Southern Heirloom Cake

This yellow butter cake is one of the finest of our Southern cakes. It has smooth, close-grained texture and an exquisite flavor. The flavor, of course, will vary with the liquid that is chosen, but this is what makes baking interesting. One can make this cake quite plain or very fancy – the variations are endless. Fresh coconut with orange filling is a happy Christmas choice.

Southern Heirloom Cake


  • Cake:
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, cut into pieces

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 2 2/3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup milk, heavy or whipping cream, or sour cream
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract or cognac vanilla
  • Orange Filling (for layers; recipe follows)

  • 2 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • tiny pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. grated orange peel
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 3 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 oranges for garnish, optional


  1. Cake:
  2. 1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  3. 2. Grease and dust with flour then line with wax paper 2 round or square
  4. 9-inch cake pans, or one 8-inch springform pan, or an 8 x 12-inch
  5. rectangular pan.
  6. 3. Cream the butter and sugar thoroughly with an electric mixer. Add
  7. the egg yolks, and beat hard until the mixture is smooth and looks
  8. like mayonnaise. The sugar crystals should be almost dissolved.
  9. 4. Combine the sifted flour with the baking powder and salt, and sift
  10. again. Add this to the egg mixture alternately with the milk or
  11. cream, folding it in by hand.
  12. 5. Beat the egg white until they are stiff but not dry and grainy. Fold
  13. them into the batter. Add the vanilla, and give the batter several
  14. hard strokes with a rubber spatula to rid it of air bubbles.
  15. 6. Fill the pan(s) not more than three-quarters full with the batter.
  16. Place the pan(s) on the middle shelf of the oven and bake until the
  17. cake springs back at once when lightly touched, about 35 minutes.
  18. The timing varies with the size of the pan.
  19. 7. Let the cake sit for 5 minutes, then remove it from the pan(s)
  20. and cool thoroughly on a wire rack.
  21. 8. If you are making a layer cake, spread the top of 1 cake layer with
  22. the Orange Filling. Center the second layer on top of the first.
  23. Frost the top and sides of either version of this cake with Rich
  24. Chocolate or Seven-Minute Frosting. Press coconut generously into
  25. the Seven-Minute frosting. To serve, place the cake on a cake
  26. stand and garnish around the bottom with orange sections.
  27. Orange Filling:
  28. 1. Mix the cornstarch, sugar and salt in a heavy saucepan or in the top
  29. of a double boiler. Add the orange and lemon juices and the orange
  30. peel. Bring slowly to a boil, stirring with a whisk to keep the sauce
  31. from lumping, until the mixture has thickened and is clear, 3 to 4
  32. minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let it stand a few
  33. minutes.
  34. 2. Stir in the egg yolks and place the pan in the bottom of the double
  35. boiler over hot water. Cook gently until thick. Remove the pan
  36. from the heat and stir in the butter. Cool, then refrigerate until cold.
  37. 3. Spread the filling between layers of cake.


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