Saturday, January 31, 2015

Depression Cake

No, it's not a cake that's feeling blue!  It's a cake that was made during the Depression and during the war without eggs, milk or butter which were either rationed or too expensive.  It's also something of a science project as you will see.  It's also known as Crazy Cake or Wacky Cake.  No matter what you call it, we thought it was delicious!  I was going to make a cream cheese frosting for it but opted for a dusting of powdered sugar instead--fewer calories and fat!

There are variations on this theme including one that is chocolate and made with cocoa powder.  But according to my extensive research (a glance at Wikipedia), this raisin/spice version dates back to the Civil War.

On another positive note, I made the whole thing in one large saucepan!  Easy clean up.

Ingredients:
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 1/2 cups water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 cups dark raisins
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons water (separate from the 1 1/2 cups above)
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

Directions:
Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.
Combine sugar, water, vegetable oil, raisins and spices in a pan and bring to a boil.  Boil for 3 minutes, stirring frequently.  Let cool for 10 minutes.

Dissolve baking soda and salt in the 2 teaspoons of water and add to cooled raisin mixture.  It will foam.  If I'd paid more attention in science class I might be able to tell you why!  (I'll bet Sheila knows.)

Blend in flour and baking powder and mix well.

Grease your pan (the recipe calls for  a 9 inch square pan but it worked fine in my 8 inch square pan).  Pour in batter and bake for 30 minutes (recipe says 55 minutes but mine was done at around the 30 minute mark.  Better to check sooner than burn later...)  Cake is done when the proverbial toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Don't over-bake.

Cool slightly before serving.  Cover with your favorite frosting or dust with powdered sugar.



Boil raisins, spices, oil and water in a saucepan


Add salt and baking soda mixture and it foams!




Everything mixed in one pan!

Out of the oven!

Dust with powdered sugar and enjoy!

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26 comments:

  1. I never knew there was a Depression Cake, and I am amazed on how to make it. Thank you for the recipe and its historical background. :)

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    1. Jen, hubby just polished off the last piece yesterday and said "can we make that again?" It was really tasty.

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  2. What a lovely snack cake--and with an interesting history. I treasure the cookbook I have circa WWII and also find it fascinating to learn what substitutions were suggested for ingredients that were rationed because of the war. Thanks for sharing, Peg, and have a great weekend. ~ Cleo

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    1. Sounds like a fascinating cookbook, Cleo. Amazing what people went through during the War. And we complain if Starbucks is out of our favorite coffee!

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  3. That looks quick and easy--and tasty. Sorry I can't tell you off the top of my head about the foaming thing (but I have a book that will probably tell me). For anyone suspicious about using oil rather than butter or shortening, one of my all-time go-to apple cake recipes uses 1-1/2 cups of oil, and it's great.

    My grandmother worked in Hoboken NJ during WW2 for some company that made rations for the troops (it could have been Lipton or its parent company). Somehow we once got into an argument about whether the recipe on the Ritz Cracker box for Mock Apple pie (which I think originated about that time) could possibly taste like apples. She was adamant that it did. I've never made it.

    Funny how people in difficult times still find a way to make cake!

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    1. As I was reading about Depression Cake, that Ritz cracker mock apple pie came up in various places, and numerous people swore it did taste just like apple pie! One of us will have to try it one of these days!

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    2. I just looked it up online--it seems it originated during the Depression, but became popular during WW2, when apples were harder to get. I will add Ritz Crackers to my shopping list!

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  4. My mother used to make that cake all the time. I loved it---I'm going to try this recipe, for sure.

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    1. Sue, it's a snap to make and tastes so good!

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  5. Somewhere I have a really old cookbook. It is really interesting to read. Some of the terminology is really strange in some of the recipes. I wonder where that book is?...

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    1. That sounds like it would be fun to read through!

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  6. Peg, I guess you'll have to try the chocolate version for hubby! I love using oil in cakes. They come out moister than cakes with butter. But I've learned that butter is just plain better in some things. This looks delicious! And what a great go-to cake when you happen to run out of eggs or milk!

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    1. Yes, nowadays, we're more likely to run out than not be able to get those ingredients! But if you want to whip up a cake without those ingredients, it's easy and tasty!

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  7. I definitely plan to try this. There's a similar recipe in the back of the book Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson, which takes place during World War I. I made it for the girls in my library book club and it was a big hit. The ingenuity of cooks back then was wonderful. Somehow, they used what they had and came up with wonderful meals for their families.

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    1. Yes, I really admire the women who made a wonderful home for their family even under difficult circumstances.

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  9. This looks very tasty.
    As to the Ritz "apple"pie--I imagine it's like so many things, it's the seasoning and texture that convinces us. That's why bacon substitutes taste like bacon. It's the seasoning.
    I tried for a while (before the internet) to get a WWII Joy of Cooking because I'd heard it had wonderful rationing recipes. Maybe I'll look again.

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    1. That would be such fun if you could find a cookbook like that! My Joy of Cooking is quite old (according to my children) but still comes from the 70s.

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  10. Bet it would be great with cranberry sauce!

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  11. Sounds good I will have to try this.

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    1. It is good and the best part is you only use one pan!

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  12. Interesting to make a cake without dairy. Looks pretty!

    Daryl Avery

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    1. I think it would be good with a cream cheese frosting but this way it was a little easier on the waistline.

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  13. At my bridal shower in 1963 (yes, I am old as dirt), my maid of honor asked all of the women attending to please bring one canned good (or boxed item) to the shower to get my grocery shelf started and she also asked them to please bring their favorite recipe along with hints and any other information about the recipe. I received a recipe for WACKY CAKE which is the all chocolate version of this cake and if memory serves me, my recipe has white vinegar in it. I know I still have this original recipe card in one of my many recipe card files so will have to go and dig it out and check. But it was one of the cakes that I made often when we first got married and I remember serving it almost hot out of the oven with a scoop of rich vanilla ice cream on it. That would melt and make a delicious sauce-like topping for the cake. Ice cream in those days was far more rich than today so it served as a good substitute for frosting/icing but I did make my mocha frosting for this cake too as the brown sugar in the cake went well with the coffee/chocolate flavors in the mocha frosting.
    Thank you for the trip down Memory Lane. It was lovely.
    Cynthia

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    1. Cynthia, I am going to seek out the chocolate version and try that, too. Hubby got me to make this for him again last night! What a lovely idea for a shower! I will have to remember that.

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