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                                       (recipe for War Cake handwritten by my mother)

Today marks …

the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I.

A few months ago I came across a recipe for War Cake written in my mother’s hand and shared with her by my grandmother who was left at home with small children on Cape Breton Island while my grandfather fought in the Second World War. Tonight seemed like the right time to share the recipe and remember those lost and wounded in wars past and present, in places near and far.

When I first glanced at this recipe I was perplexed by the presence (and abundance) of sugar and flour, and was curious how this cake could have been created out of necessity in the context of food rationing. After a little investigation, I quickly learned that what characterizes most variations of War Cake is the absence of milk, eggs and butter. Although sugar was often in short supply, ration stamps could be collected and used to acquire enough sugar to make this sizeable and satisfying cake.

Celebrated for its rich spiced raisin flavour, War Cake continued to be enjoyed long after WWII and it is possible that once ingredients like sugar and dried fruit & nuts were more readily available, the recipe was adapted to reflect changing circumstances.

War Cake
recipe handed from my grandmother to my mother
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 pound seeded raisins
2 tablespoons shortening
2 cups water
1/2 tsp ginger
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups flour
Optional ingredients:
1 cup mixed red and green cherries OR
1/2 cup nuts and 1/2 cup currants
Boil the sugar, raisins, shortening, water, ginger, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg for 5 minutes or longer.
Let cool and then add the baking soda, salt and flour.  Cooling the mixture completely may take several hours.  
Add optional ingredients if desired.
Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour in a greased and floured tube pan (or bundt pan).

If you have an old family recipe for War Cake or know more about the history of its adaptation, I’d love to hear from you! Please share a comment.