Mary Todd Lincoln’s Almond-Vanilla Cake


While they were courting, Mary Todd baked this cake for her suitor Abe Lincoln, who promptly declared it “the best cake I ever ate.” The recipe followed her to the White House, where Mary often served her husband’s favorite cake to guests.


Makes 12 servings. Adapted by Cynthia Nobles from Lincoln’s Table: a president’s culinary journey from cabin to cosmopolitan, by Donna D. McCreary (2008).


3 cups all-purpose flour

3 tsp. baking powder

1 cup blanched almonds

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature

2 cups granulated sugar

1 cup milk

6 egg whites

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Confectioners’ sugar


1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Generously grease and flour a bundt cake pan.

2. Combine flour and baking powder and sift 3 times. Set aside. Using a food processor or spice grinder, pulverize almonds until they resemble coarse flour. Set aside.

3. At medium-high speed with an electric beater or stand mixer, cream butter and sugar until fluffy and light yellow, about 3 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl and beat an additional minute.

4. Fold flour into butter, alternating with milk, until well blended. Stir in almonds and beat well.

5. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until they form stiff peaks. With a rubber spatula gently fold egg whites into batter. Stir in vanilla.

6. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 1 hour, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

7. Cool 20 minutes in pan. Remove from pan onto a wire rack and cool completely. Sift confectioners’ sugar on top.