Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Cake

Election Cakes, which appeared in the 1796 cookbook by Amelia Simmons, were labeled “old fashioned” by 1830 in Child’s The Frugal Housewife and by 1850 (in Beecher), they were at least '”100 years old.” ...

New England sites appeared in several titles such as Old Hartford Election Cake, Connecticut Election Cake and even one Salem Election Cake [in Buckeye Cookery with Old Hartford Election Cake]. Other authors who included Election Cakes ranged from Eliza Leslie, 1840, Esther Howland, 1845, F.I. Gillette, 1887 and Fannie Farmer, 1896. One book, Hartford Election Cake and Other Receipts chiefly from Manuscript Sources, Hartford, 1889, listed eleven different Election Cakes and Election Cake Yeast receipts.

Simmons’ late 18th century recipe was composed of huge quantities of flour (38lbs), butter (10 lbs), sugar (14 lb), raisins (12 lbs), a quart of yeast, and a quart of brandy.  The complete Simmons recipe is below.  Later recipes required lesser amounts to make the cake loaves or baked in pans.

Yeast was the leavening for this cake.  The day before, one recipe specified to start at 2pm, or “set to rise over night in winter; in warm weather three hours is usually enough for it to rise. A loaf, the size of common flour bread… [Child, Lydia. The Frugal Housewife. Boston: 1830]

Interestingly, in a recipe for Hartford Election Cake Yeast [see below] the author compared three types of yeast in 1889: homemade, from the distillery, and the modern compressed yeast (Fleischman).   “Where the use of domestic yeast is impracticable, that obtained from the distillery can be substituted.  It has been claimed that the compressed yeast of modern use, is worthless for making election cake. This is incorrect, for although it is undoubtedly less successful, as a rule, still excellent loaf cake has been made of it. It requires a cake and a half of Fleischman's yeast to raise seven loaves of cake.  [Johnson, Ellen Wadsworth.  Hartford election cake and other receipts: chiefly from manuscript sources. Hartford, CT:  1889]

“This old-fashioned cake, dear to the hearts of our grandmothers, is a troublesome, but a delicious, cake. … Temperance people can use 2 extra eggs and 2 wine glasses of rosewater to take the place of the liquor with as good or better results.”  [Cooke, Maud.  Breakfast, Dinner and Supper… Phila: 1897]

“It should be eaten fresh, as no sweet cake made with yeast is so good after the first day. If it is not probable that the whole will come into use on the day it is baked, mix but half the above quantity.  [Leslie, Eliza.  Directions for Cookery  Phila  1840]

For links to other recipes and to articles about Election Days and the cakes go to: http://www.angelfire.com/md3/openhearthcooking/aaElection.html


RECIPES

Election Cake    Simmons 1796

Thirty quarts [38 lbs] flour, 10 pound butter, 14 pound sugar, 12 pound raisins, 3 doz eggs, one pint wine, one quart brandy, 4 ounces cinnamon, 4 ounces fine colander seed, 3 ounces ground allspice;  wet the flour with milk to the consistence of bread over night, adding one quart yeast; the next morning work the butter and sugar together for half an hour, which will render the cake much lighter and whiter; when it has rise light work in every other ingredient except the plumbs [raisins], which work in when going into the oven.
Simmons, Amelia.  American Cookery, 2nd ed. 1796

Hartford Election Cake Yeast     1889

Three pints of water; eight good-sized potatoes, peeled and cut in slices.

Boil in the water with a small handful of hops, until tender. Rub through a sieve. Pour the boiling water in which the potatoes were cooked upon the strained potatoes, through a sieve.

Stir in enough flour to make a stiff batter.

Make the batter very sweet with brown sugar.

Add a coffee cup of distiller's yeast.

Let it rise twenty-four hours before using.

Where the use of domestic yeast is impracticable, that obtained from the distillery can be substituted.

It has been claimed that the compressed yeast of modern use, is worthless for making election cake. This is incorrect, for although it is undoubtedly less successful, as a rule, still excellent loaf cake has been made of it. It requires a cake and a half of Fleischman's yeast to raise seven loaves of cake

Johnson, Ellen Wadsworth.  Hartford Election Cake and Other Receipts: chiefly from manuscript sources. Hartford, CT:  1889.

Election Cake    Fannie Farmer 1912

1/2 cup butter.    1 cup bread dough.
1 egg.                 1 cup brown sugar.
1/2 cup sour milk.
2/3 cup raisins seeded and cut in pieces.
8 finely chopped figs.  1 1/3 cups flour.
1/2 teaspoon soda.       1 teaspoon cinnamon.
1/4 teaspoon clove.      1/4 teaspoon mace.
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg.   1 teaspoon salt.

Work butter into dough, using the band. Add egg well beaten, sugar, milk, fruit dredged with two tablespoons flour, and flour mixed and sifted with remaining ingredients. Put into a well-buttered bread pan, cover, and let rise one and one-fourth hours. Bake one hour in a slow oven. Cover with Boiled Milk Frosting.

Milk Frosting

1 ½ cups sugar   1 teaspoon butter
1/2 cup milk       1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Put butter in saucepan; when melted, add sugar and milk. Stir, to be sure that sugar does not adhere to saucepan, heat to boiling-point, and boil without stirring thirteen minutes. Remove from fire, and beat until of right consistency to spread; then add flavoring and pour over cake, spreading evenly with back of spoon. Crease as soon as firm.  [Spread a boiled icing on a slightly warm cake.  Crease with a knife the hardened icing, or else the icing will break when cut].

Farmer, Fannie.  The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book.  Boston: 1912

Image: The County Election by George Caleb Bingham 1852 at the Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, MO.

©2012 Patricia Bixler Reber
hearthcook.com

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