Sunday, February 19, 2017

Rose’s Abe Lincoln Cake or Marbled Pound Cake

Two slices of marble cake on plate

Recipe adapted from Aunt Rose's

A quick internet search on Abe Lincoln cake brings up numerous recipes for almond cake. But decades before the internet, my husband’s aunt was making this Abe Lincoln Cake from a family recipe for her children and their lucky cousins. Instead of almonds, it’s flavored with a touch of orange and nutmeg. Perhaps in a past generation, someone had a nut allergy, so the almonds were replaced with spices. The perfect proportions of butter, sugar, and eggs make what is essentially a pound cake a moist, dense loaf with thin and crunchy crust. This crust is the magic that makes this cake unusually addictive.

mixing chocolate into yellow batter, stage 2
Stir in Chocolate in Two Steps (see recipe)
Like other cake recipes from the 19th century, this recipe relies upon only eggs for leavening. Baking powder, baking soda, and cream of tartar weren’t available in the US until the early 20th century. During Lincoln’s time, as now, eggs were plentiful in both town and country. With enough thoroughly beaten eggs, the same chemistry that makes a soufflé rise results in a cake that’s both dense and light.

I added chocolate marbling and extra orange to Rose’s recipe to match the 1970s theme at a recent potluck. Almost any cake can be marbled by adding a cocoa powder-butter mixture to 1 cup of the batter, scooping alternative layers of light and dark batter into the baking pan, and swirling them together with a butter knife. This video makes it look easy. The egg-rich batter is very sticky, and shaking the pan to level the layers will work better than smoothing them with a spatula.

Enjoy this not-entirely-traditional, chocolate-enhanced Abe Lincoln cake at your Presidents’ Day celebration—or anytime!

small wedge of cake on plate
Last Piece of Cake
Abe Lincoln Cake with Chocolate Marbling
serves 12 – 16

 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
1 2/3 cup sugar
5 eggs, at room temperature
2 cups sifted flour
½ tsp. nutmeg
2 tbsp. grated orange rind
3 tbsp. cocoa powder, sifted
3 tbsp. melted butter, cooled

Cut a piece of waxed paper to fit the bottom of a small-ish tube pan. Butter the sides and bottom of the pan, add the waxed paper, and butter the bottom again.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Cream softened butter and sugar together well with an electric mixer or by hand. Beat in eggs thoroughly, one at a time, scraping down bowl between additions. Batter should be light and fluffy.

Mix in flour, nutmeg, and orange thoroughly, on medium speed if using mixer. Measure out 1 cup of batter and set aside.

Stir together sifted cocoa powder and melted butter until blended in a small mixing bowl. Stir in 2-3 tbsp. of reserved batter till color is uniform. Stir in remaining reserved batter.

Spoon the two different batters into the tube pan alternately. You can: (1) spoon in layers, shaking the pan to even them out between additions (I made 5 layers, per the video, but 3 is easier: ½ yellow batter, all of the brown batter, then the remaining ½ yellow). Or, (2) add scoops of the batter in a checkerboard pattern: alternate spoonfuls of the different colored batters in the bottom of the pan, level out by shaking, then add a “reverse” layer: brown on top of yellow, yellow on top of brown. Smooth out the cake by shaking the pan.

To marble, use a butter knife or other small knife with a uniform, short, dull blade. Hold the knife so that the flat part cuts through the batter. Make figure 8s or large squiggles in the batter. Refer to this video or other Youtube sources for demonstrations. Shake cake, as in video, to smooth out the batter into a uniform layer before baking.

Bake at 325 degrees F. for 90 minutes. Cool on rack for 20 minutes. Run knife around edges, shake cake loose, and invert on cooling rack, removing the waxed paper if necessary. When cool, invert so that crunchy crust is on top, or cut into ¾-inch slices and arrange on serving platter.

ring of cake slices on platter
Sliced and Served at Potluck
3 slices of cake on plate
Marble Cake: Every Slice Unique

Wedge of Cake on plate
Leftover Cake, After Filling Platter with Slices

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