Our family often serves this War Cake on Remembrance Day as a reminder of what life was like on the home front in the Second World War. But this heavy dark cake is a tasty family favourite. In fact, my sister liked it so well that as a child she always demanded it for her birthday cake!

War cake recipes vary, but they are traditionally butter-less, egg-less, milk-less, and sometimes sugarless, reflecting those difficult days when many “luxury foods” were in short supply and prohibitively expensive, or even under wartime rationing controls.

This particular old recipe comes from the well-worn pages of Grandmother’s own handwritten cookbook. It does call for a bit of butter but substitutes brown sugar for the refined white sugar which was hard to come by in Atlantic Canada. It is well-suited to a topping of boiled frosting or whipped cream, but of course Grammie used to serve it plain.

War Cake

Combine and boil for 5 minutes only:

        1 lb (about 2 cups) raisin
        1 cup water
        1 cup dark brown sugar
        1/4 cup lard
        1/4 cup butter
        1 tsp each cinnamon, ginger, ground cloves
        1/2 tsp salt

Let cool to lukewarm, then sift together and add:

        2 cups flour
        2 tsp baking soda

Flavour with vanilla or brandy, if desired.

Pour into a well-greased pan, about 8″ square.

Bake at 325°F for about one hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake doesn’t come out sticky.

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