Amongst mom’s collection, I came across my Grandmother MacNeill’s recipe for War Cake. As the name implies, this cake was popular during the war years (WWII), when rationing meant that butter and eggs were in short supply. This recipe was another favourite in our extended family, although everyone who made it claimed theirs wasn’t as good as Grammy MacNeill’s version, despite the fact that they copied her recipe word for word. Perhaps it had to do with the wood stove Grammy used for all her cooking and baking, or perhaps it was the way she stirred the ingredients together, knowing just the right number of times to circle the wooden spoon around the mixing bowl before pouring the batter into a greased pan. Or perhaps it was simply the memory of Grammy that made us remember her War Cake as being the best there ever was.
If Grammy MacNeill’s cake was the best, there’s no doubt in my mind that mom’s version of her cake was next-best. Try it and see if you don’t agree; this cake is moist, chewy, sweet and filling, so a small piece of it is all you’ll need, although it won’t be all you’ll settle for—one piece of this War Cake is never enough. Trust me.
War Cake (Mum MacNeill)
1 pkg. (16 oz) seeded raisins
¼ tsp. ground cloves
2 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 level tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. shortening (heaping)
2 cups white sugar
2 cups cold water
Boil all above ingredients for 5 minutes, then simmer, stirring occasionally until well cooked together. Let stand overnight.
Add 1 tsp. baking soda in ½ cup hot tea.
Add 2 ¾ cups flour (or better).
Bake in greased long loaf pan at 300 ° F for first ½ hour, then at 350° F for next ½ hour.