I saw the movie “Lincoln” and loved it, despite the inaccuracies. But the brouhaha about the details got me to thinking about other factual errors concerning Lincoln including the myth about Mary Todd Lincoln’s “Courtin’ Cake,” sometimes referred to as Mary Todd Lincoln White Cake.
The story goes that Mary baked this cake for Abe while they were courting and that he liked it so much that either it got him to propose or that she made it frequently after they were married. And so on and so on.
None of it has actually been documented. And in fact, Mary came from a wealthy, slave-owning family and so it is doubtful she ever cooked before she was married.
Well, I say, who cares?
Cake is cake and this one, attributed to her, is a particularly delicious one. I don’t care if she got the recipe from a cookbook or a bakery or whatever. Or whether she ever actually baked it or it was baked for her and Mr. Lincoln by someone else.
There are many variations on Mrs. Lincoln’s recipe. Some are for layer cake with marshmallow frosting but most are bundt types with just a sprinkle of confectioner’s sugar as decoration. I like those best. This cake is rich and moist, almost like a tea bread, and icing or frosting might be overkill.
This is a good cake anytime, for “courting” (does anyone use that term anymore??) or a party or even a wedding or bridal shower.
Mary Todd Lincoln Courtin’ Cake
1 cup chopped almonds
2-1/4 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
6 large egg whites
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease and flour a 10-cup bundt pan and set aside. Place the almonds in a food processor and process until the almonds are very finely chopped and uniform in consistency. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Sift these ingredients another two times. Mix in the ground almonds and set aside. Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat for 1-2 minutes or until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the flour mixture, alternating with the milk, beating after each addition until the mixture is smooth and uniform. Stir in the vanilla extract. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until they stand in stiff, glossy peaks. Fold into the batter. Spoon into the prepared pan. Bake for about one hour or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven to a cake rack and cool for 10 minutes. Invert onto the cake rack to cool completely. Decorate with sifted confectioner’s flour. Makes one cake