James Madison is one of those presidents best known for the work that he did before he became president. Most of us think of him as the “Father of the Constitution,” it’s author. He thought of himself as one of a team of people whose thoughts gave birth to the Constitution. James Madison was also one of the main authors of The Federalist Papers. The other authors were Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay (who was the answer to a quiz bowl question I answered correctly several years ago. This history thing runs deep!)   The Federalist Papers were published in 1787 and 1788 as articles in New York Papers. The aim was order to convince New Yorkers to ratify the proposed constitution. Madison was very good at thinking through an issue from all sides to make sure that he understood it, to make sure that it stood up. This is what made him the right man for the job of drafting the Constitution. This very characteristic is also what  made me have a bit of a beef with James Madison. As a part  of a class called something like, “The Intellectual History of America,” I was reading parts of the Federalist Papers. What I hadn’t understood going into this reading is that, at times, the Federalist Papers contradicted themselves. So, without this understanding, I read, coffee in one hand, head in the other, not understanding why one thing seemed not to mesh with the other and blaming it all on poor James Madison.


James Madison was a small man, a trait that was often harped upon by his opponents. In addition to being called the  father of the constitution, he was at times called, “Little Jemmy.” He stood somewhere between 5’4″ and 5’6″; reports on his height vary. He weighed around 100 pounds. Also, he often complained of various ailments. Anyone who reads history with any frequency knows that sickness is just a part of things. Presidents are not immune to this. Some of what is written about Madison describes him as a bit of a hypochondriac. We do know, however, that when he was out campaigning for the first Congress in 1788, that his nose became frostbitten, and that he carried that scar for life. He suffered from seizures that modern historians believe to be  of a psychophysiological nature. He also suffered from bilious fever. Bilious fever is a diagnosis that is no longer used. There are a host of modern problems that in Madison’s time would have been diagnosed as bilious fever.  Hypochondriac or not, Madison suffered all sorts of bodily discomfort.  This is, combined with his authorship and promotion of the Constitution is what told me that this cupcake would need to be called “The Delicate Constitution.”

The cake:

Originally, I wanted this cake to be composed all of elements and flavors that are known for their soothing properties. I had been thinking ginger, chamomile and mint. However, once I thought about that combination a bit more, I was starting to feel distinctly unwell. I decided to keep the ginger element, but decided that the cake needed something to combat the spiciness of the fresh ginger I intended to use. I went with pineapple. Pineapple sort of represents Dolley Madison, described by even the White House website as “the toast of Washington.” (The White House website also describes her as buxom, for that matter, on James Madison’s biography page, but not her own.) Mrs. Madison complimented James Madison, giving him social cache that he wouldn’t have had otherwise.

The cupcake, here, is flavored with pineapple puree. In the center is whipped cream flavored with (slightly overcooked) pineapple-ginger jam. For the frosting, is ginger buttercream flavored with juiced ginger. There is a piece of candied ginger on top of the cupcake to warn you that you’ll be tasting something spicy. The red sparkling sugar? That’s just there because I think Dolley would like it.