Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Abe Lincoln's Favorite White Cake

Last night, I was quickly looking through some old recipes that I bought out of an estate auction in the early 80's in the Ohio River Valley Area (WV, KY, Va and Ohio). This folded piece of very fragile letterhead stationary caught my attention. It appears to be the stationary of maybe a publication. The top is printed in a beautiful old font and declares: Country Gentleman; Service Department; Independence Square, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Readers: If you can provide further information about the history of "Country Gentleman" please leave it in my comments box so we can all benefit. It would be interesting to me!)

Abraham Lincoln's Favorite White Cake

Long, long ago, a certain little French caterer in Lexington, Kentucky, made a wonderful white cake in honor of his countryman, Lafayette, who was to pay a visit to the city. The cake was beautifully decorated with flags made of colored sugar, and with marvelous icing, but the cake itself contained only the whites of eggs, and when cut was snow white. Thereupon, every cake baker in the Blue-Grass region immediately began making white cakes; and the recipe for the most famous of all was originated in the household of the ancestors of Mary Todd, who many years afterward, made it for Abraham Lincoln. Later, when she became his wife, he declared this white cake was the best in Kentucky. Here is Mary Todd's recipe with modern baking powder included:

1 Cupful of butter
2 Cupfuls of sugar
1 Cupful of milk
3 Cupfuls of flour
3 Teaspoonsful of baking powder
Whites of 6 eggs
1 Teaspoonful of vanilla or other flavoring, as preferred
1 Cupful of chopped, blanched almonds

Cream the butter well, add the sugar and cream again, sift flour and baking powder together, add to butter and sugar, alternately with the milk. Then stir in the chopped nutmeats and beat well, finally fold in the stiffly-beaten whites of the eggs, pour into a well-greased, paper-lined pan and bake one hour in a moderate oven. Ice with boiled icing to which you have added half a cupful of candied pineapple and cherries cut in very small pieces.

Personal note: Many years ago, Hubby took me on a trip through Virginia (I was missing my sister, Becky, who lived in Manasses at the time). One of our side trips was to tour a plantation owned by some distant ancestors of Mary Todd (and the Lees). Shirley Plantation is known for its beautiful, suspended staircase. It is a fond memory of one of our summer trips that we took as a young couple, all because "Nana and Pappy" were willing to keep two little boys for a week. God bless grandparents!


  1. I have been seeing your sweet face on several blog parties today and it seems like I am right behind you...hopping around..ha. Thanks for joining Tuesdays Tasty Tidbits and I hope you will come back often. I have been in search of the perfect white cake for quite sometime. I am trying this one soon. Hey, could you add my name to your blog party list? I see you have Grocery Shop For Free who hosts my post. I saw a couple of new ones listed that I haven't heard of...so, I am off to blog hop...teehee.

  2. Thanks for visiting! I'd be glad to add you to the list.

  3. Hi there! I found you through Real Food Wednesday. I love white cake & this one sounds fairly easy to make.

    I was born in Alexandria, Virginia & spent the first 7 years of my life there with many trips back over the years. Virginia is such a beautiful state, and I'm really hoping to take my girls on a trip to DC in the next few years!

    Off to check out your blog!

    Denise @ Creative Kitchen

  4. Thanks for the visit! Hope you'll become a follower:)

  5. Sounds wonderful! I love vintage recipes. I have been cooking from my 1943 Joy of Cooking! Thanks for sharing!

  6. Oh, I wish you had pictures of the recipe paper and the finished cake! Would love to see both.

  7. What a neat story behind the recipe.

  8. I like a little history lesson with my cooking!

  9. Hi Marcia,
    I just love your white cake and all the history that goes with it. I always look forward to your post about history and the old cookbooks and recipes. Thank you so much for sharing at Full Plate and please come back!

  10. when you were first describing the cake,i thought it must be angel-food...but with the addition of butter, it is not. this looks like a great recipe...one i would like to try. thank you for posting on tuesday night supper club.

  11. What a sweet post...in more ways than one. I love the "cupful" meansurement. I wonder if our cupsful are the same today? I'm looking forward to seeing you at What's On the Menu Wednesday this week.

  12. I am a student of all things Lincoln related to the foods he liked ... and it thrills me to read this account of his love of plain white cake! He also loved gingerbread and lemon cake ... and, while in the whitehouse, he and Mary never served alcoholic beverages! Thanks for sharing your story ... I'll add it to my list.