Plantation Cake from Dayton’s Sky Room in Minneapolis

197

Location:
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Status:
Permanently closed

Dates active:
1947-2017

The Dayton’s building in downtown Minneapolis was built in 1902 and initially housed Goodfellow’s Department Store. In 1903, George Draper Dayton opened Dayton’s Dry Goods Company in the space. Fast forward to 1947 when it was common for department stores to have elegant dining rooms to keep shoppers fed, happy, and spending money. 

Dayton’s in-house architect, Robert Hansen, designed two modern and sophisticated dining rooms on the 12th floor. The Oak Grill served men (women had to be accompanied by a man to enter the dining room until the late-1960s) and the Sky Room catered specifically to women. When building the Sky Room at the downtown Minneapolis store, Hanson used all kinds of design tricks to give the enormous room a glamorous scope with slate grey walls, floor-to-ceiling windows, a curvaceous white ceiling, luscious draperies, state-of-the-art indirect lighting, and eight magnificent Waterford chandeliers. It became the public’s penthouse with a panoramic view of downtown, and it was a massive hit for Dayton’s.

By the 1970s, women who worked downtown began to outnumber the ladies who spent their days shopping and lunching with friends. The Sky Room started offering express lunches and a well-stocked salad bar to accommodate the growing downtown lunch crowd. To do that, the Sky Room received a 1970s makeover with additional seating and darker, earthy decor. The glamorous chandeliers were removed and put into storage (some eventually made their way to the sales floor).

The glamour of the Sky Room was lost, but the elegance remained until the Sky Room closed on January 27, 2017.

The Sky Room’s Plantation Cake is one of my top requested recipes. I was lucky enough to find two versions of the recipe, one from 1963 and another from 1980. While the essence of the cake remains the same, the 1980 version is a little simpler and uses ingredients more common in our kitchens today. I’m posting both so you can decide which one you’d like to make.

Sky Room Plantation Cake (1963)

Served at the Dayton's Sky Room in Minneapolis.
Servings 15

Ingredients

Cake

  • 5 ounces lard
  • 5 ounces margarine
  • 7 ounces brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound flour
  • 1⅓ cup water
  • 1⅓ soda
  • 1⅓ cup molasses

Whipped Cheese Topping

  • 1 pound cream cheese
  • 1 cup coffee cream

Lemon Sauce

  • pound sugar
  • 2 ounces cornstarch
  • quart boiling water
  • ounces butter
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup + 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • tablespoon lemon zest
  • cup egg yolks

Instructions

Cake

  • Cream the lard and margarine about 12 minutes. Add brown sugar, salt and continue beating seven to 15 minutes more until light and fluffy.
  • Add flour and mix until crumbly. Weigh out 14 ounces of this mixture and pat this flat on the bottom of a greased 9×13 cake pan.
  • Combine water and soda and add to molasses. Pour in 1 ⅓ cups of molasses mixture.
  • Sprinkle half of the remaining crumbs over this, pour in the rest of the molasses mixture and sprinkle the last of the crumbs on top.
  • Bake at 350° for 30 to 35 minutes. Cut the cake into 15 servings. Top with the Whipped Cheese Topping and Lemon Sauce.

Whipped Cheese Topping

  • Beat cream cheese and coffee cream together until creamy. Put about a tablespoon on top of each cake serving and pour warm lemon sauce on top.

Lemon Sauce

  • Mix dry ingredients together. Bring water to boil and then slowly add dry ingredients. Cook for about 15 minutes. Then add egg yolks, lemon juice, rind and butter. Stir until well mixed. Remove from heat and serve warm.

Sky Room Plantation Cake (1980)

Served at the Dayton's Sky Room in Minneapolis.
Servings 15

Ingredients

Cake

  • 1 cups shortening
  • 1 cup + 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • Dash of salt
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 1⅓ cup molasses (preferably dark)
  • 1⅓ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 pound whipped cream cheese
  • Lemon Sauce

Lemon Sauce

  • cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons cornstarch
  • cups water
  • ¾ cup lemon juice
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons butter

Instructions

Cake

  • Heat oven to 325°. Cream shortening one minute. Add sugar and salt. Beat for five minutes until light and fluffy. Add flour slowly and mix until crumbly.
  • Weigh out 14 ounces of the mixture and pat flat and even on bottom of a 9-by-13-inch pan. In a separate bowl, combine baking soda and molasses. Add hot water and mix. Add the remaining crumb mixture (about one pound) to the molasses mixture. Beat until most of the white pieces are out of the mixture.
  • Pour over the crumbs in the pan. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes or until done; Serve cake topped with a tablespoon of whipped cream cheese and the warm Lemon Sauce.

Lemon Sauce

  • Mix sugar, salt and cornstarch together in a pan. Add 3 cups of water and all the lemon juice. Bring to a boil.
  • Beat the remaining water and egg yolks together. Add to the boiling mixture and bring back to a boll.
  • Boil over low heat for 5 minutes. Add butter and remove from heat. Serve warm.
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