Cake! Who doesn’t love it?
A group of bakers — including Richard Miscovich, associate professor and department chair of the International Baking & Pastry Institute at JWU’s Providence Campus — are using cake to help bring us together in this trying election season.
Back in June, these civic-minded baking historians — Professor Miscovich, William Werner of San Francisco’s Craftsman + Wolves, Susannah Gebhart of Asheville, NC’s Old World Levain (OWL) Bakery, and Kendall College’s Melina Kelson — met up at a baking conference and hit upon the idea of reviving the community-building and wholly nonpartisan tradition of making Election Cakes, both as a way to celebrate a common history we all share (food), and to generate funds for voting access and rights.
What Is Election Cake?
The first recorded recipe for Election Cake was written in 1796 by Amelia Simmons for the second edition of “American Cookery.”
These spiced fruit cakes were made in large quantities and typically served at town hall meetings and early voting sites as a way to encourage civic engagement.
As a press release issued by the group notes, “Election Cake dates back to Colonial America and the young Republic. It is a naturally-leavened cake, one derived from English ‘great cakes,’ and interpreted widely by its makers in the New England colonies and, later, throughout the US home. Professional bakers made this cake to feed militia members in the Colonial era during military training days. After the American Revolution, it evolved into an Election Cake, one prepared for town hall meetings to encourage citizens to vote. These cakes contributed to the revelry surrounding the democratic process and held a significant place in the landscape of voting places.”
As part of this grassroots project, commercial bakeries and home bakers alike have been encouraged to “Make America Cake Again!” by baking Election Cakes in the days and weeks leading up to Election Day. A portion of proceeds to benefit the League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that works on voting access, education and policy.
Richard Miscovich devised the base recipe after sifting through the many handwritten and published variations of Election Cakes in the archives of JWU’s Culinary Arts Museum. “It’s fun seeing how different people interpret this recipe,” he told Bon Appétit’s Keia Mastrianni, citing the recipe’s many regional variations. (You can view many of these original cookbooks and documents as part of a special Election Cake exhibit at the Museum.)
OWL Bakery’s Gebhart further adapted the recipe for modern tastes, and the group began to spread the word throughout the baking community. “What intrigued me was the history — to grab this snippet of forgotten time to encourage the vote,” William Werner told Mastrianni.
So, if you are in need of a practical distraction in the hours leading up to Election Day, why not make cake? Share your photos on social media using the hashtag #MakeAmericaCakeAgain — and don’t forget to vote on Tuesday, November 8!
- Original recipe, adapted by JWU Providence Associate Professor Richard Miscovich [90K PDF]
- Recipe adaptation by OWL Bakery’s Susannah Gebhart [90K PDF]
- RSVP for the JWU Providence Election Party on Facebook
Archival materials from JWU’s Culinary Arts Museum (top and bottom) // Middle: Election Cakes by Susannah Gebhart (OWL Bakery)