The earliest recorded version of Election Cake was published by Amelia Simmons in the second edition of her book American Cookery. 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.
This recipe is adapted from Fannie Farmer Merritt's version in the 1911 edition of The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book and Marion Cunningham's Election Cake recipe from The Fannie Farmer Baking Book adapted by Marian Burros for the New York Times in 1988.
- Yield:20 (makes two loaves)
- Active time: 30 minutes
- Total time:3 hours
- For the Cake
- 2/3 cup warm water (105 to 115°F)
- 2 packages of active dry yeast (1/2 ounce)
- 4 cups all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 1 cup golden raisins
- 1/4 cup finely chopped figs
- For the Brandy Glaze:
- 1 cup confectioners sugar
- 1 tablespoon milk
- 1 tablespoon brandy
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Add warm water to the bowl of a stand mixer. Sprinkle yeast evenly over the surface and set aside for 5 minutes to let dissolve. Grease and flour two 8.5 inch loaf pans. Line the pan bottoms with parchment paper.
In a large bowl mix 3 cups of flour with cinnamon, baking soda, ginger, cloves, nutmeg and salt. Set aside.
Check to see that yeast has dissolved and that mixture is bubbling (if you don't see bubbles that means that your yeast is not good, and you'll have to try again proofing another batch of yeast). If yeast has dissolved and is bubbling then add one cup of flour, mixing thoroughly. Add butter and mix until well incorporated. Add sugar, buttermilk, and vanilla and mix until thoroughly combined. Add in eggs an mix until just combined. Lastly mix in flour, reserving a couple of tablespoons. Toss raisins and figs in remaining flour and then stir them into the cake batter. Loosely cover loaf pans with a light hand towel and leave to let rise for an hour and a half.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake loaves for 50 minutes to and hour or until a cake tester comes out clean. Place pans on wire racks to cool. Remove cakes from pans after 5 minutes or so.
In a medium bowl whisk together confectioners sugar, milk, brandy, and vanilla. Spoon over the tops of the fully cooled loaves and allow to drizzle down the sides.