After making it through one of the most bitter and divisive campaign seasons in generations, maybe we could all use a slice of delicious cake. That’s exactly how America used to celebrate democracy in action when our country began: With ‘election cakes.’ Enormous in size, these sweet, spiced and fruit-filled cakes were designed to sustain voters at the polls.
The oldest known recipe for election cake is found in one of the first cookbooks ever published in America: the second edition of American Cookery by Amelia Simmons, published in 1796. The election of 1796 was certainly one worth celebrating. It was the election held after George Washington refused a third term as president, and it was a test of the peaceful transfer of power in our new democracy.
Women were not allowed to vote when the first recipes for election cakes were written, and baking cakes was encouraged as a way to participate in the electoral process if only from the sidelines. By the time the 19th amendment was ratified in 1920, election cakes had fallen out of favor.
More than 90 years later, a new generation of bakers is reviving these old recipes for the 2016 election using the hashtag #makeamericacakeagain. Baking, and women’s historical role in domestic and public life, holds a special significance in this year’s presidential campaign, the first ever to include a female presidential nominee. Election cakes, and for that matter the act of baking itself, is non-partisan.
Want to bake an election cake? Try out The Washington Post's recipe for Election Day Cake.