Two bakers from North Carolina are on a mission to make the political season in the United States a tiny bit sweeter. And I need little convincing these days, so here’s their story:
With the help of a clever hashtag, Susannah Gebhart, owner of Old World Levain Bakery, and her business partner Maia Surdam, a baker and historian, are trying to revive a centuries-old tradition: “muster” or “election” cake.
The treats harken back to America’s colonial period when women would give the dense, naturally-leavened (boozy) fruit and spice cakes to men who’d been summoned or “mustered” for military training by British troops. After the American Revolution, women—lacking their own right to vote—mixed up massive batches of the same cake and brought monstrous amounts of it to early voting sites to “muster” the casting of ballots. (A recipe from 1796 calls for ten pounds of butter, fourteen pounds of sugar, and one quart of brandy.) The rebranded “election” cakes marked a time when Election Day had a spirit as festive as Christmas; when voting was a celebration, not, as it seems now, a point of intense discord.
The effort to reintroduce the cake for the 2016 election cycle began at a baking summit in June, according to Bon Appétit, and the brain trust of bakers who started it are eager to see how different people interpret the relic of a recipe. And they gave it a slogan fit for the current era: #MakeAmericaCakeAgain. Naturally.