And Razzleberry Dressing by Lisa Johnson

Cake fit for a President

Posted by Lisa Johnson on Nov 6th, 2007

A few weeks ago, I pulled a “Dorothy” and explored the concept of there being no place like home. I live in Quincy, Massachusetts, which is the “City of Presidents” and filled with history. John Adams, our second U.S. President and his son, John Quincy Adams, our sixth U.S. President, were both born here. I had never visited the Adams National Historical Park, which is not even a five-minute drive from where I live. I thought it was about time, so I took advantage of an unseasonably warm Saturday and went on the tour. The property was beautiful and I really enjoyed learning about the Adams family. I also learned that the Adams Family Papers are searchable online. I love to research, so I started throwing in search terms like crazy. I found that on Nov. 18, 1755, there was an earthquake in Braintree, which is just south of Quincy. The quake lasted about four minutes and caused some damage. Interesting. But you have to know by now that I was curious about what they were eating.

Many days John Adams drank a lot of tea and visited with family and friends. During this time period, our future second President was only 20 years old, a recent graduate of Harvard College and ready to start studying law. I found his entries* in this time period especially thought provoking. On Saturday, June 5, 1756, he “[d]reamed away the afternoon.”On Wednesday, July 21, 1756, he vowed to “…strive with all my soul to be something more than Persons who have had less Advantages than myself.” Well, he certainly did it. John Adams was born* on Oct. 30, 1735, so it’s now his 272nd birthday year and we are talking about him to this day. The entry written by John Adams on Wednesday, May 25, 1756, was what inspired this post. He wrote, “Election Day. I have spent all this Day at Home reading a little and eating a little Election Cake.”

What is this Election Cake that he speaks of? Well, back then, elections were actually held in May. People would travel long distances, so there was a lot of out-of-town company to feed and these cakes were a special treat. The cake was associated with Hartford, Conn. and is made with yeast, very much like a fruitcake. I wonder if John Adams had any idea how closely elections would be associated with his family?

This was my first time baking a historical cake, so I looked at a bunch of different recipes, took what I liked and made some additional changes. I loved the cake and so did my family. As it happened, I brought it to a family brunch, where we were getting together to discuss our family tree. I thought it was also quite timely since not only is it close to John Adam’s birthday, but also Election Day is Tuesday, November 6th. Get out and vote and enjoy some cake!

Election Cake

(makes two cakes)


2 eggs

1 stick butter (softened)

½ tsp. salt

1 tsp. ground cloves

½ tsp. ground cinnamon

½ tsp. ground nutmeg

1 cup brown sugar

½ cup applesauce

1/8 cup Southern Comfort

1 cup vanilla rice milk (warm)

1 package dry yeast

3 cups flour

1/3 cup raisins

1/3 cup chopped dates

1/3 cup dried cranberries

1/3 cup chopped walnuts


2 T butter (melted)

1 cup Confectioners sugar

a pinch of salt

½ tsp. Southern Comfort

¼ cup vanilla rice milk

This cake requires about five hours preparation time due to the number of ingredients to measure and combine, waiting for cake to rise twice, and then the cooking time. Grease and flour two loaf pans and set aside.

In small bowl, add yeast and ¼ cup brown sugar to warm milk. Use small whisk and whisk until yeast is dissolved. Let set for about ten minutes. The yeast will foam and you’ll be able to smell it.

In large bowl use wooden spoon to combine butter, remaining brown sugar and eggs. Stir in Southern Comfort, applesauce and spices. Stir in yeast mixture and flour until combined. Then add fruits and walnuts until combined. Cover bowl loosely for about one and a half hours. Use spoon to put half of mixture in each of two prepared pans. Cover pans loosely and let rise again for about 45 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. Let cakes cool. For glaze, combine all ingredients in small bowl and whisk until smooth. Remove cakes from pans and pour glaze over the tops of each.

  • The dates are sometimes inconsistent because of the adoption of the Gregorian calendar in 1752. See especially John Adams diary 1, 18 November 1755 - 29 August 1756 [electronic edition]. Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive. Massachusetts Historical Society.


No one has commented on this story yet. Perhaps you'd like to be the first?

Post a comment

Commenting requires registration.

Password: (Forgotten your password?)