Made from rich, spiced yeasted dough, election cake traces its history back to pre-Revolutionary Hartford, Conn. Marion Burros wrote about the cake in 1988, explaining how it was traditionally made in preparation for Election Day and filled with dried fruit soaked in brandy to ensure that it would last for a couple of days and improve in flavor over time. This version uses raisins and cranberries, but currants, dates, dried apricots, prunes or even dried pears all work great. Nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, allspice and clove infuse the cake with warmth and their scent wafts through the kitchen as the cake bakes. Brushing a coat of glaze onto the cake while it’s still warm softens the crust and soaks it with a lemony brightness.
- Serves: 10 persons
- 8tablespoons/114 grams unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
- 4cups/527 grams all-purpose flour
- 1cup/190 grams packed dark brown sugar
- 1cup/230 milliliters whole milk
- 2(1/4-ounce) envelopes active dry yeast (4 1/2 teaspoons)
- 2large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
- ¼teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 2teaspoons kosher salt (such as Diamond Crystal) or 1 teaspoon coarse Kosher or sea salt
- 2 ½tablespoons brandy
- ⅔cup/95 grams packed raisins
- ½cup/67 grams dried unsweetened cranberries
- 1teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼teaspoon ground allspice
- ¼teaspoon ground clove
- 2cups/242 grams confectioners’ sugar
Step 1Generously butter a 10-inch bundt pan. Reserve 1 tablespoon flour and 2 tablespoons brown sugar.
Step 2In a small pot, warm the milk over medium heat until just warm to the touch (110 degrees). (Or, microwave the milk for 30 to 45 seconds.) Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer. Sprinkle in the yeast and let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes. Zest the lemon over the mixture and add the eggs, nutmeg, salt and the remaining flour and brown sugar. Using a spatula, stir to form a shaggy dough.
Step 3Fit the mixer with a dough hook and knead on low until a smooth dough forms, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and add the butter all at once. Knead on low until the butter is incorporated and the dough is smooth, sticky and elastic, about 6 minutes. Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel and let rise for 1 hour.
Step 4While the dough is rising, toss together 2 tablespoons brandy with the raisins and cranberries in a small bowl. Cover and let sit until the raisins and cranberries are plump and rehydrated. Add the reserved flour and brown sugar, and the vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, allspice and clove. Stir to combine.
Step 5Add the spiced fruit mixture to the dough. Using a spatula, fold the dough over the fruit repeatedly to incorporate it. Scrape the dough into the prepared bundt pan and even out the surface. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise until the dough springs back when you make a depression in it, about 1 ½ hours. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Step 6Bake on a sheet pan until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or you get a hollow sound when the surface is tapped, about 40 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan for 5 minutes.
Step 7While the cake cools, juice the zested lemon. In a small bowl, combine the confectioners’ sugar, a pinch of salt, the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of brandy and 3 tablespoons lemon juice. Whisk together to make a smooth glaze, adding more lemon juice if necessary to make a runny but opaque glaze.
Step 8Carefully invert the cake onto a rack or large plate. Immediately brush a thin layer of glaze over the warm cake, and let the glaze set until the cake has cooled to almost room temperature. Pour the remaining glaze over the top. Cool completely, then slice and serve. Store any leftovers covered at room temperature for up to 3 days.