Miss Leslie’s Boston Cake — A Delightful Vintage Sherry Butter Cake Recipe

Boston Cake with fruit and frosting overhead BakeThisCakeTo Boston with love! The amazing moist and buttery vintage Boston Cake has a modern sherry and orange kick and can be served “straight up” (as Grandpa used to say) or topped with fresh berries and a delightful Heirloom Vanilla Custard Frosting. Oh yeah!

From elegant country-style cake to pack-and-carry cake, this  old-fashioned butter sherry cake has got you covered! It’s a slow food bake but it’s easy to prep (with no center filling), travels easily to share with friends and family at potluck or office gatherings and it dresses up in a gazillion different ways.

Boston Butter Sherry Cake Collage Bake This Cake

American author Eliza Leslie

American author Eliza Leslie

I may have been drawn to “Miss Leslie’s Lady’s New Receipt-Book” by nineteenth century author, Eliza Leslie, (1787 – 1858) because we share the “Leslie” moniker, but I was just delighted to land on her lovely 1850 recipe for Boston Cake! Chaucer seems to have transformed the Latin word, recipere (“to receive”) into the words, “recipe” and “receipt” in 1386 in his Canterbury Tales (What shall this recipe cost?…the sum of forty pounds…for this said receipt…). For this particular cake “receipt”, I admit that I left out the mace, the nutmeg and the cinnamon — and I replaced a fine glass of brandy with a fine glass of sherry for the final winning test cake. I also zing’d it up a tad with some orange zest and juice. Okay, okay! I didn’t beat the eggs with a hickory stick (or with my hands!) and I didn’t use pearl ash but I think you might enjoy this charming vintage-style dessert in its modern adaptation.

Henry Han's Boston as seen from the 26th floor of Student Village II at Boston University

Henry Han’s Panoramic Boston

A Tribute: We cannot possibly think of Boston without tenderness and love in our hearts. But now we can also consider the amazing fundraising campaigns that have spirited the nation to rally support, such as: Stay Strong Boston Strong and 2014 Boston Marathon Crowd Rise. They are building momentum even as we speak. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Tom Menino have also announced the formation of The One Fund Boston, Inc. to help the people most affected by the tragic events that occurred in Boston on April 15, 2013. Our hats are off and over our hearts.

Boylston Street, Boston, Massachusetts; from a 1911 postcard published by Valentine & Sons, New York

Boylston Street, Boston, from a 1911 postcard published by Valentine & Sons, NY

James William Geary and silver miners Geary Family postcardHome of the American Revolution, the Boston Tea Party, and America’s finest families, Boston was also the home of my great-grandfather, James William Geary (1857 – 1934). Although he headed West as an adult to join silver mining adventures, he was born and raised in South Boston, his parents having been welcomed with thousands of Irish immigrants during the Great Irish Famine of the 1840’s. As President Obama discussed in his eloquent speech, all of us feel a connection with this epic city and we each claim a piece of this town tucked firmly into our hearts.

Here’s to you, Boston!  We dedicate this lovely historic cake, full of love, full of history and full of loving spirit!

Okay! Let’s bake this cake in 10 easy steps!

Boston Cake Overhead on Blue Retro Cake Bake This Cake

Tools Needed for the Boston Cake:
1 large spring-form cake pan 10″ x 3″ deep (you may substitute a regular large cake pan)
Cooking spray (or butter)
Parchment paper to line the pan
Micro-planer or zesting tool (or grate and chop very fine)
3 Large Mixing Bows (for: dry ingredients, main batter and creamed eggs)
Electric Mixer
Whisk & Spatula
Measuring cups and spoons
Recommended: Baking thermometer (Because this is a moist thick cake, internal temperature tells a better story.)

Boston Cake on brown pottery cake stand bake this cake

Ingredients for Boston Cake:
3-2/3 cups Flour
2 teaspoons Salt
8 Tablespoons (1/2 cup) Dry Cultured Buttermilk (you may substitute liquid buttermilk, see below*)
2 teaspoons Baking Soda
2-1/4 cups (1 pound) Powdered Sugar (usually, a box)
2 cups (4 cubes) Unsalted Butter (I know, I know, but you only get a slice! )
6 Large Eggs
1 cup good quality Sherry (not cooking sherry,  substitute a good quality brandy)
1-1/3 cups Water (*substitute 1-1/3 cup liquid buttermilk + 1/3 cup water if not using dry cultured buttermilk)
1/3 cup fresh Orange Juice (strained of pulp)
1/2 teaspoon medium packed Zest of a Fresh Orange

Boston Cake with Antique Silver Candled Holders Overhead Bake This Cake

1. Prep one large cake pan and fire-up the oven:

Prepare a large 10″ diameter x 3″ deep spring-form pan with cooking spray (or a nice butter smear).
Tip: We used a waffle-bottomed pan to help cook this large butter cake (but not necessary).

Line the sprayed pan with Parchment Paper and spray (or butter) on top of the paper.

Set the oven rack to center position and pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees.
Tip: We’re baking low (at 325) and slow for a longer period of time to achieve a nice consistency.

Parchment lined springform cake pan bake this cake

2. Prep the butter (lots of it, but, yeah, it’s a butter cake):

Bring to room temperature by placing in the microwave on high in 10 second intervals until lightly soft (but not melted):
2 cups (4 cubes) Unsalted Butter

Chopped Butter for Boston Butter Cake Bake This Cake

3. Zest and juice an orange:

Using a micro-planer (or other zesting device), zest a fresh orange to achieve:
1/2 teaspoon medium-packed Orange Zest
Tip: I held out for a long time but my friend, Cathy Nelson Arkle, author of She Paused For Thought tipped me and now I realize that micro-planes really do a much faster, easier and better job!

Squeeze and strain the pulp from the fresh orange to achieve:
1/3 cup fresh strained Orange Juice

Orange Zest and Juice for Boston Cake Recipe Bake This Cake

4. Whisk the dry ingredients:

In a large bowl, whisk until fully incorporated:
3-2/3 cups Flour (all-purpose)
2 teaspoons Salt
8 Tablespoons (1/2 cup) Dry Cultured Buttermilk (you may substitute liquid buttermilk below*)
2 teaspoons Baking Soda

Blending dry ingredients collage for Boston Butter Cake bake this cake

5. Beat that butter with a bunch of powdered sugar!:

Using an electric mixer, beat on high-speed (increasing speed gradually from low to high) for about 3 minutes to achieve a light and fluffy consistency:
the prepared room temperature butter
2-1/4 cups (1 pound) powdered sugar (usually, a box)

Butter and powdered sugar for Boston Butter Cake bake this cake

6. Beat those eggs (no short-cuts please!):

In a large mixing bowl, beat on high-speed until thickened and cream (consistency of a light milkshake) for about 3 to 5 minutes:
6 large eggs
Tip: Don’t shortcut this step and let that mixer do it’s business to make the cake extra tender. The volume should increase by at least by 4 times and the color should lighten to a light cream color.

Eggs to Creamed Stage Collage for Boston Cake Bake This Cake

7. Blend all ingredients (except the creamed eggs) in portions:

Add into the creamed butter/sugar mixture on low-speed in alternating dry and wet portions until thoroughly incorporated:
the prepared dry ingredients
1 cup good quality Sherry
1-1/3 cups Water (*substitute 1-1/3 cup liquid buttermilk + 1/3 cup water if not using dry cultured buttermilk)
the prepared Orange Zest
the prepared Orange Juice

Sherry and Batter Collage for Boston Cake Bake This Cake

8. Hand fold in the creamed eggs (it turns out better with some hand work):

Using a spatula, gently fold into the batter until fully blended (up to 50 strokes):
the prepared creamed eggs

Folding Creamed Eggs into Boston Butter Cake Batter Collage Bake This Cake

9. Slide the batter into your prepared cake pan:

Using a spatula, gently scrape all the batter into the prepared cake pan. Smooth the top of the batter.
Tip: The batter should fill the cake pan about 3/4 full.

Boston Cake Batter in the springform cake pan bake this cake

10. Bake it up at a low temperature — nice and slow:

Bake in center position in pre-heated 325-degree oven for 2 hours + 15 minutes (to an internal temperature of about 200 degrees) until toothpick (or other testing tool) comes clean when tested at deep center position.
Tip: With lots of butter in this sumptuous cake, be sure to test the very center bottom of the cake to ensure a moist but flaky baked consistency. The edges of the cake will pull away from the edges of the pan and the color of the cake will become golden brown.  Don’t worry if the top center of the cake cracks open a bit. That adds vintage charm. 🙂

Vintage Boston Butter Sherry Cake hot from the oven bake this cake

Serve the cake warm from the oven with a light sprinkling of powdered sugar.

Vintage Boston Sherry Cake recipe side angle Bake This Cake

Okay, let’s invite some guests over for tea, good conversation and cake, shall we?

Boston Cake on the the table for dessert bake this cake

Or let the cake cool for at least an hour (maybe 2 hours) and then dollop it with homemade vanilla ice cream and drizzle a little sweet sauce over each buttery slice.
Slice of Boston Cake w Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream Bake This Cake

You know there will be someone in the mix who will request an EXTRA-large helping of ice cream and an EXTRA-large helping of drizzle sauce… 🙂

Slice of Boston Butter Cake with extra homemade ice cream bake this cake

You can also frost the entire cake with a light and lovely Heirloom Vanilla Custard Frosting.

And now you’ve got some love goin’ on — vintage style!

Boston Cake as a Birthday Cake for Rosemary bake this cake

Paralegal, Rosemary, with her party-style Boston Cake

You don’t need silver candlesticks and fancy dishes for this cake ’cause this cake shines on paper plates for any type of gathering of friends.

Slice of Boston Cake on a Paper Plate with Fruit and Custard Frosting BakeThisCake

I’ll show you how to make the Heirloom Vanilla Custard Frosting (and the rose swirls) using a large “star” piping tip in a pastry bag. Boston Cake whole cake w fruit and frosting cutaway BakeThisCake

Thank y’all for joining me on this vintage cake journey! I invite you to follow us on Instagram. Let me know on Instagram that you saw me on the blog and I’ll follow you back. (I love to see your baking projects!) 🙂

I’m going to show you how to make fluffy roses using the vanilla custard frosting. It’s light and lovely and not overly sweet — and just like great-grandma used to make.

To Boston With Love!


Leslie photo by Julie Macchiarella

Old-fashioned Homemade Graham Crackers (bakethiscake.com)

Cowboy Whiskey Cake (bakethiscake.com)

Quick and Magical Chocolate Crazy Cake (bakethiscake.com)

Homemade Maraschino Cherries (bakethiscake.com)

Black Banana Bread (bakethisbread.com)

Icarus at the dining table photo by Leslie Macchiarella

Icarus, hoping to join us at the dining table

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