Election Day Traditions

by Hans DePold, town historian
(Published in the Bolton Community News, October 1998)

Connecticut has a unique history of government. In 1636 Thomas Hooker led the first Connecticut settlers from Massachusetts through Bolton to finally settle in Hartford. Finding themselves without a charter, they established a set of laws, the Fundamental Orders. At their first election, in 1638, Hooker preached a sermon about the privilege of election, which he said belongs to the people, but must be exercised according to the will and law of God. To those unfamiliar with the Puritan beliefs, the sermon appeared to be a liberal assertion against autocratic rule. It was in fact the Puritan doctrine.

While the Puritan religion was normally of a very serious nature, Election Day was a day of celebration and of baking cakes. The tradition stuck. By the mid-1800s, after a trip to the polls, large groups met throughout Connecticut to celebrate the election returns. Election Day guests were served yeast cakes accompanied by eggnog or punch. The traditional evening menu might also include homemade sausages, hot biscuits, fried green apples, and blueberry preserves. Our unique traditional Election Day recipe survives to this day in many New England cookbooks.

The following recipe is from "The Yankee Cook Book," by Imogene Wolcott, who explains that Election Cake is said to have originated in Hartford, Conn., and was "served to all who voted the straight ticket."

Election Cake

2 cups milk, scalded3/4 cup shortening
1/2 cup brown sugar, tightly packed2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt1 1/2 cups raisins
1 compressed yeast cake1/4 pound citron sliced thin (optional)
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg5 cups flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon mace1 1/2 cups sugar

Place milk, brown sugar and salt in a mixing bowl. When lukewarm add crumbled yeast cake and 4 1/2 cups of the flour; beat thoroughly and let rise overnight. In the morning cream the sugar and shortening and add. Stir in the eggs, raisins, citron, nutmeg, mace and remaining 1/2 cup flour. Mix thoroughly using hands if necessary. Place in greased bread tins lined with waxed paper and again greased. Rise until double in bulk. Bake in a moderately hot oven (375° F) until brown, about 50 minutes. Makes 2 loaves.