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.
‘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.