The cake is actually a classic English fruitcake or plum cake. The original cakes included molasses, spice, raisins, and currants were used in this cake. Later brandy was added. Also known as oak cake, Hartford Election Cake, and training cakes, because another name for Election Day was Training Day.
Historically Election Day was considered an important holiday in early New England. In importance it ranked second only to Thanksgiving. As our Puritan ancestors were denied the joys of Christmas and Easter, Election Day with its festivities of parades, religious ceremonies, balls, and fine foods helped compensate for the loss. Because of this, they made Election Day into a holiday in which everything broke loose, people gathered in town and visited each others’ houses.
Election Day Cake (Modern Version):
I created this wonderful modern version of the old-fashioned Election Day Cake after reading many older and a few more modern recipes. My husband actually help me make this cake, which is unusual for him, as he was excited to try it. He loved it!
1 cup raisins or currants
4 tablespoons brandy
Sponge (see recipe below)
1 3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground mace
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup chopped nuts of your choice (I used pecans)
Lemon Glaze or Milk Glaze (see recipes below – your choice of which glaze to use)
Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan or a 9- x 5-inch loaf pan.
In a small bowl, combine raisins or currants and the brandy. Let sit at least 1 hour or overnight to let the raisins plum up. Strain the brandy and the raisins; set the brandy and raisin aside in separate bowls until needed.
Prepare Sponge (yeast mixture).
Prepare cake batter while the Sponge is rising for 30 minutes.
Sift together the flour, salt, cinnamon, cloves, mace, and nutmeg; set aside.
In a large bowl of your electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, adding one at a time and beating well after each addition. Beat in the brandy. Add the Sponge (yeast mixture) and continue to beat. Add the flour mixture, a little at a time, beating well after each addition, until smooth (the batter will be soft and sticky). With the electric mixer on low, blend in raisins or currants and nuts.
Pour batter into prepared pan, smooth top with a rubber spatula, cover lightly with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place (away from drafts) until doubled in size, approximately 2 to 3 hours. This batter rises very slowly and the rising time may take as long as 4 to 6 hours, depending on the temperature of your room.
Oven Bread Rising: Sometimes I use my oven for the rising. Turn the oven on for a minute or so, then turn it off again. This will warm the oven and make it a great environment for rising bread. If you can’t comfortably press your hand against the inside of the oven door, the oven is too hot. Let it stand open to cool a bit.
Cool or Refrigerator Rise: If I don’t have the time to wait for the rise to finish or I know that I will be interrupted before the completed rise, I do a cool rise. A cool rise is when the dough is place in the refrigerator and left to rise slowly over night approximately 8 to 12 hours.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place oven rack in center of oven.
After the cake has risen, bake 40 to 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cakes comes out clean or the internal temperature on an instant-read digital thermometer registers 190 degrees F. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire cooling rack for 30 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool completely.
Prepare either Lemon Glaze or Milk Glaze and brush on the top and sides of the cooled cake.
Aging and Storage: Election Cake was always considered better if left to ripen for a day or two in a covered crock. Nowadays we prefer to slip it into a plastic bag and let it age. These loaves freeze well, but will not age or mellow in the freezer.
2 packages active dry yeast or 3 1/3 teaspoons instant dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water (110 to 115 degrees F.)
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
In a large bowl, sprinkle yeast over the water; stir to dissolve. Add sugar and flour; beat 2 minutes either by hand or with your electric hand mixer at medium speed. Cover and let rise in a warm place until bubbly, approximately 30 to 40 minutes.
Cake Batter Before Rising
Cake Batter After Rising
1 cup sifted powdered (confectioners’) sugar
1/4 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice
In a small saucepan over low heat. Heat the powdered sugar and lemon juice until the sugar is dissolved and slight thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and brush over the top and sides of the cooled cake.
1 cup sifted powdered (confectioners’ sugar)
3 tablespoons milk or light cream
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
In a small saucepan over low heat. Heat the powdered sugar and milk until the sugar is dissolved and slight thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and brush over the top and sides of the cooled cake.