Sunday, February 7, 2010

A Lincoln Mystery Among the Cakes

I stumbled on a mystery while researching Lincoln’s life during this 200th anniversary year of his birth, and ended up writing a book to solve it.

In 1831, 22-year-old Abraham Lincoln spent a month in New Orleans. Yet, Lincoln never wrote or said a word about his visit to what was most sophisticated American city of the day. My novel Abraham Lincoln in New Orleans explores this mystery, dramatizing how those experiences challenged the unsophisticated Lincoln and set the platform for his life and career.

Link to Amazon listing for Abraham Lincoln in New Orleans.

More about the story: John Roll, an irrepressible 17-year-old Sangamon Town, Illinois lad, begins his narration of the saga. “This has been the best year of my life. They’ll be adventures ahead, but I can’t think any will be as good as the ones I’ve had heading down to New Orleans with Abe Lincoln.”

Roll describes how Lincoln, his stepbrother, and cousin were hired by mysterious and flamboyant Denton Offutt to build a flatboat on the banks of Illinois’ Sangamon River and then take a load of farm goods down the Mississippi River. Abe impresses Sangamon Town citizens with his wit and bravery as he saves two boys from drowning in the freezing river. Later Lincoln demonstrates his ingenuity when he devises a way to save the cargo and the boat when it hangs up on a dam at New Salem.

Along their journey and in New Orleans Lincoln and Roll interact with boatmen, merchants, slave owners, free persons of color, musicians, actors, librarian, even a doctor – a cross-section of America. They take a ride on one of the nation’s first railroads, visit the theater, and encounter a slave auction, eventually coming back upriver on a steamboat. The impressionable, curious Lincoln comes to terms with the complexities of the day and considers his future in this rollicking adventure.

Abraham Lincoln in New Orleans is based on true events and historic sources.

I’ve found more delicious cake recipes during this anniversary year, too.

This cake from an 1852 recipe highlights the challenges of mid-19th century cooking, there are times when eggs are scarce or expensive. In 1858 Springfield January eggs cost four times as much as they would in April, when more hens were laying more frequently. Frugal homemaker Mary Lincoln might have resorted to just such a recipe.

Cake Without Eggs

1/2 cup butter
2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 cup cream
1 cup buttermilk or sour milk
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon mace
1 cup currants

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Cream the butter and add the sugar. Gradually add cream. Stir in half the flour and spices. Then add buttermilk or sour milk. Stir in the currants last. Pour batter into a well greased and floured tube pan. Bake until cake pulls away from the sides of the pan and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. About 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 of an hour. If you bake cake in 3 loaf pans it will take about an hour.

Copyright 2010, Rae Katherine Eighmey. All rights reserved.


  1. What a fabulous idea for a blog! Congrats. The Lincoln Cake is similar to a funeral cake recipe that has been in my family for years.

  2. Sorry to be so long in noticing your comment. Thank you!