Posts Tagged first wives

Presidential Cookie Bake-Off, Round One: Martha Washington’s Shrewsbury Cakes vs. Mary Todd Lincoln’s Gingerbread Men

Lincoln and Washington Cookies

Round One of the Bake off: Martha Washington's Shrewsbury Cakes (left) compete against Mary Todd Lincoln's Gingerbread Men (right)

For the next two weeks leading up to election Day, ModernDomestic will be reviewing our eight favorite presidential cookie recipes, and picking the best of the bunch. Check out yesterday’s entry for the introduction to the bake off. Tomorrow Teresa Heinz Kerry’s Pumpkin Spice Cookies square off against Laura Bush’s Chocolate Chunk Cookies.

No Presidential Bake-Off would be complete without traveling back to yesteryear to see how our original First Ladies stacked up cookie-wise. After all, in those days recipes weren’t ubiquitous items found on the back of every cereal box and bag of flour, which makes these recipes all the more interesting.

So today we have recipes from two classic presidential wives: Martha Washington, stalwart and beloved wife of founding father George Washington, and Mary Todd Lincoln, paranoid and unpopular wife of our very own Honest Abe. Who will win, Martha Washington’s Shrewsbury cakes, or Mary Todd Lincoln’s Gingerbread Men? Let the battle begin.

Well, actually, before the battle begins, in the interest of full disclosure, I will admit that I found the Mary Todd Lincoln recipe in this Independent article. It was only after making the cookies that I found out that it was an “approximation” of her actual recipe, which has been lost to history. How exactly the Independent came up with the “approximation” I will never know. Still, I wasn’t going to waste an entire batch of gingerbread men, or, in this case, gingerbread circles and stars. And I figure that they had to modernize the Martha Washington recipe as well, so perhaps they’re still equally matched? You can come to your own conclusions. Recipes follow at the end of the entry.

Martha Washington’s Shrewsbury Cakes
All in all, these were very basic cookies, hailing from a simpler time, when sugar was a luxury and we didn’t expect cookies to be loaded with every kind of chocolate, candy and high-fructose-corn-syrup-flavored filling available. No, the Shrewsbury cakes were honest and plain butter cookies, enriched with egg yolks and sweetened with sugar. When baked, they were very crisp and only slightly tender on the inside. I made them using dried cranberries, but I think if I made them again I would use currants, as the sharp tang of the cranberries didn’t quite mesh with the butteriness of the cookies.

Gingerbread and Shrewsbury Cakes Go Head To Head


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