November 11, 2020

Civil War Cider Cake Recipe

Clifton, Va
Sept. 18, 1864

[79th Regiment, New York Infantry] Dear Mother;
Punch would find rare pickings in the army. The everyday jokes and incidents of campaign life are rich enough. The other day in a cavalry charge the enemy broke and a rebel soldier was chased into a fence corner whence he could not escape. "I surrender! I surrender!" he cried to the pursuing trooper. "What do you think of the old flag now!" replied the soldier aiming a cut at him. The men in the ranks get off many a good thing. It is curious to see what a zest some of them take in man hunting, skirmishing, scouting and the like. They are as much pleased when they bring down an opponent as a successful sportsman with his bird. Everything has remained in its usual quiet since I last wrote. We have a most beautiful little camp for Headquarters, and are quite comfortable. I have gone to the length of building a stable for my horses, and if we don't move soon shall think about building a chimney for my tent. We have plenty of grapes peaches and apples and I found some sweet cider a few days ago. So you see we are very well off, as fare as physical comfort goes. General Grant, U. S. is here, which looks like action. Probably to see what is doing and whether any force can be spared to reinforce his army at Petersburg. As for McClellan, he will make a worse failure as a politician than as a soldier. I think his army strength is all gone. Few are left of his old army and they have changed in their feelings towards him to some extent. Nowadays they are making everybody Brevent Major General.

Tit-Bits (Boston) 1864

Civil War Cider Cake Recipe


- 5 Cups Flour
- 3 Cups Sugar
- 1 Cup Butter (2 Sticks)
- 5 Eggs
- 2 teaspoons Baking Soda (2 Tablespoons Baking Powder) 
- 2 Cups Cider 
- Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Cloves, Ginger (To Taste) 


Preheat your oven to 350°F. Cream 1 cup of butter with 3 cups of sugar. Beat in your eggs. Dissolve the baking soda in the cider and add to the mixture. Pour the liquid ingredients on the dry ingredients and spice to taste. Bake in a greased pan until a toothpick comes out clean (30-60 minutes.)   

This recipe makes enough for two 8 inch cake pans. 

November 3, 2020

What is Election Cake? | Colonial Recipe | Amelia Simmons, 1796

Colonial Recipe Election Cake

Many cookbooks include a recipe for Election Cake. What is it? The hallmark of an election cake recipe is the enormous batch size. Some of the finished cakes weighed over 10 pounds. In the 1700s, Election Cake was a yeast leavened cake with prunes or other dried fruits, intended to feed dozens of people. Sometimes they were made of soft gingerbread. Regardless of the ingredients, Election Cake was frequently served with cider. 

Election Cake seems to be derived from "Muster Cake." In the late 1600s and throughout the 1700s, some men were expected to attend military musters for training and were supplied with cake and cider as a reward. In the late 1700s, Election Day was new and a day of celebration. Eligible men who made the trek out to vote were given cake, cider, and alcohol outside of the polls and at parties.   

This recipe is from American Cookery by Amelia Simmons, the second edition published in 1796. This book is known for being the first known American cookbook. The full recipe makes a lot of cake. It contains 30 cups of flour and 36 eggs! I cut the recipe by about 1/7! The recipe also assumes you're cooking in the 1700s and that it will take 24 hours for your sponge to rise. It took me about 45 minutes in my 21st century oven. Likewise, if your house is heated in November, you won't have to cream the butter for 30 minutes. When I make this again (even the family liked it) I'll probably add a cup of crushed walnuts.  


Colonial Recipe Election Cake

Colonial Election Cake


- 4 Cups Flour
- 1 1/2 Sticks Butter 
- 1 Cup Sugar
- 1 1/4 Cup Raisins, Prunes, or other dried fruit, chopped
- 2 Eggs
- 2 Tablespoon Wine
- 2 Tablespoons Brandy
- 1 Tablespoon Cinnamon
- 1 Tablespoon Coriander seed  

- 2 Tablespoons Yeast (1 Packet)
- 1 1/2 Cups Warm Milk 


Combine your flour, milk, and yeast, cover with a warm, wet cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size. In a separate bowl, cream the sugar and butter until smooth. Add the eggs, spices, brandy, and wine and mix until combined. Pour the butter mixture into the dough and mix (with your hands, if necessary). Mix in the fruit.  Pour into greased pans and bake 45-60 minutes in an oven preheated to 375 F. Let cool then cover and let sit for a day.   


Humble, Nicola. Cake: a Global History. London: Reaktion Books, 2010.

Simmons, Amelia. American Cookery; or, The Art of Dressing Viands, Fish, Poultry and Vegetables and the Best Modes of Making Pastes, Puffs, Pies, Tarts, Puddings, Custards and Preserves, and All Kinds of Cakes from the Imperial Plumb to Plain Cake, Adapted to This Country and All Grades of Life. . 2nd ed. Hartford: Hudson & Goodwin, 1796.

Stradley, Linda. “Election Day Cake History and Recipe,” November 3, 2020. 

The above link to American Cookery is an affiliate link. Thank you for helping me keep the fires going!

Copyright © 2008-2020 Stephanie Ann Farra. All rights reserved.

All materials posted on this site are subject to copyrights owned by Stephanie Ann Farra. Any reproduction, retransmissions, or republication of all or part of any document found on this site is expressly prohibited, unless the author has explicitly granted its prior written consent to so reproduce, retransmit, or republish the material. All other rights reserved.