U.S. Election Day in the early years of our Republic was a happy and festive occasion. Election Cake was served as a reward for voting or simply to celebrate democracy. A number of bakers are offering it this year to encourage people to vote in our less jovial era, as part of the “Make America Cake Again” initiative. Election Cake rises with sourdough or yeast, not baking powder (which hadn’t been invented yet) and features spices which were popular around 1800. Adapted by Susannah Gebhart for OWL Bakery from Richard Miscovich’s formula*, and further modified by me. Makes 2 small or 1 large cake.
Ingredients—for the preferment:
280 g whole milk
75 g active sourdough starter @ 100% hydration
280 g all purpose flour or high extraction flour
320 g whole milk
¼ t instant yeast
320 g all purpose flour or high extraction flour
Ingredients—for the cake:
1 c unsalted butter (226 g)
1/3 c unrefined sugar or 50/50 mix of brown and white sugar (155 g)
2 eggs (100 g)
1/3 c whole-milk yogurt (85 g)
¼ c blackstrap molasses/sorghum/honey (60 g)
Preferment (640-645 g)
280 g high extraction flour OR 140 d all purpose flour and 140 g whole wheat flour
1 ½ t ground cinnamon
1 ½ t ground coriander
¼ t ground allspice
¼ t freshly grated nutmeg
¼ t ground black pepper
¼ t ground coriander (1 g)
¼ t ground black pepper (1 g)
2 t salt (12 g)
2 T brandy (optional)
Up to 1 c dried fruit (optional; if very dry, reconstitute with water in the microwave)
Method: DAY 1: Combine whole milk and starter or yeast. Add flour and mix thoroughly. Cover and proof overnight or until light and bubbly at 70 degrees.
DAY 2: Cream the butter in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment then add sugar and mix at second speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time then the molasses/sorghum/honey and yogurt. Replace the paddle attachment with a dough hook and add preferment and mix well. Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl with flour and mix well with a spoon; add to liquid ingredients and mix at second speed for 2 minutes. Add optional fruit (I used ½ c dried cranberries and ½ c candied orange and lemon peel) and brandy and mix until just combined.
Pour batter into square or round cake pan or bundt pan which has been buttered and floured. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes, then reduce temperature to 350 degrees until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean; for me this took about 30 minutes, for 40 minutes total baking time. Turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely before serving. You can serve as-is, but the cake is not particularly sweet so a glaze or accompanying whipped cream or ice cream is recommended.
*The big difference with the formula Richard Miscovich shared at the 2016 Kneading Conference is that Richard added ALL his flour to the preferment, which would give the cake an extra tang. Try that option if you like.