4 lb. flour
3/4 lb. butter
1 lb. sugar
1 lb. currants or raisins
1 package yeast
Old fashioned election cake is made of four pounds of flour; three quarters of a pound of butter; four eggs, one pound of sugar; one pound of currants, or raisins as you choose; half a pint of good yeast; wet it with milk as soft as it can be and be moulded on a board. 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, should bake three quarters of an hour.
From The American Frugal Housewife by Mrs. Lydia Child, 1833.
Comment: Ah, election cakes. One of the most puzzling groups of recipes from the 19th century, a descendant, according to culinary historian Karen Hess, of a class known as “great cakes” and usually reserved for royalty in Europe. This is, as the inclusion of yeast and rising time will suggest, actually a rich bread rather than what we think of as cake today. This is one of the simplest versions we’ve seen; as this cookbook expands we will include more, some of which are so elaborate as to perhaps be better enjoyed by reading than attempting.
Although Mrs. Child refers to only one “loaf the size of common flour bread” the quantity of ingredients called for here suggests that it would make at least two and more likely three or four such loaves from one mixing. The resulting treat was often served at election rallies (accompanied, as a rule, by “hard” cider to encourage enthusiasm among the electorate) rather than on the night of the election itself.