Remembering America’s Forgotten Election Cake
I just returned from voting and have been asking, what is an election cake?
We trace the origins of these boozy, fruity cakes to the Colonial-era women in New England, who created large batches in community ovens served it to encourage the men to turn out to vote.
The New England Historical Society said it was originally called a "muster cake" and was created by colonial women to feed the troops.
Women used these heavy cakes, soaked in liquor, to serve the men and sway their vote for the candidates and issues they supported, since women didn't have the right to vote at the time – they didn't gain the right themselves until 1920.
Beyond a political ploy, the election cake has an interesting culinary history that first appeared in 1796, in the first U.S. cookbook, American Cookery by Amelia Simmons.
Like many traditions that have drifted back into the past, historian Maia Surdam revived the forgotten election cake during the 2016 presidential election from the OWL Bakery in Ashville, North Carolina, with her co-partner, Susannah Gebhart, whose photos went viral during the 2016 election with the hashtags #MakeAmericaCakeAgain.
The election cake reminds me of those Christmas fruit cakes in a way, but with one big difference: your election cake recipe starts with 12 pounds of flour.
Today's election cake recipes are more like Bundt cakes, made with dried fruits, crushed nuts, spices and a touch of brandy – OK, actually a good soaking of brandy.
Election cakes used to be a tradition as American as voting, but have steadily declined in popularity since the early 20th century. I surmise the waning interest is due to a dissatisfaction with politics.