Election Day Cake: The Perfectly Odd Dessert for Today

Early in America's history, voting was a time for celebration, when family and friends gathered for a feast as they awaited the election results. A staple of such gatherings was Election Day Cake.

Election Day Cake
Exactly what an Election Day Cake should look like upon completion. Getty

First mentions of this dessert date back to the late 1700s, and the ingredients may sound weird (if not unappetizing) to modern eyes, but consider bakers back then didn't have the luxury of ordering ingredients online. Instead, they were left with what was readily available, which it turns out were raisins, currants, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. The resulting fruit cake can be quite dense. So dense, in fact, that early versions of the cakes reportedly weighed up to 12 pounds, according to the New England Historical Society.

Today, there is still much eating and drinking of alcoholic libations, though done less so out of merriment than to stave off anxiety. Nonetheless, with as bizarre as this election has been thus far, and indeed 2020 as a year all-around, perhaps there is no food as better-suited for this moment as the Election Day Cake.

The recipe below is reprinted with permission from The Old Farmer's Almanac. It was adapted from 1833 edition of The American Frugal Housewife, a domestic manual written by Lydia Maria Child. The Old Farmer's Almanac's recipe adjusted Child's and added a little spice typical in the election cakes of the day.

Cake in tube pan
A tube pan is preferred for baking your Election Day Cake. Getty

Election Day Cake (from The Old Farmer's Almanac) Makes 12 to 16 servings.

2 packages active dry yeast (2-1/4 teaspoons each)

1-1/2 cups warm water (110 to 115 degrees F)

1 cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar

4 cups sifted flour, divided

3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) margarine or butter

1 teaspoon salt

1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon ground mace

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 eggs

2/3 cup raisins

2/3 cup currants

1/4 cup chopped candied citron

1/2 cup chopped walnuts


Cake: In a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast on the warm water and stir to dissolve. Add 2 teaspoons of sugar and 1-1⁄2 cups of flour. Beat well by hand or for 2 minutes with an electric mixer at medium speed. Cover and let rise in a warm place until bubbly (approx. 30 minutes).

In a separate bowl, cream the margarine and 1 cup of sugar until light and fluffy. Set aside. Sift the remaining flour with the salt, cinnamon, cloves, mace, and nutmeg.

When the yeast mixture is bubbly, add the eggs to the creamed margarine and sugar and beat well. Combine with the yeast mixture. Add the flour mixture, a little at a time, beating with a spoon after each addition. Beat until smooth. Stir in the raisins, currants, citron, and nuts.

Pour into a well-greased and well-floured 10-inch tube pan. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled (approx. 1-1⁄2 hours). Bake at 375°F (190°C) for about 1 hour. Remove the cake from the oven and cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Turn onto a rack to finish cooling.

While slightly warm, spread with confectioners' sugar icing.

Icing ingredients:

1 cup sifted confections' sugar

milk or cream

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

a dash of salt


In a medium bowl, combine the confectioners' sugar with enough milk to make a glaze. Add the vanilla and salt and stir until smooth.

Serve while singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" and enjoy. If you don't get around to making it tonight, just keep in mind what many pundits are predicting, and consider it an Election Week Cake.