Washington Tribute: Dark Chocolate Cherry Scones

In honor of President’s Day (and because I am a total history nerd), I decided to pay tribute to our first president by adding cherries and bittersweet chocolate chips to my latest batch of scones. 

You remember why we associate cherries with Washington, right?  In 1800 author Parson Weems spread the tale to America’s youth that a hatchet-happy young George chopped down his father’s cherry tree (which was bad), but then confessed to it (which was good) and was rewarded for his honesty.

The story is total baloney…but it turns out Washington actually did enjoy cherries, so I stand by calling it a tribute.

If you think scones are dry and tasteless…my dear, you haven’t had a proper one.  Slathered in butter, with a mug of sweet, milky Earl Grey tea on the side. 

I don’t know if Washington ate scones, but I do know that he was a man of simple tastes in a job that required him to entertain like he was eternally hosting the Ghost of Christmas Past.  It must have been quite an adjustment.  His home at Mount Vernon was entirely self-sufficient with traditional crops, vegetables, orchards, and animals. 

We know a lot about what was served in the Washington household, thanks to Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery and Booke of Sweetmeats, which you can still purchase and cook from today. Her special-occasion “Great Cake” recipe calls for 40 eggs, 4 pounds of butter, and a half pint of wine.

Modern interpretation of Martha Washington’s “Great Cake”
Image from Mount Vernon Estate & Gardens

Excuse me?  How big was this thing?  Did it take up the entire hearth?

Washington was exceedingly private, so he remains very much a man of mystery.  It is widely accepted that no credible likeness of him exists.  The most famous portrait we all know, the one by Gilbert Stuart that graces the dollar bill (and my living room wall),  is especially rude.  Stuart and Washington didn’t get along very well, and there is speculation that Stuart purposefully made Washington’s mouth look like “a postage slot” by stuffing the president’s mouth with cotton in place of his ill-fitting dentures.

The dentures are another myth.  They were not made of wood, but initially of cow’s teeth.  When he became president another set was made, this time of classier hippopotamus tusk.  This second set had a special hole drilled to fit over Washington’s one remaining real tooth, but he was in constant pain from the clunky dentures rubbing up against the tooth.

Taking this into consideration, I suspect puddings were also on the menu quite a bit.

Without getting too serious, I do feel it’s important to note how very lucky we are as a nation to have had Washington as our first president.  He remains the only president to receive 100% of the electoral college vote, and he stepped into the role with no precedent to follow.  He could have taken the job in a drastically different direction than we know today, but instead, he did it exactly right.

Richard Norton Smith sums it up beautifully when he says:

To his everlasting credit, George Washington was ambiguous about power. The man who could have been king insisted that ultimate sovereignty lay with the people, however imperfect their judgment. At the end of the war, and again at the end of his presidency, he calmly walked away from power. This genius for renunciation prompted the dying Napoleon in his windswept exile to remark, “They wanted me to be another Washington.”

We only have to look to Egypt in today’s news to see how modern men in positions of power continue to struggle with knowing when to walk away.

As many of you enjoy your long weekend thanks to our past presidents…take a moment to remember and celebrate those newly minted Americans that placed George Washington at the head of the line in 1789, and the man himself for redefining greatness. 

Just please, not with a new car.

Historical Help
“The Surprising George Washington” by Richard Norton Smith

For the scones I used the cream scone mix from King Arthur Flour (my all-time favorite for any mix) and just added a handful of dried sweet cherries and another handful of Ghiradelli bittersweet chocolate chips. 

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11 Comments on “Washington Tribute: Dark Chocolate Cherry Scones”

  1. Laurie
    February 18, 2011 at 11:28 am #

    This is my favorite post yet! As an alumna of Washington and Lee University, I take our founders very seriously and loved reading all of those fun facts about our first President. Also, beautiful photos-you are getting better and better! Now that you’ve covered George, how about a post on Bob? :D

  2. Aimee
    February 18, 2011 at 11:38 am #

    Hi Laurie! Perhaps at some point I can do a Lee/Grant showdown…really nerd it up! I’d also love an excuse to scan and post the postcard you sent me years ago of Lee’s stuffed and preserved horse, Traveller. It was terrifying. Also…it was awesome. xo

  3. February 18, 2011 at 12:35 pm #

    I could definitely pay tribute in that way too… dark chocolate and cherries = one of my favorite combos. Great post.

  4. February 18, 2011 at 1:12 pm #

    I love your first photo with ol’ George in the background of your scones. Very original!

    • Aimee
      February 19, 2011 at 9:23 am #

      From my personal collection!!

  5. February 18, 2011 at 7:41 pm #

    Thanks for all the Washington info..and those scones look delicious. Can’t go wrong with chocolate and cherries. I recently tried clotted cream and, oh my, it is so awesome on scones.

    • Aimee
      February 19, 2011 at 9:22 am #

      Hi Lisa! It’s been years since I’ve had clotted cream. I need to remedy this immediately!

  6. courtney
    February 18, 2011 at 9:35 pm #

    i love this post and i love our country! can’t wait to try your scones AND visit mount vernon with you!

  7. February 19, 2011 at 9:40 am #

    I love how much thought went into this post and the pictures….and those scones look unreal. I’ve been meaning to get around to making scones, they are so on my list!

  8. February 20, 2011 at 1:40 pm #

    I enjoyed this post. I was able to visit Mt. Vernon last spring for the first time. It had been a life long wish. What an incredible place, so happily situated. The gardens are incredible and the animals too. It is a national treasure that we have something so well preserved. Imagine having everything you need at your home. The cake looks so appealing along with the scones (yum) but imagine…40 eggs and where are they? It must be amazing from mixing to baking to eating. Any time you wnat to get historical is fine by me.

  9. m.g.w.
    February 25, 2011 at 7:17 am #

    Aimee, this was so much fun to read! Even I learned something new about Washington! Great job!

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