Sunday, October 31, 2010

Election Cake

 Am I a political person? Hemmm. I would say yes. I ran for County Commissioner once, knowing, fully well I wouldn’t win. My Dad told me once that being and American means, that if you don’t like something you can voice your opinion. If you want something to change, well, you run for an office. Both have always been good advice. I have applied them to my cooking to a small degree. Of course you can’t vote a chicken off the island if you don’t like how it turned out. You can, however, buy another chicken and try again.

As Nov 2nd is just around the corner, I am brought back to thinking about how our forefathers ate and cooked. I’m certain that during debates and when meetings happened, they involved food and drink. What did Abraham Lincoln eat before he spoke to the people on a soap box in Illinois? Did he have steak and potatoes? When JFK ate before his famous speech “ask not what your county can do for you” what did he have?

My guess is that some of our patriots ate a little something called “Election Day Cake”. Election cake dates back from the 18th century America, though some historians believe it dates back a century further. Spiced yeast cakes, like Election Cake, were popular in both Great Britain and the American colonies during then 17th and 18th centuries. Originally called Muster Cake, Election Cake was prepared in 18th century colonial townships when men from neighboring and rural farms were called to military training also known as “mustering.” The towns needed to provide the men with shelter and food, and Muster Cake was born.

So without further ado, here is something you may want to try out this Election Day.

Election 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 (1/4 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

The Know Hows:
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.

Place the dried fruit in a large bowl. Add the sugar mixture and whisky; stir and set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine warm water and milk.

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.

Lightly spray and flour an 8-inch tube pan.

Sift together the remaining dry ingredients and set aside.

Drain the fruit mixture; reserve the syrup for later use as a glaze.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Bake cake in a preheated 350º F oven for 45 to 60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.

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.

So in closing, remember this, when all is said and done, when the polls are closed, that is the time to sit down together, set aside our differences and eat a little cake and have some good conversation. In the end, we all are Americans who love our country.


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