We Made Mary Todd Lincoln’s White Cake (and Honestly, We Approve)

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This former First Lady loved to bake. Using a recipe from her favorite bakery in Kentucky, Mary made this delicious white cake her signature dessert.

First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln was quite fond of entertaining and especially loved to bake. Some of the cookbooks she purchased still reside in the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield. This classic white cake was a featured menu item at many of her luncheons and parties. See what other First Ladies liked to eat.

Mary Todd Lincoln’s White Cake

This recipe is based on Janice Cooke Newman’s adaption of a recipe from Lincoln’s Table by Donna D. McCreary.

  • 1 cup blanched almonds (finely processed to a coarse meal)
  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 cups flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 6 egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Confectioners sugar

Initial Thoughts

After gathering all of the ingredients, all I saw was a sea of white—sugar, flour and baking powder. Don’t fret, though. The lack of colorful ingredients was not a foreshadowing to the taste or look of the finished product. It was a delight—trust me.

The Batter

Preheat the oven to 350º, and then thoroughly grease and flour your favorite Bundt pan. You really don’t want the cake to stick, so make sure to follow these helpful tips.

Cream the butter and sugar in a stand mixer. Separately sift together the flour, baking powder and pinch of salt. (Here’s what to do if you don’t have a sifter.) Turn the mixer to low and slowly add the milk and dry ingredients to the creamed sugar and butter. Once fully incorporated, mix in the almonds.

Clean your whisk attachment and whip the egg whites until just firm. Gently fold the whipped whites and vanilla extract into the batter until dispersed evenly.

The Bake

Pour the batter into the prepared Bundt pan and bake for one hour (or until a toothpick comes out clean). Once baking is complete, place the pan on a wire rack. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then turn the cake out onto the wire rack to finish cooling.

Sift powdered sugar over the cake to make a pretty dusting before serving.

The Outcome

This easy recipe—made with pantry staples—is an instant classic in any home. Dense, moist and subtly sweet, this white cake is wonderful on its own. It also pairs well with ice cream, fresh fruit or a steaming cup of coffee. Bookmark this recipe for your next book club meeting, afternoon tea with your mom or any time you need a comforting sweet.

Thank you, Mary Todd Lincoln! We’re happy you were able to pass this bakery recipe on to the rest of us. Our sweet tooths are forever in your debt.

Up Next: Lady Bird Johnson’s Favorite Pecan Pie

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Jennifer Schwarzkopf
Half Chilean, half Irish descent and all joie de vivre, I'm a food writer/photographer who loves to share stories about different cultures and the magic that is sharing a meal together. When not doing that, you'll find me working on my culinary degree, hanging with family & friends, and just trying to "live deep and suck out all the marrow of life." Salud!