American Classics: Election Cake

American Classics

Lost classic desserts from our wide and varied past.


[Photograph: Pam Parrella]

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No one told me there would be cake when I signed up to vote, but historically Election Cake was an important part of doing your civic duty in Connecticut as early as colonial days. If you're going to rock the vote, I see no reason to do so sans cake. In anticipation of Election Day, this seems like a good time to revive a noble eating tradition.

History has it that this spiced raised cake was served during the festivities surrounding elections in Connecticut prior to the Revolution. The earliest recorded recipe for "Hartford Election Cake" was included in the second edition of Amelia Simmons' American Cookery, the first known cookbook written by an American, published at the turn of the 18th century.

Alas, Ms. Simmons' recipe isn't of much practical use for the modern home cook—it calls for 30 quarts of flour, 10 pounds of butter, 14 pounds of sugar, 12 pounds of raisins, 3 dozen eggs, 1 pint of wine, and 1 pint of brandy, among other ingredients. Fortunately in later years Fannie Farmer Merritt scaled the recipe back to a single loaf in The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book. While I'm loathe to use the f-word here (fruitcake, people, fruitcake!), Election Cake might well be considered a cousin of both the traditional, boozy, fruit studded English Christmas cake and a yeast raised Hot Cross Bun.

Sweet, but not overly so, this is a cake worth casting a vote for.

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Got a favorite classic American dessert recipe you'd like to see featured here? Email us with the subject: "American Classics."