Turns out, the tradition of the election cake dates back to colonial times. Since women couldn’t vote back then, they baked up a version of this cake (in massive quantities–really, check out the original recipe) and took it to polling places to encourage men to get out and vote.
In fact, Election Day was a pretty big holiday back then, celebrated with bonfires, barbecues, and of course, cake. I don’t know what happened to this fine American tradition, but I say it’s time we bring it back–minus the part where women can’t vote. Thankfully in 2016, we can have our cake and eat it too.
One of the most interesting things about this cake is that it uses yeast as the leaving agent, rather than baking soda or powder. That’s not something you see very often in modern day cake baking. But the results were delicious. I’d describe it as a cross between a spice cake, a fruitcake, and a sweet bread. Don’t be turned off by the “fruitcake” part of my description. This cake is much more light and fluffy!
You can use any combination of dried fruit in this recipe. I went with dried blueberries, cranberries and chopped dried apricots, because that’s what I had on hand. You could also use chopped dates, prunes or raisins. And if you can find dried currants, they were a traditional ingredient in Election Cake.
Also, this cake was originally make with alcohol, such as brandy, wine or whiskey. But since I don’t drink alcohol, and I wanted it to be kid-friendly, I used apple juice instead.
- Two .25-ounce envelopes dry active yeast (4 1/2 teaspoons)
- 1 cup warm water
- 3 cups all-purpose flour, divided
- 1 cup mixed dried fruit
- 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
- 1/2 cup apple juice
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 cup applesauce
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans
For the glaze
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons milk
- In a medium bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water. Stir a few times and let stand to for 1 to 2 minutes, until yeast is bubbly.
- Add 1 1/2 cups of the flour to the bowl and stir until mostly smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place for about 30 minutes. The mixture should expand and become bubbly.
- Meanwhile, place the dried fruit, 2 tablespoons of the brown sugar and all of the apple juice in a microwave-safe bowl. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Heat in the microwave until hot and bubbling, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir and set aside to cool.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the remaining 1 1/2 cups flour with the cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and salt.
- With an electric mixer, cream the butter with the remaining 3/4 cup brown and the granulated sugar on high speed until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until combined (the mixture may look slightly curdled at this stage). Stir in the applesauce and 1 tablespoon of vanilla.
- Beat in the yeast mixture and then reduce the speed to medium-low and gradually beat in the flour/spice mixture. Add the rehydrated dried fruit with any remaining liquid, along with the pecans, and beat on medium speed until combined.
- Generously grease and flour a 12-cup bundt pan. Transfer the dough to the prepared pan and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until the dough fills the pan about three-quarters of the way, 1-2 hours, depending on how warm your room is.
- When the cake is almost done rising, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Bake the cake until golden brown and a skewer inserted comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan on a wire rack before turning on to a wire rack to cool completely.
- To make the glaze, combine the powdered sugar with 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and 1 tablespoon milk. Gradually add additional milk until glaze reaches desired consistency. Spoon glaze over cake before serving.
Recipe NotesPrep time includes rising.
I wasn’t sure how this “old-fashioned” cake would go over with my family, but we all loved it. You’ll definitely want to make your own Election Cake for election day. That way, you’re sure to have something to celebrate!
Make America Cake Again!
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Who Dished It Up First: Revolutionary women! This recipe was adapted from The Cooking Channel.