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Recipe of the Week: Favorite foods of U.S. presidents


We all can eat like a president on Presidents Day, on Monday thanks to the multitude of recipes citing the preferences of past presidents found on the internet.

Among the many, William Howard Taft liked terrapin (turtle) soup, while John Adams enjoyed his wife Abigail’s clam chowder. George H.W. Bush was also a fan of clam chowder, probably due to his New England roots. Jimmy and Rosalind Carter were from the South, so it’s no surprise they liked fried chicken and peanut butter pie. Bill Clinton, who also hailed from the South, claimed lemon chess pie as his favorite.

Lyndon Baines Johnson was another Southerner who liked regional favorites. He and his wife, Lady Bird, were from Texas, so their tastes included pecan pie and strawberry icebox pie. President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle still opt for healthy eating, and he starting making his turkey chili recipe in college. They like homemade guacamole with corn chips as a starter.

Entire books have been written on presidential food preferences, but you also can find them, and recipes, on websites for the 15 presidential libraries scattered around the country.

This recipe from is credited to George Washington’s mother, Mary, but sometimes is attributed to his wife, Martha. Most likely they both made it. Frosted or with a sprinkling of confectioners’ sugar or spoonful of whipped cream, gingerbread makes a great cold-weather treat.

Mary Washington’s Gingerbread Cake

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 tablespoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1 large orange, zested and halved

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

½ cup light brown sugar, packed (you can use dark brown sugar if you’d like something extra robust)

1 cup molasses

½ cup milk

¼ cup brandy or coffee (you can substitute use water if you like)

3 eggs, beaten

1 cup seedless golden raisins

1 recipe vanilla buttercream frosting or confectioners’ sugar or whipped cream for topping

1. Grease two 8-inch cake pans and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Set the raisins to soften in a bowl of warm water.

2. Cream together the butter, light brown sugar, molasses, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, orange zest, and salt. Add the eggs and whip until fluffy and light.

3. Fold in the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, brandy or coffee, milk, and juice of half the orange. Mix until smooth. Drain the raisins and mix them in.

4. Divide the cake batter between the two cake pans that have been greased and preferably lined with parchment paper. Place on the center rack of the oven and bake for approximately 25 minutes, until firm on top and a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean.

5. Let cool in the pans for about 15 minutes. When cool enough to handle, run a knife or small offset spatula around the edge of the pans, and turn the cakes out onto a wire rack.

6. Cool fully before serving. Layer and decorate with vanilla buttercream frosting, if desired. A simple dusting of powdered sugar, or scoop of ice cream or whipped cream also work.

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