Martha Washington’s "Great Cake" Recipe
A modern recipe adapted from original recipe. Used during the annual “Washington’s Birthday” event at Valley Forge National Historical Park.
2 cups sugar
20 oz. flour (4 1/2 - 5 cups)
20 oz. fruit (see below)
1 tsp. ground mace
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
2 oz. wine (~ 1/4 cup)*
2 oz. brandy (~ 1/4 c)*
As Mrs. Washington would have used whatever was in season or available dried, choose any combination of four or more of the following to equal 20 ounces (1 1/4 lb.). Nuts were considered fruit.
Apple (peeled, cored, and diced)
Pear (peeled, cored, and diced)
Raisins, golden or dark
Pecans, walnuts, or almonds
Dried figs, chopped
*White grape juice and/or apple juice and/or water can be substituted; one teaspoon of brandy extract, optional.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Separate egg whites from yolks and set yolks aside. Beat egg whites to the "soft peak" stage. Thoroughly cream the butter, and then slowly add beaten egg whites, one spoonful at a time. Add sugar slowly, one spoonful at a time. Add egg yolks. Blend thoroughly. Slowly add flour and spices. Stir in fruit. Add liquids. ** Lightly grease and flour a 10" spring form cake pan. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Decorate top as desired. Bake for about 75 minutes.
Cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove cake from oven and place on wire rack. Allow to cool for 30 minutes. Remove from pan, and allow to finish cooling on rack. Cake can be frosted with a meringue type frosting with a hint of orange flavoring and lightly baked to give it a crunch and left at room temperature.
For an authentic touch, it may be wrapped in cheesecloth soaked in brandy, wine, white grape juice, or apple juice; then wrapped in foil and refrigerated. Allow cake to ripen several weeks before serving.
**If preferred, raisins and currents can be soaked in liquid overnight before using. You may want to modernize your cake even more and use chopped, candied red and green cherries and orange peel. Or for a real Washington touch, use dried cherries!
Last updated: January 26, 2018