The Cake Mary Todd Made To Court Abraham Lincoln

It is almost strange to think of Abe Lincoln in anything other than legendary terms. Whatever you think of our 16th President, he is an American legend. We do, however, have to remember that despite his heroic services to the country, beneath that aura of greatness, was an ordinary man. So, to learn that in the 1830s, Honest Abe had to balance a dating life with his law practice, finances, and his place in the Illinois state legislature is a bit shocking. Lincoln was struggling, and while he seriously considered marrying a woman named Mary Owen, his bleak financial situation caused him to end his relationship. Only he soon found himself in the exact same situation with another Mary (via Abraham Lincoln Historical Society).

This Mary was Mary Todd, an energetic aristocrat from Lexington, Kentucky who stood barely over five feet tall. She was in Springfield, Illinois living with her sisters when she met Abraham Lincoln. Despite Lincoln's lack of wealth and notoriety, the two soon fell for each other, and eventually married. Though, historians are very quick to note that there was nothing particularly easy about the courtship that led up to their marriage. Like with Mary Owen, Lincoln at one point called off his engagement to Mary Todd, though that break was short-lived. Even in the tumult of their rocky courtship were rays of hope and sunshine. One came in the form of a cake that Mary Todd would make whenever Abe came a-callin'.

A cake fit for a president

History remembers it as Mary Todd's courting cake. According to The Food Timeline, the recipe for the courting cake was one that went back a long way in the Todd family. It's described as a burnt sugar cake, which actually means caramel if you read the recipe thoroughly. Overall it is a pretty basic cake recipe. The courting cake is a combination of stiff egg whites, flour, butter, caramelized sugar, and vanilla baked at 350 Fahrenheit for 45 minutes. It seems dead easy, and Lincoln apparently loved it.

There was one other cake Mary made that he loved more, though. The white almond cake. The Food Timeline says that Lincoln loved this cake the most of any Mary Todd ever made. According to Food52, the Todd family acquired the recipe for white almond cake from the Lexington caterer who developed it. The cake soon became a household favorite, and Mary Todd would go on to make this cake for Lincoln often during their courtship and well after they were married. This cake is so associated with Lincoln that in the decade following his assassination, the white almond cake was a staple of Washington banquet menus. Though states that both Lincoln and Mary Todd suffered from severe anxiety and depression — and who could blame them with the Civil War going on — Mary's baking may have been something of a solace for them both. Perhaps it reminded them of happier days.