Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Friday Food and Drink Post: Have Your (War) Cake and Eat It, Too

 

To commemorate the 74th anniversary of V-J Day on August 15, herewith, a couple of family recipes for War Cake a more-or-less appetizing (de gustibus, and all that) sop to the sweet tooth of the war-weary denizens from the Old and New Worlds. One is from 1942 and was shared with me by a friend in the early 1970s, and the other we found handwritten on a slip of paper that fell out of my grandmother’s favorite cookbook when we were sorting out her stuff after she died. It and the paper it’s written on are of sufficient antiquity that it’s quite possible this one is from WWI. Our guess is that it was sent to Granny by the branch of the family that emigrated to British Columbia; hence its name, Canadian Cake (click to embiggen):

War cakes were made with basic ingredients, usually ones that kept well, and ones which could be stockpiled until there were enough of them to splurge on such a treat. They were usually very light on fresh ingredients and egg and dairy products, including butter, most of which were consumed as soon as possible, and others’ rations of which were often given to children. Plain fats, likely those rendered from other cooking projects were kept and used–lard, suet, bacon (if you could get it) grease, newer and cheaper fats such as margarine and shortening–whatever could be obtained or kept long enough for the purpose.

And when you had enough, you got your bowls and pans out, preheated your oven (coal, coke, wood, sometimes gas, and increasingly electric) to a “moderate” heat (350F-375F) and went to town.

The second War Cake recipe I have is this one:

8 oz brown sugar
4 oz shortening
2 cups boiling water
10 oz seeded raisins
1 teaspoon salt

Boil the above ingredients gently together for ten minutes. Then cool.

Add:
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon ginger
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon ginger
2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
1 lb flour

Mix. Pour into loaf pan and bake in slow oven, 2 hours at 275F.

I’m not suggesting you try these. They’re a bit of an acquired taste. They both have quite the “fruitcake” vibe, and Lord knows I’ve done my turn in the barrel defending fruitcake on thread after thread here often enough to know how that conversation usually goes.

But the fact of the matter is that people have been inventing, adjusting, and improvising with recipes since time immemorial, to use what they had, what was left over, what they could scrounge, what they could afford, eliminating what they didn’t like, and adding what they did. They’ve been substituting when they ran out, having brilliant (and not so brilliant) ideas for new and delicious (and not so delicious) dishes for hundreds of thousands of years. Where else do you think such old-time British delicacies as cold boiled mutton, toad in the hole, bubble and squeak, and haggis, came from? They didn’t come from a people with French chefs and bottomless privilege, that’s for sure.

It’s gratifying and inspiring when our kitchen experiments work. It can be devastating or hilarious when they don’t. Maybe its time to share some of those recipes. Your creative challenges. That time you made a mouth-watering meal which arose, like a phoenix from the ashes, out of an about-to-expire selection of leftovers in the fridge. That one-dish-wonder you made completely from canned food. (No peas, please. There will be no tinned peas on this thread.) Times you’ve had to think on your feet to rescue a recipe, or snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in the kitchen. Times when things have worked brilliantly. And times when things haven’t gone so well. Think of it as cooking therapy. We’re not here to judge you (well, except for the peas). Have at it.

Just don’t overdo it. You’ll probably know when you’ve gone too far:

PS: That V-J Day business? Thank you, all those who served in the cause of freedom, before, during, and since. I don’t forget.

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There are 21 comments.

  1. She Thatcher
    She Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    The most famous “war cake” story in my family doesn’t involve an actual cake, but a Christmas pudding. During his childhood, Dad’s side of the family went to town with these every few years, making lavish quantities of them, following a recipe alleged to have been approved by George I for use in the Sandringham kitchens. All that stopped when the Second World War came.

    Halfway through the war, someone doing a deep clean in one of the bedrooms discovered, on top of, and at the very back of, the wardrobe, a “Christmas pud” from several years previous that had been overlooked and never eaten. (The puddings would, once they’d been through their first steaming, dry out and keep indefinitely, becoming the middle-class English equivalent of MRE’s. Although MNQRE would be more accurate (Meals Not Quite Ready To Eat), as in order to resucitate them, the dried-out puddings needed to be steamed or boiled for hours on end to restore them to edibility; otherwise, they’d be fit only for use as cannon-balls or concrete substitute.)

    It’s just a delight to hear Auntie Pat (96, may she live forever) tell this story, which is from her late teen years. Even now, the better part of a century after the fact, her eyes still fill with tears to recount the absolute joy the family felt in this lavish treat, in the middle of strict rationing and (for the children) almost constant hunger.

    • #1
    • August 16, 2019, at 5:34 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  2. Suspira Member

    I love the “if possible” notation on the ingredients list. That brings it home that we haven’t always been surrounded by plenty.

    (BTW, I’m a fellow member of the Fruitcake Appreciation Society. Shh. Don’t let that get out.)

    • #2
    • August 16, 2019, at 5:37 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  3. She Thatcher
    She Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Suspira (View Comment):

    I love the “if possible” notation on the ingredients list. That brings it home that we haven’t always been surrounded by plenty.

    (BTW, I’m a fellow member of the Fruitcake Appreciation Society. Shh. Don’t let that get out.)

    Thanks for sharing. Our little secret.

    • #3
    • August 16, 2019, at 5:39 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  4. KentForrester Coolidge

    She, I make a killer yogurt dish for dinner every day. It goes like this:

    1. Put a few blueberries on the bottom of a glass ice cream dish.

    2. Scoop plain whole milk yogurt (I use Chobani) into your cup.

    3. Put blueberries and a sprinkle of nuts on top of the yogurt.

    4. Squirt whipped cream onto the top. (This is important because it sweetens the taste of the plain yogurt.)

    And there you are. If you eat this every day after dinner, your intestines will grow supple and muscular.

    • #4
    • August 16, 2019, at 5:56 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  5. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    “Bake in a moderate oven…”

    Obviously that recipe is pre-Trudeau.

    • #5
    • August 16, 2019, at 5:57 AM PDT
    • 9 likes
  6. She Thatcher
    She Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I used to belong as did many of my neighbors, to the local chapter (sadly since dissolved) of the National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry. I loved it (Gosh, I hope there are no extant photos of me dressed up in flowing robes with flowers in my hair, doing the Eulalie McKechnie Shinn bit at the State Grange meeting a couple of decades ago. If you have any, or you’ve seen any, please let me know. Price is no object.)

    My dear neighbors Alice and Walter were also Grange members. Alice is a 60s hippie-type. Walter was a by-the-numbers German chemist. Second couple I’ve known like that in my life (the man in in the other couple was Swiss); such an odd pairing, but it worked in both cases. (EDIT: Just realized that the woman’s name was “Alice” in both cases. Weird.)

    Alice is a truly terrible cook. She never follows a recipe, and the results are usually spectacularly awful. I remember a Grange dinner where she’d made the dessert–cherry pie, as it was Washington’s birthday. She prattled on about this as we chewed our way through inedible pastry, and sour filling, until Walter had had enough.

    “You know vot Alice makes on Lincoln’s birshday,” he asked in his thick Germanic accent. “Vell, I tell you. She makes Log Pie.”

    Poor guy.

    • #6
    • August 16, 2019, at 6:03 AM PDT
    • 10 likes
  7. She Thatcher
    She Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    She, I make a killer yogurt dish for dinner every day. It goes like this:

    1. Put a few blueberries on the bottom of a glass ice cream dish.

    2. Scoop plain whole milk yogurt (I use Chobani) into your cup.

    3. Put blueberries and a sprinkle of nuts on top of the yogurt.

    4. Squirt whipped cream onto the top. (This is important because it sweetens the taste of the plain yogurt.)

    And there you are. If you eat this every day after dinner, your intestines will grow supple and muscular.

    How about just skip everything between the blueberries and the whipped cream? Will that still work? (Kidding. I like yogurt too, but only the full-fat kind.)

     

    • #7
    • August 16, 2019, at 6:07 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  8. Suspira Member

    She (View Comment):

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    She, I make a killer yogurt dish for dinner every day. It goes like this:

    1. Put a few blueberries on the bottom of a glass ice cream dish.

    2. Scoop plain whole milk yogurt (I use Chobani) into your cup.

    3. Put blueberries and a sprinkle of nuts on top of the yogurt.

    4. Squirt whipped cream onto the top. (This is important because it sweetens the taste of the plain yogurt.)

    And there you are. If you eat this every day after dinner, your intestines will grow supple and muscular.

    How about just skip everything between the blueberries and the whipped cream? Will that still work? (Kidding. I like yogurt too, but only the full-fat kind.)

     

    Actually, I’m on board with your modification. Alas, I’m the only person on the face of the earth who can’t stand yogurt. Most every diet out there wants me to eat the stuff and I just can’t.

    • #8
    • August 16, 2019, at 7:49 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  9. KentForrester Coolidge

    Suspira (View Comment):

    She (View Comment):

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    She, I make a killer yogurt dish for dinner every day. It goes like this:

    1. Put a few blueberries on the bottom of a glass ice cream dish.

    2. Scoop plain whole milk yogurt (I use Chobani) into your cup.

    3. Put blueberries and a sprinkle of nuts on top of the yogurt.

    4. Squirt whipped cream onto the top. (This is important because it sweetens the taste of the plain yogurt.)

    And there you are. If you eat this every day after dinner, your intestines will grow supple and muscular.

    How about just skip everything between the blueberries and the whipped cream? Will that still work? (Kidding. I like yogurt too, but only the full-fat kind.)

     

    Actually, I’m on board with your modification. Alas, I’m the only person on the face of the earth who can’t stand yogurt. Most every diet out there wants me to eat the stuff and I just can’t.

    Man up, buttercups. Russian women living in ancient villages eat sour yogurt daily and live to 140. Moreover, they pester their husbands for daily sex.

    That’s the truth. 

    • #9
    • August 16, 2019, at 8:28 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  10. Hang On Member
    Hang On Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Image result for vj day kiss

    • #10
    • August 16, 2019, at 8:42 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  11. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSul Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Suspira (View Comment):

    I love the “if possible” notation on the ingredients list. That brings it home that we haven’t always been surrounded by plenty.

    (BTW, I’m a fellow member of the Fruitcake Appreciation Society. Shh. Don’t let that get out.)

    Same. I’m just glad the Society dropped the requirement for downing a cup of brandy as part of the secret handshake – the remaining 32 steps are a might tricky otherwise. But the change did have the downside of allowing the meetings to go on much longer.

    • #11
    • August 16, 2019, at 9:11 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  12. Suspira Member

    KentForrester (View Comment):
    Man up, buttercups. Russian women living in ancient villages eat sour yogurt daily and live to 140. Moreover, they pester their husbands for daily sex.

    Well, they need some sort of consolation for having to eat that yogurt.

    • #12
    • August 16, 2019, at 9:56 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  13. Misthiocracy grudgingly Member
    Misthiocracy grudgingly Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Fruit, in a cake? Maybe in hippy dippy British Columbia!!!

    • #13
    • August 16, 2019, at 1:48 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  14. Quietpi Member

    She: click to embiggen

    Embiggen? Never mind the cake. I’m trying to digest that delicious word!

    • #14
    • August 16, 2019, at 8:33 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  15. Juliana Member

    Suspira (View Comment):

    Actually, I’m on board with your modification. Alas, I’m the only person on the face of the earth who can’t stand yogurt. Most every diet out there wants me to eat the stuff and I just can’t.

    I looked at yogurt once – it was gray, I think it was supposed to be blueberry. But since I don’t like blueberries either, I passed on actually trying it. Won’t touch the stuff now or ever. Not a fan of sour moosh in my mouth.

     

    • #15
    • August 17, 2019, at 6:06 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  16. She Thatcher
    She Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Quietpi (View Comment):

    She: click to embiggen

    Embiggen? Never mind the cake. I’m trying to digest that delicious word!

    I wish I’d made it up. Apparently it’s been around since the 19th century, and is patterned on the word “embolden.”

    Popularized by “The Simpsons,” nary a moment of which I’ve ever watched, but it’s come to be used on the web to refer to images which can be made larger by clicking on them. So, click on the image and it will get embiggingly (I think that one may be original) larger.

    • #16
    • August 17, 2019, at 6:30 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  17. RandR Member

    In the early years of married life, our food budget was meager. We both liked yogurt so we made it ourselves. All I can remember was that we almost continually had containers of fermenting yogurt in a cabinet under our sink (because there was the best conditions in our tiny apartment). Thanks for the memory.

    • #17
    • August 17, 2019, at 6:44 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  18. She Thatcher
    She Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    RandR (View Comment):

    In the early years of married life, our food budget was meager. We both liked yogurt so we made it ourselves. All I can remember was that we almost continually had containers of fermenting yogurt in a cabinet under our sink (because there was the best conditions in our tiny apartment). Thanks for the memory.

    You’re welcome. I wonder if yogurt-making over time does the same thing as bread-making over time–puts the little biological agents that cause fermentation and rising into the air so that they can be harvested in the wild. Am imagining the next occupants leaving a glass of milk on the counter and being surprised that it’s turned into yogurt without any warning . . . 

    I used to make my own soy milk. Mr. She developed an allergy to milk protein somewhere in the late 70s, and any dairy product in his food would quickly bring on symptoms of anaphylactic shock (as he’s aged, thankfully, this has abated somewhat). But for a couple of decades we investigated every possible sort of dairy alternative in our diets, just so we could eat something that at least visually, resembled normal food. So I made soy milk and soy “cheese” years before they became staples at every grocery store. Although I could, with considerable adaptation, get away with using them in many recipes, on their own they were among the foulest substances known to man.

    • #18
    • August 17, 2019, at 7:21 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  19. Quietpi Member

    She (View Comment):

    Quietpi (View Comment):

    She: click to embiggen

    Embiggen? Never mind the cake. I’m trying to digest that delicious word!

    I wish I’d made it up. Apparently it’s been around since the 19th century, and is patterned on the word “embolden.”

    Popularized by “The Simpsons,” nary a moment of which I’ve ever watched, but it’s come to be used on the web to refer to images which can be made larger by clicking on them. So, click on the image and it will get embiggingly (I think that one may be original) larger.

    Hm. It’s news to me. Never watched a single episode of “The Simpsons,” and doubt that I ever will. It’s a neat word anyway.

    • #19
    • August 17, 2019, at 7:56 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  20. She Thatcher
    She Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    For a while, and due to his many allergies and skyrocketing cholesterol, Mr. She and I followed my home-brew eating plan which my stepson Sam used to call the “Reichsdiet.” It was a low-fat, almost entirely vegetarian experience, quite healthful as it turned out, and most of my efforts were pretty edible. It was fueled largely by TVP meat substitutes that I would buy in bulk from an outfit whose name I forget (going to look it up and see if I can remember/find it/it’s still in business), but which I used to call the “Cardboard Food Company.” I’ve found that if one can maintain a sense of humor about it, one can eat almost anything. It did do wonders for Mr. She’s triglycerides, both in the positive and negative directions. Although we still like to eat healthy, with the occasional splurge, we’ve eased up a lot since those days.

    Ah, it was healthy-eating dot com, and it looks as though what remains of it now sells through Amazon.

    • #20
    • August 17, 2019, at 8:54 AM PDT
    • Like
  21. danok1 Member

    @she Your 2nd “War Cake” recipe reminds me of a bar-cookie my mother used to make called “Hermits.” The recipe she left us called for boiling raisins and used the same spices., but adds molasses into the mix. Being the lazy sort, I modernized the recipe, eliminating the raisin boiling and a couple of other steps:

    2 cups + 2 Tbsp flour
    • 2 tsp baking soda
    • 2 tsp cinnamon
    • 2 tsp ginger
    • ¼ tsp cloves
    • ¼ tsp salt
    • ½ cup butter
    • 1 cup brown sugar
    • ¼ cup molasses
    • 1 large egg
    • ¾ cup raisins or dried cranberries

    1. Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl.
    2. In a large bowl cream the butter and sugar. Add the molasses and then the egg.
    3. Combine well then stir in the dry ingredients.
    4. When it comes together as a dough add the raisins.
    5. Divide dough in half and form each piece into a 12” log.
    6. Place in a parchment lined baking sheet a few inches apart. Flatten the logs slightly.
    7. Bake at 375 F for 18 minutes. Start checking them at the 15 minute mark because you don’t want them to get dark around the edges.
    8. Remove from oven, cool on the pan and cut into strips on the diagonal. 

    In theory, these can last a couple of months in a Tupperware container. I’ve never seen them last more than 3 days though.

     

    • #21
    • August 17, 2019, at 10:27 AM PDT
    • 1 like