History's Just Desserts

Exploring American History through Desserts and Their Makers

Washington Cake — Evidence of a Washington, DC, Food Tradition?


Washington, DC, isn’t a great food city.  That’s what my old boss Mark Furstenberg said in a controversial recent Washington Post article.

Food in DC is getting better and better, practically by the week.  In the realm of desserts, there’s the Sweet Lobby on Barracks Row, with its fantastic macarons and prize-winning cupcakes.  Nearby, H Street NE has a thriving restaurant scene.  And a little to the north of H Street is the fantastic new Union Market.  But because Washington was “barely a city” for “so very long,” Furstenberg says, DC doesn’t have “a real tradition, a food culture, a food identity.”  Nothing to call its own.

Well, what about the Washington Cake?  Malinda Russell’s 1866 Domestic Cookbook has a recipe for a Washington Cake.  My guess is that this dessert was named for George Washington.  But the city has a special link to our first president.  He chose the site.  Locating the capital city – which he hoped would be an important trading center too – on the Potomac would bind together the eastern and western parts of the new nation, he thought.  (And, yes, it would help the property values of all the land he owned in the area.)  And George Washington oversaw the construction of the city in the 1790s too.  Can we Washingtonians claim a cake named for him as our own?

Mount Vernon currently (but not for much longer!) has an exhibit  “Hoecakes & Hospitality: Cooking with Martha Washington,” that sounded like it might shed light on this question so I headed there to see what I could find out.  Check back in coming days about desserts at Mount Vernon, the Washington cake, and more.

4 thoughts on “Washington Cake — Evidence of a Washington, DC, Food Tradition?

  1. Pingback: What I Learned about Buttermilk at Mount Vernon | History's Just Desserts

  2. Pingback: Relating to George Washington through Desserts | History's Just Desserts

  3. Pingback: Washington Cake — the Cake of Entrepreneurs | History's Just Desserts

  4. Pingback: Malinda Russell’s Washington Cake Recipe – This One’s a Keeper | History's Just Desserts

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