  7. Remove from the heat and add 1/4 teaspoon almond extract. Beat for 2 more minutes on high.
  8. Place one layer on a plate or platter. Spread with the filling and top with a small amount of frosting. Top with the second layer.
  9. Frost the exterior of the cake, covering the sides and top liberally. Decorate with toasted almonds and brandied cherries (if using). Serve.

Note: this cake is best served and eaten fresh. The frosting holds up well for a few hours but declines rapidly after that.

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