Robert E. Lee cake (also referred to as Lee Cake, General Lee Cake, R.E. Lee Cake and General Robert E. Lee Cake in early recipes) existed by other names long before Robert E. Lee became the South’s most beloved icon.
This citrus-flavored sponge cake is very labor-intensive, but the results are well worth the effort. This recipe is based on several written between 1977 and 1891. If you would like a more “modern” version with boiled frosting, use the frosting recipe from Grandma Hill’s Fresh Coconut Cake.
9 eggs, separated
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Zest of 3 lemons
Zest of 5 oranges
1/2 cup lemon juice, divided
2 cups orange juice
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut, divided
Preheat oven 350 degrees; grease and flour 3 8-inch round cake pans.
In a 4-quart mixing bowl, beat egg whites until they just form stiff peaks.
In a separate large bowl, beat egg yolks until light-colored. Slowly beat in sugar. Sift together flour, salt in a 1-quart mixing bowl and set aside.
Using a rubber spatula, fold in egg whites, then flour mixture and1 tablespoon of the lemon juice, mixing only enough to blend in flour.
Divide batter equally among the 3 cake pans. Bake until cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 35-45 minutes. Set pans on a wire rack to cool; after 10 minutes, remove cake layers from pans and place on wire rack to cool completely.
In a 2-quart mixing bowl, combine citrus zest and juices, 1 sugar, and 1 cup of the coconut, stiring to dissolve sugar.
Spoon citrus mixture over tops of cake layers. Stack layers and allow to stand several hours before serving to allow cake to absorb liquid.
To serve, sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup coconut.