Abraham Lincoln’s Cornmeal ‘Rail Splitters’

February 17, 2017

This is an Abraham Lincoln-inspired recipe for “rail splitters,” a nickname given to these cornmeal muffins after the slogan, “Abe Lincoln the Rail Splitter,” was used in his first presidential campaign. Though it’s likely he had these for breakfast, we served ours for lunch with a side of George Washington’s onion soup. This recipe was originally published in The President’s Cookbook. We included our own adaptations below. 

It was one of those blustery, dreary winter days in Southeast Washington. The kind of cold day that makes you crave soup and muffins. We whipped up these tasty little cornbread-style muffins for lunch with some of George Washington’s onion soup. My kids ate their “rail splitters” with honey, and I devoured mine with a dollop of blackberry jam. They hit the spot perfectly.

Cornbread muffins

Cornmeal muffins

Serves: Makes 12 muffins*


1 cup flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 eggs**
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup yellow corn meal
4 tablespoons melted shortening (or butter), slightly cooled
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon baking soda, dissolved in 1 teaspoon cold water

*The original recipe calls for a cornbread-stick pan. If you have such a pan, it makes 24 cornbread sticks.

**The original recipe calls for just one egg. We added two to reduce dryness. Feel free to use the amount based on your preference.



  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease/butter a muffin tin or cornbread-stick pan.
  2. In a small bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the eggs. Add the sugar, salt and corn meal. Mix together and add the shortening. Mix again, add the buttermilk, and stir to combine.
  4. Add the baking soda/water mixture to the batter, followed by the flour mixture. Stir until well combined.
  5. Fill each muffin tin approximately 3/4 full. If using a cornbread-stick pan, heat to the sizzling point and pour in batter.
  6. Bake until lightly browned, about 12 minutes. Serve hot.

Author: Andrea

Former news reporter and Capitol Hill press guru, wife, mom, and pastry addict.

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