For Chocolate Lovers only

Chocolate cake


Special Section: The Annual Non-Chocolate Gift Food List

Chocolate-Glazed Gingerbread

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Election Day Cake

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Sweet Spot


Election Day Cake

Tips: This is a very old New England recipe; similar cakes were being made in the 1800’s. While I’m not sure I believe the legends that any votes were bought or sold as a result of this cake, it’s tasty enough to be able to buy a vote or two—rich, but not too sweet, and very flavorful from spices, citrus rind, brandy-soaked raisins, and, here, chocolate. This isn’t a cake as we know them today, but an earlier form of the dessert, rather like a cross between a yeast-raised batter bread and a pound cake.

You’ll need a sturdy stand mixer for this cake—or a strong arm, as the batter becomes too heavy for a handheld mixer. You’ll need to soak the raisins for at least 6 hours before using them, so plan accordingly. I have included an optional glaze, if you want to dress this up. The glaze gives more of a chocolate impact, as you’d expect, but this cake is not a long “keeper” at room temperature, though it freezes decently. Without the glaze, you can reheat the cake, but you’ll get less chocolate in your dessert. It’s your call.


  • 1 cup yellow raisins OR currants
  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • 4-1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour, divided
  • 2 pkgs. active dry yeast
  • 1 cup plus 1 Tbsp. granulated sugar, divided
  • 1-1/3 cups milk, heated to 105 to 115 degrees F
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • Grated zest 2 lemons (no white pith)
  • Grated zest 2 oranges (no white pith)
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 eggs, graded “large”, at room temperature
  • 1-1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 tsp. nutmeg, preferably freshly grated
  • 1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips

Optional glaze:

  • 5 ounces good-quality semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 5 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into bits
  • 2-1/2 tsp. light corn syrup
  • Few grains of salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

At least 6 hours before you want to start baking, pick over the raisins or currants, removing any stems, leaves, etc. If you’re using raisins, halve them (the easiest way to do this is with a pair of kitchen shears); currants can be used whole, but if the raisins are left whole they’ll sink to the bottom of the cake. Combine the raisins or currants and brandy in a shallow, wide-bottomed, nonreactive container (I use a 1-quart porcelain souffle dish). Cover airtight and allow to stand at room temperature.

Cut a circle of wax paper to fit the bottom of a 10 inch by 4 inch tube pan (don’t forget to cut a hole for the tube!). With solid vegetable shortening, grease the bottom of the pan, then place the wax paper circle in the pan bottom. Grease the wax paper and the entire inside of the tube pan. Set aside. Adjust oven rack to center position.

To start baking, in large bowl of electric stand mixer, combine 1-1/2 cups flour (reserve remainder), dry yeast, and 1 Tbsp. sugar (reserve remainder). With large whisk, mix well. All at once, add warm milk; whisk until well-blended and most lumps are gone, about 2 minutes. Scrape down sides and bottom of bowl. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap; place in warm, draft-free spot for about 30 minutes.

While yeast mixture proofs, in large bowl, combine softened butter, remaining 1 cup sugar, citrus zest, and vanilla. With large spoon, cream thoroughly until well-mixed. Add eggs, one at a time, beating each in thoroughly. Set aside. Into medium bowl, sift remaining 3 cups flour with cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg. Place miniature chocolate chips in small bowl. Take about 1 Tbsp. (no need to measure) of the sifted dry ingredients and place on top of chocolate chips; with a small spoon, stir well until chips are coated with flour mixture. Set aside.

When yeast mixture has stood for about thirty minutes, it should be greatly increased in volume and bubbly. Attach paddle beater to mixer (if available). At a low speed, stir down the yeast mixture for a few seconds until it is greatly deflated. Add half of butter-citrus zest mixture; beat at a low speed until incorporated. Repeat with remaining butter-citrus zest mixture. Scrape down beater(s) and bowl with rubber spatula; continue to do this frequently until end of mixing process.

At low speed, add about half of sifted dry ingredients, mixing in well. Add remaining dry ingredients and blend in; if mixer begins to bog down, stir in remaining dry ingredients by hand. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until batter is smooth, about 1 minute. Batter will be very thick and sticky—OK.

Add raisins or currants and any remaining brandy; with large spoon, stir in until partly mixed. Add chocolate chips and any flour mixture at the bottom of the bowl; stir in with spoon just until chips are evenly distributed.

Spoon batter into prepared pan. Level top surface with rubber spatula. Cover top of tube pan loosely with wax paper (my wax paper rests on the tube pan’s “feet”—OK). Allow to rise in warm, draft-free spot until about doubled in volume, approximately 1-1/2 to 2 hours.

About 15 minutes before you want to bake this, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Remove the wax paper covering from the top of the pan before baking. Bake 33 to 43 minutes, turning pan back-to-front once about halfway during baking time. While baking, the top will become a rich golden brown; if it begins to overbrown, however, cover the top of the pan loosely with aluminum foil. Small cracks may develop in the top during baking, but don’t always. The cake will be about 3-1/2 inches tall when baked. To test, insert a toothpick into the middle of the batter; if it emerges with only a moist crumb or two still clinging to it, the cake is done. Note that the sides of the cake will not pull away from the pan even when the cake is done.

Remove to cooling rack. Working gently and carefully, loosen cake from sides of pan (use something that won’t scratch your pan). Gently invert pan onto another cooling rack. Remove pan. If you’re going to glaze the cake, leave it upside down to cool; if you’re going to serve it without the glaze, re-invert to cool right side up. Cool completely before glazing and/or serving.

For glaze, place all ingredients except vanilla in small heatproof bowl. Set over simmering water on low heat (water should not touch bottom of bowl); stir often until almost melted. Remove from heat and hot water; stir until completely melted and smooth. (Alternatively, combine all ingredients except vanilla in small microwaveable bowl. Microwave at 50% (medium) power for short intervals, stirring thoroughly between each, just until mixture is melted and smooth.) Stir in vanilla.

Allow glaze to cool until it is at room temperature and slightly thickened. Gently brush crumbs from side of cake and keep it on cooling rack; set rack over a piece of wax paper. Slowly pour over top of cake, paying particular attention to outer top edges. Quickly spread glaze evenly over top; a small amount should drip down the sides. Allow glaze to set, about 30 minutes, before serving or storing.

To serve, use a sharp, serrated knife, and cut the cake into slices with a gentle sawing motion. Store airtight at room temperature for up to a day or so; freeze for longer storage.

To reheat cake, remember that you cannot do this if the cake has been glazed! Adjust rack to center of oven; preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cut thick slices of cake; stand slices upright in shallow, foil-lined pan. Heat 5 to 10 minutes, or just until very warm. Serve at once. If cake slices begin to brown too much, cover loosely with foil.

Yields: 16 servings

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