Mary Todd Lincoln’s White Cake

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INGREDIENTS:
1 cup butter
1 cup finely chopped blanched almonds
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla (or any other preferred flavoring)
2 cups sugar
3 cups flour (sifted before measuring)
3 teaspoons baking powder
White of 6 eggs

DIRECTIONS:
Cream butter and sugar; sift flour and baking powder together 3 times, and add to butter and sugar, alternating with milk. Stir in nutmeats, and beat well. Then fold in the stiffly beaten whites and flavoring.

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Pour into a well-greased and floured pan. The old-fashioned, fluted copper pan with a center funnel was probably used originally.

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Bake 1 hour in a moderate (350 degree) oven, or cook until the cake tests done.

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Turn out on a wire rack and cool.

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This makes a large cake. The batter can be cut in half and baked in 2 (9-inch) layers if desired. For a good basic white cake, omit almonds. Frost cake with the old-fashioned boiled white icing, noted here.

You may serve Crème Anglaise Sauce with this cake.  A great way to use up all the leftover egg yolks.

NOTES:

President Lincoln is said to have remarked that Mary Todd’s White Cake was the best he had ever eaten. This confection was originated by Monsieur Giron, a Lexington caterer, on the occasion of Lafayette’s visit to that city in 1825. The Todds got the recipe from him and treasured it ever after.

 

Crème Anglaise Sauce

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Ingredients
1 1/2 cups whole milk, cream, or half-and-half
4 large egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
pinch salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

Instructions
1. Warm the milk or cream in the saucepan and remove from heat. Make sure it’s cool enough to touch before adding it to the eggs. (You can skip this step, but warming the milk separately helps cut down on cooking time)

2. In a medium, heat-proof bowl, whisk the yolks together and then whisk in the sugar and pinch of salt. Continue whisking until the mixture turns pale yellow and forms ribbons on the surface.

3. Whisking steadily, pour the milk into the egg-sugar mixture in a steady stream.

4. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and set over medium heat. Stir constantly in an “S” shape to make sure the bottom doesn’t scald or the eggs curdle.

5. Continue stirring until the mixture thickens enough to fully coat the back of your spoon and is as smooth as silk.

6. You can also check the temperature with an instant-read or candy thermometer — it should be at least 156°F and not exceed 180&deg. (The higher the temperature, the thicker the final cooled custard will be.)

7. Strain the custard to remove any bits of eggs that may have curdled and stir in the vanilla. Doing this over an ice bath helps stop the cooking process so the custard doesn’t over-cook.

Additional Notes:

• Crème anglaise will keep refrigerated for about one week.

• If you’d like to flavor your custard, you can infuse herbs, spices, or other flavors into the milk in Step 1, or add flavoring extracts along with the vanilla in Step 6.

Lettuce & Asparagus Soup

Lettuce Soup

I adopted this recipe from the French “Soupe verte a la creme” version.

Ingredients:

1 large head lettuce or a bag of mixed lettuce greens
1 medium onion, chopped
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
1 bunch of asparagus, chopped
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
1/2 cup sour cream

Directions

Rinse your lettuce and, if you are using a head of lettuce, chop the lettuce.

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another minute. Add lettuce and cook until wilted, stirring occasionally.

Add asparagus, broth, water, salt, and pepper and simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes. At this point, it looks like unappetizing seaweed, but stick with it.

Purée soup in batches in a blender with dill and cream. (Note: I initially tried blending the soup with my immersion blender as this tends to be a little less messy for me since I am a total klutz. Unfortunately, because I used mixed lettuce that had small stems, I ended up with a stringy tangle of lettuce around the blade. Use the blender and save yourself from having to de-string your immersion blade.)