Canadian War Cake


recipe thursdayThis is a recipe from an old cookbook published in Adelaide by the Argonaut Bookshop. Probably around 1945, but since the cover and several pages are missing, I can't tell for sure.

The recipe is for an eggless, butterless, milkless cake, but it isn't vegetarian as it uses lard for levening. It's made by boiling and baking, and though I haven't tried it yet, I suspect it comes out rather dense.

Unfortunately like many old recipes, quantities are a bit sketchy--how much was a "packet" of raisins in Canada during the war? Two ounces, like the little boxes of Sunmaid raisins we can still buy today? A bigger box?

I did some researching on the 'net to discover the correct measure, but this trivial tidbit is not surfacing easily. I wrote to Sunmaid to see if they could tell me (they've been making raisins for over 90 years) but the reply was only a variation of this same recipe--with the quantity "1 box seedless raisins"

I may have hit paydirt, though. M.F.K. Fisher wrote the delightful How to Cook a Wolf in 1942 and includes a War Cake recipe. The ingredients list 1 cup of raisins or other dried fruits. The excerpt I found doesn't include method, just ingredients.

I've included all three recipes for your reference.

Canadian War Cake (Argonaut recipe)
"large cake"

2 c brown sugar
1 packet seedless raisins
2 c hot water
2 Tbsp lard
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp salt
3 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp hot water

Boil the sugar, raisins, lard, spices and salt in two cups of water. Allow to boil five minutes. Remove from heat and cool. When room temperature, dissolve baking soda in 1 teaspoon hot water. Add to mixutre. Stir in flour.

Bake in a "meat tin" (a loaf pan?) for 40-50 minutes at 375/190.

CANADIAN WAR CAKE (Sunmaid recipe)
3 layer cake

2 c. light brown sugar
2 c. cold water
4 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. allspice
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 box seedless raisins
4 c. flour
2 tsp. soda
1 c. hot water
No eggs
No milk

Cook sugar, water, butter, spices and raisins for 5 minutes. Cool and add flour. Put soda in 1 cup hot
water and add to above mixture. Beat well, bake slowly 325 degrees. 3 layer cake.

2 c. brown sugar
1 c. white sugar
1 c. butter
3/4 c. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. black walnuts
1 c. cold water

Cook butter, sugar, milk slowly until it forms a soft ball. Remove from heat, add vanilla and nuts. Beat
until thick. Spread on cake.

War Cake (M.F.K. Fisher recipe)

1/2 cup shortening (bacon grease can be substituted)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon of other spices: cloves, mace, ginger
1 cup chopped raisins or other dried fruits such as prunes or figs
1 cup sugar, brown or white
1 cup water
2 cups flour, white or whole wheat
1/4 teaspoon soda
2 teaspoons baking powder


MFK Fisher's "The Gastronomical Me" is a great book too.

The Cockeyed Cake is a chocolate "war" cake from the I Hate to Cook cookbook, by Peg Bracken. It is eggless and butterless, using oil for the moisture, and vinegar and baking soda for leavening. Now I would use coconut oil instead of nasty vegetable oil, though.

It is an excellent, easy (no bowl, mix in pan), inexpensive cake, delicious, moist cake that I have been making since I was a kid (& won a cake contest with it twice, too!). Just be sure to consume it within a few days and if you bake it in an aluminum pan, remove it or else it will react and taste metallic.

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