🔵 Canadian War Cake OR Depression Cake || Glen & Friends Cooking

welcome back friends today we are
continuing our new Sunday morning tradition of looking back through some
old cookbooks that Julie and I have in our collection and today we’re going to
do a recipe that julie has requested from the Elmvale community cookbook and
this is a cookbook published in 1939 and what Julie wants me to make is the
Canadian war cake or eggless butterless milkless cake and it was submitted by
Mrs. Vick Wright the recipe is really sparse on instructions this is really
the kind of recipe cookbook that expected you to know how to make stuff
already so first into this pot we are going to
put a couple cups of raisins a cup of sugar some vegetable shortening it just
says shortening I’m assuming it’s vegetable shortening cinnamon and cloves
and a cup of water now the deal is I’m supposed to bring this up to a boil and
boil it for five minutes. now this recipe book is all in cups and it’s printed in
1939 and here’s a little-known fact or maybe something that most people have
forgotten anyway in 1939 Canada used a different sized
measuring cup than we use today. In 1939 our measuring cup was 227 milliliters
whereas the one we use today is 250 mL and of course the American measuring cup is
240 milliliters so we were different than everyone else then so so I guess the point I’m trying to make with that
is when you pick up a cookbook any cookbook look at any recipe and it’s in
cups make sure you know what size cups they’re talking about
because it could affect your outcome might not you might be able to bumble
through but it could really affect your outcome okay five minutes is up and the
recipe says to take off and cool how cool I don’t know so I think I’ll let
this go down to maybe about room temperature because the next step is to
put in flour and I don’t think we want the flour to get too hot at this point
now the recipe says to add flour but of course it’s really vague on how much
flour it just says until stiff so I’m gonna
measure out about a cup I think for this recipe about is kind of around as close
as you need to be and we’ll see where that gets us and then we’ll add more if
we need to so baking soda that goes in I’ll put about three quarters of this in
just to make sure I don’t put too much because we’re gonna always add more okay
that will need more so put that in so that took about a cup and a quarter if
you’re gonna cook from this cookbook you apparently can’t be terribly pedantic
you need to just sort of roll with it and see what happens and since I’m just
supposed to put in until it stiffens I think that’s stiffened now the next
thing is this is where the recipe ends says that I could add walnuts or almonds
if I wanted to but it doesn’t say anything about baking it nothing about
baking it it doesn’t say what size of a pan to put it in it doesn’t say what
temperature to bake it at or how long to bake it at it just assumes that you know
you need to take this and put it in a pan and put it in the oven
I’m looking at these pant sizes I’ve got an eight and a nine inch
I think the 8 inch is the one that I want to use looking at other recipes
that are sort of like this one there’s one right below it called the Hoover
cake and I assume that refers to the American president in the mid 30s early
to mid 30s Hoover who was there during the Depression and that cake is very
similar and it says to to bake it in a moderate oven until done so moderate
oven is about 350 degrees Fahrenheit so spread this out and we’ll get that in
the oven it’s not it’s not burnt but if you look at the recipe okay the recipe
doesn’t even tell you to bake it oh well yeah you see that you’re on your own
listen this is right figured you knew enough mrs. Wright figures I do enough
yes surely she was mrs. wrong because you did not so maybe you did it and
we’ll figure it out so I got it in the pan and I set it for 45 minutes which
seemed to be too long but we’ll see we’ll see how this is a bit disastrous
coming in here although you know once we figure it out maybe it’s just the first
piece as a disaster that’s a lot of raisins though raisins dates raisers
okay so it didn’t come out with great grace not the first one so maybe a
little overbaked um so what ten minutes less maybe about ten minutes less and I
probably should have buttered the pan even though I thought it’s a nonstick
pan I probably should have buttered it but you know what that tastes like to me cake mm-hmm they taste like a date cake
I mean it’s got a lot of the same flavors yeah
no quick it’s not quite as sweet dates have that extra shoot but I would
certainly eat more than food piece of it even with this it’s like yeah so I’m
gonna give this a thumbs up I think this is a good recipe once you figure out
what are some modifications yeah once you figure out what they’re getting at
and once you’re as smart as mrs. wright is you’ll be able to make it yeah that’s
amazing though necklace milkless butter loose um oh yeah so I will do some
modifications to the recipe and you can give it a try thanks for stopping by
see you can soon you

About the author


  1. Thumbs up for all the great hero Ladies👍💐
    This is the best vegans raisin spice cake recipe 👌
    Thank you Chef Glen and Julie 🙋🏻‍♀️🌷🌿💕

  2. Thanks for watching. If you liked it – subscribe, give us a thumbs up, comment, and check out our channel for more great recipes. Please share with your friends. ^^^^Full recipe in the info section below the video.^^^^

  3. Ah! I can feel the history in that cake! Love the reading 'tween the lines. C'mon Glen, you of all people should know… 😁. This is a very cool project. Will it be just sweets or savory too? I found a guy who posted a Lord Woolton pie recipe from WW2. Made it and the family luuuuved it! Something to be said of those old rationing days! Many thanks!

  4. My grandmother made this. While "crisco" was invented in 1911, its more likely that "shortening" back then in Canada was "lard" was most available (what we know today as the commercial product: Tenderflake. The Canadian War cake was something that was created because of war time rationing and shortages during World War 1 and carried over in World War 2. It was popular because it was easy to ship to family members serving in the military through the mail.

    There are actually 2 versions, one is made with sugar the other with molasses which was often easier to obtain with ration points.

    They don't called it boiled raisin cake for nothing, that's why you use the backing soda, its to get a reaction from the baking soda with the boiled raisins to get a leavening action going, and as you have noticed its not easy to accomplish.

    Should you wish to try it again, you might want to bake it at 325 F , you would boil the raisin mixture for five minutes and let it cool for several hours to room temperature. Fold in the flour gently to reach the consistency of a cake batter and then add the baking soda, pour the batter into a loaf pan, and place in the oven, preheated to 325 degrees F. It needs at least one hour of baking time because its so dense. It should have the consistency similar to a fruit cake, that's what they attempted to replicate because fruit cake has a long shelf life when it is in a tin box. That should also give you a clue as to what cake pan to use, it would often be 8 X 8 square pan because it could fit into a square tin box.

    Theres a slightly better explanation in the 1942 Windsor Star:

    The molasses version is available here: http://www.gettystewart.com/remembering-canadian-housesoldiers-with-war-time-recipes/

    The molasses version gives a slightly better rise owing to the hygroscopic effect of raw sugar.

    In the United States it was known as "Depression cake" and was most likely adopted from Canadian recipes, here is the history:


    It was very popular in the Southern US during the depression and this is a "fancier" version of it and it very well explained:


    I have seen many suggest that it be eaten only the day after baking as does this US news item (from the southern US:

    "This is an easy recipe to make but it's important to know that it should sit for a day before slicing and serving. I did slice and taste the cake (that looks more like a bread) right after it cooled because I know some of you will do that. I implore you to wait. It's much more flavorful the next day. It's full of raisins. If you only like a few, cut back the amount."


    The recipe which my grandmother wrote down is very similar to this one from Toronto (then again, it would since she lived in Ontario).

    Canadian War Cake (Argonaut recipe)

    “large cake”

    2 c brown sugar

    1 packet seedless raisins (I used a cup)

    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

    mixture. Stir in flour.

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

    Source: https://kelset.sd63.bc.ca/pluginfile.php/2571/mod_resource/content/1/Canadian%20War%20Cake.pdf

    Probably the best version (there are many modifications owing to regional and local war time availabilities) is this one from Newfoundland and it uses butter as the fat component.

    War Cake …a.k.a. Poor Man's Cake

    Prep Time

    20 mins

    Cook Time

    1 hr

    Total Time

    1 hr 20 mins

    War Cake …a.k.a. Poor Man's Cake – an easy to make, simple raisin spice cake using common ingredients to create a moist and delicious version of this timeless classic.

    Course: Cake

    Servings: 16 servings

    Calories: 263 kcal

    Author: Barry C. Parsons


    2 cups raisins

    3 cups water

    1 1/2 cups sugar

    1/2 cup butter

    3 cups flour

    1 tsp baking powder

    1 tsp baking soda

    1/2 tsp ground ginger

    1/2 tsp cloves

    1/2 tsp nutmeg

    1 tsp cinnamon

    US Customary – Metric


    In a small saucepan combine the raisins and water. Bring to a rolling boil and continue to boil for about 10 minutes.

    Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar and butter.

    Stir until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved. This step can be done a day in advance if you prefer. Let this mixture cool for at least a couple of hours until it reaches room temperature.

    Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and spices.

    Pour the raisin mixture onto the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon until well blended but do not over mix the batter. Pour the batter into a well greased and floured bundt pan or tube pan.

    Bake at 350 degrees F for about 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

    Cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning the cake out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container or cake tin.

    The nutritional information provided is automatically calculated by third party software and is meant as a guideline only. Exact accuracy is not guaranteed. For recipes where all ingredients may not be used entirely, such as those with coatings on meats, or with sauces or dressings for example, calorie & nutritional values per serving will likely be somewhat lower than indicated.


    Its a fascinating topic as it demonstrates just how much ingenuity our grandparents and great-grandparents had during the tough years from 1914 to 1945.

  5. My mother used to make A "depression cake" but I recall apple sauce being among the ingredients too. Wish I had her recipe…..

  6. Hello very interesting that in Canada you used cup measurements in 1939. I would have assumed Canadians would have used pounds and ounces due to their historical links with the U.K. I have my grans cookbook from 1936 which is also very sparse on instructions and has all sorts of recipes, none of which would ever be served today.

  7. Cookbooks like that always remind you about all the fun there is to be had in cooking. Also how much experimenting you can do. Just that recipe alone you could build off of if you wanted to. You did a good job with it. And I probably would have baked it for 45 minutes my first time too.

  8. An ex g/f used to make a cake from leftover and stale bread. I think it was just eggs, milk and sugar. She used to add things like apples or berries and blend it into a batter-like consistency. I remember it was a bit dry, but was great with a glass of milk. I wish I had the recipe. She said her Mom taught her. Her mom grew up during WWII in occupied France and they used every thing as the Nazis took all the good stuff. That's all I remember.

  9. A quick question on the cup subject. Why would the change in cups effect the end product? since the ratio between the ingredients will still be the same, all you've changed is that the final mixture would be a bit more.

  10. Glen saving my future recipes with his cup size knowledge! I wasn't aware they varied in volume. love this channel <3

  11. I have a recipe on the original hand out from Brooklyn Union Gas Co. 1916 they would give these to customers on a regular basis. My great Aunt had a file box of these cards that I received from her when I was a teen, the following is copied from that card.

    Brooklyn Union Gas Co. 1916

    War Cake





    2 TSP. SODAS


    ½ TSP SALT





  12. War cake was a staple growing up, my mother used dates and added nuts and more spices, baked in a round cake pan with parchment on the bottom. It was a favourite.

  13. I really appreciate this receipt, because I'm always running out of some ingredients to make a cake, with these simple ingredients is a lot easier.

  14. My first reaction was the cake doesn’t have any nutrient dense nutrition, but hey, it was meant to be a treat instead of real food. Today’s generation expects to have dessert all day long.

  15. One of the special recipes I keep of my grandmothers. Named because it not needing very much of rationed items. Fruitcake was expensive. Usually done in a loaf pan. My recipe is just as vague but my mother said the main thing is to plump the raisins and get that little bit of shortening/ lard mixed in as you boil, when cooled the baking soda seemed to go before the flour and then watched it fizz up and then flour. I love a light sultana raisin and walnuts and maraschino cherries. ( ok my war was fancy). Anyway thanks for doing this recipe!

  16. I have several cookbooks from that era and before. Some are from the 1800s. Or before. (OK i have a LOT of inherited cookbooks!) I give you huge kudos for trying them – as they really DONT tell you things – and sometimes not even what measure they are using. As for time – I have one that refers to the time needed as what page in the hymnal to sing. My mother (from whom I received these cookbooks, and others) was a professional church musician – and she would shake her head and say – now assuming you knew which edition of the hymnal (and which church) they were singing from – I've heard that hymn sung at so many different tempos there is just no WAY of knowing except by trial and error! I think now, at 66, I might try them if I had another cook (like my mother, or you!) to discuss techniques before the first trial!

  17. in that time period you not only would have buttered the pan, but you would also have dusted it with flour before adding the batter.

  18. My grandma made this cake. Its delicious. She would tell you to soak the raisins first. You get a moister cake.

  19. I love war cake <3 But you definitely overcooked it.. Warcake is supposed to be soft and fluffy! Even just a little bit sticky.

  20. You can grease the pan and lightly flour it after.  A lot of older recipes I make are saying to do this.

  21. Just a note about the Herbert Hoover reference. Hoover was a very unpopular president during the Depression who's policies led to horrible conditions for everyday people. He underestimated the looming crisis in the 1920s and after Black Friday his plan was to bolster large industrial tycoons which only made things much worse. So Hoover-(fill in the blank) became a pejorative. Hoovervilles, Hoover cakes, Hoover stew, etc.

  22. Most of these recipes were originally made in coal stoves so that’s why the temperatures and cooking times are so vague. My grandmother made a very similar cake .

  23. I've heard of depression era cold oven cakes. You would make your cake and then put your cake into a cold oven and as it gets to temp it bakes. Then you can bake your main dish without wasting energy during the preheat step.

  24. Do you ever look at your old cookbooks and wonder if you have the last copy on the face of the earth? I think these should be scanned and saved for posterity.

  25. I've just discovered a new reason to hate localized volumetric measurement units – archival is impossible due to constantly changing standards.

  26. My Mom only owned one cookbook when my sisters and I were growing up (in the 1950's). I believe it was the Ogilvie Cookbook – and that is what I used to learn to cook. Wish I could find it again!

  27. I couldn't believe it when you poured that sticky mass into an ungreased pan. Serves you right, you and your high handed Canadian ways!

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