IT USED to be a tradition to bake special "Election Cakes" during the days before and after an election. A recipe for one was included in "American Cookery" by Amelia Simmons, published back in 1800.

Today's election season includes a multitude of frantic gatherings from the simple "coffee" to the full-course dinner, each one hopefully planned to help some candidate get elected or reelected.

Whoever your candidate and whatever you think of the platforms presented by the political parties, you can be sure of one great winner, and that's this Election Cake. It is a hearty, old-fashioned cake full of nuts, raisins and spices, with healthy quantities of bourbon in both the cake and its icing. The old-timers really knew how to bake a cake. If they couldn't buy whisky on election day, they sure as heck could stoke up on all the cake they wanted, and this cake or one similar to it was what they craved.

Bake it and your kitchen will give forth a tantalizing aroma irresistible to one and all. You will be asked for the recipe. It is also a perfect cake for the Christmas holiday season, when hopefully all the tumult and the shouting of November's election will be forgotten. ELECTION CAKE (20 to 24 servings) 1/2 cup bourbon 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans or walnuts 3/4 cup raisins 1 1/2 cups butter 2 cups sugar 6 eggs, well beaten 1/2 teaspoon vanilla 2 1/4 cups flour 3 teaspoons baking powder 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg 1/4 teaspoon ginger 1/4 cup milk

Pour the 1/2 cup bourbon in a small bowl and add nuts and raisins. Let stand. Cream butter in a large bowl. Gradually beat in sugar until light and fluffy. Add beaten eggs and vanilla and mix well. Toss flour with baking powder, salt and spices. Stir in dry ingredients, alternating with milk. Add nut-raisin-bourbon mixture. Pour batter into greased and wax-paper lined 13-x-9 inch pan. Bake 325 degrees for 45-50 minutes, or until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan about 10 minutes and turn out on rack. When cool, frost with following icing. (Cake is delicious without frosting also. ICING FOR "ELECTION CAKE" 1/4 pound butter, softened 1/8 teaspoon salt 1 pound confectioners' sugar 2 tablespoons bourbon 3 tablespoons cream (approx.)

Cream butter. Beat in salt and about 1/2 cup sugar at a time, alternating with bourbon and cream. Use enough cream to give good spreading consistency. Frost sides and top of cake.