Presidential Desserts: Celebrate the Season with Recipes Inspired by Lincoln
Legend has it that although Abraham Lincoln ate sparsely, he did have a sweet tooth. He was particularly fond of a white cake made by his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, as well as her version of an apple pie that included a dollop of hot rum sauce.
Historians say that famous Lexington, Ky., confectioner Monsieur Giron actually created this white cake recipe on the occasion of Marquis de Lafayette’s visit to the city in 1825. The Todd family received the recipe from Giron when Mary was young. She treasured the recipe and served it on special occasions in Springfield and at the White House. Historians say she often made this cake for the president – even before they were married – and he always commented, “Mary’s white cake is the best I have ever eaten.”
President Lincoln also loved apples, and he enjoyed them served in a dish popular at the time: apple pie with a good coating of hot rum sauce. Use any tart green baking apple from Granny Smith to Virginia Greening, a variety from Lincoln’s day, to cut the sweetness in this delicious dessert.
The Lincolns often had cookies in the cookie jar. When they were hosting a big party, they purchased macaroon pyramids (macaroon cookies stacked in a pyramid and covered with caramelized sugar drizzle) from local confectioners. Mary also served strawberries and cream, probably with cookies.
Oral tradition says that the neighborhood children were guaranteed a cookie or doughnut from Mrs. Lincoln when they played with the Lincoln boys. With Mary’s copious amounts of sugar purchased, she certainly could bake plenty of cookies. During the course of one week in 1849, historians note that Mary purchased 13 pounds of sugar.
The tea cookies are adapted from a recipe in the Lincoln cookbook sold at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield. Visit the library’s website at alplm.org to learn more about the 16th president and his strong ties to Illinois – including his favorite foods.