Filled Sunshine Cake

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Milwaukee’s Watts Tea Shop opened in 1870, but it wasn’t until 1976 that a reporter for the Milwaukee Sentinel managed to pry loose the recipe for the restaurant’s legendary filled sunshine cake. It is some trouble to prepare, but the result is a gloriously old-fashioned dessert. It should be served the same day it is made; otherwise, boiled frosting will lose its delicacy.

CAKE
9 eggs, separated
1/4 cup warm water
1 cup sugar
1 cup triple-sifted cake flour
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

FRENCH CUSTARD FILLING
4 egg yolks, beaten
3/4 cup sifted confectioners sugar
3/4 cup milk
1 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

BOILED FROSTING
1-1/3 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
3 egg whites
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
grated rind of 1 orange

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine the egg yolks, water and 1/2 cup of the sugar. Beat with an electric mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy, 10-12 minutes. Add flour, 1/4 cup at a time, mixing only until blended.
  3. Whip egg whites with cream of tartar and salt until soft peaks form. Add remaining 1/2 cup sugar gradually and beat until stiff peaks form. Add vanilla. Fold into the batter.
  4. Bake in an ungreased 10-inch angel food cake or tube cake pan 45 minutes. Let the cake cool completely. Remove it from the pan and use a serrated knife to carefully cut the cake into three layers.
  5. Fill with French custard filling and slather with broiled frosting.
  6. To make the filling, cook the 4 yolks, sugar and milk in the top of a double boiler over simmering water, stirring often, 15-20 minutes, or until custard coats a spoon. Cool to room temperature.
  7. Cream butter thoroughly with vanilla. Add custard slowly. Continue beating until fluffy and smooth. Spread between the layers of the cake.
  8. To make the boiled frosting, combine the sugar and wter and boil until syrup spins a thread (242 degrees). Beat the egg whites and salt to soft peaks. Pour the hot syrup very slowly into the whites, continuing to beat. Beat until frosting stands in stiff peaks and is ready to spread. Add vanilla. Use this to cover the top and sides of the cake.
  9. Sprinkle orange rind on top.
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