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Monday, December 21, 2009

World War Cake

I am a vegetarian and not into using eggs in my cooking. I love baking and cakes are a quick fix snack for the hubby. I had a recipe for an egg less cake and have been successful with every variety of cake I have baked. My recipes are quite simple and don't need too much work (to suit my mobility issues). I make it a point to use only whole wheat flour and not bleached or enriched or self raising flour...

Some time back, on a episode of dinner impossible, I saw this War Cake being made and was surprised. I had assumed that American homes always baked cakes with eggs and/or dairy products. This recipe was featured in the program's episode on "All American Dishes". Food Author Joanne Lamb Hayes came in as a guest chef for this episode. Among the books she authored are:

Grandma's Wartime Kitchen: World War II and the Way We Cooked
Grandma's Wartime Baking Book: World War II and the Way We Baked

As a suggestion for dessert, she mentioned World War cake, a recipe from the post depression, mid century era. It caught my attention immediately and as usual I dug into the past to American Kitchen and eating habits when McDonald was during the World War. It was time when things were scarce, expensive and very rationed. This is what led to the baking of American version of a cake sans eggs and any diary product.

This period was a major shake out time for American economy. War cake is considered to be an exemplary representation of how American homes functioned with what ever was available to them, that too in limited quantities. We know the USA as a land of abundance and mass consumption. This point about its history was rather surprising. I am not sure if this throw away society is the result of those 'everything rationed" times. It was really fascinating to find one recipe by a lady who lived during those times. (I am not sure how authentic it is but I thought I d include it in this post)

As far my research goes, I came to know about two war cakes belonging to very different time lines.One was the Civil war period in the late 1800's and later the World War period in the late 1940's. With time, the World War cakes gained popularity as being the war cake and the civil war cake faded into oblivion. I researched a dug out recipes from both eras. This recipe includes lard (not vegetarian). We can use olive oil instead.

First one is a Civil war cake recipe which dates back to 1800's.

A butterless, eggless, milkless cake.
  • 1-cup light brown sugar
  • 1-cup water
  • 1-cup  seedless raisin
  • 1/3-cup lard
  • ¼ tsp cloves
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
Put in a saucepan and boil for 3 minutes, let cool. When cool add.
  • 1 tsp. Baking soda dissolved in small amount of hot water.
  • ½ tsp. Baking powder
  • 2 cups sifted flour 
Use two layer cake pans.  Bake in moderate oven (350)
Can frost with maple frosting if desired.
Also delicious if steamed instead of baking and served as pudding.
By Victoria  Date of Birth:  December 2, 1892

Another reference I found online 

Here is the War cake recipe shown in the dinner impossible episode :


  • 1 pound raisins
  • 2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 4 tablespoons lard or vegetable shortening
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3 cups unsifted all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda


Combine raisins, brown sugar, water, lard, salt, cinnamon, and cloves in a 2-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cool to room temperature.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 10-inch tube pan. Stir together flour and baking soda. Fold dry ingredients into cooled raisin mixture. Spoon into greased pan and bake 45 to 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Cool 5 minutes in pan, then invert onto a wire rack to cool completely.

I did not include my recipe here as this post was all about WAR Cakes. Will write my recipe sometime later. However, this is the basic cake I baked (similar to the War cake recipe.)

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