Election Day Cake

CIA's Election Day cake recipe

CIA’s Election Day Cake Recipe

Need something for sustenance while watching this year’s election results? Try a piece of Election Day cake like early Americans ate on their way to the polls. Due to sparsely located polling places in the early days of the United States of America, colonists would need to travel far and wide to cast ballots in local and national elections. To keep up voters’ strength, women of hosting towns would serve cakes weighing up to 10 pounds to those going to the polls.

The Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink reports that Election Day Cake is a yeast-raised fruitcake of New England, first mentioned by Amelia Simmons in her American Cookery book as early as 1796. Other records showed such cakes being baked to celebrate Election Day as early as 1771 in Connecticut, and the tradition spread throughout the Midwest and West in the nineteenth century. Usually associated with Hartford, they are often called “Hartford Election Cakes.” The original version is something of a cross between bread and a cake, more like a less dense English fruitcake or plum cake.

Baking and Pastry students in the CIA’s Basic and Classical Cakes class were asked to create their own delicious version of this classic recipe just in time for the election. Featuring dried blueberries, cranberries, and golden raisins, its patriotic colors are sure to please—no matter which candidate you will be voting for this November.


Makes one ten-inch cake

  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cups dried fruit, including cranberries, golden raisins, and blueberries
  • 1/2 cup American whisky
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 package (3/4 ounce) rapid-rise yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour, sifted
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground clove
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) soft unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar


  1. Combine 1/2 cup of the granulated sugar with the water in a small saucepan. Simmer over medium-high heat until sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. Place the dried fruit in a large bowl. Add the sugar mixture and whisky; stir and set aside.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, combine warm water and milk.
  4. Combine yeast with 1 cup of whole-wheat flour and combine it with the milk mixture. Sprinkle the remaining whole-wheat flour on top. Set aside to allow the yeast to ferment until the yeast breaks through the surface of the flour, approximately 30 minutes.
  5. Lightly spray and flour an 8-inch tube pan.
  6. Sift together the remaining dry ingredients and set aside.
  7. Drain the fruit mixture; reserve the syrup for later use as a glaze.
  8. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and the remaining 1 cup of granulated sugar until light in texture. Add eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula after each addition.
  9. Turn the mixer to low speed and add the sponge (flour and yeast mixture); mix until fully combined. Add the remaining sifted dry ingredients. The batter will be stiff. Stir in the drained fruit.
  10. Place the batter in the pan, cover, and set in a warm area to allow the cake to rise, approximately 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
  11. Meanwhile, prepare the glaze: In a medium-sized bowl, combine the 1 cup confectioners’ sugar and 2 tablespoons of the syrup reserved from the drained fruit. Stir until smooth and set aside.
  12. Bake cake in a preheated 350º F oven for 45 to 60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.
  13. Allow to cool in pan for 5 minutes and transfer cake to a wire rack to cool. When cool, lightly brush with reserved syrup, and top with glaze.