Election cake

What is Election Cake?

This unique cake is a cross between a yeast bread and a light fruit cake, almost a “Hot Cross Panettone”! The whisky icing is also a great addition!

icing election cake

Many years ago, it was an American tradition that after voting and exiting the polls, each voter would receive a slice of Election Cake. The first recipe for American Election Cake appears in 1796 in the first U.S. cookbook, Amelia Simmons’ American Cookery. You can read more about the history of the cake on the New England Historical Society’s page. 

The recipe

adapted from Serious Eats’ recipe

(original recipe: Fanny Farmer recipe from the Boston Cooking School Cookbook  1896)    serves 12

  • 2/3 cup (150ml) warm water
  • 1 package of active dry yeast
  • 4 cups (565g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 225g unsalted butter softened
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups (400g) brown sugar
  • 1 cup (236ml) buttermilk
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla
  • 1 cup (145g) raisins
  • 1/4 cup (35g) finely chopped dried figs for the original recipe (or any dried fruit that you prefer)

For the Icing

  • 1 1/2 cups (180g) confectioners sugar
  • 2 Tbsp whisky
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla


Put warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer, then add the yeast, sprinkling it to cover the top. Sprinkle a pinch of sugar on top of the yeast and allow to stand for about 5 minutes.

Mix the flour with the baking powder, cinnamon, salt, ginger, and nutmeg, then set aside.

If the yeast has dissolved and is beginning to bubble, add one cup of the flour mixture, stirring it in thoroughly. Add butter and mix well.

Next, add sugar, buttermilk, and vanilla, and mix until well combined. Add the eggs and mix until just combined.

Finally, add the remaining flour mixture, reserving one tablespoonful. Toss the raisins and cherries in tablespoon of flour and then fold them into the cake batter. 

When the batter is ready, pour it into the prepared pan.

election cake batter being poured into a bundt pan

Loosely cover the bundt pan with a tea towel and allow to rise for about an hour or until risen (just below the top of the pan).

Preheat oven to 180°C. Bake cake for 50-60 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Place pan on wire rack to cool, then carefully remove from the bundt pan after a few minutes.

Whisky Icing

In a medium sized bowl, whisk the confectioners sugar, whisky, and vanilla until smooth.

Spoon over the top of the cake when completely cool.

glazing election cake

It’ll serve you from Tuesday evening (with a stiff cocktail) through to Wednesday morning (with a coffee), and you can snack on it for the rest of the week.