Civil War Cooking: The Lincoln Cake…According to Godey’s Lady’s Book

Lincoln Cake

Beat two eggs. Add 2 cups of sugar, a ½ cup of softened butter, and 1 cup of milk, Gradually add 3 cups of flour, 1 teaspoon of cream of tartar, a ½ teaspoon of soda, and 1 teaspoon of lemon extract of the zest of 1 lemon. Stir until the batter is creamy, and then pour into a greased cake pan. Bake in a 375 oven for 45 minutes or until done.

This version of the recipe is how it appears in William C. Davis’s book a Taste of War, and he credits Civil War Recipes written by Lily May Spaulding and John Spaulding. Doing a little investigative research, I found the same basic recipe in the 1870’s The Godey’s Lady’s Book of Receipts and Household Hints. It’s also rather similar to other historical cake recipes of the era, though I had better success with this one than others.

The cake is relatively easy to make. I altered the recipe slightly, hand-beating the eggs until they were light and fluffy and also alternating the dry ingredients with the milk, something I’ve seen (and done) in other old recipes to make a better treat. The cake rose a lot while baking which was fun to see!

The “receipts” do not mention an icing or frosting, but I decided to do a light lemon glaze to finish off the dessert. And, of course, some flags on top to make it 1860’s political. 

The cake density was lighter than pound cake, but not as light as a store or boxed cake. I liked that it wasn’t overly sweet, and (confession time) I actually ate a slice like coffee cake for Sunday morning breakfast.

So was this Lincoln’s favorite cake or an election cake branded with the Republican candidate’s name? That I couldn’t quite figure out. There are some recipes that purport to be “Mary’s Lincoln’s Cake” and they are usually a white cake or an almond pound cake, so there’s a chance it could’ve been both political and family? 

Whether the 16th president himself ate a cake based off this recipe or if it was just extremely popular with his supporters, it’s one of lighter and most delicious historic cake recipes I’ve tried. Definitely a “keeper” recipe for living history days!

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