Old Hartford Election Cake

“Served only on Election Day when the men returned from the polls,” says the headnote in “The United States Regional Cookbook” (Book Production Industries, 1947) from which this recipe is adapted. The 18th-century confection, a yeasted fruitcake from Hartford, was supposedly served to out-of-town lodgers who had traveled to the Connecticut capital to vote.

Ingredients

  • Batter:
  • 1 ¼ cups sifted flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon butter, softened
  • ½ cup lukewarm water
  • Cake mix:
  • ¾ cup flour
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ cup butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs, well beaten
  • 1 cup raisins*
  • ¼ cup sliced citron*
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 1 ½ teaspoon lemon juice
  • ½ cup brandy or cognac
  • Icing:
  • ½ cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1-2 tablespoons milk

Instructions

For the batter:

In a medium bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Using your fingers, rub butter into flour mixture. When it looks like fine crumbles, make a well in the center and add water. Mix well. Cover with a towel and set in a warm place. Let rise overnight.

Cake mix:

Sift together flour, baking soda, salt and nutmeg. Set aside. In the bowl of a mixer, combine butter and sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each one. Add raisins, citron, lemon rind and juice and beat until well combined. Slowly add flour mixture. Add brandy, beating until well mixed. Fold in cake batter on low speed.

Liberally grease and flour a loaf pan. Pour mixture into loaf pan. Cover with plastic wrap and a dish towel. Let rise in a warm place 2 hours. Set the oven to 350 degrees. Bake 1 hour.

Meanwhile, mix the confectioners sugar with 1 tablespoon milk in a small bowl. Add more as needed, to produce a thick, but spreadable consistency. Remove bread from the oven. Turn out onto cooling rack. While still warm, glaze with icing.

*If you despise citron, try substituting dried currants. For a fruitier cake, substitute ½ cup dried cranberries for ½ cup of raisins.

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