War Cake . . . a fruity cake that stands the test of time!

Thursday 11 December 2014


I wanted to share a recipe with you today that is somewhat of a Christmas Tradition in our family.  Its called War Cake and it just would not be Christmas in our house without it making an annual appearance in my holiday larder!


It is a recipe that my mother baked every year, and her mother before her, and probably her Grandmother did as well . . . it being a recipe handed down through the generations and carried on with love.  A beautiful example of thrift having come about during the War years when things like eggs, milk and butter were in short supply.

Yes . . . this cake is egg, milk and butter free.  There is white vegetable shortening in it, which over here means White Flora or Trex . . .  if you are not worried about the calories, lard and even bacon fat, which was judiciously saved for things just such as this can be used.

I'll wager the recipe is even older than that . . . it sounds like the type of thrifty cake that might have been baked in log cabins out on the prairies or in farm houses, for special occasions just such as Christmas . . .

Simple ingredients, simple measures . . . simple methods.   Fabulous taste and incredibly moist.  It's a dense cake, thick with raisins and spice and only too perfect for the holidays.


My mother always used the large seeded raisins, but they are very difficult to find today . . . and so we make do with what we have to work with.  It somehow never comes out tasting as good as the memory of my mom's tastes in my mind, but oh well . . .


There are a lot of things like that.  A slice of this sitting on a plate next to a warm cup of horlicks and spread with butter (I know . . . soooo hedonistic) whispers Christmas to my heart.  Thanks mum. 


*Mum's War Cake*
Makes one 9 inch round deep cake, or two large loaves
Printable Recipe

A deliciously moist fruited cake from the days of rationing when eggs and butter were in short supply.

300g soft light brown sugar ( 1 1/2 cups packed)
375ml of water ( 1 1/2 cups)
2 heaped dessertspoons of white vegetable shortening (1/2 cup)
230g of raisins ( 1 1/2 cups)
240g plain flour (2 cups)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder 

Combine the browns sugar, water, shortening and raisins in a medium sized saucepan.  Bring to the boil, then allow to boil for 3 minutes.  Take off the heat and allow to cool completely.

Preheat the oven to 150*C/300*F/ gas mark 2.  Butter and line a round deep baking tin with baking paper.  Butter the baking paper.  Set aside.

Whisk together the flour, cinnamon, soda, nutmeg, salt and baking powder.  Stir this into the cooled raisin mixture.  Mix until smooth.  Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin.  Bake for 1 1/2 hours, or until the cake is cooked through and solid, and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.  It will still look fairly moist on top.  Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before tipping out onto a wire rack to finish cooling completely.  Once cold, wrap tightly and store in a tin overnight before serving.  Cut into wedges to serve.

Alternately if you are baking two loaves, butter and line the loaf tins with paper.  Butter the paper.  Divide the batter betwixt the two tins.  Bake as above  from 1 to 1 1/2 hours until the cakes are cooked through and a skewer comes out clean when inserted in the centre.  Allow to cool in the tins for 10 minutes before flipping out and cooling completely on a wire rack.  Store as above.

This will keep for about 2 weeks, and freezes well for longer storage.


  1. Absolutely lovely cake Marie!

  2. I must make this cake for my hubby. He loves fruitcake and history so this sounds perfect!

  3. I hope that he enjoys it Deb! xx

  4. Love this! MKF Fisher devoured it in How to Cook a Wolf
    and it's one of those recipes that should never go out of fashion! What a delight to find it on this beloved blog of yours. Thank you for all you do to keep us cooking!

  5. What an interesting little tidbit to devour Tracey! I love it! Thank YOU so much for sharing! It's a cake that our family has loved for generations! xx

  6. How wonderful for you to share recipes like this. I made a carrot pudding for our Christmas dinner the other day. The recipe was a favourite of my grandmother's and loved by my family because it's not as rich as a plum pudding. Her interpretation of it made me think it also came from the war years when sugar and dried fruits would have been expensive and harder to come by.

  7. Marie we make a similar cake but use a tin of unsweetened pineapple as well. It is always moist and great with cheddar.

  8. I think you are right Colleen. They probably both stem from rationing! I make a great steamed carrot pudding as well! xxoo

    Suzan that sounds delicious! I love the idea of a tin of pineapple being added. It is chunks or chopped, drained or undrained? xxoo

  9. I remember!
    I think once yo mentioned it..this time I must try !

  10. I hope you like it Monique! I am wanting to try Suzan's version now with the pineapple! xx

  11. It is lovely to have recipes that don't always demand dairy and eggs. Lard adds a wonderful flavour to baking. However I think it is important to know that although the white vegetable fats may be healthier than lard the fat content and therefore calorie content of Trex is the same as lard and White Flora has only slightly fewer calories! I think that in many ways lard actually produces a far nicer result and as it is a lot cheaper than white fat I would always choose it.

    Hope you don't think I am being critical Marie, I love your blog, but so many manufacturers try to mislead us about the differences between something being slighly healthier and something actually being lower calories that I am an enthusistic pursuer of the truth about our food!

  12. Not at all Karen Lizzie! I expect that. The first recipe used lard, especially where my great grandmother was a farmers wife! You are right in saying that vegetable fats are not as healthy as we may think they are! Most days now, I opt for butter or lard.

  13. HOw wonderful to have a recipe handed down for generations !

  14. I made this cake yesterday and the house smelled amazing while it was baking. I had difficulty getting it out of the pan (it came out in two pieces - top and bottom), so the next time I make it I will use parchment paper. The flavor is spot on though!!!! I can't wait to tell my mom that I made a cake from an old wartime recipe.

  15. I always use baking paper Sharon. It saves a lot of agro! Glad you enjoyed the flavour! xx

  16. I love traditional recipes, but my children think they don't like fruitcake. This looks amazing so I'm going to make it anyway. Since I don't have lard, but I do have butter and shortening should I use butter

    1. Hi there. This is better than a fruitcake! I wouldn't use butter in this cake, and the recipe actually calls for shortening, so that is what I would use. I think butter might be a bit too rich! Hope this helps! xoxo


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