Museum puts Lincoln-era cookbook on sale

Kathryn Rem

Abraham Lincoln, a popular dinner guest in the homes of Springfield residents, knew that charming the lady of the house would help ensure continued invitations.

That’s why history records him complimenting many of his dinner hostesses on their cakes, claiming each one to be the “best cake I have ever eaten.”

That and other food lore about Lincoln and his era are part of a new cookbook that goes on sale Friday in the gift shop of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and at the Web site Call (800) 610-2094 to order by phone.

“A. Lincoln Cookbook: A Cookbook of Epic Portions” ($39.99) contains 623 modern and historic recipes, plus photos of kitchen and dining artifacts in the library’s collection. A CD inside the front cover documents areas of the museum that are off-limits to shutterbugs.

“We wanted to get into the personalities of Lincoln and Mary and reflect the times,” said Linda Bee, volunteer services manager. She and the institution’s volunteers worked about a year to collect recipes, sort, type and research the foods that were eaten by the Lincoln family and their contemporaries.

“Lincoln liked fruit, steak — barely cooked — and coffee,” said volunteer Barbara Archer, herself an author of several books on food history.

“The project turned out much larger than we planned,” Bee said. “We pared back and really tried to eliminate duplication.”

The 316 pages are in a black, three-ring binder that lies flat. And the chapter dividers — from appetizers to desserts — are adorned with photos of bowls, tea napkins, ice tongs and other Lincoln artifacts. (Hint: Look for Lincoln’s face in the spoon on the front cover.) A total of 1,500 copies have been published.

Chapter 1 contains recipes from the president’s day — such as chicken fricassee, corn muffins and gingerbread — along with some historical notes.

The book comes out just in time for the holidays and for the 2009 bicentennial celebration of Lincoln’s birth. Proceeds benefit the library/museum’s Volunteer Services Department, made up of 400 trained volunteers who assist the staff with tours, special events and services.

“This is a coffee-table book, more elegant than a cookbook,” Bee said. “We didn’t have anything like it in the museum gift shop.”

This recipe was adapted from “A. Lincoln Cookbook: A Cookbook of Epic Portions.” It was previously printed in The Ladies’ Home Journal of May 1923.

Mary Todd’s Pecan Cake

1 cup butter

2 cups sugar

6 eggs, separated

4 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 pound pecan pieces

1 pound raisins, chopped

1 cup orange juice

1/2 nutmeg seed, grated

Cream butter lightly and cream in the sugar. Beat egg yolks until frothy and add to sugar mixture.

Combine flour, baking powder and baking soda. Dredge nuts and raisins in 1/4 cup of flour mixture.

Alternately add orange juice and flour mixture to sugar mixture. Beat well. Add pecans and raisins. Add nutmeg.

Beat egg whites until stiff and fold into batter. Pour into greased and floured pan (tube or fluted) or two smaller round cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees 50-60 minutes.

Makes 12 servings.

Kathryn Rem can be reached at (217) 788-1520