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This recipe comes from Richard Sax’s “Classic Home Desserts” (1994), but American recipes for Election Cake date back as far as Amelia Simmons’ “American Cookery,” published in 1796. Culinary historians trace its true origins to England. We like the version that appears in “Miss Beecher’s Domestic Receipt-Book” (1844), calling for, among other ingredients, “a gill of brandy” and instructing cooks to add the batter to the pans “when you put the wood into the oven.” Since Election Day is next week, we’re printing it now, but according to the foodtimeline, there’s more historical documentation for eating it in May, when town representatives in Connecticut counted votes; the cake is also known as Hartford Election Cake.

Makes two (8- by 10-inch) loaves, each serves about 8

SPONGE

1 package active dry yeast

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1 1/2 cups lukewarm milk

3 to 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

CAKE

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

2 large eggs

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground mace

1 cup raisins

2/3 cup chopped candied citron or dried pineapple

3 tablespoons brandy or dark rum

USA grunge star posterTo make the sponge, dissolve the yeast and 2 tablespoons of the brown sugar in 1/4 cup of the lukewarm milk; let stand until bubbly, about 10 minutes. Stir in the remaining 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons brown sugar and the remaining 1 1/4 cups lukewarm milk; gradually add enough of the flour to form a soft dough.

Knead in a food processor for 1 minute or for 10 minutes by hand or in a mixer with a dough hook. Place the dough in a buttered bowl, cover with a towel, and let rise until doubled in volume, 45 to 60 minutes. (You can also let it rise overnight in the refrigerator, punching it down once if it doubles during that time.)

To make the cake, cream the butter and brown sugar in a mixer until light. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time. Punch down the risen sponge, break it up into pieces and add the pieces to the butter mixture; beat just until partially combined.

Combine the flour with all of these spices in a bowl; add the raisins and citron (or pineapple) and toss to coat. Add to the dough, along with the brandy (or rum). Beat until well combined; the dough will be very soft.

Generously butter the loaf pans. Divide the dough in half. On a lightly floured counter, press each piece of dough into a long 8-inch-wide rectangle. Starting at a short end, roll up the dough as you would a jellyroll. Place each roll, seam side down, in a prepared loaf pan. Cover and let rise in a warm place until fully doubled in volume, usually about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Bake until the loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped, usually about 45 minutes.

Cool the cakes in the pans on a wire rack for 15 minutes. When cool enough to handle, invert onto the rack, unmold and turn right side up. Cool to room temperature. Wrap in plastic and store at room temperature for up to several days. The cake keeps well and slices are delicious toasted.

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