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Known for her love of entertaining and afternoon tea, these authentic Dolley Madison Woodbury Cinnamon Teacakes is a recipe pulled from the archives and renewed slightly to make for teatime treats today.
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Celebrating President’s Day today, I’m reaching back to a historic recipe served by Dolley Madison at her renowned White House tea parties. These Woodbury Cinnamon Teacakes are sweet and cinnamony and perfect for a day like today. I love to sip tea in my favorite teacup while honoring this courageous and gracious First Lady.
Dolley Madison, wife of the fourth U.S. President James Madison, was the first First Lady to reside in the White House for a full term.
Know for her political and social prowess, the Associated Press argues, “Dolley Madison’s prodigious domestic, social and political talents helped define and unite a fledgling nation.”
She is best known as the First Lady who decorated three of the White House’s “rooms, and boldly invited the public to dinner not once, but every Wednesday.”
Dolley Madison on Entertaining
Valerie Paley, who curated “Saving Washington,” on view at the New-York Historical Society says Dolley Madison entertaining during a time when, “A lot of Americans at that point did not even know how to use a fork, and some coachmen who entered the White House had never before sipped from porcelain cups.”
She also says Dolley Madison “understood the power of symbols, and showed what American refinement could look like. Through decoration and tableware, the First Lady showed that Americans could perform socially as well as politically on the national and international stage.”
Painting of Dolley Madison Entertaining Guests by Peter Waddell: “The Splendid Mrs. Madison. In the ‘Elliptical Saloon,’ 1810–1814.” Dolley Madison was the first wife of a president to fully embrace her role as First Lady. Her weekly levees at the President’s House were a politically neutral space. One visitor wrote of entering the “blazing splendor of Mrs. Madison’s drawing room,” designed by Benjamin H. Latrobe, and filled with political, military, and social figures of the day.
Dolley Madison and Afternoon Tea
Also known for her many afternoon teas, Mrs. Madison is known to often to serve her Woodbury Cinnamon Teacakes.
Preserved in early White House records is the recipe for her popular teacakes. As recorded in “The Presidents’ Cookbook: Practical Recipes from George Washington to the Present,” here are the ingredient notes for Dolley Madison’s Woodbury cake.
Cinnamon (Woodbury Cake)
- Baking powder
Cream 2 tablespoons butter with 1 cup sugar. Add 2 cups sifted flour mixed with 1 teaspoon baking powder and 2 tablespoons cinnamon. Add milk and beat together thoroughly. Bake in a large pan at 350 degrees F. 20 to 30 minutes, or until done.
Presidents’ Cookbook (page 91)
I have slightly tweaked Mrs. Madison’s Woodbury Teacakes with the recipe below. The essence remains the same but the texture, we think, is slightly improved.
I love to make them in mini Bundt pans, but they work perfectly well in any ringed pan. Serve most definitely with tea!
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First Lady Dolley Madison’s Woodbury Cinnamon Teacakes
- 4 tablespoons butter, softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 large egg
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
Cinnamon Sugar Topping
- 4 tablespoons butter melted
- 1/4 cup cinnamon sugar mixture
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a mini Bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray that contains flour, or butter and flour the pan so the cakes will easily come out of the forms after baking.
- In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.
- Beat the butter and sugar until creamed together. Then add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until light and fluffy. Stir in the milk and vanilla.
- Fold in the flour mixture until just combined. Be careful not to overmix. Transfer the batter to the mini Bundt pan. I like to add the batter to a large zip-lock bag, cut one of the tips, and pipe it into the pan.
- Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
- Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 3-5 minutes. Then invert the cakes onto a metal rack for cooling. Immediately, while the teacakes are still warm from the oven, brush 4 tablespoons of melted butter over the surface. Then sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar mixture over the teacakes.
Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.
White House Recipe Resources
The other day I came across a digital copy of “The White House Cook Book” published in 1887. It’s an incredible book full of tips, recipes, etiquette, menus, and “care for the sick.” It’s free and available on the web at the link above. For a copy of The Presidents’ Cookbook, I’ve found it at Amazon, Ebay, and Biblio.