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Leslie McKellar

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Legend of Lady Baltimore Lives On at Sugar Bakeshop

“But dear me, this Is delicious!”

Erin Perkins is the editor of Eater Carolinas, covering the food and restaurant scene across North and South Carolina.

In 1906 novelist Owen Wister wrote Lady Baltimore, based on his travels to Charleston, and it spawned a fascination with a new kind of dessert. According to legend, during his visit, local Southern belle Alicia Rhett Mayberry served Wister a sweet slice similar to a wedding cake, and he was smitten.

He wrote:

‘I should like a slice, if you please, of Lady Baltimore,’ I said with extreme formality. I thought she was going to burst; but after an interesting second she replied, ‘Certainly,’ in her fit Regular Exchange tone; only, I thought it trembled a little.

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.

Delighted surprise caused me once more to speak aloud, and with my mouth full. ‘But dear me, this Is delicious!’

There wasn’t a recipe in the novel for Lady Baltimore cake, so the real-life creation is said to have originated from longtime-managers of Charleston's Lady Baltimore Tea Room, Florence and Nina Ottelengui. The creation was based on the late-nineteenth-century Queen cake.

To find the a modern rendition, look no further than dreamy kitchen Sugar Bakeshop. The made-by-order version of the classic sets light almond cake layered with golden raisins, figs, and walnuts soaked in sherry. The creation gets a meringue topping and is decorated with raisins. Here, co-owner Bill Bowick demonstrates how to build a Lady Baltimore.


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