One of my colleagues mentioned to me last week that a former staff member was known for the "Election Cake" that she made for election day every year. The recipe was said to come from Hartford, Connecticut, and was very old. My curiosity piqued, I Googled Election Cake and found an entertaining article in The Washington Post. In addition to some historical information, the article includes a recipe for the cake. I haven't tried the recipe because we are trying to cut down on sweets, but it sounds good--a yeast-based coffee cake full of raisins and spices but not a lot of sugar--a perfect accompaniment to morning coffee or tea. The recipe goes back to at least 1796, when a recipe for an Election Cake appeared in Amelia Simmons's American Cookery. I also checked my great-grandmother's 1881 edition of Practical Housekeeping. A Careful Compilation of Tried and Approved Recipes , which has a recipe for Old Hartford Election Cake which it says is over one hundred years old. Here is the recipe:
OLD HARTFORD ELECTION CAKE
Five pounds sifted flour, two of butter, two of sugar, three gills distillery yeast or twice the quantity of home brewed, four eggs, gill of wine, gill of brandy, one quart sweet milk, half an ounce of nutmeg, two pounds raisins, one of citron; rub the butter and flour together very fine, add half the sugar, then the yeast and half the milk (hot in winter, blood-warm in summer), then add the eggs, then remainder of the milk, and the wine; beat well and let rise in a warm place all night; in the morning beat a long time, adding brandy, sugar, spice, and fruit well floured, and allow to rise again very light, after which put in cake-pans and let rise ten or fifteen minutes; have the oven about as hot as for bread. This cake will keep any length of time.
For raised cakes use the yeast made from Mrs. Buxton's recipe; if fresh-made, it is always a perfect success for cakes. This recipe is over one hundred years old.--Mrs. Eliza Burnham, Milford Center.
I don't remember anyone in my family ever making Election Cake, although my mother was famous for her stollen, a German yeast bread made for Christmas. Growing up, Election Day meant Sour Cream Coffee Cake, aka Brackett School Cake. My mother was president of the Parent Teacher Organization for several years, and she made many of these cakes every year to sell at the Election Day Bazaar at my elementary school. It is a very simple but rich cake that everyone likes. Here is the recipe:
Sour Cream Coffee Cake
Mix and beat well:
1 cup sour cream
2 unbeaten eggs
1/2 tsp. soda
Measure 1 1/2 cups of sifted flour and sift again with 1 cup sugar, 2 tsp. baking powder, and 1/4 tsp. salt. Combine the two mixtures and beat well. Turn into a well-buttered coffee-cake pan (I use a round pan) and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and while hot spread with butter and a mixture of sugar and cinnamon. Cool and enjoy!