Election Cake

There was a long-time tradition in America, a special treat served to those who voted on Election Day. However, its beginnings was actually during the time there were British colonies and when young men were drafted in the early to mid-1700s to served in the British Army. In a local community, those men drafted were given a special cake named a ‘muster cake’ in appreciation of their upcoming military service.

After the end of the American Revolutionary War, and elections established for landowning males, the same cake became a local offering to those who voted on election day, so the treat became known ‘Election Cake’.

In past decades a community government would commission a very large election cake (or cakes) to feed community members on election day. Or large groups of ladies made the cakes and brought them to the election polls to give to the male voters.

The ladies made a yeast dough, let it rise, added spices and a smattering of dried fruit. The ingredients did change a bit during the 1800s, sometimes adding brandy, beaten egg whites and candied citrus peel. After baking, an icing was added with either lemon or orange extract.

With this 2020 election year, this is a forgotten tradition of your ancestors that should come back. Or you start the tradition yourself with the family.

1890s Recipe for Election Cake – Serves 12

  • 2/3 cup (150ml) warm water (105 to 115°F)
  • 1 packages of active dry yeast (1/4 oz/7g)
  • 4 cups (565g) all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 8 oz (2 sticks or 225g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups (400g) firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup (236ml) buttermilk
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla
  • 1 cup (145g) golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup (35g) finely chopped dried cherries (or any dried fruit that you prefer)

For the Glaze

  • 1 1/2 cups (180g) confectioners sugar
  • 2 Tbsp whiskey (or brandy)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

optional: 1 cup of whiskey to drizzle onto the cake and numb our pain

Generously grease and flour a bundt pan.

Using a mixer:

Put warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer, then add the yeast, sprinkling it to cover the top. Sprinkle a pinch of sugar on top of the yeast and allow to stand for about 5 minutes.

Mix the flour with the baking powder, cinnamon, salt, ginger, and nutmeg, then set aside.

If yeast has dissolved and is beginning to bubble, add one cup of the flour mixture, stirring it in thoroughly. Add butter and mix well.

Next, add sugar, buttermilk, and vanilla, and mix until well combined. Add the eggs and mix until just combined.

Finally, add the remaining flour mixture, reserving one tablespoonful. Toss the raisins and cherries in a tablespoon of flour and then fold them into the cake batter.

Pour it into the prepared bundt pan. Loosely cover the bundt pan with a tea towel and allow to rise for about an hour or until risen (just below the top of the pan).

Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake cake for 50-60 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Place pan on a wire rack to cool, then carefully remove from the bundt pan after a few minutes.

You might want to drizzle 8 oz of whiskey over the top of the cake. Then pour the glaze.

As stated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt: “Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves—and the only way they could do this is by not voting.”

Photos: Various Election Cakes

Related FamilyTree.com Blogs:

Voting was Wild in the 1870s and 1880s

Spice Up the Family History

Women Voters

< Return To Blog

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.