The Way to Lincoln’s Heart: Mary Todd’s Courting Cake

History Confidential
History Confidential / History Confidential

I finally saw Lincoln a couple of weeks ago, and while I didn’t notice some of the historical inaccuracies others did, one omission did catch my attention: where were all of the baked goods?

It’s common knowledge among Lincoln historians that Mary Todd had a “courting cake” that she baked for Abe while they were dating after buying the recipe from her favorite bakery in Lexington, Kentucky. He declared it “the best cake I ever ate.” Mrs. Lincoln later served it in the White House as well.

Even if you don’t channel Mary Todd for Valentine’s Day, you can always make President’s Day cake next week. That’s a thing, right? President’s Day cake?

According to the Lincoln Home National Historic Site, this is a pretty good approximation of her recipe:

  • 1 cup blanched almonds, chopped in a food processor until they resemble a coarse flour
  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 cups flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup milk
  • 6 egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • confectionary sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a Bundt cake pan.

Cream butter and sugar. Sift flour and baking powder three times. Add to creamed butter and sugar, alternating with milk. Stir in almonds and beat well.

Beat egg whites until stiff and fold into the batter. Stir in vanilla extract.

Pour into prepared pan and bake for one hour or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Turn out on a wire rack and cool. When cool, sift confectionary sugar over top.