THE RECIPE BOX – War Cake recipe is steeped in history

THE RECIPE BOX – War Cake recipe is steeped in history

LINCOLN – This week’s recipe for War Cake got its name because bakers avoided using ingredients that were either too expensive or hard to obtain. The cake was also known as Depression Cake because it has little or no milk, eggs, and butter. Another name for this cake is Poor Man’s Cake.

The boiling of raisins along with the sugar and spices makes a syrup base for this recipe. Boiled raisin-type cakes date back as early as the American Civil War.

Kathleen Connolly, of Manville, has her copy of this recipe that was originally her grandmother Mary’s that was passed down to her own mother, Margaret. Finally, Kathleen tracked it down to her cousin Doreen, who shared a photocopy.

Doreen would not part with the original as it had belonged to her godmother, Margaret. The copy is written in Margaret’s handwriting which makes it all the more special to Kathleen now that her mom has passed, she said.

Kathleen, her one younger brother, and their parents lived on Sayles Hill Road, in the very same house where her great-grandmother was born.

Almost right out of high school she began working for nonprofits. Her early jobs at both Pawtucket Memorial and Fogarty Hospitals led to working the very first day of the opening of the Blood Bank of Rhode Island. She stayed in lab work and recruiting donations for 30 years before moving on to work for The Tomorrow Fund, doing rewarding work with families and children who had cancer.

“I suppose I learned to give my time (and caring) to these causes from my father. He never said no to anyone,” Kathleen shared.

Her dad, Joe, grew a mighty garden in his own yard which was his pride and joy and he shared the many vegetables with his family, neighbors and friends.

Her grandparents (Joe’s parents) had lived on a farm across from Route 146 that was a huge working farm. She recalls that her grandmother Mary made this War Cake and taught Kathleen’s mom how to make it.

“It was a pinch of this and a pinch of that,” Kathleen shared, as are many recipes of older times. When her father, Joe, was drafted, (he actually enlisted, she said), Margaret moved into the farmhouse for the duration of his service and it was then she was taught certain recipes by Joe’s mother.

Mary fed the farmhands, and it had to be cost effective and without access to butter, so she had to improvise with ingredients, Kathleen said. Over time, Margaret had lost track of this old family recipe from Mary. “She kept trying to recreate it for my father,” Kathleen said. Eventually, through trial and error, she got it to the point where Joe said, “Yup, this is it.”

Kathleen has fond memories of this raisin loaf being served warm, with a little butter on it. “It’s good served as a breakfast or a dessert,” she added. The aromatic spices will fill your kitchen while baking this old fashioned loaf cake that reminds you of a hermit cookie. It is moist and flavorful.

War Cake

1 cup sugar
1 cup seedless raisins
1 cup cold water
1/2 cup shortening
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
2 cups all-purpose flour

1. Place all ingredients except the flour into a small saucepan. Heat to boiling point with bubbles. Remove from heat and let cool.
2. Then add flour.
3. Pour into a greased paper-lined loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. Check for doneness in center.

war cake