Something sweet about this election

Election cake

After months - years, really - of advertisements, debates, stump speeches, and vitriol, citizens in the U.S. are feeling election fatigue (and the rest of the world is probably also ready for it to be over). But now there is a reason to think positively about the voting process: election cake. Bon Appetit Magazine looks at the history of election cake, which recalls a time when U.S. women couldn't vote and had to use other methods to support candidates.

The idea for election cake goes back to colonial times, when 'muster cake', a dense fruit and spice cake spiked with booze, was "baked by colonial women and given to the droves of men who were summoned for military training, or 'mustered,' by order of British troops." After the United States gained its independence, the cake was brought to early voting sites to help "muster" votes. That was when it earned the label of 'election cake'. It was one way women could participate in the electoral process. 

At a baking conference earlier this year, Susannah Gebhart, baker and owner at Old World Levain (OWL) Bakery in Asheville, North Carolina, was discussing 'muster cake' with fellow bakers. Gebhart and others decided to get bakers nationwide to help sweeten what has been a caustic election season. The official slogan became "Make America Cake Again", with corresponding Instagram hashtag.

According to OWL Bakery, the project is "a non-partisan nation-wide project to raise awareness about our culinary heritage and the place of food in political and social life as well as to generate funds for voting access and rights." Bakeries across the across the country are participating with their own spin on election cake (you can find a list on OWL's website), and a portion of proceeds will benefit the League of Women Voters.

Photo of Election cake, late eighteenth century from Food52 by  Amelia Simmons and Betty Fussell

2 Comments

  • sgump  on  10/25/2016 at 9:32 PM

    Just brilliant! We can--and should--connect food with current events (and their historical antecedents or precedents), movements, philosophies, and more. Imagine if the typical take on a fund-raising event would involve something edible that relates to the goal or mission or purpose of the cause? I'd likely be first in line for tickets!

  • ellabee  on  10/26/2016 at 10:51 AM

    In my mostly rural county, the people who work at the polling places are on the job from 5 a.m. to eight or nine in the evening. Many are people who've done this for decades, and a tradition and mild competition has developed among them for the quality and variety of baked goods they share to make it through the long day. One of the smallest precincts has emerged as the clear leader. Now I'm wondering if any of the poll workers know of or make election cake...

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