Spiced Bourbon-Soaked-Fig “Election Cake” with Orange Buttercream Frosting (Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free)

I came across an article in Bon Appétit this week about the history of something called an “election cake.” I had just cringed and jaw-dropped my way through round three of the debates the night before, and after reading the article, especially this bit —>

“It’s safe to say that sweetness is not part of the modern day election rhetoric. As this season veers off into fetid bitterness as tasty as a rusty nail, a few bakers are uniting on a platform more pleasing: for life, liberty, and election cake for all…,”

I had to know more!

So, there’s this fun project called #MakeAmericaCakeAgain (brilliant!) and the idea comes from Owl Bakery (Asheville, NC):

‘“Making America Cake Again!” is a collaboration and celebration among bakeries, food professionals, home bakers, scholars, and educators across the country. It is a non-partisan nation-wide project to raise awareness about our culinary heritage and the place of food in political and social life as well as to generate funds for voting access and rights.’


You can support the project by purchasing cakes in participating bakeries all over the nation. A portion of all election cake sales will go to the League of Women Voters in honor of the women who didn’t have access to formal channels of voting in the early days of American democracy.

For those of us who don’t sell cakes but want in on the #MakeAmericaCakeAgain fun, we CAN help spread the word about the project by making a version of this historic cake ourselves and tagging a pic of our creation (or reposting others that inspire you): #MakeAmericaCakeAgain #ElectionCake. You can also donate time or money to LWV.

I freestyled off of this yummy OWL Bakery formula for a vote-encouraging cake without the ten pounds of butter, fourteen pounds of sugar, three dozen eggs, milk, and gluten the first recorded recipe calls for. But the brandy-soaked fruit stays! If you want a booze-free option, simply soak your fruit in apple cider or kombucha instead. If you want a gluten-free booze option, try soaking the figs in gin or a dark tequila.

Election cake is an involved recipe. The ingredient list, and steps may look intimidating, but this is a special recipe perfect for a Sunday kitchen adventure that includes one of my favorite techniques—fermentation. We are going to biologically leaven this cake like we would bread—the cake itself is actually more bread-like. SO. Plan ahead a few days to get a fermented batter going, and some fruit soaked, plump, and boozy.

I love the #MakeAmericaCakeAgain project for so many reasons. Obviously awesome hashtag and project motivation aside, one reason is that our culture is always in a hurry. We glorify busy. Quick. Fast. Easy. Most of us would look at the recipe here and say “No way! Who has time for that?!” But with this attitude, we miss out on the traditional, artful experience that comes with taking a few days to prepare a gorgeous cake like this—a special treat that has been cared for, tended to, and tastes like nothing else because of that level of attention. It’s energy and time well spent in my opinion. Especially for the holidays (hint, hint).

Gluten-Free Brandy-Soaked Fig Spiced Election Cake
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
This is a gluten-free, dairy-free version of an historic Election Cake recipe as part of OWL Bakery’s #MakeAmericaCakeAgain project, benefitting The League of Women Voters. It’s a spiced, bourbon-soaked fig cake with decadent, dairy-free Buttercream Frosting—fruit cake, next level.
Recipe type: Dessert
Allergy Info: Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Egg-Free
Serves: 12
  • BATTER #1 (Fermented)
  • 1½ cup canned coconut milk (full fat)
  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • ¼ tsp instant yeast (1 g)
  • ¾ cup sorghum flour
  • ¾ cup brown rice flour
  • 1 cup blanched almond flour

  • 1½ cups dried, unsulphured black mission figs
  • Enough bourbon (or apple cider/kombucha) to cover and rehydrate all

  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • ½ tsp ground clove
  • 1 tsp ground anise
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon (use Ceylon cinnamon if you can find it)
  • 1 tbsp ground allspice
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom

    ORANGE Buttercream (optional)
  • 1 cup cashews, soaked 12 hours for maximum plumpness
  • 1½ cups coconut cream from top of can of chilled, full-fat coconut milk
  • (about 2 cans worth)
  • ¼ cup raw honey or maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 5 tablespoons unrefined coconut oil
  • ¼ teaspoon fine-ground sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon minced orange zest

    BATTER #2
  • ¼ cup unrefined coconut oil, plus more for greasing pans
  • ½ cup canned coconut milk (full fat)
  • ½ cup lukewarm water
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider or red wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup sorghum or raw honey
  • Pre-ferment
  • 2 tablespoons fig-bourbon soaking liquid (optional)

  • 1½ cups Sucanat or coconut sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground psyllium husk (or 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon whole psyllium husk)
  • ¾ cup sorghum flour
  • ¾ cup brown rice flour
  • 1 cup blanched almond flour
  • ½ cup arrowroot flour/starch
  • 1½ teaspoons fine ground sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons spice blend

  • 2 cups rehydrated, chopped figs
Let’s get started.
  1. DAY ONE
  2. Make Fermented Batter #1:
    In a large bowl, whisk together ¾ cup sorghum flour, ¾ cup brown rice flour, and 1 cup blanched almond flour.

  3. In a small bowl, combine coconut milk, lukewarm water, and yeast—mix thoroughly. Then, pour mixture into flour.

    Mix until batter is consistent and smooth.

  4. Scrape the sides of your bowl to get all the goodness together and cover with clean kitchen towel. Allow this batter to ferment for 8-12 hours at room temperature.

  5. Soak Dried Fruits:

  6. Place dried figs in a shallow dish or bowl and pour bourbon over them so they are covered.

    Soak them overnight, or for several days before you’re ready to bake your election cake. For non-alcoholic soaking options, try kombucha, apple cider/juice, other fruit juices, or steeped teas like black, rooibos, or chai. To really infuse with non-alchoholic liquids, warm over low heat for a few minutes, remove from the heat, and allow to soak, covered, overnight or for several hours.

  7. Before incorporating into your cake, strain the liquid off of the fruit.

    Use this fruit flavored liquid as a cordial, to make a simple glaze after the cake is baked, or to pour over vanilla ice cream, or oatmeal.

  8. DAY TWO
  9. Prepare second batter:
  10. Lightly grease a bundt pan or two cake rounds with coconut oil, or grease sides of pan and cut and line bottoms with parchment rounds and set aside.

  11. If you want to ice the cake with a buttercream (optional), blend together all buttercream ingredients until silky smooth, cover and chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours. Buttercream will firm up once chilled.

  12. Now, check on Fermented Batter #1—it will have bubbles covering the surface and it may even puff up and look brain-like.

    Gently fold it to make it smooth again and set aside.

  13. Now let’s make Batter #2: whisk together wet batter ingredients in a small bowl. If coconut oil is solid, gently warm it first in a pot over the stove first—not too hot though, just enough warmth to get the oil to melt. If it’s too hot the mixture can compromise the leavening action of your cake as heat kills beneficial bacteria that provide the lift in the batter.

  14. In a large bowl, sift together dry batter ingredients, then whisk to really combine everything thoroughly.

    Now, fold together wet ingredients and dry ingredients until well mixed.

    Then fold the Batter #1 into Batter #2 until thoroughly combined.

    Finally, gently fold in the boozy, chopped fruit.

  15. Divide batter evenly into prepared cake rounds (cupcake tins or bundt pan(s)).

    Cover with a dish towel...

    ...and let the batter sit in a warm spot in the kitchen (top of fridge) for 2–4 hours, until the cake has risen by about ⅓ of its volume.

  16. Bake at 375° F (190° C) for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350° F (177° C) and continue baking for 20–25 more minutes, until top is dry and browned. Cool completely (GF ingredients need to set!) in the pans before cutting and eating.

    You may enjoy this cake plain or topped with buttercream. If you plan on frosting the cake, chill in the fridge for 2 hours before using chilled frosting to ice the cake to maintain the best spreadability and texture. Store covered in the fridge.
Try baking this cake into cupcakes, or into a sheet cake.

For booze-free soaked fruit, try apple cider, juice, or kombucha.

For a gluten-free boozy soaked fruit option, use gin or dark tequila.

You will likely have some extra spice blend—store in an airtight glass container in the pantry and use some to season pancakes, warm cereals, homemade almond milk, or ice cream.


To join the campaign, visit OWL Bakery’s website for baking formulas and more information. And don’t forget to #MakeAmericaCakeAgain #yumuniverse

Read the comments or add yours.

Comment Rules

  1. Jules

    Would it be horrible or have adverse effects if the batter from day one sat 16 hours instead of 8-12? What’s the point of diminishing returns… or food poisoning? 😉

  2. Raquel Osorio

    Kudos on publishing a “concept”, “ethic” recipe. It involves a purpose, a goal, some preparation and reflection on the end result. Do you wanna bake a “Election Cake” in 45 min? Hope not. Will try to manage my time better so that I can make it and report on the victorious results. Peace, Raquel

  3. pj

    Any suggestions for substitute for figs? Other fruits that would work, or???
    Thanks, looks great!

    • Oh yes! Any dried fruits would work, PJ. Try apricots, blueberries, cherries, plums… just let us know what you try. x H

  4. Marty

    I bought your cookbook last summer. Heather, I have to say, your cookbook is the best I have in my V & GF library. I see your cook, the James Beard and Julie Child of cooking. We have your Yeah Banana Pancakes every Saturday in the Winter.

    I always sit down and read a cookbook from beginning to end, what my mother told me when I was learning to cook. I look forward to making this cake for Election Day!


  5. Marty

    Meant to write: “….I see your COOKBOOK, the…”

  6. Thank you for this beautiful and delicious contribution to democracy. It will certainly sweeten the deal!

  7. Meg

    Thanks for coming up with a gluten free version of this! I need a dessert for a dinner event next week, and just read the article about the cake, and was considering how I would make it gluten free–I was thinking coconut flour, but I look forward to trying yours!

  8. Julie Turner

    Is there any harm in letting the batter sit 14 – 16 hours instead of just the 8 – 12?

    • No Ma’am—you’ll likely get a deeper, more slightly sour flavor so go for it! x H

  9. Sue

    If I use All Purpose flour instead of the sorghum flour, brown rice flour, and
    blanched almond flour, do I still need to use the psyllium husks and arrowroot flour/starch? Is there anything else I need to change? I’m vegan, but not gluten free and trying to use the flour I do have on hand.

    • Good question Sue, I recommend checking out the other gluten-based recipes on the OWL Bakery site to see what ratios are. Psyllium replicates the gluten and eggs, so you may be able to leave it out and have delicious results. Let us know how it goes! x

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