Writer and food historian, Gillian Pollack, has sent me some recipes for Election Cake in honour of the Australian election being held this weekend. I was joking that we needed cakes full of nuts to represent our conservatives, or a hollow cake in honour of the policy-free zone that has led up to polling. She sent me three recipes, none of which include the requisite pound of flesh, though one of the recipes did include wine and brandy, which I would have thought were pre-requisites for getting through the tension of watching the results come through on election night television. Or for wiping out all the miserable memories if some of those nutters actually get into power.
The one I’m fondest of is this, from The Frugal Housewife, mainly for the book’s dedication: DEDICATED TO THOSE WHO ARE NOT ASHAMED OF ECONOMY
Old fashion election cake is made of four pounds of flour; three quarters of a pound of butter; four eggs; one pound of sugar; one pound of currants, or raisins, if you choose; half a pint of good yeast; wet it with milk as soft as it can be and be moulded on a board. Set to rise over night in winter; in warm weather three hours is usually enough for it to rise. A loaf, the size of common flour bread, should bake three quarters of an hour. — The Frugal Housewife LMF Child 1830.
There’s a certain economy of description here as well – though I suppose when this was written in the first part of the 19th Century, there weren’t that many options on what temperature you should set your oven to. You just stuck in the block of wood and cooked things till they were done. My grandparents had one of those stoves for decades, right up to the end of the 20th century. Perhaps they should have voted for whoever would bring them more modern amenities?
I’m also charmed by the idea of wetting my mixture with milk until it’s ‘as soft as it can be’. How soft *is* that exactly? In the current climate, I imagine as soft as the promises made on funding.
Perhaps for the recipe to really work in honour of the 2010 election, with its lack of policy and vision from the major parties, this particular election cake should only be half baked as well.
Given the number of ex-leaders loitering in the vicinity to queer the pitches of the current leaders, perhaps we should also add some grapefruit peel, to make it more appropriately bitter.