Abraham Lincoln's mother, Nancy, died in October 1818. The following fall his father Thomas left Abe and his sister Sarah in Indiana to travel back to Elizabethtown, Kentucky. There he renewed his friendship with Sally Johnston a widow with three children. They were married on December 2, 1820 and returned to the Hoosier pioneering cabin. Sally brought a number of goods and furnishings to improve their life on the rapidly civilizing frontier. Abe always described her as his “good and kind mother.” She may have made a special cake like this one for his twelfth birthday, just a few weeks after the families combined and crowded into the 22-foot by 14-foot log cabin.
Sally would have brought stick cinnamon and nutmegs from the shops in Elizabethtown. Flour was scarce, but cornmeal plentiful. She would have replaced the expensive sugar called for in the original recipe with the honey from the “bees that were all over the forest,” as Lincoln’s cousin Dennis Hanks described. She most likely served it with a sauce made stewed dried apples, another common food in the towns of Kentucky but rare in the Hoosier Pigeon Creek community just being settled one hundred miles north.
Pioneer Cake with Dried Apples
4 eggs, separated
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup flour
1 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/4 teaspoons ground nutmeg
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Using grease-free beaters and a clean bowl, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks and set aside. In a second bowl, cream the butter and egg yolks then add honey and mix well. Combine the flour, cornmeal and spices and add to the butter mixture. Gently fold in the beaten egg whites. Pour batter into a greased and floured 7-by-11-inch pan. Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Top with stewed dried apples.
Copyright 2009 Rae Katherine Eighmey All rights reserved