Sunday, June 26, 2011

Miss Emma Smith's War Cake.

Perfect for breakfast, brunch, or a snack, this delicious cake is incredibly easy to make and even easier to eat.  It contains no dairy - that is, no eggs, milk, or butter, although I did use butter for the lard originally called for - and you can, and should, make it ahead of time to allow the flavors to develop, which means you can make it when you have time and eat it when you don't! 

I love old recipes like this and I don't know what took me so long to make it.  To help convince you to make this cake, here's a charming except from the cookbook I found it in: "This recipe is a war cake, born out of necessity, since it includes no eggs, butter or milk.  It's also an example of a recipe giving the marital status of the originator.  Miss Smith's contemporary, Mrs. William Eaton, apparently added the two teaspoons of cocoa to the recipe.  Also noted by Miss Smith, 'This cake is better at the end of a week or even longer.  It ripens as does all fruitcakes.'"  Could it be any cuter?

This cake is closely related to a fruitcake, but calling anything a fruitcake is a tricky matter as it will put many people off of making and eating it right away.  Really, this is a brown sugary sticky spicy cake dotted with unbelievably moist raisins.  And you need to make it to go with your morning cup of coffee or tea right now :)

Miss Emma Smith's War Cake
Recipe from Heirloom Baking with the Brass Sisters
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups plus 1 teaspoon hot water, divided
2 cups brown sugar
2 tablespoons lard (or butter)
1 cup raisins
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda

In a medium saucepan, add 2 cups of the hot water, brown sugar, lard, raisins, salt, spices and cocoa powder and cook over medium-high heat until it comes to a boil.  Stir constantly for 5 minutes, then remove from the heat and let it cool until it reaches room temperature.

In a large bowl, measure out the flour and set aside.  Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. and line the bottom of a 9x5" loaf pan with wax paper, then spray the paper and sides of the pan with cooking spray. 

Dissolve the baking soda in 1 teaspoon of hot water, then stir into the brown sugar mixture.  Pour everything into the flour and mix well, then scrape the batter into the prepared pan.  Bake for 45 minutes to an hour and 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let it cool for about 20 minutes in the pan, then invert onto a wire rack to cool completely.  Wrapped in tinfoil, the cake will get spicier and keeps up to a week.


  1. at first look I thought it is fruit cake, cake looks moist and yes it is great with a cup of coffee.

  2. It turned out beautiful. The Brass Sisters cookbook is one of my all time favorite cookbooks. I lost it in storage so I better dig it out soon and flip through it. :)

  3. Your pictures are so beautiful!
    This cake looks so good!
    I'd love to have some with a glass of milk! :)

  4. That looks really good. You can't go wrong with cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg! Thanks for sharing, this is a keeper :)

  5. I've heard of this cake before. It always sounds so cool to me and I love anything spiced. I have a sweet treat linky party going on at my blog till Monday night and I'd love it if you'd come by and link your cake up (or any other sweets you've made this week).

  6. I love the story behind this one and I love these kinds of cakes. They do go great with tea :D

  7. I love when there is history behind recipes. A lot of time they are useful, too, when you want to make something but can't run to the store. I think I would love this toasted with some butter.

  8. Awesome post and even more delicious cake :)