Mary Todd Lincoln's Courting Cake

We are now entering the month of February and two very important dates are coming up: Valentine’s Day and Lincoln’s birthday (February 12th).  My personal Valentine’s philosophy is simple: If I am not in a relationship, I waste no time declaring February 14th a complete waste of money and effort. If people are so in love, shouldn’t they be buying flowers weekly and showering each other in compliments daily? If I am dating someone; however, the day is markered into the calendar (months in advance) and decorated in series of small and large <3s. Ultimately, cynical as it may sound, the old Southern phrase normally rings true: “Kissin don’t last, good cookin do.” In that vein, let’s have dessert first.

Instead of the normal chocolate lava cake this year, try the cake that got Mary Todd Lincoln her man. Her love of baking is well documented (she went through over ten lbs of sugar some weeks) and a version of her white cake, which became known as a courting cake, was one of Abe’s favorites while they were dating.  The recipe was from a bakery she frequented in Kentucky and she made some changes to the original (as have I) to make it a gorgeously simple almond treat.  There is another burnt sugar variety in the history books but this one was touted by Lincoln to be the best cake he ever had so I am sure your significant other will agree. It is important to note that even though their courtship ended in marriage, it was a rocky road and included a broken engagement and ample fighting. But their passion, and Abe’s patience, prevailed.  Even with her extravagant spending and rocky reputation in Washington, Lincoln never fell out of love, noting "My wife is as handsome as when she was a girl, and I...fell in love with her; and what is more, I have never fallen out."  Sniffle.

Dessert: Mary Todd Lincoln's White "Courting” Cake
adapted from the Lincoln National Historic Site

-1 cup blanched and finely chopped almonds
-1 cup butter
-2 cups sugar
-3 cups flour
-3 teaspoons baking powder
-1 cup milk
-6 egg whites
-1 teaspoon vanilla [or almond] extract
-confectionary sugar


·         Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

·         Cream butter and sugar.

·         Add flour and baking power to creamed butter and sugar, alternating with milk. Add chopped almonds and mix well.

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

·         Pour into greased and floured Bundt pan.

·         Bake for 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool on wire rack. When cool, sift confectionary sugar over top.


·         Instead of sugar on top, I made a simple glaze using confectionary sugar (1 cup, sifted) and milk (2-3 Tbsp). I then just topped with some of the remaining almond slivers and sprinkles

·         Serve with ice cream, fruit, or both. 

Posted on February 1, 2016 and filed under baked sweets, dessert, time travel.