Vanilla Almond Cake

Supposedly, it was a vanilla almond cake that Mary Todd was able to win over the stern lawyer, Abraham Lincoln. They tied the knot in 1842 in Springfield, Illinois. While Abe came from very humble beginnings in rural Kentucky, Mary came from an affluent family. She was not a cook, rather a shopaholic, as she came from the “upper-crust, slave-owning” Todd family. It was when a Marquis de Lafayette paid a visit to her family’s home that she tasted a wonderful cake the chef had prepared. Apparently, she begged for this recipe from the French chef, Monsieur Giron in 1825. Luckily, the chef agreed. And the recipe followed her into the White House. It was a popular cake she would make for special occasions, including the afternoon Abe won the nomination for President. It is a particularly nice accent in Mrs. Lincoln’s life since many of her years were dark with the loss of her sons and husband.

The recipe was a bit heavy on butter, so I gave it a little makeover for the 21st century. I’m sure Mary would do the same, she seemed to be a very hip and upcoming woman. Mary’s original recipe can be found here, and you can see some of the ingredients I changed or reduced. The cake came out great, with a little less sugar and fat. With a good cup of tea and honey, I’d say it would make Mrs. Lincoln proud.

Happy Birthday Lincoln! You continue to be an inspiration.

Ingredients (Serve 16):
  • 2 cups all-purpose white flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour (pastry flour, if you can)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup margarine, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 3 tablespoons sweetened applesauce
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1 cup + 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cups sour cream (light preferred)
  • 1 cup slivered almonds
  • nonstick cooking spray
  • powdered sugar for garnish
1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease a bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray.

2. Combine the flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Whisk gently to break up lumps.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks (reserve egg whites in a separate clean bowl for whipping later), margarine, oil, applesauce, 1 cup sugar, vanilla, and water. Whisk well by hand or for about 2 minutes on medium speed mixer.

4. Alternatively add the sour cream, then the dry ingredients into the beaten egg-yolk mixture. Beat well. Then, stir in the slivered almonds and set aside.

5. Beat the egg whites in a separate bowl. When partly stiff, add the 1/4 cup sugar in two batches, and continue whipping the egg whites until they are mostly stiff and stand like a bird’s peak.

6. Add 1/3 of the whipped egg whites into the egg yolk-flour mixture and stir gently. This is to lighten the batter a bit. Then add the rest of the egg whites and fold in gently, trying to keep the batter as light as possible. Immediately pour into the greased bundt pan and bake for 40-50 minutes, or until a wooden skewer comes out clean.

Let cool for 10 minutes, then flip out carefully onto plate. When cool to touch, garnish with a dusting of powdered sugar.

Beating the mixture

Stir in the almonds after mixture is beaten well

Whip egg whites stiff to bird’s peak

Fold in 1/3 of egg whites with some of the batter

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