Posted by: Erica Retrochef | November 4, 2008

Election Day Cake

Another Historiann Recipe, this time for Tuesday instead of Thursday because hopefully nobody will be election-obsessed in two days time. (Seriously, Nation, I would like an election that’s over the same day it starts this time. Is that too much to ask? No more 2000/2004 drag-it-out bullshit, there’s a good country.)

Considering today’s long lines, it’s a good thing there was a tasty cake waiting at home. Even though I got to cut in line because I had a toddler with me. Did you know that parents with kids under 6 and anybody over 65 years of age gets to cut in line at the polls? I didn’t. I thought the person who said we could go to the front was kidding. Part of me felt bad, like I took advantage of my son to get out of there faster — but another part says to hell with that, I didn’t want to stand in the cold drizzle with him for two hours. (If you do take an adorable child to the polls with you, just make sure you don’t let it push the buttons for you. My kid kept trying to change the selections. If Chuck Baldwin takes South Carolina, I blame the “under two” voting contingent.)

Hartford Election Cake
1/2 cup each yellow and dark raisins
4 t dried coriander seeds
¼ C brandy
2 packages active dry yeast (2 T)
2 ½ C warm water
½ C nonfat dry milk
7 C all-purpose flour
¾ C sugar
½ lb. butter (2 sticks)
¾ C brown sugar
4 eggs
1 t salt
1 t cinnamon
½ t freshly grated nutmeg
½ C sliced citron

Soak the raisins and coriander in the brandy for 3-4 hours.

In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in ½ C of the warm water and let stand a minute. Add the remaining water, the dry milk, 4 C of the flour, and ¼ C of the sugar and beat well, about 100 strokes by hand or 3 minutes on the electric beater. Cover with plastic wrap and let this sponge rise for about 3 hours.

Cream the butter* with the remaining sugar and the brown sugar, then beat in the eggs, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Turn this mixture into the sponge, stir in the remaining flour, cup by cup, using enough to form a soft dough. Add the citron and the raisins and coriander, along with their juices, and a little more flour, if necessary to make a cohesive dough. Cover with plastic wrap, and let rise again until double in volume.

Beat down the dough, adding a little more flour again if it is too sticky. Divide in half and placed in two greased 9-inch cake pans, cover lightly with a towel, and let rise again for 30 minutes. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 55 minutes. Turn out of the pans onto a baking sheet. Drizzle molasses over the tops and slip the cakes under the broiler until the glaze bubbles. Let cool on racks

* This is an excellent time to realize you don’t have as much butter as you thought you did, swear for a while (“I have coriander but I’m out of butter?“), then drag a sleepy toddler to the store to buy more. When you arrive home, inhale deeply to appreciate the mingling aromas of brandy and yeast and realize your kitchen smells like a brewery (and not in a good way). Definitely adds something to the baking experience.

Alcoholic raisins

The only brandy we have in the house is Armagnac. Now, Armagnac is one of those drinks that you hear about and think, “Wow, that’s really expensive, it must be totally awesome. Why would you be using it to make alcoholic raisins?” In fact, Armagnac tastes like liquid leather. We have been trying to get rid of this for years, and twice managed to get Buzz’s father to drink a shot because he believed it was totally awesome. (Unfortunately, he’s learned his lesson by now, so we are resorting to eggnog and alcoholic raisins to get rid of it.)

The Sponge (pre-rising)

The initial “sponge” wasn’t terribly interesting. When the sponge, creamed butter, and additional flour came together, however, things got messy. Extremely messy.

The sponge begins to take over the other ingredients

Don't use a mixer for this. The cake batter will get mad and attack your beaters.

I had to give up on the mixers and hand-knead the batter.

I got batter up inside my mixer and had to finish combining everything by hand. Luckily I remembered to take rings off beforehand, or we’d be able to play a fun election game where the person who finds my ring gets to be vice-president for the next year.

Aaaah! I'm turning into Clayface! Clayface with fruit chunks mixed in!

And doesn’t the cake batter liook like Clayface? Maybe it’s just because I’ve been playing too much Lego Batman, but the resemblance is uncanny.

Clayface is a Batman Villian, copyright DC


I tried to draw an elephant and donkey with the molasses but they turned into runny blobs. So, in a fit of pique, I just dribbled the molasses all over the place instead.

Molasses molasses everywhere

I haven’t actually tasted this yet, although it smells good enough. I’ll have it tonight, though, while watching poll results come in. It’s a massive cake (two massive cakes!) and not the typical flat, only-slightly-risen cake that you would frost and top with candles… definitely suitable for an election festival day.

UPDATED 11/4 — It’s delicious! I really like the citron, it’s got a very bright flavor that goes well with the cake. (The raisins are decidedly “meh”, in contrast.) I agree with Historiann’s recommendation, it’s probably best without molasses but with a generous slather of butter on each piece.

However, without a version which calls for baking powder instead of so many rises, I don’t know if I’d make it again. At least Election Day only comes once a year, right?



  1. Awesome! (Sorry about the mixer–I’ll take a up a collection to buy you a standing mixer with a dough hook, m’kay?) Love the Clayface picture–there is a strong resemblance. Can you believe that the original recipe was FOUR TIMES the volume of the recipe you baked? I guess the Beecher recipe made cakes for everyone in town.

  2. Two things: I took the smaller cake to work, and people are loving it! Nobody had heard of election cake before, but it’s quite popular, and many people have expressed thanks to my wife for sending it.

    Second, cleanser REALLY does want a stand mixer with a dough hook!

  3. FOUR times as much? I thought it was TWO. Cripes, that’s a lot of cakey goodness.

    The mixer seems to be OK, although Buzz was a bit shocked when he got home and saw it. I was laughing the whole time the poor thing was sucking in batter, because last week I’d been looking at standing mixers (dough hooks and all) in Linens ‘n’ Things going-out-of-business sale… but honestly, I think this may have been too much dough even for those! Hand-kneading did well.

  4. Well, I’m really glad people like the cake!

  5. Beautiful creation!

    I’m getting gassy thinking about those brandy soaked raisins (and the election results.)

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