By: Sydnee C. Winston, Project Coordinator
Mary Todd Lincoln, America’s 17th First Lady and wife of President Abraham Lincoln, has made some headlines in the arts & entertainment world in the last year. She was portrayed by Sally Field in the critically acclaimed 2012 film, Lincoln and was the focus of a play at Arena Stage theater in Washington, DC called Mary T. and Lizzie K, earlier this year. The play explored the real life friendship between Mary and her seamstress Elizabeth Keckley, a former slave who lived in the White House.
One very interesting detail about Mary’s life that went unexplored in these two dramatizations was her penchant for confection and baked treats. Mary was a great baker and while she and Abraham were courting, she famously baked her white almond cake, the “courting cake” for him. He loved it so much so that he declared it one of his favorite desserts.
Mary Todd Lincoln’s “White Cake”
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
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a Bundt cake pan.
- Cream butter and sugar. Sift flour and baking powder 3 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 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Turn out on a wire rack and cool. When cool, sift confectionery sugar over top
- A basic white frosting sprinkled with almonds was also popular.