EDGEWATER — Picture the young American Republic, a country so new that democratic national elections were still a novelty, a cause for celebration.
At the center of many a post-Colonial voting party was a tradition long since abandoned — the Election Cake.
Susannah Gebhart, owner of Old World Levain Bakery in North Carolina, is on a mission to revive this forgotten dessert and has convinced pastry professionals across the U.S. to join the #MakeAmericaCakeAgain movement.
"These cakes contributed to the revelry surrounding the democratic process and held a significant place in the voting landscape," Gebhart wrote in her description of the project.
In the modern-day, "they represent a connection to our shared history through food as well as an opportunity to bring attention to the upcoming election and issues concerning voter rights and access," she said.
Where to get an Election Cake in Chicago?
Crumb bakery, 6338-40 Clark St., in Edgewater.
Owner Anne Kostroski follows Gebhart on Instagram and thought #MakeAmericaCakeAgain was a fantastic idea.
"It's great to engage people about the election," Kostroski said.
While the movement's name is a riff on Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" slogan, the notion of an Election Cake is a more "pleasant" and "inclusive" message to encourage interest in and respect for voting, she said.
The cake, the recipe for which predates the Revolutionary War, serves as a reminder that voting in America was once a newfound experience, Kostroski said.
"This was a pretty cool and awesome thing we didn't get to do in England," she said. "You really celebrated that day. This was their 'I voted' sticker."
Working off Gebhart's provided recipe, Kostroski has been baking a dozen of the four-inch cakes on Saturdays and Sundays in recent weeks, selling them at Sauce and Bread cafe (a joint venture between Crumb and Co-op Sauce) and at farmers markets.
"It's basically a fruitcake," she said, and before you turn your nose up, Kostroski added that hers is made with fresh fruit and is nothing like the much reviled cake of Christmas nightmares.
Her personal twist is to brush ginger simple syrup onto the warm cake, and this freedom to reinterpret the classic is another aspect of Gebhart's movement that Kostroski admires, she said.
Everyone, including amateur home bakers, can play around with Gebhart's recipe to suit their own taste and there's no glossy, artfully styled cookbook photo to tell them they're doing it wrong, she said.
Not to get too sappy about, Kostroski said, but the movement feels as democratic as America itself.
Crumb's cakes sell for $5 and will serve two to three people. The bakery is closed on Tuesdays, so anyone aiming to tuck into one on Nov. 8 will have to order one and pick it up in advance, which won't affect freshness because the cake is designed to keep for "days and days," Kostroski said.
"Back in the day, cakes were a cross between bread and cake," she said. "I recommend toasting and spreading with cream cheese. That's also delicious."
Crumb will donate a portion of the proceeds from Election Cake sales to the League of Women Voters.
Said Kostroski, "Even if it's just a nominal amount, it's a way to promote democracy and voting rights."
Friends #makeamericacakeagain!! Tune into NPR 📻today for #electioncake coverage on All Things Considered interview w. Susannah Gebhart & @maia_sur @oldworldlevain [👉 in profile to join the party] ✨This is a collaboration including @sarah_c_owens @melinakelson @craftsmanwolves @bootlegbatard @littletartbakeshop #RichardMiscovich ✨#life #liberty #electioncakeforall
Our own little Election Cake made by @sarah_c_owens and gifted by @bigbellybloch (thank you, ladies!!). We were driving home this evening and caught @oldworldlevain on NPR talking about this wonderful part of American history as it relates to democracy and women's role in the voting process. THIS woman lives in a swing state and is taking advantage of early voting tomorrow so it was fitting to enjoy this tonight. #makeamericacakeagain
Ok y'all! #electioncake GIVEAWAY...anywhere in the US! Tell us how you are sharing your election cakes and how they can bring community together. We'll pick our favorite(s) to ship an OWL election cake early next week! The only thing we ask is that you let us know when and in what condition they arrive. We want to make sure we are packing them correctly to arrive in tip top condition when we start filling orders! Link in profile for more info on the project. #makeamericacakeagain 📷@nicolemcconville
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