Rose's Picture of 'Woody's Cake". Someone punched up the yellow!

Things have changed on my home front.  My mother Mina, the creator of the Glorious Charlotte Russe, fell and smashed her shoulder two months ago.  Now she is in a free-falling descent and is under 24/7 care.  No longer do I pick her up every night to have dinner at my house, or even prepare a dinner to be served at her house.  She can hardly move, has no balance, has limited speech and horrible coughing  jags while she eats. So what can I do to cheer her up?

Easy.  Once a week, we have cake night.  Supposedly, I spend a couple hours making a fab new cake recipe and the whole family meets at her house around 9 pm to have cake and light  conversation about the previous week.  Then, much to the joy of my mother and the caregivers, I leave them one half of the cake.  Mom then has dessert for 4 – 5 days, which seems to be the highlight of her day.  The first week, I tried the Mary Todd Lincoln’s Vanilla Almond Cake which we all loved.

My good friend Patricia Raines, the Vanilla Queen, recommended a cook book called “Rose’s Heavenly Cakes” by Rose Levy Beranbaum, the cake goddess.  After seeing the photos, how could I not resist making a cake from her delicious book?  In fact the book is so beautiful, that Christie and I sat down and went thru the book, marking our favorites.  Since Mémé (my mother) loves lemons, we decided to make Rose’s majestic Woody’s Lemon Luxury Layer Cake.

My "Woody's" Cake

Now, I am never one to be intimidated, but a 4-page recipe for cake is a little daunting.  Beware, Rose Beranbaum is an obsessive baker and minutely precise in her instructions.  So although this recipe is intense, there is no room for failure if you follow (to the book) her instructions.  However this recipe took me 11 hours to make.

Admittedly, I am a little slow whenever I face a new complex recipe, but as they say, this one took the cake. Plus it was very expensive to make with 23 eggs, 3 bars of good white chocolate and 3 sticks of butter. And I had to cheat since the finished cake needed to be refrigerated for an hour and I had 15 minutes to make it to Mom’s house.

Was it worth the effort?  Well, when we tasted our fabulous cake, sighs of ecstasy went around the table.  Would I make this cake again if it took half the time?  I don’t know.  It is truly a great recipe, the butter icing is to die for, but shoot me if I try this again.  However next week, Rose’s Chocolate Velvet Fudge Cake sounds promising, and the recipe is only 1.5 pages long.

If you are a cake freak, do buy this book.  My only reservation is the picture of Woody’s Lemon Cake does not represent the final product.  It is a light yellow and cream colored cake instead of the glowing bright yellow cake with glistening icing shown in the book.

I wouldn’t even dare copying the recipe to put on my blog, since it is a work of art, but instead am leaving you with the excellent Mary Todd Lincoln’s Vanilla Almond Cake.  It is quick, easy and the frosting is wonderful.

Mary Todd Lincoln’s Vanilla Almond Cake:  Ready in: 1-2 hrs, serves 12

1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups sifted cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/3 cup milk
1 cup almonds, finely chopped
6 egg whites, stiffly beaten
White Frosting
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 dash salt
2 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Set oven temperature to 375 degrees

Cream together sugar, butter, and vanilla extract.

Stir together the cake flour and baking powder; add to creamed mixture alternately with milk. Stir in almonds. Gently fold in the egg whites. Pour into two greased and lightly floured 9 x 1 1/2-inch round baking pans. Bake for 28 to 30 minutes. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans. Fill and frost with White Frosting.

White Frosting: In a saucepan, combine sugar, water, cream of tartar and salt. Bring mixture to boiling, stirring until the sugar dissolves.

In mixing bowl place egg whites; very slowly pour the hot sugar syrup over, beating constantly with electric mixer until stiff peaks form, about 7 minutes. Beat in vanilla extract.