The Native Ingredient Used In First Lady Sarah Polk's Favorite Cake

Have you ever thought about the go-to meals of the historic first ladies of the United States? We've long found the contents of political figures' and celebrities' dinner plates fascinating, whether it's breaking down King Charles' daily diet or trying out Gigi Hadid's viral spicy pasta recipe. And, of course, many of us want to know what's going down in the White House kitchen. Yet, while lots of press has made the rounds about Joe Biden's favorite pasta dish or why Lyndon B. Johnson was hard to cook for, somehow the nation's first ladies often get overlooked. However, if you're interested in recreating some of their favorite dishes, there are plenty of simple recipes you can make right at home.

Of course, you can easily whip up Eleanor Roosevelt's favorite meal of scrambled eggs or Jackie Kennedy's beloved poached salmon, but some dishes haven't stood the test of time so well. As such, you may not have heard of the Sarah Polk hickory nut cake before, a delicious and now-dated dish that was named after the 11th first lady. This warm, fluffy, and sugary cake hasn't been particularly popular in the time since it was a household staple in the 19th century. But, it's still worth diving into the cool story of how the dessert got its name and what happened to the once-beloved hickory nut that garnishes the top of the cake.

History of Sarah Polk hickory nut cake

If you're out of breath repeating the name of this treat, we get it. If it was invented in the age of internet culture and texting slang, we're sure it would've been shortened or referred to by a quick acronym. This lengthy-named dessert was originally known simply as hickory nut cake, but Polk's love for it was so well known that her name was eventually melded into its title.

Hickory nut cake was popular in the 19th century when Polk was living in the White House. At this time, native hickory trees were plentiful across the continent. It was common for individuals to collect any that fell in their yards, as they were enjoyed for their sweet flavor which is ideal for desserts. As a relative of the pecan, this once-common nut is also one of the only nuts considered indigenous to the U.S., making desserts created using this ingredient truly American.

Unfortunately, due to various factors, many hickory tree species have disappeared and hickory nuts are now far less common than they used to be. Over time, more popular nuts have taken their place on grocery store shelves, but that doesn't mean you can't locate this special ingredient if you're planning on making this cake at home.

Ingredients in Sarah Polk hickory nut cake

Hickory nuts are a staple in this special cake for good reason. You've likely never tried this hard-to-find nut before, but it's known to be buttery, nutty, and delicious. When paired with sugar, it elicits an earthy sweetness that is great in desserts. It's often featured in pies and cookies, crushed over salads, or eaten solo as a snack. The other ingredients included in this cake are pretty straightforward. Flour, sugar, eggs, butter, milk, and vanilla extract are the main ingredients used to create a light batter that bakes into a fluffy cake.

This dessert wouldn't be complete without its signature frosting, though. The creamy frosting is made from butter, confectioners' sugar, milk, brown sugar, and more vanilla extract. These combine to create a sweet and warming frosting that coats the cake and compliments the earthy hickory nuts. If this cake suddenly sounds too good to pass up, you might want to consider whipping it up from scratch. But don't worry, it's easy for anyone to make, from beginners to experts.

How Sarah Polk hickory nut cake is made

The Sarah Polk hickory nut cake is a relatively easy-to-prepare dish perfect for any event you're hosting. If you're in a rush to get out a crowd-pleasing yet unique dessert in under an hour, then this is a great homemade option for you.

The first step is to beat the butter and sugar until the consistency is soft and airy. At this point, the eggs can be cracked and added one by one, along with the vanilla extract. These ingredients should be mixed together thoroughly. The dry ingredients then get combined in a separate bowl and the liquid mixture, milk, and hickory nuts can be folded in. Once everything is combined, the cake gets baked, cooled, and frosted as any other. The final touch is to decorate your dessert with crushed hickory nuts and serve. Now, you will truly be dining like a first lady.