Election. Cake.

In the old days -- and I do mean old, as in right after the American Revolution -- most people (read men) had to travel far to vote, so they started out after church on Sunday and rode by horse and buggy to their nearest polling place. Which could take a day or so to get to. In fact, it might take until the next Tuesday, which is why our elections are held on a Tuesday. 

There was usually a cake waiting for them. Usually commissioned by the local politicians. It was a way to celebrate the right to vote and to pay tribute to the folks (read men) who actually did the traveling to exercise that right.

The cakes were huge (a typical recipe could call for dozens of quarts of flour and pounds of butter and so on). They were fragrant with warm spices and were typically created from sourdough starter.

Too many of us (read men and women) these days don't celebrate the right to vote.

But I do. I have never missed an election.

And I like the idea of cake to celebrate my right to do so.

But I don't have time or the inclination to do a sour dough starter, so I invented my own version of New England Election Cake based on my old recipe for baba au rum, to which I added the typical election cake spices and dried fruit.

Also, this cake is the usual size: it will serve 10-12 people.

It's a lovely looking, celebratory dessert. I'm serving it to my election night crowd.

Be sure to vote.


Election Cake

The Cake:

  • 10 tablespoons butter
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh lemon peel
  • 3/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup chopped dried fruit (raisins, candied cherries, dried cranberries, etc.)


  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 7 tablespoons bourbon
  • 1/2 cup apricot preserves

Melt the butter and set it aside to cool. Scald the milk in a small saucepan (bubbles form around the edges of the pan); remove from the heat. In a small bowl, whisk together the yeast, 1/2 teaspoon of the sugar and warm water; set aside for about 5 minutes or until bubbly. In the bowl of an electric mixer set at medium, beat the eggs with the remaining sugar and salt for 3-4 minutes or until thoroughly blended. Add the melted, cooled butter, lemon peel, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, warm milk and the yeast mixture. Blend ingredients thoroughly. (The dough will be soft and almost like batter.) Add the flour and blend it in. Add the dried fruit and mix it in. Cover the bowl and set it aside in a warm, draft-free place for about 1-1/2 hours or until well-risen, about doubled in bulk.

While the dough is rising, butter an 8-10 cup bundt pan and place it in the refrigerator. Spoon the risen dough into the mold. Let the dough rise again in the mold for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Bake the cake for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and continue to bake the cake for another 20 minutes or until it is browned and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. While the cake is baking, prepare the syrup.

To make the syrup, combine the 3/4 cup sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Simmer for 10 minutes or until slightly thickened. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in 5 tablespoons of the bourbon and set aside.

Place a cake rack over a jelly-roll type baking sheet. When the cake is ready, remove it from the oven and place it on the cake rack. Immediately pour the syrup over it (while the cake is still in the pan). Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Invert the cake onto a cake rack to cool completely. (If any liquid trickles down, it will fall into the jelly-roll pan; pour it over the cake.)

To serve: melt the preserves with the remaining 2 tablespoons bourbon. Strain the mixture and brush it over the outside of the cake.

Makes 10-12 servings