Mary Todd Lincoln's White Cake
This delicious white cake, with a subtle almond flavor, was one of Mary Todd Lincoln's specialties.



  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 cup unsalted almonds, chopped
  • 6 egg whites
  • ¼ teaspoon salt


  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 egg whites
  • ½ cup candied cherries, chopped (optional)*
  • ½ cup candied pineapple, chopped (optional)*
  • few drops vanilla or almond extract

*For the photo, we only used fruit in the icing within the layers, and used a plain icing for the outside of the cake.


See Also:  Asparagus Gruyere Puff Pastry Bites


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Sift together flour and baking powder; remove 2 tablespoons and set aside. Add sifted ingredients, alternating with milk, to creamed mixture. Stir in vanilla and almond extract. Combine almonds with reserved flour and add to batter.
  3. Beat egg whites until stiff. Add in salt. Fold into batter. Pour into three greased and floured 8- or 9-inch cake pans.
  4. Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool 5-10 minutes then remove from pans and cool on racks.
  5. To prepare frosting, combine sugar and water in a saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Bring to a boil; cover and cook about 3 minutes until the steam has washed down any sugar crystals that may have formed on side of pan. Uncover and cook until syrup reaches 238-240 degrees on a candy thermometer.
  6. Whip egg whites until frothy; add in syrup in thin stream, whipping egg whites constantly until frosting is spreading consistency. Mix in candied fruit (if using) and vanilla or almond flavoring. Frost cake once it has cooled.

See how to easily separate the egg whites that you need for this recipe:

Tips & Notes

Some historians say Mary Todd Lincoln didn’t serve the cake with frosting, but it certainly adds great flavor!


  1. I wondered the same thing, but I think the layers are frosted and the fruit is actually in the frosting between the layers (looks like three layers). The fruit may have moved around when the cake was cut for display too. I’m going to try the recipe. But since the note says Mary may have served it without frosting, I’m going to serve the frosting separately in a bowl by the cake, and let people eat the cake with or without, just take some on the side.

  2. Hi,

    The recipe calls for cake flour. The butter is regular unsalted and the sugar is granulated sugar. Hope this helps!

    Rachel Bertone
    editor, Farm Flavor

  3. Juat made this cake. I would recommend not making the icing until the cake is cooled and ready to frost. It’s much easier to work with when it’s warm. Mine looks different from the picture: the fruit is in all of the icing, and it shows up on the sides as well as the insides. Haven’t eaten the cake yet, but the icing is delicious. It’s actually a good divinity.

  4. Hi John,

    Thanks for the tip on making sure the cake is cooled before icing. Yes, I believe our food stylists didn’t follow the recipe to a T and put an extra layer of white frosting around the outside. I do think it should look more like the layers in the middle. Sorry for this discrepancy – we will update the recipe right now.

    Glad that it tastes delicious, and thanks for visiting

    Jessy Yancey
    Farm Flavor editor

  5. Using this recipe for school hope this gives me an a! and i get bonus points if i make the recipe and share it with the class hope i get a 100!

  6. I am a descendant of Mary Todd Lincoln. My maiden name is Todd. I found a photo of her while researching and I so look like was a bit scary. I am also a baker and have a small bakery/catering business in San Antonio.


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